Biden proposes a diplomat “with fangs” to deal with Ortega

Biden proposes a diplomat “with fangs” to deal with Ortega

The future US ambassador to Nicaragua will have to deal with a Daniel Ortega who is self-isolating at the international level, and who maintains solid relations with authoritarian regimes such as those in Cuba, Venezuela, Russia, China, and Iran. For that mission, US President Joe Biden has proposed veteran diplomat Hugo F. Rodríguez Jr.who has been described —by former colleagues and diplomatic sources in Washington— as an accessible official, close to “charming”, but “sharp” in his analyzes and firm in his decisions: “with fang”.

The career diplomat was nominated by Biden last week and is awaiting confirmation of the post by the Senate. Rodríguez, who has the rank of Minister Counselor, currently works as an advisor in the Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Department of State.

“The appointment of Hugo Rodríguez means that the country continues to be a priority for the Government of Joe Biden,” he commented to CONFIDENTIALvia email, John Feeley, former United States Ambassador to Panama.

“With a long history in the State Department, Hugo has carried out the most difficult diplomatic missions, especially those that have to do with migration,” explained the former diplomat.

“Perfectly bilingual, a great connoisseur of the region, Hugo is one of the best and most effective Latin American experts that the (State) Department has,” he added.

Between 2019 and 2021, Rodríguez was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, a position described as “number two” in the US Foreign Ministry for Latin America.

Previously, he was chief of mission at the US embassy in Paraguay, and chargé d’affaires at this legation from 2017 to 2018. In addition, he has held positions at embassies in Mexico City, Lima and Rome.

“Well informed”

A political source in Washington, who asked to omit his name, pointed out that Rodríguez’s time at the Western Hemisphere bureau “included missions and projects related to Nicaragua, so he will arrive well informed and with clear ideas about the situation.”

Rodríguez will replace Kevin Sullivan as ambassador in Managua, in the post since 2018 and whose relationship with the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has been marked by the complaint of interference that the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry launched against him in October 2021.

“We demand that Mr. Sullivan cease his covert attacks, his hypocritical salutations, disguised as a diplomatic courtesy that he abandoned long ago, and that rather has been, and is, an example of the continuous, perverse, detestable invasive interference of the United States in our Nicaragua,” said the regime’s Foreign Ministry.

In a recent interview with the program This week, the Nicaraguan political scientist Manuel Orozco, director of the Migration, Remittances and Development Program of the Inter-American Dialogue, stressed that Rodríguez “has held several positions and one of them has to do with advising on the situation in Central America and, in particular, in Nicaragua. Already in 2019, and even in 2020, he traveled to Europe and clearly said that the pressure had to be stronger and that it would even include sanctions on the Nicaraguan Army”.

“It represents a greater fang in its foreign policy,” Orozco added.

“Busy period”

Feeley, who was Rodríguez’s boss, stressed that the diplomat is “personally charming” and “can send harsh and critical messages when they have to be done.”

“I suspect that his appointment means that the White House expects a period of great activity (in Nicaragua), but always with a focus on political prisoners and the lack of democracy,” said the former ambassador.

Rodríguez’s appointment was reported a day after the influential American newspaper The New York Times revealed that the son of the presidential couple, Laureano Ortega Murillo, sought a rapprochement with the US government, where the release of political prisoners in Nicaragua was raised. The State Department sent an emissary in March, but the Ortegas backed down.

In a recent Inter-American Dialogue forumEmily Mendrala, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs, assured that they maintain “a range of bilateral communication” with the Ortega regime, although the US continues “pressing for the release of political prisoners.” .

The source in Washington stressed that “the dialogue itself is not a priority objective (of the Biden Administration), but rather a means to achieve a resolution to the impasse in Nicaragua.”

“USA The US has opted for the multilateral route, which is based on coordinated strategies with other actors, such as Canada and the European Union, and Rodríguez is simply the best candidate to carry it out, ”he explained.

Orozco said that “the expectation is not that the United States comes to solve the problem, but the pressure is going to increase depending on how to get out of the crisis in which the country finds itself.”

Last April, the State Department criticized in its annual report on human rights that Ortega exercises “total control” over the country after being re-elected —for the third consecutive time— in the November 2021 elections, without political competition. The United States describes these elections as “fraudulent” due to the imprisonment of all opposition candidates.

Besides, the Biden Government ruled out inviting the Governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the Summit of the Americas in June, to be held in Los Angeles, because it considers that they “do not respect” democracy.

“There is a certain tendency to believe that in 2022 what we saw in 1989 can be repeated, with the negotiations between the US and the FSLN. This time, although some actors are the same as Ortega, the circumstances are very different. There is no armed conflict that constitutes a threat to the security of the hemisphere; nor are we in a cold war to prevent the spread of communism, nor does Nicaragua have a leading role beyond the geopolitical weight that corresponds to it,” described the source in Washington.

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