- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — An official U.S. memo released during a visit by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell describes Nicaragua as a country with little hope and portrays U.S. supporters here in unflattering terms.

“Nicaragua crawls along as the second-poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti, battered by storms of nature and their own making, with little hope of changing things in the future,” said the unsigned document released by the U.S. Embassy.

“Privileged Nicaraguans see the U.S. in a generally favorable light. They prefer to dress in Ralph Lauren shirts, drive large Ford SUVs, watch American movies and, when going out for a meal, brag that they go out to T.G.I. Friday’s.”

Reporters accompanying Mr. Powell discovered the document in a press packet distributed after the secretary arrived late Monday for a 16-hour visit.

Asked about the memo yesterday, a senior State Department official said the document did not reflect the department’s official position and called its release embarrassing.

The message of the document contrasts sharply with the Bush administration’s official view of Nicaragua, which sees the country as potentially ripe for progress.

President Enrique Bolanos, an unabashedly pro-American former businessman, is untainted by corruption and believes that free trade and open markets are the keys to prosperity.

Later yesterday, Mr. Powell spent several hours in Honduras that included a luncheon meeting with President Ricardo Maduro, who pledged to send 370 troops to Iraq.

The two men later appeared at a news conference, their remarks competing with the shouts of up to 50 protesters who demonstrated outside the gates of the presidential palace.

Mr. Powell praised Mr. Maduro for a “tremendous” effort in Iraq as well as for the judicial changes he is making at home.

Mr. Maduro said Honduras was obliged to help the United States in return for past assistance, including the forgiveness of $400 million in loans.

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