- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

CAFTA clears hurdle

The Nicaraguan ambassador predicted that his country’s approval of a major free-trade agreement with the United States will strengthen Nicaragua’s embattled democracy by promoting free markets and creating jobs in one of the region’s poorest nations.

Ambassador Salvador Stadthagen realized what was at stake with the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) facing solid opposition from the Sandinista party, the Marxist former rulers of Nicaragua who have been waging political war against President Enrique Bolanos. CAFTA is also known as DR-CAFTA, after the Dominican Republic joined the negotiations.

“Beyond the undeniable economic benefits, DR-CAFTA sets Nicaragua on a long-term commitment to free markets and accelerated democratization, and it ensures the Central American region and the United States will be moving together toward a joint future based on shared values,” he said this week.

“This has very positive implications for security and for democracy, and DR-CAFTA is particularly important at a time when some in Latin America are questioning the efficacy of democracy and free markets to solve the region’s challenges.”

The 37 Sandinista members of the National Assembly opposed the treaty, which was supported by 49 lawmakers allied with Mr. Bolanos.

Mr. Stadthagen cited a study by the International Monetary Fund that predicted that the trade agreement will increase Nicaragua’s annual growth rate by more than 1.5 percent and boost its export earnings by 20 percent to 30 percent a year.

The political battle between the Sandinistas and Mr. Bolanos also appeared to ease on Monday with an agreement to delay measures to weaken presidential powers until after Mr. Bolanos leaves office in January 2007.

The Sandinistas had won the support of Mr. Bolanos’ Constitutional Liberal Party, which abandoned the president after his anti-corruption campaign snagged his predecessor, Arnoldo Aleman, on fraud charges. The Sandinistas also control the courts.

DR-CAFTA, approved by the United States in July, also has been adopted by the governments of the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Costa Rica still is considering the trade package.

Polish frenzy

Poland’s new ambassador hardly had time to unpack his bags before he was racing around Washington with his visiting president and then flying back to Poland with the returning Polish delegation.

Ambassador Janusz Reiter arrived in Washington last week and immediately attended to last-minute preparations for the visit this week of President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who met with President Bush on Wednesday. Mr. Kwasniewski is stepping down after serving the maximum of two terms.

Mr. Reiter will be in Poland for the scheduled Oct. 23 presidential runoff election between Donald Tusk, a strong free-market advocate, and Lech Kaczynski, described as a big-government conservative.

The ambassador served as Poland’s envoy to Germany from 1990 to 1995 and is a noted political commentator who battled Poland’s communist authorities in the 1980s.

Jailed in Yemen

Two men suspected of trying to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to Yemen are being held in the capital, San’a, and soon could face trial, a government newspaper reported yesterday.

One man tried to throw a hand grenade at Ambassador Thomas Charles Krajeski when he visited a shopping center last year, according to the Sept. 26 edition of the newspaper, which is published by Yemen’s armed forces.

The report said the two men are being questioned and could be brought to trial soon. The report did not identify the suspects.

Yemen is the ancestral home of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and was the scene of a suicide bombing on the USS Cole in 2000.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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