Washington, DC -- Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has urged the head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation to suspend programs in Nicaragua in light of recent political events and declines in the rule of law there.
"It is time to consider carefully whether it is still appropriate to spend $175 million of U.S. taxpayer money through MCC ’s Nicaragua compact," Berman said in a letter to John Danilovich, CEO of the international aid organization. "I urge you to suspend the Nicaragua MCC program until, at a minimum, we achieve better clarity regarding the behavior of the Ortega government in the recent electoral contest."
Berman wrote that irregularities surrounding the recent elections in Nicaragua are part of "a consistent pattern of behavior by the government of Daniel Ortega that calls into question Nicaragua’s respect for the rule of law and good governance that are critical factors in determining whether a country can receive MCC assistance."
The MCC forms compacts with countries that meet performance criteria on the rule of law, invest in their people, and promote economic freedom.
Berman pointed out that for more than two years, MCC indicators that determine eligibility have eroded steadily in Nicaragua.
"The dissonance between the recent actions of the government of Nicaragua and the criteria for receiving MCC assistance have become so severe that continuing the program in its current form seems to call into question the credibility of the MCC program overall," he wrote. "Worse, it may in some measure be undermining the credibility of the United States itself in the region."
Berman noted that the MCC’s decision on the matter "may provide an important lesson in how to deal with other countries which receive MCC compact funding or are eligible for such funding that have demonstrated poor performance of the MCC criteria."