The inauguration of the new headquarters of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) in Managua, scheduled by the government for December 15 as an event to legitimize the reelection of Daniel Ortega, will be suspended as was decided by the member countries – with the exception of Honduras and Nicaragua. The decision not to inaugurate the headquarters is also supported by all of CABEI’s extra-regional partners.
In October 2019, the executive president of that institution, Dante Mossi, arrived in Managua together with ván Acosta, the Minister of Finance and Public Credit (MHCP), to lay the first stone of a six-story building, valued at 16.5 million dollars, scheduled to be inaugurated at the end of 2020.
As of Monday night, ten countries (and eleven States, because Argentina and Colombia share the same chair) had voted in favor of the decision to suspend the inauguration: Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Dominican Republic, Spain, Mexico, Taiwan, and South Korea, plus the joint vote of Argentina and Colombia. Belize and Cuba are non-voting partners.
“This is a blow to Nicaragua and to the Bank’s administration, which was going to lend itself to that game,” said an economist who worked for CABEI, referring to the implicit political recognition that Ortega sought through this celebration in the company of his main financier and CABEI partners.
There will be no CABEI meeting in Managua either
The countries also resolved that the directors’ meeting scheduled to be held in Managua, in connection with the inauguration ceremony of the building, will be held virtually from Tegucigalpa, between December 13 and 15.
In this regard, a Bank source in Tegucigalpa explained that now all the meetings are multimodal, and that while most of the participants attended the November 26 and 27 meeting in the Dominican Republic, the December meeting, scheduled to be held in Managua, in the context of the inauguration of the building, was transferred to Tegucigalpa.
During the Caribbean meeting, several directors agreed that, even if Managua was kept as the virtual venue for the meeting, the objective of separating the Bank’s institutional image, which in recent years has been closely linked to that of Daniel Ortega, would not be achieved, because “the arrival of Mossi alone was enough for Ortega and Murillo to say that they had the Bank’s backing”, said the source.
“After the elections in Nicaragua, not recognized by the Organization of American States (OAS), it is very difficult for the bank to have its director appear in a photo with Ortega”, said Ottón Solís, the former representative of Costa Rica to that regional entity.
“It is evident that countries are now more encouraged to question relations with Nicaragua. The countries probably prohibited their directors from going to Nicaragua, which is a sign that the regime is running out of room”, he said.
Although the decision of the partner countries not to go to Managua is based on the fact that the construction of the CABEI headquarters is behind schedule, and therefore, the building is not ready to be inaugurated, CONFIDENCIAL learned that the formula used to support this decision was simply one that could be signed by all representatives, without having to consult with their respective capitals.
“In the negotiation that took place in the Dominican Republic, this was already agreed upon by everyone, even Taiwan, with the exception of Honduras and Nicaragua, on the grounds that the building was not finished,” said the Bank source in Tegucigalpa.
“Taiwan made a 180-degree turn, because it had been very close to the regime until now”, Solis pointed out, recalling how, in its daily bulletin, the Bank included announcements about Taiwan’s support for Nicaragua, supposing that this change of orientation is explained because that Asian nation “depends on the support of the West in its relations with Beijing”.
The bank source in Tegucigalpa added: “some of us wanted the inconvenience of the state of democracy in Nicaragua to be mentioned but some countries needed to make consultations to sustain the wording, so it was left to be self explanatory”.
Considering that the decision is supported by ten votes and eleven States, the source said that the only move that allows the regime to conceal its failure would be to order its representative to vote in favor of this resolution, so that it would appear that it was really delayed because the building was not ready.
The Ortega risk factor
One of CABEI’s partners demanded from Dante Mossi that no more loan requests by Nicaragua be presented in future Board meetings. In the end, this proposal was not put to a vote.
The directors are aware of the level of risk that Nicaragua represents for the Bank. In the first place, because “the country is almost at the top of its debt capacity, which is a good technical and not political shield to reject future requests,” said the source working in Tegucigalpa, without ignoring the fact that the country and several of the most active figures of the Government and the presidential family are in the crosshairs of the sanctions of the United States, Canada and the European Union.
“Not coming to inaugurate the building, and withdrawing from the loan to the National Police in March 2020, is in reality an effort to preserve the Bank’s image, more than a decision to distance themselves from Ortega or to evaluate whether or not to continue financing him,” says former congressman Eliseo Núñez.
Núñez is not surprised by this momentary distancing from CABEI, as he considers that “the Bank’s position will change as Ortega’s illegitimacy deepens”.
The Bank’s complacent attitude in recent years should be a “wake-up call” to know that its processes have to become more transparent, because currently “these processes go unnoticed, and end up doing what they want”, considers the liberal political analyst.
For this reason, he advocated that decision-making within CABEI should be similar to that of the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank, which deliver funds as projects are executed – and evaluated.
For now there are ten votes, and only Honduras and Nicaragua need to decide what to do. Although the vote is still open until Thursday, December 2, it is very unlikely that there will be a significant change, although there is a procedure to change the vote, but it is long and needs to be reasoned.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff