Cablegate: Peace Corps Director's Meeting with Ortega Positive


DE RUEHMU #0102/01 0281957
P 281957Z JAN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 000102



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/28/2018

Classified By: Ambassador Paul A. Trivelli for reasons 1.4(b,d)

1. (U) SUMMARY: On Thursday, January 17, Worldwide Peace
Corps Director Ronald Tschetter, met with Nicaraguan
President Daniel Ortega to provide an overview of Peace Corps
programs and activities. Ortega, First Lady Rosario Murillo,
and GON ministers displayed interest in, and satisfaction
with, U.S. assistance, both from the Peace Corps and USAID.
Ortega expressed regret at not having an opportunity to visit
a Peace Corps project in 2007, but pledged to do so in 2008.
The meeting was positive, productive, and free of any anti-US
rhetoric. END SUMMARY.

Director Tschetter Provides Peace Corps Overview
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2. (U) Director Tschetter provided Ortega, Murillo, and the
ministers of health, education, and agriculture with an
overview of the Peace Corps, global reach and presence --
commenting that the Peace Corps has some 8,000 volunteers
working 74 countries, the highest number in 37 years -- and
its program here in Nicaragua. He explained that the
Nicaraguan program is in its 27th year and currently numbers
nearly 170 volunteers working in education, health, and
agriculture sectors. Tschetter assured Ortega that the
volunteers have a "strong understanding" of Nicaragua through
their daily interactions at the community level and expressed
the Peace Corps, sincere appreciation for the "chance to
serve" in Nicaragua.

Keen Interest in Organic Products
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3. (U) Ortega, Murillo, and Agricultural Minister Ariel
Bucardo all expressed a strong interest in organic
agricultural projects, especially aimed at small producers
and women. Murillo asked about an organic agriculture
program that had operated "for years in the past" and queried
whether this program was still operational. The Ambassador
mentioned that a Michigan State University program and
another implemented through the Adventist Development Relief
Agency (ADRA) recently ended, but that a new agricultural
sector program was recently launched in northern Nicaragua.
Picking up the theme, Bucardo repeatedly emphasized the
importance of organic agriculture for small farmers and asked
for U.S. support. He acknowledged that Nicaragua was
producing beef and coffee in this way, but lamented the loss
of an organic production program a few years earlier. Ortega
was advised of the fact that, according to Peace Corps
project evaluation reports, upwards of 60 % of participants
in small agricultural programs are women.

"Project Excellence" Big Success
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4. (U) Prompted by Tshcetter,s description of the Peace
Corps' emphasis on educational programs, Ortega turned to
Education Minister De Castilla for comment. In an
uncharacteristically effusive style, De Castilla praised
USAID,s "Project Excellence" program, stressing that this is
a model program that others can and should learn from. De
Castilla also underlined the fact that the ministry has very
good relations with both the Peace Corps and USAID.

Supporting Local Farmers
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (U) Following Tschetter,s overview of Peace Corps,
program in Nicaragua, Ortega used the theme of rural support
to segue into a discussion of his government's efforts to
support local farmers by restoring grain storage
infrastructure and working directly with small farmers to
offer them "just" prices for their products. He criticized
speculators for having driven up grain prices in the wake of
Hurricane Felix and pledged that his government -- through
ENABAS, the national grain board -- would stabilize supplies
and prices of basic grains while improving farmers, lives.
Within this context, Ortega expressed his gratitude for the
work of volunteers who are assisting rural agricultural towns
and families.

6. (U) The Ambassador pointed out the importance of building
"connections" between (small) producers and exporters and
businesses in the U.S., explaining that improving and
strengthening the entire production chain is a key success
factor. He specifically mentioned Walmart,s venture into
the agricultural market and the positive impact that is
having on smaller producers linked into their supply chains.

Emphasis on Community Health Programs
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7. (U) Acknowledging that the communities in which there are
active health promotion programs have "very positive"
opinions of the U.S., Health Minister Gonzalez commented that
he would like to see the assistance "better organized" but
did not go into details, stating that the topic would be
discussed the following day in a meeting at the Ministry. De
Castilla also remarked on the importance -- and success -- of
Peace Corps and USAID community health projects and their
vital link to the success of community education.

Ortega Interested in Exchange Program
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (U) After learning that hundreds of PCVs have cycled
through Nicaragua during the program,s 27 years in
Nicaragua, Ortega asked if the Peace Corps offered an
exchange program, whereby qualified Nicaraguan youths -- he
specifically mentioned women -- could go to the U.S. to see
and learn about U.S. markets and business opportunities with
an eye towards identifying future opportunities in Nicaragua
upon their return.

Members of U.S. Delegation
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ambassador Trivelli
Kathryn Rulon, Deputy Director of Peace Corps programs in
Latin America and the Pacific
George Baldino, Director of the Peace Corps program in
Carol Barrick, Peace Corps Nicaragua Deputy Director

Members of Nicaraguan Delegation
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rosario Murillo, First Lady
Guillermo Gonzalez, Health Minister
Ariel Bucardo, Agriculture and Forestry Minister
Miguel De Castilla, Education Minister
Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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