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Cablegate: Peace Corps Director Meets with President Ortega

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OVIP PGOV EAID NU
SUBJECT: PEACE CORPS DIRECTOR MEETS WITH PRESIDENT ORTEGA

1. Summary. On September 4, Peace Corps Director Aaron
Williams met with President Daniel Ortega to review the work
of the Peace Corps in Nicaragua as well as to provide
observations from his September 2-4 visit and to discuss
areas for future cooperation. After expressing concern about
the ongoing crisis in Honduras and the presence of the U.S.
military on Colombian bases, Ortega praised the work of the
Peace Corps and its work to improve conditions in some of
Nicaragua's poorest communities. Director Williams
emphasized that the Peace Corps is committed to working with
Nicaragua to help people in these communities and will look
for new ways to expand its work in the country. Education,
Health and Agriculture Ministers similarly lauded the work of
Peace Corps and USAID in helping to foster Nicaragua's
development. End Summary.

2. Ortega opened the meeting noting the emergency situation
facing Nicaragua due to the spread of H1N1 virus, which had
even affected members of his own household. Ortega
reiterated the GON's concerns over the ongoing crisis in
Honduras and welcomed the recent U.S. decision to cut
assistance to the de facto government. In addition, he
emphasized that "all of Latin America" is worried about the
presence of the U.S. military at bases in Colombia. Turning
to the Peace Corps, Ortega welcomed the visit of Director
Williams and praised the history and ongoing programs of the
Corps in Nicaragua. Ortega recalled how the Peace Corps
remained credible and active in Nicaragua through the 1960s
and 1970s and emphasized that the direct engagement of Peace
Corps volunteers in Nicaragua's poorest communities was vital
to Nicaragua's continued development.

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3. Director Williams thanked Ortega for the opportunity to
meet and noted that Nicaragua was the second country he had
visited as Director (after the Dominican Republic), a
testament to the success of the programs in the country.
Williams emphasized that the Peace Corps, and the U.S.
Government, is committed to working "arm in arm" with
Nicaragua to help people in the poorest communities and that
he would continue to look for new ways to continue the work.

4. Education Minister de Castilla lauded the work of the
Peace Corps and USAID in helping to improve Nicaragua's
education system. Calling the Peace Corps' programs
"extraordinary," De Castilla noted the successes of the Peace
Corps, especially in the areas of entrepreneurship training
for secondary students and English-language training.
Furthermore, De Castilla praised the work of USAID's
"Excellencia" program and work in curriculum development.
Without USAID's help, De Castilla added, "it would have been
impossible to transform the curriculum." Building on the
same theme, Agriculture Minister Bucardo noted the work of
the Peace Corps in directly helping communities address
environmental issues, particularly water problems as
Nicaragua faces ongoing challenges of drought and lack of
access to clean water. Finally, Health Minister Gonzalez
noted the community-level contributions of the Peace Corps in
various areas of preventive health, including maternal-child
care and HIV/AIDS prevention.

5. Ortega concluded the meeting by noting that the visit of
Peace Corps Director Williams demonstrated that "despite our
differences, we (the U.S. and Nicaragua) are working
together, not just in counter-narcotics, but also to
eradicate poverty, to open up new space for cooperation, and
to build confidence between our two countries."
CALLAHAN

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