Cables show Nicaragua biz group at work

Feb. 23, 2011 at 4:38 PM
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MANAGUA, Nicaragua, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua used his position to undermine President Daniel Ortega, leaked diplomatic cables show.

Roger Arteaga Cano, who recently stepped down, served in the government under one of Ortega's predecessors. U.S. cables obtained by Wikileaks show he met secretly with U.S. diplomats and used his position to issue statements from the chamber calling Ortega and his officials "gangsters" and "terrorists," The New York Times reports.

About 100 countries have American Chambers of Commerce, which have no formal affiliation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They were organized to promote the interests of U.S. companies doing business abroad.

A number of other American chambers have taken positions in local politics. In Taiwan, the chamber publicly criticized a pro-independence party that it said was trying to limit trade with China, while in Honduras the local group backed the ouster of President Jose Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Kevin Casas-Zamora, a former minister of economic development in Costa Rica, suggested the chambers should stay out of politics.

"It is a really bad idea, and it tends to backfire," he told the Times. "You are simply handing on a platter a rhetorical weapon ... someone like Ortega will surely use against you."

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