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Nicaragua: rebuilding for prosperity
October 1, 2014, 12:52 pm
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Nicaragua and Kuwait have a long history of friendly relations that date back to the time of Kuwait’s independence and which is based on shared principles and policies, such as mutual respect, equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations and resolving international disputes amicably through peaceful means and in compliance with international treaties and laws.  

Both countries are also committed to global cooperation and respect for human rights, while advocating a new world order based on international law and rejecting all forms of terrorism and aggression. In its effort to reinforce and further bolster existing strong relations, Nicaragua opened its embassy here in 2013, said His Excellency Oscar Mazier Aranda the Ambassador of Nicaragua to Kuwait, in a recent exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait.

Giving us a brief outline of his thirty-five years of experience in service of his country, the career diplomat said, “I joined the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs way back in 1979, immediately after the first Sandinista government was formed. At the beginning, I was in charge of the Latin America Department before deciding to transfer to the Ministry of Energy and then move on to the International Relations Department of the National Parliament. I returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs later and was placed in charge of the Department of Middle-East and Africa.”

“Around four years ago, while serving with the Middle-East and Africa Department I had the honor of arranging everything for the first-ever visit to Nicaragua by the former Amir of Qatar. An interesting episode during that visit was a request from the Qatari delegation for four armored cars to be used by the Amir and his entourage during their trip. I was in a fix, because we did not have any armored cars in Nicaragua, because nobody saw a need for this type of vehicle in our country.”

“Even the president, the foreign minister and other top officials of Nicaragua use ordinary cars to drive around, and, with the exception of the President, most of them drive their own cars. I conveyed this fact to the Qatari delegation and assured them that Nicaragua was one of the safest countries in Central America, and that the Amir and his entourage would be extremely safe in my country. Luckily, they accepted my explanation and the tour went off smoothly.”

It was while serving in the Department of Middle-East and Africa that I was appointed to our embassy in Egypt, where I spent the next two years of my first sojourn in the Arab world. In 2013, I was assigned as Nicaragua’s first ambassador to our newly opened embassy here in Kuwait.

Since I took charge as ambassador, the embassy and I have been working assiduously to strengthen the long standing friendly relations between our two countries and to boost bilateral ties in various domains. On the diplomatic and political level our mutual ties are reinforced through high-profile visits and interactions between the leadership in both countries.

In June 2013, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received the Nicaraguan Private Secretary and Advisor for International Affairs Mohammad Lashter in Bayan Palace. During this visit Mr. Lashter handed His Highness the Amir a letter from Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega regarding the two countries' relations and ways to develop cooperation in different fields.

In March of this year, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Mexico and non-resident Ambassador to Nicaragua Sameeh Hayat was  granted the Order of Merit ‘Jose de Marcoleta’ by President Ortega in a recognition of his role in bolstering relations between Kuwait and Nicaragua. This was indeed an exceptional honor as Ambassador Hayat became the first diplomat in Nicaragua's history to be granted this honor in less than a year after submitting his credentials.

The most recent high-level visit was by a Kuwaiti parliamentary delegation headed by National Assembly Secretary Yacoub Al-Sanae, which visited Nicaragua in mid-September of this year. During their four-day visit to Nicaragua, the Kuwaiti delegation, along with Ambassador Hayat, was hosted to a reception by President Daniel Ortega.

At the reception, the president highlighted the importance of establishing close ties at the parliamentary level to strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation between our two countries. He voiced desire to further relations with the State of Kuwait, as well as his keenness to visit Kuwait in the near future upon an official invitation previously sent to him by His Highness the Amir. Furthermore, the president conveyed his congratulations to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on being awarded the title of 'Humanitarian Leader' and on Kuwait’s recognition as a 'Humanitarian Center' by the United Nations.  

Earlier the visiting parliamentary delegation also met with Minister of Foreign Relations Samuel Santos Lopez, Parliament Speaker Rene Nunez, and other Nicaraguan officials. During their bilateral meetings the two sides discussed a range of issues pertinent to bilateral relations and mutual interest with a focus on ways of bolstering ties in the power, investment, infrastructure, and health domains.

Turning to the economy of Nicaragua, the ambassador noted that during the war between the US-backed Contras and the government of the Sandinistas in the 1980s, much of the country's economy was sabotaged, and its infrastructure damaged or destroyed. Since then the people and the government have been engaged in a process of rebuilding the country “poco a poco” or little by little.

Speaking about the prospects of increasing commercial ties between Nicaragua and Kuwait, the diplomat said, “There is considerable scope for enhancing bilateral trade between our two countries, both in the public and private domains. Investment opportunities exist in various sectors of the economy, including agro-business, renewable energy, tourism, agro-business, services and infrastructure.

Clarifying that the government is committed to implementing sustainable socio-economic policies that will ensure a bright economic future for Nicaragua, the envoy noted that Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural country with land being the traditional basis of wealth. Exports of coffee, cotton, beef and sugar, mainly to Venezuela, form nearly 60 percent of all its total exports.

Elaborating on his country’s tremendous progress towards embracing renewable energy initiatives, and the favorable conditions that the government has created for attracting foreign investment in this lucrative sector, the ambassador said, “The Nicaragua Renewable Energy Development Plan seeks to make full use of all the renewable sources available in the country, including hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass and solar.”

The envoy added that in order to ensure sustained dynamism in the strategically important initiative of renewable energy, the ministry of energy and mines was preparing a US$4 billion plan to be carried out through 2014-2028 whereby 1,354 MW will be added to the National Grid, of which around 1,214 MW will be generated from renewable sources.

Hydro-electric power generation, which currently accounts for just 9 percent of renewable energy generation, or approximately 45 megawatts, is expected to get a major boost when three main projects initiated by the government comes on line. The largest of these hydro-electric projects is Tumarin, which is being built on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast through a US$1.1 billion Brazilian investment. The project, which is slated to start in September, is expected to generate 253 megawatts when it becomes operational in 2018.

Similarly, Nicaragua has the potential to produce more than 2,000 megawatts through geothermal energy production, at present only 10 percent of this potential has been exploited. Nicaragua also has an estimated 800 MW wind power generating potential, with the Isthmus of Rivas on the Pacific coast identified as being among the four best locations in the world for wind power generation. Solar energy is also a significant contributor to this important national undertaking, with a Japanese funded solar energy project in Carazo department and other solar projects being installed in different parts of the country.

The ambitious plan to transform the energy matrix in Nicaragua is already showing impressive results. With a total demand for energy in Nicaragua approximately 600 megawatts, and the estimated renewable energy potential of 5,800MW, almost ten times greater, the country is poised to export renewable energy to other Central American countries through the soon to be completed Central American Electrical Inter-connection System, known as SIEPAC. It is worth noting that Nicaragua has already begun energy exports to Costa Rica, Panama and more recently Honduras.

Pointing out the potential for investments in the tourism sector, the envoy said that over the last seven years tourism had become the largest industry in the country. Since 2007, tourism has grown about 70 percent nationwide, with annual growth rates of 10 to 16 percent. This positive increase and growth has led to income from tourism rising more than 300 percent in the past decade, with positive spin-off effects on agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as on the construction industry, added the envoy.

Extending congratulations on behalf of the Nicaraguan people to His Highness the Amir on being honored by the United Nations as a global ‘Humanitarian Leader’, the ambassador said, ”This is due recognition that His Highness the Amir is truly deserving of, in light of his noble role in supporting humanitarian causes around the world.”

The ambassador who is here along with his wife and 6-year old granddaughter said that his family had quickly adjusted to their new home in Kuwait and was enjoying the experience. The diplomat concluded by adding that during his tenure he looked forward to working closely with the government and people of Kuwait, to further the friendship and cooperation between the two countries. 

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