Nicaragua dropped from list as President Higgins visits Central American countries

President’s 12-day tour will now take in Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica

 President Michael D Higgins (right) and Mexico’s foreign minister José Antonio Meade at a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial to the Batallón de San Patricio  in Mexico City. Photograph:  Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

President Michael D Higgins (right) and Mexico’s foreign minister José Antonio Meade at a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial to the Batallón de San Patricio in Mexico City. Photograph: Chris Bellew / Fennell Photography

Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 01:00



President Michael D Higgins has not ruled out a separate future visit to Nicaragua after a planned stop in the country on his 12-day tour of Central America was dropped because of scheduling issues.

Speaking in Mexico City on the first day of his three-country tour to Mexico, El Salvador and Costa Rica, Mr Higgins said that originally he had also planned to stop in Nicaragua, whose leader Daniel Ortega he has hosted in Ireland.

“Unfortunately the host side ran into some diary difficulties which included, for example, the fact of whether the president is in the country during the period when the visit is taking place,” he said. “In the case of Nicaragua, that is for the future,” Mr Higgins added.

A long-time champion of victims of conflict and human rights abuses in Central America, Mr Higgins said his memories of visiting El Salvador during the country’s war in 1982 to report on atrocities were “very harrowing” but he was pleased to be returning this week “in conditions of peace”.


Apology
He was “very moved” by the apology by El Salvador’s president Mauricio Funes in 2010 for the human rights abuses committed by the state during the country’s 12-year civil war.

During his visit to the country, Mr Higgins said he would deliver a paper on “the importance of never forgetting and the ethics of memory if we are to have a fruitful present and go on to a future”.

Travelling with his wife, Sabina Higgins, and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Joe Costello, Mr Higgins will meet Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto today.

Mr Higgins said he hoped to promote trade ties between Ireland and Mexico at a business summit in Guadalajara, adding that there were nine Irish companies signing agreements with Mexican businesses.

He noted the importance of developing goals with Latin America, saying some of the most original thinking in sciences and economics was coming from South American thinkers where economic growth, sustainability and poverty reduction were being combined in the same model, he said.


Cultural links
He will also promote connections between Irish and Mexican universities and speak on the subjects of culture, the arts and development.

“It is very good to see something that we underestimate in Ireland and that is the immense positive feeling that exists in Latin America generally,” he said.

“That is why I think more and more you are going to see Ireland being used as a place where many of the people in South America will encounter Europe. ”

Speaking after commemorating Irish emigrants who fought for Mexico in the 19th century, Mr Higgins said it was a very important aim of his foreign trips that Ireland not lose connection to the people it had lost through emigration.