US urged Haughey to take tough line with Nicaraguan president Ortega

US wanted Irish government to apply public pressure on Nicaraguan leader and to encourage other EU countries to do the same

During Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega’s 1989 European visit, Charles Haughey took a much softer line with him than the positions taken by other EU leaders. Photograph: Steve Northup/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

During Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega’s 1989 European visit, Charles Haughey took a much softer line with him than the positions taken by other EU leaders. Photograph: Steve Northup/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

 

US secretary of state James Baker strongly urged taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1989 to adopt a tough line with Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega over democratic standards.

Shortly before Ortega arrived in Dublin on an official visit, Baker phoned Haughey to tell him that the US government wanted the Irish government to apply public pressure on the Nicaraguan leader and also to encourage other EU countries to do the same.

Speaking notes for a phone conversation Baker held with Haughey in April 1989 have been obtained under US freedom of information legislation.

They notes show that Baker’s primary concern was to impress on Haughey the need to take a stiff line with Ortega, who was due to visit Ireland shortly afterwards.

The conversation began with Baker saying he had enjoyed meeting Haughey in March and thanking him for his letter outlining his conversation with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“The president asked that I call you today to discuss our shared concerns in Central America,” said Baker, who emphasised the need for the success of the peace process in El Salvador. “We believe that with concerted international action this can come to pass.

“Ireland will have opportunities to further the peace process in Central America as Ireland moves into EC leadership.

“Two events will colour the prospects for fair electoral arrangements in Nicaragua. President Ortega’s trip to Europe, including Dublin, and the Swedish pledging conference for Nicaragua called for mid-May.

“President Ortega wants to obtain new European aid and demonstrate international approval for his election reforms.

“However, in recent weeks the internal opposition in Nicaragua has offered a reasonable series of proposals to President Ortega. He, however, has refused to negotiate with them and put forth his own electoral law reform proposals which would leave the Sandinista government in control of the electoral commission and the entire election process.

“The Nicaraguan democratic opposition hopes for the solidarity and understanding of the European democracies.”

Baker said consideration of additional European aid might encourage the Sandinistas to believe they could avoid the serious steps already agreed. “I hope you will raise these matters in your discussions with other European leaders and directly with President Ortega.”

Baker added that Haughey and other European leaders should make it clear publicly that Ortega had not made satisfactory electoral reforms and should negotiate directly with the internal opposition.

“Election reforms are critical. Our new policy is designed to end confrontation and provide a democratic opening. We need your help to keep positive possibilities alive,” he added.

Baker also said the US strongly opposed Palestinian Liberation Organisation membership of UN agencies.

“We ask that the Irish delegation be instructed to support any effort to postpone action on such membership should the issue arise at the World Health Assembly in May.”

In the event Haughey took a much softer line with Ortega than any of his other hosts during his European visit.

The Nicaraguan president got a dressing down from German chancellor Helmut Kohl and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher for his domestic record on democracy.

However, The Irish Times reported that at a meeting in Malahide Castle on May 11th, 1989, Haughey promised Ortega support at the European Council of Ministers for aid and investment for his country.

The newspaper said Ortega received the warmest welcome of his European visit in Ireland. Haughey expressed “great sympathy and understanding for the problems” he faced.