Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Ortega welcomes Chen and aid

FRIEND IN NEED Taiwan will participate in a program designed to combat poverty in Nicaragua that gives villagers a pregnant cow, a pregnant sow and five hens

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN MANAGUA

Taiwan will donate US$1.1 million in financial aid to help Nicaragua combat poverty, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra announced on Sunday when President Chen Shu-bian (陳水扁) arrived on the final leg of his trip to the nation's Central American allies.

Ortega made the announcement during a rally in Matagalpa. Chen is the first foreign president taken to visit the birthplace of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

The Sandinistas ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990. In 1984 there were democratic elections in which they won the majority of the votes but they lost power in the 1990 election.

Ortega made his political comeback in elections last November, having led Nicaragua through a revolution and a civil war before being voted out in 1990. He took office again in January.

Ortega had said during his presidential campaign last year that he would switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing if elected.

But after his victory in the election and after Chen attended his inauguration in January, Ortega changed his mind and vowed that Nicaragua would maintain formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Recently, however, Ortega expressed the hope that Nicaragua could maintain "good relations with both sides of the Taiwan Strait."

Chen, who arrived on Sunday morning, was greeted with full military honors at the airport. Ortega, who loves cars, drove Chen to Matagalpa in his Mercedez-Benz SUV.

While a rally for the two leaders was scheduled to start at 2:45pm, Chen and Ortega did not arrive until 5pm, leaving supporters and reporters waiting in the rain after baking in the scorching sun.

While Chen and Ortega were enjoying their road trip, the Taiwanese press corps encountered pickpockets and sexual harassment.

Two male TV reporters almost had their wallets stolen and one female TV reporter complained about improper physical contact from a strange man.

Another female reporter, however, was pleased when a man bought her a quesillo, a typical Nicaraguan dish. Literally translated, it means "little cheese."

At the rally, Chen told the crowd of about 5,000 that Nicaragua was the first Central American country he visited after becoming president in 2000. He also announced that Taiwan would donate 660 radios and thermometers to Nicaraguan women.

Calling Ortega his "best friend" and "dear brother," Chen said that they had much in common. Both studied law, served jail terms for their involvement in democratic movements and drove authoritarian regimes out of power.

"It is my hope during this state visit that we can increase the bonds of cooperation between the two countries," said the president, who was accompanied by a large delegation, including business executives.

Ortega asked his Taiwanese counterpart to provide "long-term" investment in his country's agricultural sector.

Ortega joined the Sandinista movement in 1963. He rose rapidly through its ranks and was a leading player in the guerrilla war against dictator Anastasio Somoza. He was imprisoned for seven years.

Ortega revealed that Taiwan would donate US$1.1 million to a hunger fighting program -- "Hambre Cero en Nicaragua" (Zero Hunger in Nicaragua).

In addition to Taiwan, the US$150 million program is sponsored by international organizations such as the UN, the World Bank and the World Food Program. An estimated 75,000 families will benefit from the five-year program.

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