Sun, Jul 05, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ma finally meets Nicaraguan leader

ODD OCCURRENCES Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega failed to show up at the airport to greet Ma, snubbed him at a dinner banquet and left him waiting in a car

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, left, holds hands with his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-Jeou during a press conference in Managua on Friday. Ma was in Nicaragua for a two-day official visit intended to strengthen relations between the countries.

PHOTO: AFP

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) finally met Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on Friday at Nicaragua’s Presidential Office, where Ortega denied that he had purposely canceled a meeting with Ma last month.

The first day of Ma’s visit to Nicaragua was marked by a string of inconveniences. First, Ortega did not show up at the airport to greet Ma when he arrived with his delegation early on Friday morning.

Later, Ortega skipped a dinner banquet at which he was supposed to host Ma.

Meanwhile, Ortega’s wife did not accompany first lady Chow Mei-ching (周美青) as had been planned when she visited the local branch of World Vision and a development center for physically challenged children.

Instead, Ma and his delegation were welcomed by Nicaraguan Vice President Jaime Morales at the airport. Nicaraguan officials later explained that Ortega was attending the funeral of late Managua mayor Alexis Arguello, who committed suicide on Thursday at his home by shooting himself in the chest.

Ortega later met Ma at the Presidential Office.

He condemned the media for accusing him of standing Ma up last month, referring to the incident in which Ma and Ortega were scheduled to hold an informal meeting on June 1 in San Salvador during Ma’s last visit. Ortega postponed the meeting twice, prompting Ma to scrap it.

Ortega on Friday said he did not meet Ma last month because of a serious delay at the ruling party’s convention in San Salvador.

Ma told reporters that he had agreed that they should delay the meeting to yesterday instead.

The two exchanged opinions about the coup in Honduras, with Ma urging the diplomatic ally to handle it in a democratic and legal manner.

“Countries in Latin America have established democracy and legal systems over the last 20 years, and we hope that such tradition can be further developed,” Ma said.

Morales also substituted for Ortega at a dinner banquet for Ma and his delegation.

Taiwan’s ambassador to Nicaragua, Wu Ching-mu (吳進木), said Ortega has been busy dealing with the coup in Honduras, as well as the funeral of Arguello.

Wu said Ortega had informed Ma about his absence in advance and would apologize to Ma in person.

Ties between the two countries remain unchanged, Tsai said.

Wu apologized for the various changes to Ma’s schedule, promising to take full responsibility.

Tsai Chung-li (蔡仲禮), Presidential Office press relations director, said Ma felt Ortega’s sincerity when the Nicaraguan president accompanied him to the hub of a bilateral technological cooperation project earlier in the afternoon, adding that Ma understood the reasons for Ortega’s absence.

Ortega drove Ma to the cooperation project in Masapete City and addressed the event for 30 minutes before Ma made a speech. The Central News Agency reported that Ortega, before leaving the location, left Ma waiting inside the car while he took time to make several phone calls and drink coffee.

It has been speculated that Ortega gave Ma the cold shoulder because the Ma administration decided not to provide financial assistance to Nicaragua and other allies in Central America, but government officials have dismissed this.

Ma will leave Nicaragua today and make a transit stop in Hawaii before arriving in Taipei tomorrow.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AP

Also See: Honduras coup leaders pull out of OAS

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