February 20, 2019
By Ismael Lopez
MANAGUA (Reuters) – Nicaragua’s congress on Tuesday accepted a $100 million loan offered by Taiwan, giving a line of support to President Daniel Ortega’s government, which has become increasingly isolated after a brutal crackdown on protesters last year.
Lawmakers approved the 20-year loan a day after U.S. President Donald Trump declared that “socialism is dying” in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. The United States enacted a law late last year making it harder for Nicaragua to access multilateral loans.
The bill approved by lawmakers from the ruling Sandinista party said the funds were destined to support the country’s budget priorities this year. Taiwan’s embassy in Managua did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nicaragua is one of a shrinking number of countries in Central America that still offer U.S.-ally Taiwan diplomatic support over China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province.
Former guerrilla leader Ortega’s rule was challenged by the protests against a social security reform last year. More than 320 people died in a crackdown that suppressed the protests but led to deep rifts with the private sector and Washington.
The United States has imposed sanctions on officials close to Ortega, including his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
The Netherlands and Luxembourg last year suspended aid funding to Nicaragua, citing repression during the protests.
In the 2019 budget, Nicaragua’s congress forecast a budget deficit of $320 million, up from $170 million in December 2018.
(Reporting by Ismael Lopez in Managua; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Peter Cooney)