Ros-Lehtinen and Sires NICA Act Secures Passage in House of Representatives, Takes Next Step to Promote Democracy and Respect for Human Rights in Nicaragua

Oct 3, 2017

Ros-Lehtinen and Sires NICA Act Secures Passage in House of Representatives, Takes Next Step to Promote Democracy and Respect for Human Rights in Nicaragua


(Washington, DC) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman Emeritus of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the following statement today on the House Floor in support of the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act), H.R. 1918, legislation she authored alongside Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and which the House of Representatives passed by voice vote. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen (as prepared for delivery):

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 1918 – the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act, also known as the Nica Act.

I would like to thank Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for working with my office to bring this important bipartisan measure to the floor today.

I would like to thank mi hermano from New Jersey Albio Sires who is the Democratic lead on this legislation – his leadership on all things human rights related is admirable and his steadfast support for the people of Nicaragua has been unwavering.

I also want to thank Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Duncan who has been helping us lead the effort in bringing attention to the human rights abuses occurring in Nicaragua.

This legislation is straightforward and simple Mr. Speaker.

Our bill is aimed at leveraging America’s influence and conditioning our vote at any of the international financial institutions for Nicaragua until the leadership in that country takes significant steps to restore democratic order.

And what are some of those conditions:

•           promote democracy, as well as an independent judicial system and electoral council;

•           strengthen the rule of law;

•           combat corruption, including investigating and prosecuting government officials that are credibly alleged to be corrupt; and

•           protection of the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.

These conditions are similar to what this Congress has already passed for the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

This bill is intended to help the people of Nicaragua.

This bill has safeguards in place to ensure that humanitarian assistance continues to be provided to address basic human needs.

Some of those basic needs, such as free and fair elections, are not being met today due to the failed leadership in Nicaragua.

Reports have surfaced that the Nicaraguan electoral council is giving away identity cards so that minors can be allowed to vote;

Nicaraguans who are not on the electoral rolls will be allowed to vote.

So what does that mean?

It means there will be no way to determine if the individual voted more than once, and that is exactly how the status quo wants it so that it can manipulate the results of the elections.

We are also seeing civil society leaders publicly expressing their concern regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and, as a result of speaking out against the government, have been targeted for persecution.

Indigenous communities have also expressed their concern regarding land grabs by the government; and

Violence is breaking out as the Nicaraguan military is being dispatched to squash the peaceful protests by these communities. 

Let us not forget Mr. Speaker, just what kind of leadership structure we are dealing with in Nicaragua.

The Russians have set up operations in Managua that poses a threat to U.S. national security interests.

Nicaragua continues to offer its unconditional support to Nicolas Maduro and his dictatorial regime in Venezuela.

And according to Congressional testimony, Venezuela’s PDVSA is also using its subsidiary in Nicaragua, ALBANISA, to launder money.

Mr. Speaker, if Venezuela’s Maduro is using Nicaragua in order to evade U.S. sanctions, we need to take a closer look at these ties, and hold people accountable.

And that is what this bill does Mr. Speaker – it holds the Nicaraguan government accountable just like we have done with other countries in Central America, so that it can truly help the people.

Earlier this year, Albio and I traveled to Honduras and Guatemala and we saw firsthand that conditioning our support for these countries works and has been extremely effective.

Placing conditions incentivizes countries to do the right thing and make institutional reforms as needed to improve the livelihood of their citizens.

I urge my colleagues to support this measure and I yield back.

NOTE: Ros-Lehtinen re-introduced the NICA Act on April 5, 2017. The NICA Act was passed unanimously in the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 27, 2017 and passed the Western Hemisphere subcommittee on May 24, 2017.

Last Congress, on September 21, 2016, the U.S. House of Representative approved a similar version of the legislation by unanimous consent. The NICA Act aims to put conditions on Nicaragua similar to what Congress has already enacted into law regarding Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador (P.L. 114-113).