HC Deb 10 January 1990 vol 164 cc929-30
5. Mr. Grocott

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions are being taken by Her Majesty's ambassador in Managua to observe the elections in Nicaragua.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

Her Majesty's ambassador and the chargé d'affaires will continue to monitor the election process carefully. They will also offer whatever assistance is necessary to our official observer, Dr. David Browning.

Mr. Grocott

Does the Minister agree that a crucial factor in ensuring fair elections in Nicaragua is that the constant intimidation of that country by the United States should cease? Will he take this opportunity publicly to declare unequivocally his condemnation of the attack on the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama by the United States?

Mr. Sainsbury

I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman's reference to the intimidation of Nicaragua by the United States. He will be aware that the United States Government have apologised for the incident involving Nicaraguan property in Panama. I hope that he accepts that one of the important aspects in ensuring free and fair elections in Nicaragua is equal opportunity on the media being provided to both parties. He will be aware that the United Nations observers have said that the amount of bias towards the governing party and the attacks on its potential rivals have exceeded all reasonable bounds.

Mr. Norris

Does not my hon. Friend share with me a certain scepticism about the forthcoming electoral process in Nicaragua, based on the transparent inability of the Sandinista regime to separate itself as between government and party? That is demonstrated beyond peradventure by the way in which the Sandinistas dominate the electoral tribunal in Nicaragua and the Sandinista regime has suppressed opposition both on television and in the press in that country. Does he share with me a certain wry amusement at my experience when, having been in Nicaragua to look at the electoral process there, I then went to Panama to witness General Noriega's little election in May of last year and found that one of the few officials whom the general could find to legitimise his election process was a member of the electoral tribunal in Nicaragua?

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend has considerable experience and personal knowledge of these matters. He is right to draw attention to the constitutional anomaly, that the Sandinista party continues to exercise a constitutional monopoly of power over the army and all state apparatus. I hope that the Opposition do not find that a laughing matter.

Mr. Flannery

Was not the attack on the Nicaraguan embassy in Panama quite disgraceful and did not the President of the United States apologise for it? Nicaragua is being permanently attacked by the Contras who are being given money by the United States for that purpose. Is not an attack on an entire country even more odious than an attack on that country's embassy in another country?

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman seems reluctant to recognise that the situation has changed. The United States Government ceased to give military aid to the Contras a very long time ago. They have also undertaken to withdraw humanitarian aid from any Contras who are found to be involved in military action.