HC Deb 07 March 1990 vol 168 cc857-9
3. Mr. Jacques Arnold

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on British support for the transition to democracy of Latin American countries.

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

We warmly welcome the free elections that have taken place in a number of Latin American countries, most recently in Nicaragua. We have made it clear through numerous statements, sometimes with our European partners, that we strongly support the return to democracy of Latin America.

Mr. Arnold

Now that the second last dictatorship in Hispanic Latin America has returned to democracy with the defeat of Daniel Ortega and his Socialists by a woman leader, what are the prospects for the last such dictatorship in Latin America, which is supported by so many Labour Members, that is, that of Fidel Castro in Cuba?

Mr. Sainsbury

I hope that all parts of the House will join me in hoping that the people of Cuba will be given an early opportunity in free and fair elections to express their judgment of the way that their country has been run.

Mr. Corbyn

Does the Minister agree that there has been considerable hypocrisy on the part of the Administration of the United States and the British Government in denying aid or trade to Nicaragua for the past 10 years, supporting a military attack upon that country and then taking pride in the fact that the Government of the Sandinistas called elections and abided by the results? Does he not think that the real problem and issue facing the people of all Latin America is the appalling debt crisis, which can be solved not by debt for equity arrangements, but only by proper commodity prices and a write-off of the debt burden that falls upon the poorest people of that continent?

Mr. Sainsbury

We applaud the manner in which President Ortega accepted the result of the elections. I must disagree with the hon. Gentleman about the real problem that faces the people of Nicaragua. It seems to me that they have clearly rejected the Socialist management of their economy that led to a massive drop in living standards and hyper-inflation, which devastated the economy of their country.

Mr. Bellingham

Is the Minister aware that the deputy Chief Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who has some Latin blood in him, is currently in the oriental republic of Uruguay? Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no one more suitable to represent our Government in that country?

Mr. Sainsbury

I shall not express a view about whether my hon. Friend is right about the Latin blood, or perhaps the Welsh blood, of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones). I am glad that he has already been to Nicaragua and, on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government, he warmly congratulated Mrs. Chamorro on her victory and has already discussed with her the help that our Government can give to her Government.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Minister acknowledge the signal contribution of President Ortega and the Sandinistas in moving Nicaragua out of the Somoza dictatorship into a genuine democracy, with free elections, acknowledged as such by outside observers, and a peaceful transfer of power? Will the Government now resume substantial economic, bilateral aid to that country? Will they monitor the progress of the new regime, to ensure that the unrivalled achievements of the Sandinistas in health and education is maintained?

Mr. Sainsbury

I should have hoped that the right hon. Gentleman heard what I said when I congratulated President Ortega on the manner in which he accepted the result of the elections. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will join me in calling upon the remaining Socialist countries of Central America and the Caribbean, including Cuba, to hold free and fair elections. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge the error of the ways of all the Socialist local authorities that gave so much support to the Sandinistas—perhaps they will now return that money to their ratepayers.

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