Nicaraguan companies exporting goods to the United States are feeling the heat as diplomatic relations between the two countries have become strained following the expulsion of three US officials last week.
Firms exporting coffee and textiles are particularly worried because the US has reportedly suspended some of the permits it issues for exportation. This comes just days after the US State Department warned that the expulsion of officials could damage bilateral ties.
To prevent the potential damage to its trade ties, Nicaragua has explained that it expelled officials for “delicate and sensitive” reasons, going on to say they were performing customs security work tied to anti-terrorism, without the knowledge of local officials.
Nicaragua says it expelled two officials but the US says three of its officials were expelled. The third official expelled has been identified as Evan Ellis, a professor on Latin American studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.
Ellis was in Nicaragua to perform research on the controversial inter-oceanic canal that the Central American country is building to rival Panama Canal. Reports say Ellis was picked up from his hotel and flown to the United States within 24 hours after his arrival.
“We believe it was unwarranted and inconsistent with the positive and constructive agenda that we seek with the government of Nicaragua,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.
The United States is an important trade partner for Nicaragua. Last year, Nicaraguan goods export to the US reached $3.2 billion. According to El Nuevo Diario, the expulsion of officials has led to the suspension of certificates the US issues for companies based in Nicaragua’s free trade zone.
José Angel Buitrago, president of the Coffee Exporters Association of Nicaragua (Excan), has warned that the removal of officials could affect coffee exports.