Saturday 30 September 2023

Daniel Ortega, Vladimir Putin’s “socio barato” in Latin America

Russia does not bring tangible benefits to Nicaragua, but there is an exchange beyond the symbolic or narrative that represents a threat to regional security and democracy, concludes an Open File investigation.

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Q REPORTS (LA PRENSA) Nicaragua has proven to be more profitable for Russia than Cuba or Venezuela, where it has invested much more economically, for which reason cooperation is likely to expand, says Vladimir Rouvinski, director of the Laboratory of Politics and International Relations of the Colombian Institute of Higher Studies of Incolda (Icesi) and author of the Open File study “Russia and Nicaragua: a peculiar relationship that threatens security and democracy in the Western Hemisphere.”

Vladimir Putin and Daniel Ortega. Russian-Nicaraguan trade relations are minimal, and despite the propaganda of the Ortega-Murillo regime, loans and investments are practically zero. Image from La Prensa archives

“Involving Nicaragua requires relatively low costs for Russia compared to the investments needed to increase the Russian presence in other allied nations in the region, such as Cuba or Venezuela,” the report concludes.

Russian-Nicaraguan trade relations are minimal, and despite the propaganda of the Ortega-Murillo regime, loans and investments are practically zero. However, the area where the real compromise occurs is military and security cooperation, as well as information and influence operations, the research highlights.

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“While Nicaragua does not represent any large-scale purchases of Russian military weapons and equipment with a high price tag attached, it cooperates without restriction with Moscow on all critical and sensitive points of the agenda due to the level of involvement of the Russian military in the definition of the cooperation agenda in such a way that it responds to Russia’s long-term strategic interests and directly benefits the Daniel Ortega regime,” the document states.

“Most of the military equipment of the Nicaraguan Army is produced in the former Soviet Union and contemporary Russia. Dozens of tanks supplied by Moscow to Managua are probably the most advanced equipment of this type in the region.”

The study details that in the midst of the invasion of Ukraine, “current trends in Russian military cooperation with Nicaragua place the latter at the top of Moscow’s agenda as one of the few countries in Latin America totally dependent on Russia at the highest level”.

Strategic and security cooperation

In addition, there is “a training center independently owned and operated by Moscow in Nicaragua and a Glonass station (equivalent to the United States Global Positioning System (GPS)) can guide high-precision weapons and facilitate the navigation of navy ships. and military aircraft. Russian law enforcement trains the Nicaraguan police force in various aspects of intelligence and surveillance that help the Ortega regime oppress the opposition,” the study details.

“In terms of information and influence operations, the media controlled by the governments of Nicaragua and Russia cooperate in the area of strategic information, disseminating the narratives of the Putin and Ortega regimes on key international and regional issues.”

It may interest you: What is the Ortega dictatorship looking for in Belarus, key in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

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In addition, “among the latest advances is the participation of Russian observers in the disputed elections in Nicaragua, used by Moscow and Managua to legitimize electoral results that the opposition and the international community have rejected,” the document summarizes.

“The potential for rapid expansion of Moscow’s military and intelligence capabilities in Nicaragua threatens the security and democracy of the Western Hemisphere, where the dominance of democratic nations in the 21st century has been seen as crucial to maintaining stability in the region.” , reveals the study.

Quirky society

The analysis presented by Expediente Abierto indicates that, despite the abysmal differences between Russia —a nuclear power and global actor— and Nicaragua —one of the poorest countries in the Americas—, this Ortega-Putin relationship serves the interests of both political regimes.

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Russia is building relationships with other Latin American countries, but Nicaragua stands out for the unprecedented level of trust it places in Moscow.

“In the case of Ortega, it is to cement the power he has and for the Russians, Nicaragua lends itself as a kind of operations center for Central America, so that they can later develop their strategy,” Rouvinski explained to Expediente Público, in an interview that will be published. in the third installment of this special.

In addition, Ortega wanted to involve Putin’s Russia in domestic issues that needed to be stepped up quickly, such as influence and police operations. On the other hand, Moscow views Nicaragua through the lens of strategic reciprocity, where the fundamental value is geographic proximity to the United States.

At the same time, “after the war in Ukraine started by Putin in February 2022, Russia is forced to increase its participation in the geopolitical game in the Western Hemisphere. In this context, Ortega-controlled Nicaragua has all the characteristics that Russia seeks for a center of its activities in the region: first-hand knowledge and constant updates on the ground through its embassy and other offices controlled by the Russian government in the area, fully collaborating local authorities, independently managed Moscow facilities on the ground, networks in neighboring Central American countries.”

Parallel to the strengthening of authoritarian tendencies in Nicaragua and the growing isolation of the Ortega regime in the international arena, Managua needed a powerful ally capable of providing broad political support to the country in various multilateral settings and information spaces.

Expanding influence

Putin wants to become the main promoter of the new world order, but has failed to recruit new allies in Latin America, despite continued calls from Moscow to cut ties with the United States. For the Nicaraguan regime, although it depends economically on the United States —its main trading partner—, it needs Moscow to have the support of a global actor that allows it to confront Washington, as well as a means of legitimization.

The Managua regime intends to pave the way for Russia to become an observer in the Central American Integration System (SICA), whereby “Russia’s liberal approach to internal and international political organization coincides with the aspirations not only from the Ortega regime, which benefits from Russian support. It also attracts some of the leaders of Central American countries, where democratic institutions are fragile.

For example, in April 2023, Putin characterized Honduras, governed by the Xiomara Castro-Manuel Zelaya couple with enormous sympathy and friendship with Daniel Ortega, as “an important partner of Russia in Central America,” adding that Russia will continue to “develop a dialogue political relationship with this nation”, the study recapitulates.

Nicaragua, under the control of Daniel Ortega, offers Russia the opportunity to learn first-hand about the situation in the region and promote Moscow’s interests through the Russian embassy, as well as collaboration between the armed forces and security agencies. .

There is also a Russian-Nicaraguan alliance for strategic communication that uses government-controlled information networks and independently run Moscow-run facilities on the ground, making it an ideal hub for Russian activities in the area, he maintains. The document.

The author of the text, Rouvinski explains to Expediente Público that one of the latest changes in Russian foreign policy in the Americas “is the tremendous increase in interest in Central America.”

In the first place, the historical relationship with Cuba changed due to the lack of resources to finance the island, which for the Soviets was a kind of enclave. Rouvinski recalls that the Russians tried to influence the payment of the debt, but the approach of the Barack Obama Administration led to their pardon.

Ortega, on the other hand, supports them in everything, in an ideal situation for two authoritarian regimes, but it is also no coincidence that one of the ways to enter the region is through an anti-narcotics police center for Central America based in Managua, a very sensitive to the United States, such as immigration and other issues in your neighborhood.

The article is part 1 of 3 translated and adapted from La Prensa, Nicaraguas’ leading newspaper, now available only in digital format and operating in exile. Read the original in Spanish here.

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Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

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