Russia’s Geopolitical Appetite in Latin America

  • Russian president Putin and Nicaraguan president Ortega have similar styles of governance and both are known to oppress opposition candidates.
  • The construction of the Nicaraguan Canal would limit US geopolitical influence in the region.
  • Interestingly, a Chinese billionaire Wang Jing came forward to bankroll the project.

Russia is trying to re-establish allies from the Soviet Era in Latin America. The current focus on Nicaragua is largely due to the president  José Daniel Ortega Saavedra. He has been a Nicaraguan leader since 2007. Ortega is serving his third consecutive term as president. The constitution had to be changed to allow Ortega to run for the past two terms. Ortega was also the president of Nicaragua during the Soviet Era from 1985 to 1990.

José Daniel Ortega Saavedra (born November 11, 1945) is a Nicaraguan politician serving as President of Nicaragua since 2007; previously he was leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, first as Coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction (1979–1985) and then as President (1985–1990).

He has never had a positive view of the United States, due to the US backing Anastasio Somoza DeBayle during an earlier revolution.

In 1986, while Ortega was a Nicaraguan president, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in favor of Nicaragua in a case the Central American nation brought against the US for aiding Nicaraguan Contra rebels in a bid to undermine Ortega’s socialist government.

Russian president Putin and Nicaraguan president Ortega have similar styles of governance and both are known to oppress opposition candidates. The raids on the offices of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after the recent elections, are a prime example. In 2018, anti-Ortega protesters were silenced and Amnesty International issued grave concerns about human rights violations in the country.

Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza DeBayle (5 December 1925 – 17 September 1980) was a Nicaraguan dictator and officially the President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979. He was the last member of the Somoza family to be President, ending a dynasty that had been in power since 1936.

Russia also has close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The construction of the Nicaraguan Canal would limit US geopolitical influence in the region. The project has been delayed due to funding issues. Interestingly, a Chinese billionaire Wang Jing came forward to bankroll the project, through his Hong Kong-based HKND (HK Nicaragua Canal Development) Group. He is the Chairman and CEO of Beijing Xinwei, a Chinese telecoms company.

Historically, the Sandinista movement was anti-American. The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua. Its members are called Sandinistas. The party is named after Augusto César Sandino who led the Nicaraguan resistance against the United States occupation of Nicaragua in the 1930s.  A party with Marxist views did not win any support from the US. On the contrary, it created a further rift between the two nations. Consequently, Nicaraguan leaders had no choice but to ask for aid from the Soviet Union and Cuba. The estimate of Soviet military aid to Nicaragua exceeded $2 billion.

The current presence of Russia in Nicaragua was felt during the 2018 protests against the Ortega regime with the well-documented use of Russian-made armaments– including AK automatic weapons and Dragunov sharpshooters– by national police and government-aligned special forces. The weapons show a close relations between Russia and Nicaragua.

Image Source: Havanatimes.org

Currently, Russia and China are working in tandem to further their geopolitical ambitions in the region. China wants to use the Nicaraguan Canal for the transportation of Venezuelan crude oil.

Putin’s ambitions for global influence are a dangerous sign for the West. Without a viable strategy to oppose them, Russia and China will create further disparities in the region.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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