Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Nicaragua as a “very important ally for Russia in Latin America” during a surprise stopover in Managua last night as part of his political/World Cup tour of Latin America.
In brief comments broadcast on Sandinista media outlets, Putin — the first Russian President to ever visit Nicaragua — noted that the two countries are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations, but that “we have to do a lot to continue developing our relations, especially economically.”
Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega, seated next to his wife and his favorite son, Laureano, called Putin’s visit “historic.” He compared it to a “lightning strike” — apparently meant in a happy way.
“We are very happy to have you in our land, which is your land,” Ortega told his Russian counterpart through an interpreter.
Ortega lauded Putin for his efforts to fight the war on drugs and to “fight for peace.”
Putin’s surprise arrival has fueled rumors that Russia is somehow acting as a silent partner in the canal concession Nicaragua granted to an unknown Chinese company. The owner of that concession, enigmatic Chinese businessman Wang Jing, was in Nicaragua this week to announce the route of the canal.
Sandinista officials downplay the rumors of Russian involvement.
“No, I think those are suppositions,” retired Gen. Alvaro Baltodano, economic advisor to President Ortega, told Nicaragua Dispatch in a recent interview in Washington, D.C. “This is a Chinese investment; they are Chinese investors. Who are they going to work with? They are in contact with global companies, from the U.S., Russia, Europe and other parts of the world; China too.”
Pressed on whether the canal project is motivated by geopolitical or military interests in addition to global trade, Baltodano said that’s not a concern people should be worried about.
“We are not in a position to build something for geopolitical reasons or other reasons,” he said. “Here the goals are very clear, and exact, and very transparent.”