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17 Dec, 2008 23:13

Latin American revolutionary meets Medvedev

The Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra is in Moscow after a 20-year hiatus in a bid to revive old ties between the two countries.

“People in Nicaragua still treat Russia as an older brother who helps a lot like it was with the Soviet Union,” thinks student Ivan Carlos Fedichev Torres, the son of Nicaraguan mother and a Russian man. “For Russia the country could be a nice spot for a vacation and a small foothold in Latin America.”

His parents met in Moscow where his mother had come to study in 1985.

Russian – Nicaraguan diplomatic relationships started more than 60 years ago and developed actively after the revolutionary Sandinista government came to power in Nicaragua in 1979.

Since then, until the turbulent 1990s, Nicaragua was the second most important strategic partner of the Soviet Union in Latin America after Cuba.

However, in the nineties, when the political and economical landscapes of both countries started to change, contacts between the sides declined dramatically.

Trade turnover shrank from $US 230 million to $US 6.8 million last year. In the first nine months of this year, it constituted only $US 5.6 million.
It was only in 2007, when Ortega became president again, that relations began to revive.

Being among the leaders of a Sandinista rebellion to overthrow Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, Ortega won the presidential elections in 1985 and was in power until 1990 when he was defeated by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro.
An ardent leftist and atheist in the past, Daniel Ortega is now a devoted catholic and can even be called a moderate politician.

Vladimir Travkin from the Latin America Magazine met Daniel Ortega several times and calls him “a man of compromise”. He says that’s what helped Ortega return to office in 2007.

“He created a coalition. First he reconciled with the Catholic Church. Nicaragua is extremely religious,” he said. “Then his candidate for vice president was the leader of Contras, the U.S. backed guerillas who fought against Ortega and his counterparts. And he softened his anti-American rhetoric.”

Ortega returned to Russian political headlines in September, following the conflict in the Caucasus. Nicaragua was the only country besides Russia that recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Just last week Russian warships docked at Nicaragua’s port. Even though this stopover caused heated debates among the country’s lawmakers, Ortega permitted the vessels to enter.

A high-ranking Kremlin source was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying that the two heads of state will discuss cooperation in the spheres of energy, space exploration and agriculture. A package of documents on the cooperation of development has been prepared for signing.