>With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s whirlwind tour of Nicaragua and Cuba, the Havana-Caracas-Managua Axis is once again brought into focus.
On April 14 Nicaragua’s past/present Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega welcomed Chavez to Augusto Sandino International Airport (pictured here). Ortega was accompanied by wife Rosario Murillo, who is also the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front’s PR manager and head of the Sandinista-dominated Councils of Citizens’ Power, which replicate the functions of the 1980s Cuban-style Sandinista Defense Committees; General Julio Cesar Aviles, the country’s new army chief; Aminta Granera, chief of the Nicaraguan National Police; and, interestingly, Tomas Borge, a diehard Maoist who is the only living founder of the FSLN.
During the 1980s Borge headed up the first Sandinista regime’s interior ministry, at which time he was accused of working with both the Soviet KGB and the Colombian drug cartels in funnelling narcotics into the USA. Comrade Borge is presently Nicaragua’s ambassador to Peru, from where his wife hails.
Upon receiving Chavez, Ortega recalled that the visit coincides with the eighth anniversary of the 2002 coup that briefly removed the Venezuelan president from office. For his part, Comrade Hugo emotionally described Nicaragua’s people as “heroic and revolutionary, where after several years the road of [Simon] Bolivar and Sandino was retaken.” He extolled the virtues of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, to which both countries belong and which “will allow us to be free once and forever of all the chains of empire and dependency,” meaning the hated USA.
During a late-night, six-hour strategy session Ortega and Chavez discussed bilateral cooperation in trade and very possibly the joint military exercises slated to take place in Nicaragua in May and June. Since 2007 both communist leaders have vocalized their belief in the formation of a multi-lateral “anti-imperialist army” that would challenge US “hegemony” in the region.
In a related story, on March 26 Chavez flew to Quito where he conducted talks on joint economic initiatives with Ecuador’s socialist president, Rafael Correa. He also broached the subject of joint military cooperation between Venezuela and Ecuador, two countries that mobilized their armed forces along Colombia’s border during the week-long stand-off with Bogota in March 2008.
Last fall Venezuelan Air Force pilots began flying the first batch of six French-built Mirage 50M fighter jets to Ecuador, where the planes were re-commissioned by the Ecuadorean Air Force. Incidentally, between Venezuela and Ecuador lies Colombia. No doubt perturbed by the Venezuelan-Ecuadorean alliance, Colombian authorities forbade Caracas from using their airspace to affect the transaction in what is otherwise the most straightforward route. Venezuela’s military pilots were forced to fly the planes to their new home via the southern Caribbean and Panama, followed by a sharp left-turn down South America’s Pacific coast.
Chavez’s arrival in Managua comes as Nicaragua’s foreign minister, Samuel Santos Lopez, wraps up his tour of Georgia’s breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with agreements to extend formal diplomatic recognition to Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. Along with Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru recognize the independence of Georgia’s separatist regimes. In a shameless quid pro quo, Ortega can no doubt expect to see an enhanced Russian presence in the development of his country’s infrastructure, left off when he suffered electoral defeat in early 1990 and when the Soviet Union imploded in December 1991.
Chavez’s arrival also comes as Nicaragua’s chief opposition party, the Constitutionalist Liberals, challenges a presidential decree that extends the terms of two pro-Sandinista Supreme Court justices. Last October these judges overruled constitutional term limits that prevent Ortega from running for a second consecutive term.
Following his comradely tete-a-tete with Ortega, Chavez flew on to Havana, to confer with Cuban President Raul Castro and his cadaverous brother, Fidel. There the communist leaders of Venezuela and Cuba discussed issues related to regional integration under the auspices of ALBA.