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Sep 3, 2008 | 20:41 GMT

2 mins read

Nicaragua: Ortega's Cold War Memories?

Nicaragua on Sept. 3 became the second country to recognize the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Though Venezuela and Cuba have both made declarations of potential alliances with Moscow, Nicaragua has been less vocal about its support for Russia. Recognizing the Georgian secessionist regions is a way for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to grab the international spotlight in the face of Russia's rising assertiveness. Ortega is in his second presidential term. His first term was served from 1985-1990 as a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which came to power in 1979 through a Soviet-supported revolution that ousted the regime of U.S.-supported Nicaraguan leader Anastasio Somoza Debayle. As a leftist leader, Ortega has long supported the redistribution of land and wealth and has a standing objection to U.S. influence in the region — partly, if not entirely, because of the guerrilla war the United States funded in an attempt to unseat the FSLN government throughout the 1980s. Ortega's second rise to power has been controversial since the beginning. Both Moscow and Washington got involved in Ortega's election, with the Russians helping his campaign and leveling accusations against U.S.-backed candidates. For Ortega, acknowledging Russia's new allies Abkhazia and South Ossetia has once again opened the door to history — and allowed him to grab a bit of the Latin American leftist limelight. Though Ortega's presidency has been characterized by nostalgia for the days when Nicaragua was in the thick of Cold War battles, things have changed for him. Ortega has become a deeply unpopular president after a series of scandals led to a steep decline in public opinion of him. Making grand gestures in the international system is one way for Ortega to step into the spotlight — and perhaps attract an international sponsor — but Nicaragua is a fragile country, and it is not clear that Ortega has a solid grip on the reins. Ortega's move is sure to grab Russia's attention at a time when Russia is looking for ways to keep the United States firmly focused anywhere but on Russia itself. A bit of Russian involvement in Nicaragua would certainly do that. But the Americans will not stand idly by, and Ortega might soon regret his decision.
Nicaragua: Ortega's Cold War Memories?

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