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Nicaragua’s Ortega defends military ties with Russia

April 10, 2014

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaragua’s president Saturday defended his country’s right to strengthen its military with Russian help, seemingly backtracking on statements earlier in the week shrugging off suggestions of increased cooperation.

Daniel Ortega said Nicaragua was “committed to further strengthening and modernizing the army” with the help of any country willing to provide aid, especially in respect to the Central American nation’s fight against drug trafficking.

In remarks during a military exercise closed to press but broadcast on a local channel, Ortega said Russia has in recent years granted “extraordinary” and “sustained” cooperation “without putting a single condition.”

He did not give details of an agreement between Nicaragua and Russia, but on March 27, Russia’s ambassador in Managua confirmed Moscow is interested in building a military resupply base in Nicaragua.

Russian defense chief Sergei Shoigu has said that Russia is weighing increasing its military presence in countries including Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela — particularly bases to refuel Russian warplanes far from home.

Nicaragua Army Chief General Julio Áviles had said this was just “speculation.”

Russia has faced international condemnation over its actions in Crimea, which has switched to Moscow from Ukraine after pro-Russian forces seized the peninsula.

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