“The Russians are coming. The Russians are here. The Russians never left,” he told us. That is a what a good friend, recently retired from the US foreign service, shared with Yleem and I last year when Russia denied it was re-opening its Cold War-era SIGINT spy facilities in Cuba. “Of course they were not re-opening it,” he said, “they were never closed. They remodeled both facilities.”
By the way listening stations at Lourdes and Bejucal that our friend was talking about have been open for business for a long time. Cuba is the “Intelligence Trafficker to the World” and these facilities plays a critical role in the business. Cuba has been stealing and selling signals to our enemies, and allies, for decades. These people know more about you and me than the NSA ever will; something that traitors such as Edward Snowden, hiding in Russia, will never understand.
Back to our talk with our gray-haired polyglot pal, a rare conservative thinker who wanted the halls of Foggy Bottom for a long time. While not on tap that day, recent events in Central America reminded me how little things have changed since the end of the Cold War, at least in relation to our Russian, ally. If Cuba is the crown of Kremlin adventurism in the Americas, then Nicaragua remains one of it crown jewels.
As is the case with Cuba, nothing has changed in Russia prime outpost in Central America. And just this week, the Russians, aided by Cubans, kicked it up a notched in the land of lakes and volcanoes. A leading Nicaraguan expert on his nation’s security issues characterized the matter as “not normal” that could ignite a Central American arms race.
Various Nicaraguan news outlets reported this week that the poorest nation in Central American, indeed in the entire Western Hemisphere with the possible exception of Haiti, has purchased $80,000,000 worth of Russian military equipment. In addition to 20 or, depending on the news source, 50 T-72B1 tanks, Nicaragua is also stocking up on remote missile systems and light arms. The more things change friends, the more they stay the same.
Nicaragua has no need whatsoever for any of the equipment. It will have a destabilizing impact on the region as neighboring countries will, undoubtedly, start to look over their shoulders and wonder, what the heck are Nicaragua, Cuba, and Russia up to? In my book, nothing good. I’d like to know what Cuba’s role was in all of this? Transactions such as these always involve the Cubans. The Russians rarely make a move in the Americans without consulting their number proxy. Supposedly the Nica deal was inked around the same time Russian spy ships were spotted in Havana.
Russian adventurism in the Western Hemisphere is an old thing, but why give them a free pass? Clearly, this is another Obama administration policy failure. Let’s see if our Congress has the political guts to start taking a closer look at foreign assistance programs to Nicaragua. A reassessment of U.S. foreign assistance is overdue, especially if the Sandinistas have all this money for tanks.
For example, why should U.S. taxpayers keep investing so much into, say, DEA cooperation with Nicaragua, if the Sandinistas keep undermining long-term U.S. national security and hemispheric security? The Sandinistas, with the help of Cuba, have cleverly hoodwinked U.S. policymakers for far too long. They give us talking points, but behind out backs they keep to their old tricks.
Nicaragua is a political basket case. We do not hear about it because, for now, business is good for many U.S. and Europeans companies that do not, frankly, want to confront these issues. It is not an economic miracle, but certain sectors of the economy, aided by foreign investment, are thriving. However, how long can this be sustained? How do you think Nicaragua’s battle against Communism started? Hint, slowly.
Rule of law is non-existent. Political leaders are routinely beaten, charged with false crimes, jailed, and some killed by the police and, in some cases, the military. A long-brewing battle over the national election system, including corruption by their federal election commission, is soon coming to a head.
Human rights experts and lawyers that I talk with on a regular basis who are based in Nicaragua have been telling me for over two years, expect more civil strife and discontent because the people are tiring of it. Lawyers are routinely threatened by Sandinistas radicals. There are even credible reports that a new generation of armed opposition, dubbed the re-armed ones, los re-armadados, after the Cold War-era Contras, are growing in number.
Orteguismo is nothing more than thuggery and it is time that the United States demanded more reform from him and his people.Yet unlike the 1980s, Daniel Ortega and his cronies have become experts at manipulating the IMF, and other international financial institutions, to consolidate power. Nicaragua will never be able to pay back that debt. Ever. Meanwhile, leading human rights and civil society leaders advise me that he has amassed an eye popping $3.5 billion that he keeps in a personal slush find that he and Venezuela’s PDVSA cooked up a decade ago.
A lot of this you’ve read here may seem like a new development, especially to our younger readers; however, this is how things began to go downhill during the Cold War. It has happened before and, if left unchecked, it will happen again.
Why is this taking place? Mostly because the Obama administration has put the region, and U.S. interests, on the back burner for the past eight years. However, this is not just Obama’s fault, prior President’s paid little attention to events in Nicaragua or the Western Hemisphere for that matter. The Congress has also done a terrible job with oversight of foreign assistance programs and related matters. This can still be turned around, especially if the U.S. presses for cleaning up the electoral system; however, the U.S. response must clear, swift, and unconditional.
By the way, if you want to learn how poor Nicaragua is, watch the embedded video. Socialism and the things that they try to hide from the world: