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Ortega Authorizes Russia to Build Police Training Center in Nicaragua

Russian Federation to build a new "training center," in which Nicaragua will have no authority and Russian officials will have immunity

Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega (left) holds hands with Russian General Nikolai Patrushev, while First Lady Rosario Murillo looks on. Photo: Presidency

Redacción Confidencial

26 de marzo 2024


Daniel Ortega authorized Vladimir Putin's regime to finance and build a police "training center" in Managua, which –according to national security experts– will be a "cover" for a Russian spy agency. The specialists' assertion is based on the quasi-diplomatic immunity granted to the future Russian employees of this academy and the fact that Nicaragua already has a similar facility.

The construction of this center is included in a cooperation agreement between Russia and Nicaragua sent by Ortega to the National Assembly. It was quickly approved on Thursday, March 21. The text of the agreement was signed at the end of February by the Russians and Ortega during the visit of the Secretary of the Russian Security Council, General Nikolai Patrushev.

Article 6 of the agreement states that the construction or renovation of "buildings, structures and facilities" for the operation of the center "shall be carried out by the Russian party independently and at its own expense." It further clarifies that this real estate "shall be the property of the Russian Federation."

The same article declares that in the event of termination of the agreement, the property, equipment and facilities of the center will remain in the hands of the Russians, who will have "the right to use the real estate and the training center for purposes not related to the implementation" of the agreement.

Russians will have sole authority 

One of the experts consulted by CONFIDENCIAL claims that, based on the articles of the agreement, the Ortega government has handed over "a piece of the country" to the Russians, since the Nicaraguan state will not have any authority over this training center, which will serve as a "façade" for other types of activities.

Article 5 of the agreement stipulates that "the training center will carry out its activity under the general direction of the head of the diplomatic representation of the Russian Federation in Nicaragua," and that operational management "will be carried out by the competent authority of the Russian party."

"The organization and conditions of the activities of the training center, the procedures for carrying out the control over and planning of its work, shall be determined by the competent authority of the Russian party," says the text. 

According to the Russia-Ortega pact, the "Russian side" will be represented by the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation, while the Nicaraguan side will be represented by the National Police.

Another of the experts warned that if the "practical" or operational management of the center is in the hands of the Russian Interior Ministry or whoever the Russian authority designates, it opens the door to appointing an agent of the KGB, the Russian intelligence agency.

"The Ortega regime is raising the geopolitical stakes. The content, treatment and structure they plan to give to that center, seems more like a spy agency," commented the expert. "It will be the first Russian intelligence center in Central America," he added.

Immunity for Russian employees of the center 

The experts also noted the quasi-diplomatic immunities and privileges granted to all Russian employees of the center, who will not be accountable to Nicaraguan authorities for their actions in the country.

Article 12 states that persons of the Russian party "shall not be criminally, civilly or administratively liable" under Nicaraguan law "for anything said or written by them and for all actions performed by them in the performance of their duties."

The only exclusions are for claims for traffic accidents or damages to the "health and lives of natural persons." According to experts, this exception is the only difference  between this agreement and the treatment given to diplomats of other countries in Nicaragua.

Russian personnel will also be exempt from "giving testimony to the authorities of the Republic of Nicaragua on matters related to the performance of their duties." They are also exempt from the payment of "public services" and "taxes on salaries and other remunerations paid by the school."

National Police subordinated to the Russians

One of the specialists highlighted the "subordinate role" that the National Police will play in the operation of this new center, since the control and definition of the training and qualification processes "will be under the authority of the Russians."

Article 7 details that the Russians will contribute:

  • Equipment, criminalistic techniques, training techniques, publications and educational, scientific and methodological materials, and other items necessary for educational activity.
  • Teachers and instructors.
  • Financial and organizational support for the operation of the center.

Meanwhile, the National Police "will provide free security, basic services and translator services."

The Police will also provide "assistance" to the Russians in registering land titles of properties acquired by the Russian Federation, as well as support in "obtaining the relevant permits and approvals" to build.

Article 5 also states that the National Police will "collaborate" in the selection of candidates from the Police of other countries, but the control over selection will be in the hands of the Russians.

"The Police will only provide [certain] services. That already indicates a difference [from the usual profile of a training center]. All control will be in the hands of the Russians," one of the experts stressed.

This is the second Russian center in Managua 

This is not the first time Russia has set up an agency in Nicaragua. In October 2017, it inaugurated the Russia-Nicaragua Anti-Narcotics Training Center, located in the Las Colinas neighborhood of Managua.

During the 44th anniversary of the Police, in September 2023, Daniel Ortega gave an award to Russian General Oleg Anatolyevich Plokhoi and stated that this first center installed by Russia helped "to stop the coup."

"The specialized military personnel carry out training with the participation of the entire Central American region, including, of course, the National Police, to better confront drug trafficking and organized crime, and to better confront the coup perpetrators," said Ortega.

The expert on citizen security issues says that the existence of a new center "does not make sense" unless the purpose is to expand the Russian presence in Nicaragua.

"The intention to expand and strengthen Russian presence in Nicaragua is apparent, not only because they are going to open another center, but because it includes a series of things that reveal that Russian intervention in Nicaragua is going to be much stronger," he adds.

Protection of the dictatorship 

Javier Melendez, director of the research center Expediente Abierto (Open File in English), explained to CONFIDENCIAL that the Russian advice and training "is geared towards protecting the dictatorship."

"Without a doubt this is serious for Nicaraguans. In addition to the spying environment supported by the Cubans, there will be a greater militarization of the police forces to continue repressing the people rather than fighting crime," Melendez added. 

According to Melendez, the issue of Russian security advisors training police forces in autocratic countries such as Nicaragua implies risks and challenges of increased repression and human rights violations.

Melendez explained the importance of understanding that the support of Russian security forces is different from assistance provided by Western countries, in that it is not subject to democratic civilian oversight.

"There are experiences in other regions where training provided by Russian advisors has exacerbated internal conflicts in countries already facing ethnic, political or social tensions," says Melendez. 

The regulation stipulates that the new training center will perform several tasks, including different education programs for the personnel of the different police agencies. It will also organize and hold meetings, seminars, trainings and conferences, as well as other educational and scientific events in the spheres of police activity. 

According to the explanatory memorandum presented in the National Assembly, other activities will include "translation of the documents of the States who are parties, as well as materials and analysis of the fight against crime and on the maintenance of public order and public security," as well as "comparative legal analysis of the legislation of the Republic of Nicaragua and other Latin American, Central American and Caribbean countries."

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.