Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, denounced on Monday the attempt of other countries to “interfere in Nicaraguan affairs.” He did not comment on the repressive escalation initiated by the Daniel Ortega’s regime at the end of May, which has left 26 opponents under arrest, and has led to international condemnation a few months before the presidential elections.
Lavrov gave these declarations in a meeting with his counterpart Denis Moncada, who was accompanied at the meeting, as can be seen in the videos, by two sons of President Daniel Ortega, Rafael and Laureano Ortega Murillo, as well as the Minister of Finance, Ivan Acosta. All three are sanctioned by the United States for corruption.
“We stand in solidarity with Nicaragua in the defense of its independence and its sovereignty. We categorically reject attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of that country, as of any other state,” Lavrov said before Moncada’s attentive look.
Kremlin ignores demand for “free elections”
The chief of Russian diplomacy assured that the Nicaraguan people have the right and “are absolutely capable” of determining their own destiny. In that manner, Russia ignored the demand of the international community directed at Ortega to hold free elections and free the more than 140 political prisoners. Instead, he was defiant, accompanied by Ortega’s sons.
The Russian Foreign Minister lambasted those who, with the help of “the noose of sanctions, seek to undermine the economic development” of Nicaragua and other countries with the hope of provoking “massive discontent.”
Moncada, in turn, described the conversation with Lavrov as “very positive” and “very productive” and conveyed the “fraternal greetings” of the President of Nicaragua.
The Nicaraguan FM stressed that his visit took place on the 42 anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution and that both diplomats and their teams celebrated “that memorable date,” which, according to Ortega’s critics, has become a cult of his personality and a celebration of his continuation in power.
“We continue to strengthen relations between Nicaragua and Russia, strategic relations,” said Moncada.
Since 2018, the United States, Canada and the European Union had been leading the international request that Ortega stop human rights abuses, which he has intensified in recent months, taking advantage of the complete control of state powers of his party.
Last week, Canada imposed sanctions on 15 officials and close associates of the Nicaraguan president, including his daughter Camila Ortega Murillo, who can no longer have economic relations with Canadian citizens or visit that country.
Canada’s decision came two days after the United States announced visa restrictions for 100 members of the Legislative Branch, prosecutors, judges and other officials of the Nicaraguan Judiciary, for eroding democracy.
Ortega is pointed out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for alleged crimes against humanity, after the protests that in 2018 left at least 328 deaths, of which the president acknowledges 200. [No investigations were every carried out by the authorities.]
In the elections, to be held on November 7, Ortega will seek to extend for five years the power that he recovered in 2007, after having ruled from 1979 to 1990.
Request to produce vaccines in Nicaragua
Another of the key topics of the meeting was cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic with the possible of producing Russian Covid vaccines in Nicaragua.
“We are analyzing the request for the production of one of Russia’s Covid vaccines in Nicaragua and I think that there will be clarity on this matter soon,” said Lavrov.
The Russian minister recalled that Nicaragua was one of the first countries to register the Russian Sputnik V vaccine —which is used in more than 60 countries—, and last May, it also authorized the use of the single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine.
Lavrov also emphasized that Russia strictly complies with the deliveries of vaccines purchased by Managua, which last week received the fifth batch of Sputnik V to continue the mass vaccination campaign in the country.
Lavrov said Moscow has already supplied Managua with “about 300,000 vaccine doses” and the relevant health authorities of the two countries are currently discussing the timing of future deliveries.
During Moncada’s visit, Russia and Nicaragua also signed a cooperation agreement on global cybersecurity issues. A document that, according to the Russian minister, is important to guarantee “peace and stability” in the world, but details of which are unknown.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times