Russia continues to issue as if it is not in global isolation. On April 19, 2023, the head of the Foreign Ministry of the aggressor country, Sergey Lavrov, visited Nicaragua, an authoritarian socialist country in Central America [recognized as «not a free country» according to the Freedom House report — ed.], as part of a Latin American tour.
Let’s analyze in more detail what made this visit remarkable.
«Not scary» sanctions
During the 4-hour meeting, Sergey Lavrov and Nicaragua’s long-term president Daniel Ortega, as well as his wife Rosario Murillo, who is Vice President of the country, discussed, in particular, sanctions from the United States. It should be noted that in 2007, Ortega headed the state for the second time, after which he changed the constitution to suit himself, removing restrictions on running for the 2nd and 3rd terms. The odious politician is known for harshly persecuting the opposition and clergy.
The latest case of state tyranny was the release from prison of 222 opposition representatives, followed by their deportation from Nicaragua, deprivation of citizenship, and confiscation of property. The local court passed the relevant decision on February 9, 2023. In response, the USA imposed sanctions on 3 judges who legalized the political repressions of the Ortega regime. However, the President of Nicaragua is not at all embarrassed by this. At the meeting with Lavrov, which was broadcast on state television, he proudly announced that they already have hundreds of officials under sanctions. In response, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry ironically supported the interlocutor: «Persons under sanctions in Russia perceive this as recognition of their effectiveness.»
According to Sergey Lavrov’s logic, the “most effective state manager” in Russia (after Vladimir Putin, of course — ed.) is the Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova, who became famous for organizing the forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia for further «re-education». At the same level as the president of the aggressor country, she obtained a warrant for her own arrest, which was issued by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. There are doubts that Lavrov would really like such recognition of his «efficiency».
Later, after the meeting, Daniel Ortega told state media that he also spoke with Lavrov about «the efforts that the Russian Federation and President Putin are making to achieve peace and security, and this is what Europe needs to understand.» The quote gives a complete understanding of the position of the head of state, who at one time recognized the «independence» of South Ossetia and Abkhazia [unrecognized territorial entities on the territory of Georgia — ed.].
Independent and dependent media
To understand the context of friendship between Russia and Nicaragua, it is worth looking at least at the level of freedom of speech in these countries. Both authoritarian regimes are rapidly moving towards totalitarianism and trying to destroy any dissent. In this context, Ortega’s Nicaragua is practically no different from Putin’s Russia. As mentioned above, the opposition in Nicaragua is being brutally persecuted. The alternative opinion is presented mainly in the non-state mass media, represented by a number of online publications.
«A Ukrainian city is a terrible symbol of Russian aggression» — this is how the newspaper Confidential describes the events in Bucha in an article dedicated to the liberation of the city and the «Bucha Summit» held on March 31, 2023. The author compares Bucha with Aleppo, Srebrenica, and Darfur in the sense of cruelty to the local population.
La Prensa continues the theme of Russian war crimes, writing about the total mining of the Kharkiv region, which was partially occupied by the aggressor at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. The material indicates that mining was carried out, including with «butterfly mines» [PFM antipersonnel mines — ed.], which are prohibited by international law and outwardly resemble children’s toys.
But state media present the war in Ukraine as a conflict between the conventional collective West and Russia, repeating the narratives of the aggressor country. At the same time, local television actively quotes Medvedev, Lavrov, and, of course, Putin himself, as, for example, in this article, where the statement of the Russian president is broken down into numerous quotes.
How to perceive Lavrov’s Latin American tour in general and the visit to Nicaragua in particular — an expert’s opinion
The Ukrainian Review asked to comment on Sergey Lavrov’s Latin American tour Volodymyr Fesenko, a Ukrainian political scientist and chairman of the board of the Center for Applied Political Research «Penta» Follow his comment:
«It is aimed mainly at the domestic consumer. In Russia, propaganda is above all else. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has long since turned from a diplomatic body into a propaganda tool. But there is also a foreign policy point. Russia wants to promote its image in Latin America as a country that has withstood sanctions, which is an alternative to the United States, trying to play on anti-American sentiments that are widespread among a part of the Latin American audience. This is an old practice, dating back to the Soviet Union.»
As for Nicaragua itself, the expert considers this Central American dictatorship to be one of the oldest allies of Russia:
«Here it should be taken into account that Nicaragua is one of the most loyal allies of Russia, but also one of the most dependable allies. If we look at the countries that vote together with Russia at the UN General Assembly (on the Ukrainian issue, for example), there are very few such countries. Nicaragua is always on this list — along with Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and a few others. Nicaragua is on this list because there is a long-standing left-wing dictatorship there, Ortega has been an ardent anti-American since Soviet times [ find more information here — ed.].»
Russia is trying to get rid of the image of a country-in-exile, so government officials visit underdeveloped countries. It is also an attempt to retain the number of partners who are fewer and fewer. Mostly, such visits are not of a diplomatic and negotiating nature, but of a populist and image nature. The support of 5-7 economically underdeveloped dictatorships in the world does not deprive Russia of the informal status of a country-in-exile.