Russia Opens Police Training Center in Nicaragua

Security expert criticizes the secrecy surrounding Russia’s aid to the Ortega government.

By Wilfredo Miranda Aburto  (Confidencial)

The Russia-Nicaragua anti narcotics center is located in the Las Colinas neighborhood of Mangaua. Foto: W. Miranda /confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – Four years after the project was originally announced, the “Russia-Nicaragua anti-narcotics training center” was inaugurated this week in the residential suburb of Managua known as Las Colinas, near Moscow’s embassy.

In the initial plans, the center was projected as a regional training center. Nonetheless, during the inauguration ceremony, presided over by Russian ambassador Andrei Budaev and Daniel Ortega’s son, Laureano Ortega Murillo, it was stated that the center would be classed as an affiliate of Russia’s Interior Ministry.

The promoters announced two courses for Nicaraguan police “followed later by others in which audiences from Central America and the Caribbean will participate.” The Russian ambassador didn’t clarify whether this center would also serve other purposes, for example intelligence gathering, monitoring or joint operations.

“It’s a fortress,” remarked Roberto Cajina, security and defense specialist, referring to the secrecy surrounding the center and Russia’s cooperation with the government of Daniel Ortega, which has grown in recent years.  Moscow has installed a satellite tracking system known as Glonass (similar to GPS) in the Nejapa crater outside Managua.  This is seen as suspicious in the U.S. eyes since it “has the capability to serve a ‘double purpose’, especially for electronic espionage.”

“What programs are they going to advance? Nobody knows,” Cajina insisted. According to the security and defense expert, one thing that stands out is the fact that the Russians have no experience in combating drug-trafficking in this region. “They only know about drug-trafficking in Russia, so they should only be giving tactical and technical training, because they don’t have any information about this region.”

Confidencial attempted to obtain the Russian embassy’s version, without receiving any response. “This’ Russian Center for Police Training’ is a symbol of successful cooperation between our countries. It’s a pilot project that goes beyond bilateral relations and has a sub-regional and a regional projection,” said Ambassador Budaev.

Cajina dismissed the possibility of any relationship between the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and this center. The United States is one of the principal promoters of the fight against drug-trafficking in the region. The security and defense specialist bases his assertion on declarations from Washington’s former ambassador in Managua, Phyllis Powers, who affirmed in 2013 that it didn’t see “Russia’s aid as representing any competition with the DEA.” However, she reiterated the distrust that the growing Russian military presence in the country has caused in Washington.