“Relations between Nicaragua and Iran are excellent as they are two friendly countries and respect each other”
Relations between Nicaragua and Iran are excellent as they are two friendly countries and respect each other, said the Nicaraguan ambassador to Tehran.
Mario Barquero Baltodano noted that in multilateral organizations, such as the UN, we always support each other, adding both nations are anti-imperialist.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Iran Daily, excerpts of which follow, he also commented on the recent conflicts between the opposition groups and government in Nicaragua and latest developments in the Central American country.
IRAN DAILY: Would you please comment on the latest conflicts between the Nicaraguan government and opposition groups in the country?
MARIO BARQUERO BALTODANO: In general, Nicaragua was progressing very well in terms of economic, social and cultural developments. The country’s tourism sector was also growing very rapidly. Tourists from the US, Europe, Canada and other regions of the world visited the country. However the US, at least since 2007 when Daniel Ortega came back into office as Nicaragua’s president by election, has been sponsoring certain NGOs in the Central American country, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), that opposed the government. When Ortega was elected as the president of Nicaragua in 2007, he had an over 70-percent rate of popularity.
The US sponsorship of these anti-government NGOs is now more than obvious in light of two facts that can be easily proven: (1) The US Congress has allocated $50 million to promote, as claimed, democracy in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela; and (2) Very recently, the US was promoting to declare Nicaragua as a threat to international peace and security in the United Nations Security Council, which is crazy, as Nicaragua is a small and poor country that can never be a danger to international security.
The US has been, through different ways, doing its best to overthrow the Nicaraguan government and stage a coup d’état against the Ortega administration. On April 18, 2018, on the pretext of a law issued by the Nicaraguan government on social security, members of opposition groups went to the streets and staged violent protests. They set up barricades preventing people from moving freely in the streets. At first, President Ortega immediately retreated from this social security law, saying the government would repeal the law. Following that, he invited the protesters to hold a national dialogue. President Ortega’s proposal was accepted by the opposition. However, later, the dialogue turned out to be a reality show for the opposition that sought to be on TV.
Thus, instead of talking about the purpose of their protests and finding a solution to resolve the situation, they came with the idea that the main objective of their protests was to unseat President Ortega.
It was obvious that they wanted to mount a coup against President Ortega. Day by day, their protests became more and more violent and more barricades were put up in the streets. These barricades created lots of problems for the Nicaraguan people and children, as they could not pass through them. Those intending to pass through the barricades were mostly killed. In some cases, they captured people and burned – some alive — and tortured them. They filmed and photographed their barbaric acts, which resembled brutal crimes perpetrated by Daesh and other terrorists, and shared them with the public. These barricades were hubs of criminals and criminal acts. This situation continued for almost three months. The Nicaraguan government was very patient attempting to avoid violence.
Nevertheless, there came a moment when the government decided to remove these barricades. The Nicaraguan police started dismantling the barricades. Even the people living in nearby neighborhoods joined the police force and helped remove the barricades. They said they were fed up with the violence and the impossibility of having a normal daily life. Today, there are no more barricades in the streets of Nicaragua and the condition is gradually going back to normal. Even though Nicaragua’s economy has been severely damaged, we are rebuilding it little by little. At present, the people of Nicaragua are going to the streets, but to demand peace and justice in a peaceful way.
Did the opposition groups resist when the barricades were being removed?
Yes, they resisted against the police force and since they were armed, 198 people were killed in the conflict.
Previously, we thought that these NGOs were working with honesty, seeking to do positive things for Nicaragua. But later, it turned out that they were working to the government’s detriment using certain tactics.
What is the reason for US hostility towards the incumbent Nicaraguan government?
I think it is due to the imperialist attitude maintained by the US towards Nicaragua and other states. Nicaragua gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Fourteen years later, in 1835, the US carried out its first invasion of Nicaragua. A man from the southern US, called William Walker, came to Nicaragua and declared himself the president of the Central American country. He wanted to become the president of all Central America. The Nicaraguan people, however, fought against this man’s invasion at the time. Once Walker declared himself the president of Nicaragua, the US government immediately recognized him as the true president of the country.
Years later, in 1933, our national hero called Augusto César Sandino led a rebellion, from 1927 to 1933, against the US military occupation of Nicaragua. Deploying guerilla tactics, he and his very small group fought against the US Army in Nicaragua and managed to expel it from the country.
Is the US seeking to reap any economic benefits by trying to interfere in Nicaragua’s internal affairs?
No, the US sees Latin America as its backyard. Americans say that the region is ours. This has been going on for about 200 years. They adopted the Monroe Doctrine – a US policy opposing European colonialism in the Americas, beginning in 1823 – and espouse American exceptionalism – an ideology holding the US as unique among nations in positive or negative connotations, with respect to its ideas of democracy and personal freedoms. They believe they are an exceptional country whose democracy and system of life should be copied by everyone. Those who refrain from copying them become their enemies.
The US seeks to impose its criteria of what is democracy on Nicaragua, which is a sovereign country.
How would you describe the relationship between Iran and Nicaragua?
Excellent! We are friendly countries and respect each other. In multilateral organizations, such as the UN, we always support each other. The two states have many historical similarities. Both sides’ revolutions – the Islamic Revolution and the Nicaraguan Revolution – produced victories in the same year (1979). A coup d’état was launched against the government of the then Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953.
Nicaragua experienced something similar a little bit before 1953. Both countries have the same principles and values of solidarity and friendship. In addition, they are both anti-imperialist. The government and people of Nicaragua are anti-imperialist. We have nothing against the US or the people of the country. We also have excellent relations with Iran’s people, who have a great 5,000-year old culture.
What about the level of Nicaragua-Iran economic ties?
Due to the vast distance between the two countries and, at present, the unilateral US banking sanctions on Iran, making it difficult to transfer money to and from the country, things are going very slowly and the [amount and value of] trade is very low. However, we are doing our best to find ways and means to bypass these sanctions, especially the banking ones.
We are working on raising the possibility of making joint investments. Iranians can invest in Nicaraguan projects, as the country has a very interesting law that is attractive to foreign investors.
Iranian firms can fund Nicaraguan projects in agro and renewable energy sectors.
What has been the Nicaraguan government’s official stance on the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and Washington’s reimposition of unilateral sanctions on Iran?
We are totally against the US move. We maintain that the US and its president, Donald Trump, made a big mistake by withdrawing [on May 8, 2018] from the JCPOA [signed between Iran and P5+1 in July 2015]. We believe that the US should stick to the international agreement. Nicaragua is totally in favor of the JCPOA and preserving it.
We think the European states should, as they have been doing so far, continue supporting the JCPOA and making efforts to save the deal.