Catholic Bishop Roland José Álvarez Lagos of Matagalpa, denounced a recent by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to buy 50 Russian tanks for a total $80 million. The Nicaraguan bishop said of the purchase, “Nicaragua is not at war, Nicaragua does not want war, Nicaragua does not need war, nor heavy combat weapons.” Bishop Álvarez added, “We recognize the participation of the army in Nicaragua in humanitarian work, as the fact of protecting agricultural production, cattle raising and even to bring medical assistance to the population, but the militarization of some rural communities has caused fear and panic among the rural population.”
In response, Ortega the socialist said this weekend that only he and military officials may comment on military matters. Some greeted the announcement with concern, seeing it as an attempt to muffle dissent within and without the government about national security. “Only the President of the Republic and the Army of Nicaragua are capable of addressing issues of national security with the appropriate sensitivity,” Ortega’s statement said.
National Assembly Representative Edwin Castro claimed that the tanks would be used to counter narco-trafficking.
Executive Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Public Policies Elvira Cuadra express surprise and regret over the squelching of dissent on national security. “There is a lack of reliable information, and it is inevitable that questions will come up in a public way, especially through the media,” he said.
Cuadra said that this is the first time he has heard such statements made by the current Sandinista government. “I have worked on national security issues for more than 20 years, and at other times the army has been open to dialogue and the discussion of sensitive topics like acquiring tanks, so this press release amazes me,” he explained.
“Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in Latin America, but Ortega has enough money to buy Russian tanks,” said U.S. Rep. Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL) on Twitter. She chairs the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.