Washington has an expansionary policy in which Latin America is simply a backyard for US military bases, believes Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega.
In an exclusive interview with RT, he said it is time for Latin American countries to unite against what they call a policy of aggression.
RT: Comandante, thank you for joining us today. Regarding the coup d’etat in Honduras, did you see it as an isolated incident, or could such situations possibly reoccur?
Daniel Ortega: I believe that our nations cannot remain calm. The Honduran coup was a blow for all Latin American countries which, just a few weeks prior to that, had a meeting with President Obama in Trinidad and Tobago, where the latter proclaimed the beginning of new relations with Latin America. That coup meant a fight against intentions expressed in Trinidad and Tobago, not just against the Latin American people but against policy proclaimed by President Obama as well. If the US forces of reaction are capable of organizing and doing such a coup openly in front of their president, we cannot even talk about what would happen in the future. These forces are trying to establish their power in spite of suggestions and obligations taken by President Obama in relation to Latin American and Caribbean countries.
RT: You mentioned changes in US policy regarding Latin America. How would you define those changes; and how would you assess the US role in the politics of Latin American countries?
DO: I believe the situation in Latin America makes the US dialogue different from what it was before the Bush epoch. But US policy hasn’t been modified. I’d say that we need a dialogue based on the objective reality of Latin America. In Trinidad and Tobago, President Obama said he wanted our relations to be based on mutual respect, and so on. But how can anyone explain US involvement in the coup in Honduras just a few months later? And how can we explain the fact that the US was fighting to recognize the Honduran government? The only thing we see is that the US hasn’t changed in its essence. The world is changing, the US isn’t. This isn’t a problem just for Latin America, but rather for the entire world. This country has military and economic power, and at the same time, it’s not changing its expansionary and imperialistic policy.
RT: Do you mean that so far, changes happened only in words, not in deeds?
DO: That’s right. They carry on the same policy as always. They’ve been acting just like in the past. Their policy is of unwelcome intervention, of coups and threats. It’s the so-called policy of carrots and sticks. And today, Latin America has more power and dignity to oppose and resist this policy. We have more strength and more dignity, whereas this policy remains unchanged. They stick to their style, and they don’t feel embarrassed to talk about it openly. In their speeches, they publicly express their opinions and assessments of whether a particular government is democratic or not. On what grounds are they speaking?
RT: You talked about basing your relations with the US on mutual respect. Is there any progress in this matter? Has anything changed in this regard?
DO: What has changed so far is the method. At present, they don’t have any means for organizing a coup in Nicaragua, for instance. If they had, they would’ve tried doing it. But they don’t have the tools for it; they cannot rely on the army, or the police; they don’t have the military vehicle to provoke a coup. Otherwise, I’m convinced they would’ve tried doing it. They cannot start a war against Venezuela, or against Bolivia, or Ecuador, or Nicaragua. They do have the means within the US, but the situation in Latin America wouldn’t let it happen, even though the US always keeps it in their plans.
RT: Does it mean the risk is always there?
DO: Yes, it does. The threat is always there.
RT: What could have been done to find a way out of this situation?
DO: It is necessary to strengthen unity and mutual integration of Latin American countries. The more we are united and integrated, the more we will be respected, it is logical. I think that the main thing US policy did was to divide us to rule us. If we are really integrated and united, the partner will not be Nicaragua, nor Venezuela, nor Cuba, nor Bolivia, or Ecuador; the partner will be Latin America and the Caribbean countries. Such a partner will be more authoritative and will have the opportunity to look for ways to reach an agreement respecting each other and feeling equal.
RT: What can different Latin American countries do to continue fighting for the implementation of their policies? What can they do to reach an alliance while there are fundamental points of dispute like between Venezuela and Colombia?
DO: You know, I think that there is a principle which we all share, taking into consideration that processes in different countries have their own peculiarities, which we are to respect. There will always be issues which we view differently, but there will be issues which we view in a similar way, especially in relations between the people of Latin America, governments and the international community.
All of us condemn any kind of military aggression on the part of the US. We all condemned plots against Latin American governments and takeovers, which, for example, were organized in Venezuela and Honduras. We all support lifting the embargo on Cuba, a country where Fidel has turned into a doubtless leader who protects the ideas which are shared by all Latin Americans. In other words, there are a number of issues which we view in a similar way.
All of us support the new format of relations with the US Whenever I speak to presidents of Latin American counties, no matter how conservative they are, in private they condemn the United States’ attitude towards them; they are against the fact that the US government attributes points to them in their own classification. What government can support the idea of the US acting like a great judge which gives you points for democracy, human rights and fighting against drugs trafficking in your country? Who in turn will judge the US? Of course it gives way to emotions. When we speak about economy, about the protectionist policy of the US and European countries, nobody agrees with it. The thing is that we have not learned so far to organize our Latin American area, to consolidate our able Latin American people which will enable us to negotiate with Europe and the US, and with developed countries on reasonable terms.
RT: Let me make it clear. If I understand you correctly, you say that all presidents without exception shared this viewpoint?
DO: Yes. At least in my experience of talking to them in private, I heard all of them criticizing American policy. They do not agree with it. Of course at the moment I cannot say for all the presidents of Latin America, but I am sure that they cannot agree with a policy which contradicts the interests of their people, countries and economic interests.
RT: For example, your decision on Nicaragua’s recognition of the independence of the Caucasian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was also disputable. Many people doubted that there was any sense in it for Nicaragua. Some even called it an “exotic step”. What lay behind your decision?
DO: Our principles, our national identity, our idea of struggle for independence of other nations, irrespective of how small they may be, and a respect which every nation, even the smallest ones, deserve. Here, in Latin America, we continue waging a struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico, whose people are fighting because the United States is occupying its territory in the 21st century. We continue fighting to force the British Empire, or what is left of it, to be more precise, to leave the Malvinas Islands. It’s a tiny territory. But is it the reason for us to stop fighting for it and give it up? No, this territory belongs to the Argentine people and should, therefore, go back to them. The same is true of the Guantanamo territory in Cuba.
It’s a small territory, perhaps as small as the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but, naturally, it belongs to Cuba, an independent Cuban state. In this case, we are talking about the independence of two small nations who have their own national identity and history and who have risen to fight for their independence many times. Therefore, we didn’t hesitate to recognize the independence of those two nations.
RT: Now, after some time has passed, do you think that your decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was right?
DO: Every day I am becoming more convinced that the decision we made was right. Of course it was right.
RT: Russia couldn’t stay neutral when the events occurred in those two republics because it came under a direct attack from the Georgian troops. In this connection, many interpreted Nicaragua’s position as an expression of solidarity with Russia. What can you say about that?
DO: Yes, it’s necessary to take into account that Nicaragua and Russia had developed their relations long before the events in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Historically, we used to have very warm relations with the former Soviet Union, and those relations developed intensively between 1979 and 1990. I would describe those relations as extremely fair, an example of what relations between the developed and developing countries should be like. In those days, we applied a principle which is so much talked about today: the principle of honest trade, exchanges and mutually complementary relations. This is the principle that was applied. So, in the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which is the only country that could protect those peoples who were attacked and defend the popular will? So, in this context, we are embarking on the same path of relations with Russia, we are restoring our historical relations with the Russian people in new conditions.
RT: What prospects do you see at this new state of relations because, indeed, there was a period of cooling in Nicaragua’s relations with Russia?
DO: We are already seeing the results. I would say that we see the benefits which the Nicaraguan people have gained from cooperation with Russia. We think about digging a canal. We, in Nicaragua, cannot imagine doing it without Russia. But Russia’s participation is a priority. Venezuela has fully agreed to participate in the construction of the canal that will run through Nicaraguan territory. The canal’s construction has always been on the agenda and the conditions of this construction have always been Nicaragua’s main sin. Why? Because it has always been sinful in the eyes of the United States that Nicaragua wants to control every movement via the Central American region. I feel that relations with Russia are progressing in all directions. Our visit to Moscow was very important. All the treaties that we signed were also important, just as the format of developing cooperation between Russia and Nicaragua was.
RT: Thank you very much for being with us today.
DO: Thank you very much.