Mystery compound in Nicaragua shows Russia’s resurgence in Americas, say experts

GLONASS ManaguaA Russian facility built on a hillside facing the United States embassy in the Nicaraguan capital Managua is seen by some experts as symptomatic of Russia’s renewed presence in the Americas. The official Russian explanation for the heavily protected facility, which is surrounded by high walls, is that it is meant to operate as a tracking station for GLONASS, Russia’s version of the global positioning system (GPS). The Russians do not use GPS, because it is owned by the US government and operated by the US Air Force. But some believe that only part of the compound is dedicated to GLONASS activities, and that a major portion is a Russian listening base that sweeps US communications from throughout the region.

Nicaragua has a long Cold War legacy that culminated in the 1980s. In 1979, a leftist insurgency toppled the country’s longtime dictator, Anastazio Somoza. The rebels, who called themselves the Sandinista National Liberation Front (known widely as the Sandinistas), alarmed the government of US President Ronald Reagan. Consequently, the White House authorized a series of covert operations against Nicaragua’s leftist government. They centered on the Contras, an anti-communist counter-insurgency that was largely funded by Washington throughout the so-called Contra war that dominated the country’s politics in the 1980s. But the war also affected politics in the US, and almost toppled the Reagan administration when the Iran-Contra affair (illegal arms sales to Iran by the US government, which then used the proceeds to secretly fund the Contras) was revealed in the media.

In an article published last week, The Washington Post reported that, under the Presidency of Vladimir Putin, Russia has reemerged as a force in Latin American politics. Moscow now regularly supplies weapons to several countries in the hemisphere, including Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Venezuela. It has also expanded its influence through the banking sector and via government loans in countries such as Brazil and Mexico. But Nicaragua, says The Post, has emerged as Russia’s closest ally in the region. For over a decade, the country’s political landscape has been dominated by the Sandinistas, who returned to power in 2006 and continue to govern the country today. The party was supported by the Soviet Union during the Cold War and thus retains strong historical links with Moscow. The Post reports that, according to some analysts, Russia seeks to cement its presence in America’s traditional backyard as a form of response to the eastward expansion of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 April 2017 | Permalink

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White House reinstalls visas for 2009 Honduran coup plotters

Manuel Zelaya

Manuel Zelaya

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
On June 26, 2009, a clandestine meeting of the Honduran Supreme Court issued a secret warrant for the arrest of the country’s democratically elected President, Manuel Zelaya. Less than 48 hours later, in the early hours of June 28, uniformed officers of the Honduran Army stormed the Presidential Palace in Tegucigalpa and arrested Zelaya. Shortly afterwards, the deposed President was placed on a plane and sent into enforced exile. It was the first coup d’état in the Central American country since 1978, and the first in Latin America in several years. The US administration of President Barack Obama almost immediately condemned the coup and halted American military aid to Honduras; but it failed to officially designate Zelaya’s ouster as a ‘military coup’, which would have required Washington to outlaw and terminate nearly all forms of government —and some private— aid to Honduras. In August, after several weeks of heavy criticism from Latin American governments, the Obama White House proceeded to “temporarily suspend” non-immigrant visas for over 1,000 Honduran military and civilian leaders, who had endorsed President Zelaya’s unconstitutional ouster. Many of whom had participated in the first post-coup government of former Speaker of the Honduran Congress, Roberto Micheletti. But a news report by the Associated Press suggests that Washington may now be quietly reinstating visas to Micheletti government officials, and that some of them are already travelling to and from the United States. The article quotes a “US embassy spokesperson”, who “spoke on condition of anonymity”, as saying that “the Department of State has determined that some of the Hondurans whose eligibility for visas was restricted following the June 2009 coup d’etat are again eligible to be considered for visas”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #504

  • Israel spy pleads to Obama for release. United States Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel, has pleaded for his release in a personal letter to President Barack Obama. The letter was apparently handed to Obama by Israeli President Shimon Peres when he visited the White House on April 5.
  • US-Pakistan spy feud boils over CIA drone strikes. The Pakistani government has voiced strong criticism of a fresh CIA drone attack, which has killed 26 people. But an anonymous US counterterrorism official, who spoke to the McClatchy news agency, said that “the Pakistanis should spend less time complaining to the press [about the drone strikes] and more time trying to root out terrorists within their country”.
  • Colombia to issue international warrant for ex-spy chief. Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office will issue an international arrest warrant for Maria Pilar Hurtado, former director of the country’s disgraced DAS intelligence agency, who was granted political asylum in Panama.

CIA behind ‘illegal’ anti-drug operation in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
An espionage operation against drug trafficking by a mysterious unit within the Costa Rican intelligence service was organized and funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency, it has been alleged. The operation, codenamed CINEC, was revealed by Costa Rica’s former Minister of Public Security, Rogelio Ramos, in an interview earlier this week with the country’s leading newspaper, La Nación. Ramos told the newspaper that CINEC was conducted for a period of ten years by a group of “special agents” operating out of the Dirección de Inteligencia Seguridad (DIS), Costa Rica’s intelligence agency. The former government minister said CINEC members were stationed in houses throughout the country that were leased by front-companies operating on behalf of the CIA, and that they used equipment, including vehicles, supplied by the US agency. He also said that CINEC operatives were recruited, vetted, administered polygraph tests, and trained by the CIA. According to the Nación article, Ramos said that operation CINEC included activities that “are not legal”. Read more of this post

Ex-Panama dictator Noriega describes ‘friendly ties’ with CIA

Manuel Noriega

Manuel Noriega

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Panama’s notorious former dictator, Manuel Noriega, has described what he called his “long, friendly relationship” with the CIA in court testimony in France where he is defending charges of money laundering. Speaking on the second day of his trial in Paris, Noriega argued that millions of dollars he deposited in several French bank accounts were CIA payments for his services, not income from illicit drug sales. Panama’s former strongman described in his testimony how he gained power with the help of the CIA in the small but strategically important Central American nation, in 1983. He also listed the services he provided to the CIA during the closing stages of the Cold War, in relation to Cuba, Nicaragua and Iran. But Noriega, who was deposed during the 1989 US invasion of Panama, said the US leadership and the CIA turned against him after he repeatedly refused to take part in a series of covert operations against the leftist Sandinistas government in neighboring Nicaragua. Read more of this post