With nods to President Daniel Ortega’s political project and special “reverence” for the Russian government, Nicaragua’s top brass, Gen. Julio César Avilés, said national security provided by the armed forces is the “basis for maintaining peace and stability” and the key to “allowing Nicaragua to advance towards a better future.”
Aviles’ comments, made on April 4 during the Nicaraguan Army’s annual report to the president, were a combination of data-driven achievements and oaths of loyalty to President Ortega’s political vision.
“We are the People in uniform, working for peace, working for national development, in defense of national resources, and, of course, in the defense and support of Our People,” Aviles said. He added, “The achievements of this institution, Mr. President, are the achievements of your government. Without your support they wouldn’t have been possible.”
Identifying narco-activity as the “principal threat” to national security, Gen. Aviles said the Nicaraguan Army will continue to maintain its “firewall” against drug trafficking.
According to the general, the scorecard from last year’s military operations against narco-trafficking includes the capture of 367 kilograms of cocaine, 336 kilograms of marijuana, 31 foreign drug traffickers, 133 Nicaraguan drug traffickers, 30 boats and 66 vehicles. The army also destroyed 179,780 marijuana plants, Aviles said.
“For this reason there are no drug cartels (in Nicaragua),” Aviles said. “The closest thing is the intent to create logistical support networks for the transport of drugs by land and sea.”
Aviles also stressed the army’s role in protecting the environment and patrolling its newly acquired Caribbean waters following the 2012 ruling by the International Court of Justice.
Amid the constantly falling trees of Nicaragua’s rapidly depleting Bosawás and Indio-Maíz reserves, the army managed to confiscate 425,564 board feet of illegally harvested timber.
Though Aviles made it sound like most of the trees the army saved had already been cut from the ground, he equated protecting the forests with the future of Nicaragua’s mega-project plans.
“The protection of these reserves is for us an issue of National Security, because they are the birthplace of our important watersheds and their sustainability will contribute to the strategic projects of national development such as the Tumarín (hydroelectric plant) and the Great Interoceanic Canal.”
In the expanded Caribbean waters awarded by the International Court of Justice, the Nicaraguan Army conducted 2,359 missions in 60,872 miles of ocean, Aviles said. The general did not mention what the specific result of those missions were.
Since inheriting 100,000 sq km of additional territorial waters in the 2012 Hague ruling against Colombia, Nicaragua has been trying to prove that the expanded maritime territory is not more than it can handle with the region’s smallest and most ill-equipped navy.
The Nicaraguan Army insists it’s up to the challenge of defending its sovereignty. But as tensions flare with Colombia, Nicaragua has been pressured to modernize and upgrade its military — a need that’s pushing the Central American nation closer to Russia in search of help.