San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ortega, Chávez Take Scenic Tour of Managua

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s sixth visit to Nicaragua in three years was full of revolutionary tautology and sightseeing, but not much content.

The highlight of the visit by President Daniel Ortega’s closest ally was a four-hour driving tour of Managua in Ortega’s Mercedes SUV, with First Lady Rosario Murillo sitting in the backseat. Heading a 40-vehicle caravan of security and government officials, the two presidents toured Managua’s Mercado Oriental, a variety of impoverished neighborhoods (including Barrio Hugo Chávez) and the Salvador Allende tourism port on LakeManagua.

The two presidents spent most of the tour in the car, as police, presidential security and reporters ran alongside the caravan. met behind closed doors for nearly six hours, allegedly to discuss ways to expand cooperation and the socialist revolution under the loose framework of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). The opposition daily El Nuevo Diario, however, reported that the real purpose of the meeting was Venezuela seeking clarification on how the Ortega government has spent Venezuelan aid, which totals in the hundreds of millions of dollars since the Sandinistas took power in 2007.

The daily reported that the Ortega government’s top two officials for ALBA de Nicaragua (ALBANISA) are expected to travel to Caracas this week to give additional accounts of their bookkeeping.

When the two presidents finally emerged from their marathon meeting at midnight, they gave a press conference and spoke for nearly 90 minutes before mentioning any specifics. Chávez again promised that the $3.9 billion oil refinery Venezuela promised to build in Nicaragua would be ready by 2015, after laying the cornerstone in 2007 and promising it would be operational within “four or five years” (NT, July 27, 2007).

Three years later, the cornerstone is the only construction that has taken place at the refinery site outside León.

Chávez last week also promised that Venezuela was going to build a regasification plant and fertilizer plant here, and announced that his country had just purchased a new ship that would allow Nicaragua to double its cattle exports to Venezuela.

There was no mention of previous Chávez promises that have yet to pan out, including two factories to produce aluminum, a factory to produce industrial bags, construction of 200,000 new homes by 2012 and the construction of two engineering universities (NT, Jan. 11, 2008).

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