The regime of Daniel Ortega-Rosario Murillo requested in mid-April to bring Russia as an observer country of the Central American Integration System (SICA) to expand its presence in the region, U.S. news site Voice of America (VOA) reported. The initiative was immediately rejected by Costa Rica and Guatemala.
The government of Guatemala said that Ortega’s proposal “cannot be supported and under no circumstances does it formalize [Russia’s incorporation], as Russia’s participation is detrimental to the principles we seek to promote as a region. Such an act should be postponed until Moscow ceases its hostilities against Ukraine.”
“We are now at a special international juncture marked by the cowardly aggression of the Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin against the people of Ukraine,” Napoleón Campos, a Salvadoran international relations expert, told Diálogo on May 12. “Ortega is going down the same route as Putin.”
SICA seeks to support the integration of bodies and institutions and civil society to make Central America “a region of peace, freedom, democracy, and development,” the organization, created in 1991, indicates on its website. The system is made up of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. Agreements are reached unanimously.
Some of the observer countries of the regional organization are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United States, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and the Vatican.
On April 15, in the presence of a Chinese delegation, Ortega said that “Moscow’s incorporation in SICA cannot be blocked, since it is a decision that has already been taken and cannot be reversed. What should be reversed is the presence of Taiwan in SICA; it has to be withdrawn, expelled from SICA, and let’s welcome China.”
Costa Rican Foreign Minister Christian Guillermet told Costa Rican news site Semanario Universidad that “there are no conditions for this [ratification] to take place,” and expressed his concern about the strong influence of Russia in Nicaragua, which he described as being part of “a great regional problem.”
Nicaragua holds the general secretariat of SICA since June 2022 for the 2022-2026 period, after several months went by without a consensus for the election of that position, VOA reported.
“Ortega’s move to remove Taiwan and integrate Russia and China into SICA is opportunistic,” Campos said. “Ortega seeks recognition for the few allies he has in the world, to play world geopolitics.”
According to Argentine news site Infobae, Ortega believes he can follow in the footsteps of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez in the region, believing he can be an important player in world politics. He also sees an opportunity to create a bloc in the region against the United States.
Campos recalled that the Ortega-Murillo regime’s last move was to vote against the United Nations’ “condemnatory resolution” against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Russia’s need to be in SICA […] is the search for cheap oxygen.”
Nucleus of countries
“El Salvador supports Nicaragua, and Guatemala and Costa Rica’s refusal to ratify Russia in the regional organization could jeopardize the political coexistence of the countries of the Central American region,” Campos said. “The summit of heads of state and government of the eight SICA countries […] is going to be much more paralyzed this 2023, due to the contradictions.”
“The biannual summits collapsed three years ago and there is a group of countries of the system that meet separately, such as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Panama,” Campos said. “They call it the nucleus of democratic countries of the Central American region.”
Revitalizing regional political integration will remove from power the tyrannical schemes that arose in some countries, Campos added. “It’s the only way to recover the democratic path in the region with international law, with the democratic world, which we will do with this privileged authority [SICA] that Central America has.”