Tags: Daniel | Ortega: | U.S. | Can't | Pick | Our | Friends

Daniel Ortega: U.S. Can't Pick Our Friends

Tuesday, 23 January 2007 12:00 AM

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a U.S. foe from the Cold War who is now back in office, told Washington on Monday that it cannot stop him from forming alliances with anti-U.S. leaders in Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.

Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla, has courted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and upgraded diplomatic ties to Cuba since winning an election last November.

Concern in Washington was raised further when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a high-profile visit to Managua earlier this month.

"We want relations with all the countries in the world, with all the international community. What does that mean? No one can go around telling us who to be friendly with," Ortega said.

The United States has a long history of intervention in Nicaragua and sponsored right-wing Contra rebels who waged a civil war against Ortega's Sandinista government in the 1980s.

Some 30,000 people died and Ortega was booted out of office in 1990 by voters tired of the conflict.

"Never mind Iran, Nicaragua has been a victim of historical conflicts with the United States," he told a news conference, citing a 19th century battle against an American adventurer who tried to conquer Central America.

Chavez, who told Washington on Sunday to "go to hell," gives cheap fuel and fertilizer to Nicaragua and will build an oil refinery here.

Ortega said Venezuela will also aid Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, to build a road link between its Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

Nicaragua's transport minister said in an interview published on Monday that the Venezuelan army will help construct around 310 miles of road inland from the Caribbean port of Puerto Cabezas at a cost of $350 million.

Ortega says he will not pull out of the Central American Free Trade Agreement between regional countries and the United States but he complained the pact was defective because Central America did not negotiate it as one bloc.

Ortega was congratulated by President George W. Bush after his election victory and insists he wants good relations with Washington, despite criticizing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a U.S. foe from the Cold War who is now back in office, told Washington on Monday that it cannot stop him from forming alliances with anti-U.S. leaders in Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. Ortega, a former Marxist...
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2007-00-23
Tuesday, 23 January 2007 12:00 AM
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