Few political leaders have benefited more from Hugo Chavez’s largesse than Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Consequently, few foreign leaders will be watching the Venezuelan polls on Sunday closer than the Sandinista strongman.
President Ortega and his party’s politburo, recipients of more than $2.2 billion in Venezuelan petrodollars since 2007, insist they are confident their Venezuelan benefactor will win re-election. Still, the former revolutionaries learned an important lesson when they got unexpectedly voted out of power in Nicaragua in 1990: nothing lasts forever in politics.Honestly, there are a lot of unknowns concerning Venezuela's relationship with Nicaragua. Nicaragua has been receiving approximately half a billion dollars each year from ALBA and Venezuela through a combination of loans, donations and oil credits. However, it hasn't entirely been a transparent relationship as congress has been shut out of the details.
”According to official figures, Nicaragua is a paying customer, not a welfare recipient. Of the $609 million in ALBA aid that entered Nicaragua last year, $557 million was in oil credits to be repaid in 25 years, $7 million was in private sector loans, and $45 million was in foreign direct investment, according to the central bank. That leaves a grand total of $0 in donations, charity or gifts.
If that’s true, then Capriles may choose to continue business as usual. In fact, Venezuela has not given a single petropenny to Nicaragua since 2009, according to the central bank’s figures. Over the past three years, ALBA has evolved almost entirely into a private-sector business venture. As a result, ALBA in Nicaragua may not be impacted. Behind the socialist window dressing, the numbers — at least those made available — clearly show ALBA is not a charitable operation, rather a business arrangement with a twist of social responsibility.