MANAGUA—Despite the speculative hullabaloo and hurly-burly about the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Nicaragua late this morning, the buildup might end in more of a fizzle than a pop.
Other than a lung full of political rhetoric and revolutionary well-wishes for President Daniel Ortega, whose inauguration is expected to start at 6 p.m. tonight, Ahmadinejad might not be bringing much else on his Nicaragua tour.
If he is bringing promises of aid and cooperation, at least no one in the Sandinista government seems to know about it—just hours before his plane arrived here with his 90-member delegation.
“We’ll have to wait for results of the visit,” said Gen. Alvaro Baltodano, Ortega’s special presidential delegate for attracting foreign investment.
Baltodano spent Tuesday morning meeting with a government delegation from Thailand to discuss establishing economic relations with the Asian country. But he said he didn’t have any information about what promises of aid and investment the Iranians might bring later today.
“We haven’t had any exchange with the Iranian delegation yet regarding investment,” Baltodano told The Nicaragua Dispatch.
During Ahmadinejad’s first visit to Nicaragua, in January 2007, the Iranian leader promised to invest $350 in the construction of a deep-water seaport and $230 million in a hydroelectric dam, as well as offer additional aid for agriculture, motorcycle imports, low-income housing and healthcare.
Five years later, the only project that has come to fruition is a $1.5 million health clinic. None of the other projects even made it off the drawing board, and remain stuck in suspended animation.
Still, Iranian Ambassador Akbar Esmaeil Pour – head of a three-man diplomatic mission here, which he calls “the smallest in Latin America”—describes his country’s relationship with Nicaragua as “win-win.”
“We have not come here against anybody,” Pour told me in April 2010, in his first comments to western journalists. “We have come to demonstrate our collaboration and solidarity with countries such as Nicaragua.”
That collaboration, however, has been mostly rhetorical so far.
Asked if the promises of Iranian aid are still on the table, Baltodano said, “We hope so. We hope so.”
“There are business sectors in Iran that are interested in investing in Nicaragua, and we hope that investment happens,” he said.
So far, however, Iran has been long on the promises and short on the delivery. Whether or not Ahmadinejad’s visit here today reminds him of his promises from 2007 and prompts him to start delivering on them remains to be seen.