Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, reportedly seeking $200 million in emergency aid to bolster his country’s flagging economy, met today with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev and received a promise of Soviet assistance.
A Soviet account of the meeting said Gorbachev promised Kremlin support “in resolving (Nicaragua’s) urgent problems of economic development,” but made no mention of any new grants or loans to Ortega’s leftist government.
The Sandinista leader is on a nine-nation tour of communist nations as debate swells in the United States over aid to guerrillas battling Nicaragua’s Moscow-backed regime.
Ortega’s visit to the Soviet Union, the most important stop on his trip, came less than a week after the House defeated President Reagan’s request for $14 million in funds for the Nicaraguan rebels, or contras.
Ortega’s trip prompted Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas to charge that Congress “made a major misjudgment.” The Reagan Administration charges that Nicaragua, under the Sandinistas, has become a Marxist dictatorship.
U.S. officials have said the Soviets have already provided Nicaragua with millions of dollars worth of military aid. Oil industry and diplomatic sources in Central America have said the Soviets supply much of Nicaragua’s petroleum.
Little Soviet Cash
However, reports indicate that the Kremlin has provided little hard cash to ease Nicaragua’s economic problems, which include a 250% annual inflation rate, shrinking production and shortages of food and consumer goods.
Ortega was said by officials in his country to be seeking $200 million in cash from Moscow to counter U.S. economic sanctions imposed since January, 1981, and to finance the purchase of food and other essential items.
In its report on the meeting, the official Soviet press agency Tass quoted Gorbachev as saying the Soviet Union will aid Nicaragua in “resolving urgent problems of economic development, and political and diplomatic support in its efforts to uphold its sovereignty.”
There was no mention of military aid, and the Tass report did not indicate that any new financial support had been arranged.
Ortega’s arrival, Page 14.