MEXICO CITY (AP) -- The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has authorized Russian troops, planes and ships to deploy to Nicaragua for purposes of training, law enforcement or emergency response.
In a decree published this week, and confirmed by Russia on Thursday, Ortega will allow Russian troops to carry out law enforcement duties, "humanitarian aid, rescue and search missions in emergencies or natural disasters."
The Nicaraguan government also authorized the presence of small contingents of Russian troops for "exchange of experiences and training."
Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told the Russian news outlet Sputnik that the measure was "routine."
"We are talking about a routine -- twice a year -- procedure for the adoption of a Nicaraguan law on the temporary admission of foreign military personnel to its territory in order to develop cooperation in various areas, including humanitarian and emergency responses, combatting organized crime and drug trafficking," Zakharova said.
She noted the law also authorizes troops from the United States, Mexico and other Central American countries for such purposes.
Ortega has been a staunch ally of Russia since his days in the leadership of the 1979 revolution that ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza. Ortega served as president from 1985 to 1990, before being re-elected to power in 2007.
Ortega's government arrested dozens of political opposition leaders, including most of the potential presidential candidates, in the months before his re-election to a fourth consecutive term last year. His government has shut down dozens of nongovernmental groups that he accuses of working on behalf of foreign interests to destabilize his government. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have been chased into exile.