The Fall and Rise of Daniel Ortega


It looks like the former Sandanista strongman with the designer glasses, Daniel Ortega, is going to become the next president of Nicaragua, 16 years after being driven out of office.

From the AP:

Early results from Sunday's presidential election gave the Sandinista leader a strong lead over his four rivals. His victory, if confirmed by final results, would expand the club of leftist Latin rulers led by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who has tried to help his ally by shipping cheap oil to the energy-starved nation.

Ortega, who led Nicaragua from 1985-1990, has repeatedly said he is not the Marxist revolutionary who fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels, a war that left 30,000 dead and the economy in shambles.

But while he has toned down his leftist rhetoric and pledged to continue free-trade policies, the United States remains openly wary of its former Cold War foe. Washington has threatened to withhold aid to the nation, fearing a return to the socialist economic policies of the 1980s.

More, including promises by Ortega that he is no longer a socialist but in fact welcomes foreign investment and markets, here.

What explains his win? The fact that Oliver North went south of the border to campaign against him? That Bianca Jagger, a former fan, campaigned against him? That his Roy Disney-like brother Humberto, former Sandanista defense minister, campaigned against him? It's tough to figure out, and thankfully, we don't really have to.

The Wash Post recently ran a good rundown on all the flips and flops Ortega has made over the years. Read it here.

And read this great piece about Nicaragua by Glenn Garvin, a contributing editor to Reason and the TV critic at the Miami Herald who covered Latin American for that paper and the Wash Times back in the 1980s.


NEXT: From Pod's Lips to Your Ears

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  1. It always strikes me that if the US government wants a candidate to win in Latin America they ought to publicly back to his opponent.

  2. I am waiting for the paranoid and grossly disproportionate response from the federal government …

    “Sad day for democracy, another Chavez, worse than Mao and Satan combined, etc.”

  3. Paging P.J. O’Rourke…

  4. This should hearten all the lefties out there who still view the Sandanistas as a bunch of guitar-strumming hippies.

    I visited Nicaragua a couple years back and recall the cab driver tersely telling me after I read him a passage from my Lonely Planet about the Sandanistas supposedly improving education: “They taught communism, not Spanish.”

  5. Jim Walsh beat me to it.

  6. And I should care what happens in that banana-republic because…

  7. Washington has threatened to withhold aid to the nation, fearing a return to the socialist economic policies of the 1980s.

    You know, Washington needs to quit fearing every socialist tin-pot that gets elected around the world. The more socialist tin-pots we have running other countries, the less economic competition we have to worry about.

  8. “You know, Washington needs to quit fearing every socialist tin-pot that gets elected around the world. The more socialist tin-pots we have running other countries, the less economic competition we have to worry about.”

    Well it says “withholding aid” not an embargo like in Cuba. Personally it should withhold aid if he gets elected. Of course it should if he doesn’t too, but pragmatism works for me.

  9. Sandanista “strongman”? What’s that about? Is he a weight-lifter or something?

    Seriously, what makes people use that word to apply to some leaders and not others? I would have thought that if “strongman” described anyone in that conflict it would be Somoza, not Ortega. I’m not saying I think Ortega is a good guy–far from it–but what makes him a “strongman”? Didn’t he win an election?

  10. I read that Ortega has become a devout Catholic and is mitltantly anti-abortion these days. I can’t stop laughing at the thought of what all of the campus liberal nitwits who worshiped this thug in the 1980s must be thinking right now about that.

  11. “And I should care what happens in that banana-republic because…”

    Commies near Texas. ’nuff said.

  12. What ever Ortega is now, he ordered the commission of murder and torture before. The Mosquito Indians were among his most oft harmed victims.

  13. I suppose the big concern at the White House is whether this helps Chavez in his various attempts to blow all of Venezuela’s oil windfall outside of Venezuela on a futile effort to oppose the U.S. Who cares? I just hope Nicaragua can somehow get its act together. If Ortega can help do that, peachy. If not, I, Fielding Melish, am available.

  14. Desde que los Sandinistas y Ortega retomaron el poder en el pa?s los medios se han preocupado en el futuro del pa?s. Pero, yo creo que la preocupaci?n va mucho m?s all? de que Ortega ganara las elecciones con un 38% de los votos.

    M?s curioso a?n, es leer que Eduardo Montealegre, “el EMPRESARIO” ha quedado en segundo lugar con un 29% del recuento de los votos. ?nfasis en la palabra EMPRESARIO con la cual ha sido identificado Montealegre.

    El 14 de junio de 2006, Eduardo Montealegre present? en el Lehrman Auditorium del Heritage Foundation su plan de trabajo y debo decirles que mi impresi?n de la conferencia a la cual atend? ese d?a me percate de muchas caracter?sticas del afamado empresario.

    Montealegre no es m?s que un oportuno “empresario” que utiliz? la imagen de izquierda radical que tiene el terrible Ortega para abrirse paso en la arena pol?tica nicarag?ense y tambi?n internacional como el representante de la derecha empresarial.

    Su discurso pol?tico, por dem?s populista y de una “izquierda moderada” no hubiese llevado al pa?s m?s lejos de lo que ha ocurrido con tantos terribles populistas que gobiernan Latinoam?rica bajo la llamada “escuela neoliberal” que dicen representar como empresarios.

    Creo que es hora de que nos demos cuenta que de empresarios capitalistas y liberales toda esa pila de candidatos moderados no tienen ni los cuellos de sus trajes.

    Sus mensajes encendidos y colorados no hacen m?s que da?ar la imagen de lo que el capitalismo y el liberalismo significan. Peor a?n, sumen a sus pa?ses en un claro y peligroso gasto p?blico que ataca las entra?as de los p?tridos sistemas que dicen gobernar.

    Por lo menos con los de izquierda radical ya sabemos qu? esperar. Pero lamentablemente, con aquellos otros que dicen llamarse amigos de los empresarios y capitalistas no sabemos nunca qu? esperar y mucho menos qu? trastada terminar?n haciendo en los an?micos gobiernos tercermundistas que gobiernan.

    Con Ortega, Nicaragua tendr? varios a?os de vacas flacas y tuberculosas. Pero por lo menos desde ahora sabemos lo que le espera. Con Montealegre como con muchos otros presidentes los horrores que ocurren son inesperados y quiz? igual de da?inos que un gobierno pseudo-socialista podr?a darnos.

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