Friend or Foe? Ortega, for Nicaragua
Daniel Ortega, former head of Nicaragua's Sandinistas, is leading the polls in the election for President in Nicaragua. And while John Negroponte is currently unavailable to do the US administration's dirty work in Central America, Oliver North was recently despatched to Nicaragua to warn its citizens against voting for Ortega.
Plenty of questions surround Ortega's third try to regain the presidency. His running mate is a former spokesman for the US-backed Contra rebels, many Sandinista luminaries have since left the party, and he has reportedly made a deal with the Roman Catholic Cardinal who was once his harshest critic.
"He changed. He wants to be the jefe, the only one in the party, because of his ambition for power,” Señor (Ernesto) Cardenal said. “The party has been corrupted. I left the party. All the good people left the party.”Nicaragua has changed, too.
Managua, devastated by an earthquake in 1972, has sprouted luxury shopping entres since the Sandinista years and its once-deserted streets are busy with cars from the Far East. But the drivers are besieged by urchins. The nation of five million is the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti.In response, Ortega is "trying to turn the election into a referendum on the fracaso, or fiasco, of Nicaragua's "savage capitalism."
"Those in government have already had 16 years to deliver what they promised,” he tells the crowd. “They promised work. They promised health. They promised education. They promised culture. They promised sport. They promised finance. They promised there would be no hunger in Nicaragua. And they did not deliver."Ortega's leading conservative opponent, Eduardo Montealegre, is a Harvard-educated banker. And Ortega, although he no longer voices socialist revolutionary ideals, has the support of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
I think you can see the pattern here. Nicaragua's former dictator, Somoza, has been replaced by the faceless dictatorship of neo-liberal economic policy, opening Nicaragua to the pitiless exploitation of western capital. Ortega is fighting back, as a populist and nationalist, arguing for economic justice for his people.
And, once again, no matter how small or economically insignificant the country, the U.S. brooks no opposition to its hegemony and never forgets a former foe. Look for dirty tricks before the coming elections.