Chavez Influence Seen in Ortega Victory

The victory of Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua is likely boost to the so-called Bolivarian axis in Latin America, according to Central American media.

Hugo Chavez's dream of building an anti-U.S. bloc in the Americas had lost some of its luster in recent months and the defeat of leftist candidates in Peru and Mexico suggested to some that the populist crusade of the Venezuela's president was losing momentum.

But Ortega's victory has given Chavez new cause to celebrate -- and Central America's conservative media cause for consternation.

"The almost sure victory of the 'brother Sandinista' to whom Chavez has promised cheap petroleum, will be a relief for the Venezuelan president who had just suffered a reverse in United Nations, where he failed to win a permanent chair in the [U.N.] Security Council," reported the Agence France-Presse in Managua's leftist Nueva Diario.

Fidel Castro, Chavez's ailing ideological patron, congratulated Ortega on his "magnificent victory."

The "Chavez Factor" loomed large in the campaign, according to El Universal in Caracas. Neither Chavez nor the United States made any pretense of neutrality or non-interference. Chavez said of Ortega, "I want him to win." U.S. officials made clear they supported Montealeagre.

La Prensa Grafica (in Spanish) in El Salvador did not have to mention Chavez to see his shadow in the Nicaraguan results.

"Populism is a regional threat," said the San Salvador daily.

"The Sandinista victory in Nicaragua and diverse developments in the region in recent times are a without a doubt a response to the fragility of our democracies and the necessity to search for alternatives without going beyond democratic norms," the newspaper said. "Along this road, the temptations of the past are resurgent, chief among them populism."

La Prensa defined populism as "using the needs of the people as lockpick to force social and institutional structures in provide for those that practice it." Ortega campaigned on a promise to tame "wild capitalism" and boost the country's poor majority.

Chavez predicted Ortega's government will "join the Bolivarian project for regional unity," according to La Tribuna in Honduras,

But the Tegucigalpa daily also asserted that the Sandinista party's agenda today is "more 'Daniel-ism' than revolution."

Ortega made a point to show voters the new politician he has become since rising to fame as the Sandanista who toppled a pro-U.S. dictatorship and then battled U.S.-backed rebels in the 1980s. The Toronto Globe and Mail called Ortega "an old rebel with a new cause."

After losing the 1990 presidential election, Ortega was able to retain leadership of his Sandinista National Liberation Front party. In 1998, he survived allegations of sexual molestation from a stepdaughter. Once an atheistic socialist, he has embraced the Catholic church. When local bishops took advantage of the election to push for a ban on "therapeutic abortion" to protect the life of the mother, Ortega was supportive.

"It seems his burning ambition to regain the presidency is worth even these compromises, which have horrified many old FSLN stalwarts, especially women," notes a correspondent for The Herald of Scotland.

"But there is no doubt," says Kathy Hoyt of the Washington-based solidarity group Nicaragua Network, "that the name and the romance of what the FSLN once stood for has a strong pulling power."

Andrew Anthony reported on the appeal of the Sandinista party in the London Observer: "Unlike the majority of Latin American cities with huge disparities in wealth, Managua has little serious crime. Kidnapping is not a problem, carjackings are unheard of, the streets are relatively safe, and the mostly unarmed police force, while not averse to small traffic bribes, is seen as dependable and largely uncorrupt. A number of Managuans I spoke to attributed this discipline to the legacy of the Sandinistas. But they also feared that law and order would break down if social division continued at the same pace."

Ortega's victory "opens the doors to uncertainty," says Guatemala's Prensa Libre.

Now in his 60s Ortega, could be considered mature and, therefore, unlikely to repeat the errors and mishaps of the first Sandinistas government, said Prensa's editors. But his victory might also allow Chavez to "exercise excessive influence" on Central America.

By Jefferson Morley |  November 9, 2006; 11:38 AM ET  | Category:  Americas
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Most frightening and sad experience. Saw on CNN, Fox, CNBC, NewYorkTimes, and WashingtonPost that Ed Bradley, CBS Newsman had just died - former friends spoke without written statements, expressing their love for this formidable man. Immediately turned to CBS (Channel 2 here in NY area) and all I saw was silly advertising.

Posted by: Anagadir | November 9, 2006 12:41 PM

Is everyone familiar with this term "blow back"?

Posted by: Blow back | November 9, 2006 12:51 PM

Since Ortega predates Chavez, it is possible Ortega had some influence on Chavez. It is save to say they may have some mutual goals. How successful they are depends on how well they address the needs of all of their people. In deed, how well they succeed in delivering services to their people will get them reelected and make them worthy of imitation in Latin America. There is not need for these countries to forment revolution, as "Free Trade" will create more poverty and a two class system of the rich and the poor. Social unrest and revolution will occur naturally in those countries.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | November 9, 2006 12:52 PM

re: Ortega

That Ortega won is also the fault of the Catholic Church whch rejected the idea of "Liberation Theology" which taught the poor of those areas the concepts of land ownership, law and justice using the Bible (something they could understand) as examples.

It is tragic that this alternative wat to teach really did not get a chance to evolve. Who knows what might have happened? It certainly could not be worse than what has happened in the last few years (in so far as Latin and South American policies towards the US goes).

Posted by: Kurt | November 9, 2006 01:41 PM

PJ is correct. Ortega, who was democraticlly elected, will have to succeed if he is to be relected suposing that there are future elections in Nicarauga. However, PJ should be aware that in Central America the two classes of rich and poor were in place long before globalization.

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 9, 2006 02:22 PM

Morley is assuming the same paranoid stance as the US Government when it comes to challenges to their rule. He can easily dedicate a whole article to Chavez for alleged election influence but can easily turn a blind eye to clear election intimidation, not simply "support," by US officials who threatened economic sanctions if the citizens voted their conscience. The most insulting display was the arrival of Oliver North, still smelling of his decades old Iran-Contra debacle. Chavez is also accused of influencing US elections by offering cheap oil to poor US families. An offer accepted by poor families, explicitly requested of oil companies by US officials. The US based oil companies denied the request in what the Post would most likely describe as a selfless attempt to encourage democracy. Lets not mention the sheer irony of the statement that somehow Ortega's courting of the majority of votes, pejoratively called "populism," is not democracy because they are poor. This type of criticism from a government whose so-called leaders glibly make and break promises is the very definition of hypocrisy.

Posted by: Courage Monkey | November 9, 2006 04:40 PM

It's not "Populism" unless you break your promises. "Populism" is when a candidate promises chnages for the poor, only to break them while in office.

Ortega and Chavez are presidents of the people, not populists. It seems that the monied elite, the oligarchs, cannot make themselves help the poor as it will eat into their profits, so anyone else who helps the poor (majority) is labelled a Communist Populist.

The rich, while a minority, have undue influence and power due to their control over resources. Therefore, we have extreme racists in power who refuse to help the brown skinned poor. I hope that we make them eat their money someday.

In five years, we shall all either see a peaceful revolution through the ballotbox, or the rich will create death squads and death camps across Central America like during the 1970's and 1980's. Oh, wait, they already are: In Mexico - Oaxaca, in El Salvador...
The rich are declaring war on the poor already.

If and when the poor take up arms, watch how newspapers in the USA ignore the sins of the rich. There is neve any mention of USA/Guatemala dictator Mott who killed over 100,000 mayan and union members during 1980-1983. All this talk of Saddam Hussein being evil, and the USA lets Mott go free because he was Christian.

But nobody cares about history because newspapers in the USA do not mention it. Therefore it is never worthy of consideration.

Posted by: Californian | November 9, 2006 05:11 PM

I don't know why the author prefers to translate "capitalismo salvaje" as "wild" rather than savage capitalism. The phrase is now common in the world (outside the isolated USA of course) and universally translated as such. It really is much more explicit. Unregulated capitalism as imposed by the USA on its satellites really is savage, no? Check out the infant mortality, life expectancy, and other measurements of human security in the satellites of this failed system, which keeps the globe 2/3 hungry and sick.

Posted by: andy | November 9, 2006 05:14 PM

Make the comparision

USA dictatorships during the 1970's and 1980's:
Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Haiti etc.
Number of deaths by death squad and death camps: 1,000,000+

Socialist dictatorships and democracies during the 1980's and 1990's:
Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela
Number of deaths by death squad and death camps: less than 10,000

Kid you not. The history of the Americas is full of interesting facts and info like this. This and many other reasons unknown to the average USA citizen is why "Latin America" is going to the "Left". The USA is Nazi Germany to "Latin America's" Europe.

Posted by: Californian | November 9, 2006 05:19 PM

It is virtually impossible to intelligently discuss both "populism" and "populismo" among either English or Spanish-speaking monolinguals without explaining the dramatically different connotations of the term in the two languages. To make it simple, in English "populism" may be either a good or a bad thing, while in Spanish, "populismo" is rather like demagogy, i.e. a kind of dishonest pandering. Thus "populista" is most often an accusation.

Posted by: andy | November 9, 2006 05:22 PM

Where do you get your figures for numbers of deaths under US backed Governments vs Socialist Governments in Latin America? Figures are always impressive until you find out what or who the source of that data is. Is anyone who has responded to this article an expert on Latin American Studies?

Posted by: Devil's Advocate | November 9, 2006 05:32 PM

I am an expert on Latin American studies.

Posted by: andy | November 9, 2006 06:22 PM

The sad thing is that "Danielismo" not Sandimismo won in Nicaragua. The US government anti-castristas need not to worry about Nicaragua, since Daniel sold his revolutionary soul long time ago and has a pact with convicted/corrupt former Nicaraguan president Arnoldo Aleman to share power. So, Daniel has a price.

If he has something in common with Huguito Chavez is his thirst for power. No ideology or idealism behind that. Huguito paints himself as the champion of the poor and the new leader of the anti-imperialist movement, but his only concern is keeping power. His duty is to govern Venezuela responsibly and for the benefit of the majority of Venezuelans. And he is doing a pretty crappy job. Anyone who has visited Caracas recently knows that those billions of dollars spent in buying support for his UN Security Council Seat bid could have been better spent at home. Caracas is no socialist paradise regardless of what "izquierdosos" want to believe.

Huguito is the result of, and claims to represent, valid grievances of those neglected during decades, but far from creating the conditions for sustainable development he chose to be a populist in the classic Latin American meaning of the word: A messianic leader, who buys support of the people, anti-democratic, and that tries to stir fear among the population by constantly raising the specter of the (imperialist) enemy. Unfortunately, Mr Evo Morales in Bolivia may be going down the same path.

Don Californiano, we can spend days ranting about what the US has done to the Americas, but I believe you should also responsibly point out what Huguito-type governments have done and are doing to the region. Otherwise, you are either being idealistic or dishonest.

Posted by: FromMacondo | November 9, 2006 06:35 PM

FromMacondo knows of what he speaks -- what all the commentators in the U.S. are missing is that this election was NOT about the U.S. or George Bush (no excuses for him as a president, but those are the realities), at least for those of us who live here in Nicaragua. People like Californian don't know the whole truth -- it wasn't just "poor" people who voted for Daniel -- in fact I think if you break down the demographics of who actually voted for whom in this election, you'll find more rural poor voted for Montealegre than for Daniel. (Montealegre is from the campo for god's sake!) Daniel appeals to the urban university types who think that his propaganda of zero hunger, zero corruption, zero poverty are real promises . . . unfortunately they have deluded themselves into thinking that Daniel is "changed." He is no different than he was in the 1980s -- he is power hungry. You only have to look no further than his "pacto" made with convicted felon and former president Arnoldo Aleman (who stole $100 million from the people in Nicaragua) -- his "pacto" released Aleman from prison with Aleman guaranteeing that his party (the opposition party to the FSLN) would vote for whatever Daniel wanted -- so together they changed the constitution so that anyone could be elected with only 35% of the vote -- and instead of setting the age limit at 18, Daniel wanted voters to be as young as 16 (to ensure that voters would not remember what he did here in the 80s). Pretty smart politician -- now Daniel would like to take over all the NGOs and make them part of his "new" government -- sounds democratic, huh? Aren't NGOs by definition, non-governmental?? Why would Daniel want to mess with civil society groups? Because they are a thorn in his side. Unless you live here, don't begin to lecture about what Daniel is and is not -- only those who lived on mangos (literally) in the 80s and hid from being inducted by force into the Sandanista army know exactly what Daniel is capable of.

Posted by: julio | November 9, 2006 06:57 PM

I too feel Jefferson should have focused at least as much on American interference as in Venezuelan interference in Nicaragua's election. The Americans did their best to intimidate Nicaraguans into once again casting their votes for the corrupt old order. Those attempts failed -- in fact, they likely backfired -- as Nicaraguans handed a solid victory to the Sandanistas.
America has no credibility left. Your "diplomats" shout and sputter but nobody listens.
And rightly so.

Posted by: Javier | November 11, 2006 02:57 AM

Yeah, next time maybe the White House will send a "diplomat" like John Bolton to straighten out those Nicaraguans. Bullies who pop blood vessels as they shout and sputter threats really are persuasive, can't they?
Just look how persuasive they were in Nicaragua.
Yeah, that's America's style right now, and it's making us enemies in a hurry.

Posted by: Bob C. | November 11, 2006 03:01 AM

I got a good laugh out of the Post's blatantly biased piece in today's paper about the return of Ortega:

"SAN BENITO, Nicaragua -- As a young insurgent fighting to overturn Nicaragua's Marxist-led Sandinista revolution during the 1980s, Martin Laguna chose the alias "Comandante Amargura," Spanish for "Commander Bitterness," to protest his suffering at the hands of a government that had gunned down his father and confiscated his family's cattle ranch. But 16 years after the Sandinistas' fall ushered in a new era of democracy in Nicaragua, Laguna's old code name seems just as apt."

Yeah, right, "a new era of democracy"... Does the Post suffer from complete and total amnesia? Do your writers not recall that the Sandanistas were democratically elected? That it was the U.S.-funded and -armed contras who fought to undermine that democratic decision of the Nicaraguan people?

Go ahead and plaster sympathetic interviews with ex-contras all over your paper. It will fool nobody who is remotely familiar with the recent history of Nicaragua and of U.S. attempts -- all in flagrant violation of international law -- to thwart the democratic will of the Nicaraguan people.

The Sandanistas are back and leftists have now been democratically elected to govern countries representing the vast majority of Latin America's population -- Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and, yes, now Nicaragua as well.

Will the U.S. train and finance death squads again to try to overthrow these democratically elected governments? With George W. Bush in office, I wouldn't put it past them.

Let's keep some perspective here: The "new era of democracy" that Latin America is now experiencing is a result of having cast off the repressive U.S.-backed dictatorships that tortured and murdered hundreds of thousands of righteous democrats over the decades.

Posted by: Sergio | November 12, 2006 10:31 AM

Javier -- I'd hardly call our election a "solid victory" for Ortega -- he won 38 percent of the vote -- 62 percent of population did not want him as president. He got 4 percent less votes than he did last time he ran! And on top of it, he will be working from a minority position in the assembly . . hardly a solid victory at all.

Posted by: julio | November 12, 2006 04:55 PM

Javier -- I'd hardly call our election a "solid victory" for Ortega at all -- he only won 38 percent of the vote (leaving 62 percent voting against him). In fact he had 4 percent less votes this election than he did last election. And he's going to have to work with an assembly in which his party is in the minority. Hardly a "solid victory" at all.

Posted by: julio | November 12, 2006 04:59 PM

Sergio -- what were the flagrant violations of international law that the U.S. violated?? Did the U.S. supply Nicaragua oil during the election?? nooooo .. . that was Venezuela -- they supplied Sandanistas with their personal tambos of oil . . . did the U.S. contribute any money to any political party . . noooo . . but the Venezuelans did . . .

So I have to narrow down your problem with U.S. policy in Nicaragua to the fact that U.S. Ambassador Trivelli was not thrilled with Daniel Ortega . . or Jose Rizo . . (both members of the "pacto") . . get your facts straight . . like every nation which observes the democratic ideal of freedom of speech, so does Nicaragua. Or do you think we're just a bunch of bumbling idiots??? Trivelli, and all other U.S. policy makers had the perfect right to speak about the election. Just like you do.

Posted by: julio | November 12, 2006 05:09 PM

Yes, various U.S. officials had the "perfect right" to interfere in a sovereign nation's election and interfere they did. And just look at how it backfired!
You ask what violations of international law the U.S. committed in Nicaragua. Answer: these multiple crimes against international law occurred when the U.S. repeatedly attempted by force of arms to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua during the first Sandanista government.
How would you have felt if the tables had been turned and the Soviets had sent in a proxy army to overthrow a democratically elected rightwing government? Would that have been okay with you? If not, then at least be consistent and acknowledge that what the U.S. did to the Sandanista regime did not meet the requirements of international law either.

Posted by: Sergio | November 12, 2006 08:17 PM

Another Chavez lackey. Oh, where is the dignity?

Posted by: Matedecoca | November 13, 2006 03:16 PM

Sergio - so you admit that U.S. has not interfered in our election because you have to point to the 1980s to prove your argument. You ask what I would think if the Soviets had invaded Nicaragua? Your question really doesn't make any sense because we had Cuban doctors, Cuban educators, Soviets forced down our throats for 10 years. We learned to read by counting grenades in Soviet-supplied textbooks, with Cuban teachers. I don't know where you're writing from, but I'm sitting here in Managua wondering whether your guaro is bad or not . . . learn real history before you begin to lecture those who lived it.

Posted by: julio | November 13, 2006 08:24 PM

With his landslide victory today in Ecuador, we can add progressive economist Rafael Correa, the new president-elect of Ecuador, to the long list of anti-U.S. presidents being swept to power throughout Latin America. You can thank George W. Bush and his arrogant policies for that.

Posted by: Jose | November 27, 2006 04:23 PM

Okay, Julio, I see: the Sandinistas, who actually improved literacy, life expectancy and other basics for the vast majority of Nicaragua's poor, were BAD, and the corrupt rightwingers who've ruled the country for the rest of its history were GOOD. And the fact that the U.S. illegally overthrew the Sandinista government doesn't matter because, hey, they were the "bad guys." I get it.

Posted by: Sergio | November 27, 2006 04:25 PM

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