Daniel Ortega, From Lenin to Lennon
In 1979, Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista movement toppled Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza and promised to usher in a revolution. Ortega won the presidential election in 1984. But by 1990, Nicaraguans had had enough of Ortega and, in an election, sent him packing. Since then, the former Marxist icon and bane of President Ronald Reagan has twice failed to win back the presidency. Now, with elections set for Nov. 5, Ortega is the front-runner. U.S. officials have expressed concern about his reemergence, but Ortega says he has become a different kind of leader. How different? -- N.C. Aizenman
|Olive green military fatigues||Preferred Outfit||White button-down shirt, jeans|
|AK-47, slung across a shoulder||Favorite Fashion Accessory||Blue-and-white Nicaraguan flag, draped across his shoulders|
|Army-style jeep||Mode of Transport||Silver Range Rover; wine-colored Mercedes SUV|
|Red and black, honoring the flag used by 1930s nationalist hero Augusto Sandino||Campaign Colors||Hot pink|
"We fight against the yanqui,
enemy of humanity"
(from the Sandinista
Liberation Front Hymn)
|Campaign Song Lyrics||"We are brothers, we are reconciled. We all want to be in peace" (from a Spanish version of John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance")|
The Sandinista guerrilla movement toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979; Ortega became head
of the ruling junta.
|Path to Victory||Currently polling around 33 percent, Ortega must win at least 35 percent of the first-round vote and beat the second-place candidate by at least 5 percentage points, or face a tough runoff vote.|
Marxist-Leninism Lite. Officially backed a mixed economy, but the Sandinistas expropriated businesses
and other property.
|EconomicPhilosophy||Socialism Lite. Says he'll curb the excesses of "wild capitalism," but favors a free market and welcomes foreign investment.|
Expelled some foreign priests
and temporarily closed a church radio station. Quoted Karl Marx's dictum that religion "is the opium
of the masses."
|Attitude Toward Religion||Now a regular at Catholic mass, he has asked the church for forgiveness for errors committed during Sandinista rule. Quotes Pope John Paul II's critique of capitalism.|
|The Reagan administration channeled millions of dollars in weapons and assistance to contra rebels. Reagan called Ortega "the little dictator who went to Moscow."||U.S. Response||The Bush administration doubts Ortega's democratic credentials. U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli recently said that Ortega is "a tiger that has not changed his stripes."|
|The White House aide was the point man for funneling money to the rebels -- in the infamous Iran-contra scandal.||Oliver North||The conservative commentator visited Nicaragua this month and warned that reelecting Ortega would be "the worst thing."|
The Soviet Union and East Bloc nations provided millions of dollars in assistance to the Sandinistas. Cuba sent military, medical
and technical advisers.
|Foreign Backers||Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has called Ortega "a brother" and negotiated deals with him to provide cheap fuel to Nicaraguans. Cuba's Fidel Castro remains a close ally.|
|Bianca Jagger, Nicaragua-born activist and critic of the Reagan administration's contra strategy; Carlos Mejía Godoy, popular musician and author of the lyrics for the Sandinista hymn.||Friends|
Former cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, who presided at Ortega's 2005 wedding; Jaime Morales, Ortega's vice presidential running mate.
Then-Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, a supporter of the contras; Jaime Morales,
contra spokesman whose family estate Ortega expropriated for his own use.
|Foes||Bianca Jagger, now backing Edmundo Jarquín, a candidate from a breakaway Sandinista group; Carlos Mejía Godoy, still a popular musician, running to be Jarquín's vice president.|
|Ortega's brother, Gen. Humberto Ortega, served as the junta's defense minister and Ortega's right-hand man. Ortega's family (his wife, two stepchildren and the five children they had together) appeared happy and united.||Family Values||Humberto, now living in Costa Rica, opposes his brother's election. A stepdaughter accuses Ortega of molesting and raping her in the 1980s; Ortega has used parliamentary immunity to avoid prosecution, and Ortega's wife says her daughter is "a slut."|