From the October 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 10)


The Return of Ortega

Robert Taylor, Contributing Editor

He's back (Photo: AFP).
Daniel Ortega’s phoenix-like resurrection from two previous election defeats and personal scandal to become the front-runner in Nicaragua’s Nov. 4 presidential contest has left local press commentators both impressed by his success in reinventing himself politically and wary of his agenda should he regain the office he lost more than a decade ago.

Reporting on a massive Ortega rally staged in Managua on July 19, Amalia Morales in San José, Costa Rica’s, centrist La Nación (July 29) noted that the crowd of 100,000 included many young Nicaraguans who have “only vague recollections of what happened in the 1980s.” The Sandinistas, “after 11 years out of government,” the correspondent wrote, “still do not fail to impress with their power of mobilization.”

Moíses Castillo Zeas of Managua’s independent El Nuevo Diario (June 25) wrote that Ortega “vowed that if his party returns to power...there will be neither confiscations nor expropriations.” The Sandinistas’ objective, says Ortega, “is to build a government of national convergence where there are independent institutions and it is possible to attack...corruption.” Some Nicaraguan commentators find it difficult to reconcile Ortega’s image as a champion of clean government with the Sandinistas’ alliance with an incumbent administration that has been tarnished by corruption allegations. “The real outcome of these elections...will be that we’ll have ‘democratic’ corruption for a long time to come,” warned Ernesto Castillo in El Nuevo Diario (July 15).

But the most difficult challenge facing Ortega in a close race with former Vice President Enrique Bolaños is to overcome the consistently high percentage of the Nicaraguan electorate who hold a negative view of him, based largely on what the candidate himself describes as the “errors” of the Sandinista government during the 1980s.

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