Somewhat overlooked in the last couple of days is the return of Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas to power in Nicaragua. This is a sequel that has to rank up there with all the Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Jason movies for horror and carnage. Ortega won in a five-way race for president by garnering 38 percent of the vote with no opponent within five percent of him. These statistics were significant because of a constitutional amendment presciently pushed through by the Sandinistas before the election that eliminated the need for a run-off if a candidate receives at least 35 percent of the vote and a 5 percent margin over the nearest competitor. Gee, it’s almost as if they knew something.
Fortunately we can banish any thoughts of election shenanigans and voter suppression, despite a curious series of power outages around the country on election day, because Jimmy Carter was on hand to monitor the election, as this photo of he and Ortega looking longingly into each other’s eyes documents.
The whole thing brings back memories, good and quite bad. One of my favorites, however, is something P.J. O’Rourke included in his book Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind’s Struggle against Tyranny, Injustice and Alchohol-Free Beer about his trip to Nicaragua in 1990 to report on the Ortega-Chamorro election that turned into a shocking upset in favor of Violetta Chamorro and the Nicaraguan people that left most of the media and the many Hollywood “Sandalistas” and their camp-followers who had come down for the party stunned and (even more) confused. O’Rourke himself was caught off-guard:
I hadn’t come to Nicaragua prepared for such joy. Like most readers of papers and watchers of newscasts, I thought the Sandinistas were supposed to win this one. I’m a member of the working press; you’d think I’d know better than to listen to journalists. But there’s a little bit of the pigeon in every good confidence man. I even believed the February 21st ABC-Washington Post poll that had Ortega leading Chamorro by sixteen percentage points. That is – I blush to admit this – I accepted the results of an opinion poll taken in a country where it was illegal to hold certain opinions. You can imagine the poll-taking process: “Hello, Mr. Peasant, I’m an inquisitive and frightening stranger. God knows who I work for. Would you care to ostensibly support the dictatorship which controls every facet of your existence, or shall we put you down as in favor of the UNO opposition and just tear up your ration card right here and now?”
Ortega was a staunch supporter and favorite of Cuba in his first reign, and an unabashed supporter and embracer of terrorism, and was heavily supported by Venezuelan President and would-be exorcist Hugo Chavez this go-round. Hmmm — Hugo and Daniel buddy-buddy in Central America and Hugo (who wants weapons) and Kim Jong-il (who wants oil and somebody to take him seriously) already exchanging Valentines. Hey, Congress: how quick can we get that wall built? (Uh-oh).