Monday, November 16, 2009

Sandinista update

El Jefe Danny O.

In the 1980s the Sandinista regime and its leader Daniel Ortega were a cause célèbre among some on the American left. Here is an excerpt from a Time magazine article from 1985:
In Hollywood the star-studded Committee of Concern for Central America sponsors lectures and debates featuring such celebrities as Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H) and Robert Foxworth (Falcon Crest). When Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra visited Los Angeles last fall, the group welcomed him with receptions and a Beverly Hills garden party. Oscar-winning Cinematographer Haskell Wexler, with the backing of fantasy-film Mogul George Lucas, this summer will release a dramatic movie that is critical of U.S. policy in Nicaragua. "Of course we know the political impact that a feature film on Central America will have," says Wexler. "That's why we made it."

The Sandinistas have retained a New York-based public relations firm, Agendas International, headed by Donald J. Casey and Darryl Hunt, to analyze U.S. media coverage of the Nicaraguan government. The Sandinista cause has also been aided by Los Angeles Media Consultant Bill Zimmerman, who helped direct the campaigns of Presidential Hopeful Gary Hart and Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.
The left-wing Mother Jones ran an article at the time entitled "Would Jesus be a Sandinista?" I recall reading about various celebs weeping when Ortega unexpectedly lost to Violeta Chamorro in the 1990 Nicaraguan presidential election.

Well, the Nicaraguan people's memory of the Sandinista regime was enough to keep Ortega out of power for 16 years. In 2006, however, he finally gained office. The New York Times reports on how that is working out:
Nicaragua’s Constitution bans consecutive terms and limits presidents to holding the office only twice. Still, Mr. Ortega’s backers spent much energy this year pushing for constitutional changes in Congress that would have allowed his re-election.
But opposition lawmakers resisted, prompting Mr. Ortega, who lost an election in 1990 and regained power only after 16 years and three failed electoral campaigns, to turn to the courts. Most of the magistrates in the Supreme Court’s highest chamber are now Sandinista appointees after Magistrate Guillermo Selva died of a heart attack in May, weakening the opposition and further brightening Mr. Ortega’s prospects for a favorable outcome. The Sandinistas have since delayed replacing him.

The ruling is headed to that chamber, but Mr. Cuarezma says that as a strategic move, magistrates from his party, the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, will try blocking the Sandinistas from using their one-vote edge to pass a resolution giving the ruling an “air of legitimacy.”

Ortega supporters have confronted opponents to the ruling by hurling rocks and fireworks at their gatherings, in the same fashion they dealt with opponents who raised accusations of electoral fraud last year. The American ambassador to Nicaragua,
Robert J. Callahan, who said the Supreme Court ruling was “improper,” was not spared.

Sandinista protesters vandalized
the United States Embassy here last month, tossing rocks and fireworks, breaking signs and spray-painting the embassy’s walls until the police belatedly dispersed them with tear gas. A day later, Ortega supporters surrounded Mr. Callahan at a university fair, forcing him to dash to his sport utility vehicle in a hasty getaway that was televised locally.

Sandinistas have maintained tight control of the streets since last year’s elections, pounding rivals each time they try assembling, and spray-painting “Daniel Forever” over the graffiti-tattooed capital. Opposition protests last week to observe the anniversary of the country’s electoral crisis last year, in which Mr. Ortega was accused of rigging the vote, were met by Sandinista caravans that chased protesters into a Managua police station, shattering its windows with rocks. Sandinista leaders denied reports of a leaked party memo detailing plans to ship supporters to the capital and supply them with homemade weapons to obstruct a march scheduled for next Saturday. The party’s former spy boss, Lenin Cerna, said the memo was fabricated by adversaries running local media outlets.
Communists -- these guys never change.

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