I had no idea there was an election taking place in Nicaragua until I saw that headline that the commie throwback Daniel Ortega won the presidency. The U.S. was at war against that country the last time he ruled. It was widely believed that he was nothing but an agent of Soviet expansion in the region, and he and his Sandinista Party had to be stopped.
Remember the “contras” a.ka. the “freedom fighters,” a.k.a., “right-wing death squads” that represented the opposing side in the great Reagan-era mannichean struggle for the future of the region?
So far as I can tell, Ortega’s return to power has been greeted with a big ho hum. As well it should be. Ortega is no longer a communist, if he ever was one, unless the very meaning of communism has changed along Chinese lines. He promises to further open Nicaragua to foreign investment. Apart from protecting money against debasement, that is the single greatest action any leader of a foreign country can take to enhance prosperity. He has warm words for free enterprise and plots no great nationalizations.
How the world has changed! It was 1986 when I was last in this country, and I observed a drama that I had not expected. The great ideological struggle was taking place between two types of foreign observers. The place was crawling with Communists, to be sure, but they were mostly intellectuals, burned out Hollywood has beens, and theological students from the US and Germany in search of Heaven on Earth. Mostly they spent their time in a Managua pub that served a pathetically thin Nicaragua beer, and was otherwise littered with ancient copies of Soviet Life magazine.
A friend and I interviewed a number of government officials, who were decidedly more interested in the timing of their afternoon naps than the details of Marxist economic theory. The masses we spoke to in the country side had little to say in support of either the government or the contras, and mostly seemed annoyed that their country has been selected by the gods of history to become a battle ground in the cold war between two super powers.
If you stripped away the ideological veneer, the politics even in these times seemed quite normal in this country. It was about a power struggle between two extended families, one unseating the other in an endless tit for tat. So it was then and so it is today.
What’s changed in Nicaragua is that no superpower really cares who rules the countryâ€”a fact for which Nicaraguansâ€”God bless them!â€”should be very grateful.