By Jono Kinkade
Despite the intense scrutiny from both the United States and Latin American leftist governments, Daniel Ortega’s victory in the Nicaraguan presidential election might not yield the drastic return to the Marxist revolutionary policies that Ortega once pushed.
On the road to the Nov. 5 presidential election, the United States warned the Nicaraguan people of the negative impacts to come if they elected Daniel Ortega, former president of Nicaraguan while he was leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN in Spanish).
Ortega was president during the complex Iran-Contra scandal when the Contras, United States-sponsored militants, waged war against the Sandinista government.
The CIA, under the Reagan Administration, funded the Contras with money from illegal arms deals with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.
According to Catherine Hoit, co-director of the Nicaraguan Network, an online community dedicated to achieving peace in the Latin American country, said that United States Ambassador to Nicaragua, Paul Tridelli, along with several other government officials and members of Congress worked to sway the votes away from Ortega.
"The U.S. intervened extensively…in trying to bring the right-wing parties around one candidate, holding meetings for over a year," Hoit said, referring to the two conservative presidential candidates, Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance candidate Eduardo Montealegre and Liberal Constitutional Party candidate Jose Rizo.
"The U.S. promoted Eduardo Montealegre and threatened Nicaraguan people with what might happen if Ortega is elected," Hoit said.
However, according to Eric Watnik, spokesperson for the United States State Department, the U.S. is accepting Ortega’s victory.
"The United States respects the decisions of the Nicaraguan people," Watnik said in a phone interview with City on a Hill Press. "We look forward to establishing positive relations with the Nicaraguan government."
Jonathan Fox, UC Santa Cruz Professor of Latin American and Latino/a Studies, explained that although Ortega’s bid for president was the centerpiece for opposition from the United States and support from Venezuela, Ortega is no longer the leftist Marxist revolutionary that he was in his previous term as president, which ended in 1990.
"I would not call his election strong evidence of a stronger turn to the left," Fox said, noting that Ortega, who received less than 50 percent of the votes, has already made compromises that indicate he will be taking a more moderate approach than his Marxist revolutionary past. One example was Ortega’s support for a bill banning abortions in Nicaragua, even if the mother’s life is threatened, which also passed in the Nov. 5 election.
"He’s become very close to Nicaraguan conservatives and the Roman Catholic Hierarchy," Fox said, noting that 85 percent of Nicaraguans are Catholic.
Another indication of Ortega’s division between other leftist governments in Latin America is his support of free trade.
"He wants to put the Nicaraguan business class at ease," Fox said.
Fox also noted the Movement for Sandinista Revolution, which split from the FSLN, is "not corrupt and [is] still progressive."
Both Hoit and Fox discussed the support that Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?