Nicaragua’s Leftist Ortega Embraces Business—and Authoritarianism

Wall Street Journal WSJ-01MANAGUA, Nicaragua— Daniel Ortega, one of Latin America’s best-known Marxist revolutionaries, first came to power by helping to oust dictator Anastasio Somoza 37 years ago. His government drew close to the Soviet Union, wrecked the Nicaraguan economy and fought a civil war against U.S. backed rebels.

Since being elected president in 2006—after a 16-year gap—Mr. Ortega is living out a second act as a pro-business, increasingly authoritarian leader, empowered by economic growth that is outpacing most of Latin America.

The transformation, say former comrades-in-arms, civil activists and business people, means Mr. Ortega is increasingly coming to resemble the dictator he overthrew in 1979.

“Ortega has become a new Somoza. He openly dislikes democracy and pluralism, and dreams of establishing a single-party regime,” said Humberto Belli, a former education minister. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

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