Nicaragua’s Once and Future President

BloombergLatin American diplomacy has had its hands full. With illegal migrants streaming over borders, Colombia trying to close a contentious peace accord, and Venezuela’s economy and society imploding, it’s hard to know where to focus.

All the better for Daniel Ortega, the graying Marxist rebel-turned-supremo who has quietly transformed Nicaragua from a democratic promise to an almost intractable autocracy.

Thanks to Ortega, Nicaraguan democracy is now nearly an oxymoron. A decade of rules-rigging has neutered the political opposition, silenced critics, and stacked the country’s courts. Partly as a result, this year’s presidential election is Ortega’s to lose. Technically, there are other challengers on the Nov. 6 ballot, but that’s theater. The only political force that counts in Nicaragua is “Orteguismo.”

Such a brazen personalization of power seems out of date in Latin America, which despite a severe economic downturn is more democratic than ever. Kleptocrats are being brought to justice, free and fair elections are the rule across the hemisphere, and authoritarians are on the defensive. …


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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.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

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