President Daniel Ortega has grown close to Iran and Venezuela while persecuting domestic dissidents.
Nicaragua has been a democracy since 1990. But with the
considerable financial support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—and a
generous amount of bribery and intimidation—Daniel Ortega, the longtime enemy
of the United States, was elected president in 2006, receiving just under 38%
of the vote.
His Sandinista party has since stifled the opposition
through massive layoffs of public employees, from law enforcement to
independent groups; controls on non-Sandinista entrepreneurs; political
persecution using the police and the judiciary; and denying employment to
working professionals and independent people who do not have the endorsement of
Now Mr. Ortega is using that dominance to run for
re-election in November, a re-election bid that is forbidden by Nicaragua's
In the past, Mr. Ortega's power grabs have had at least
the tacit disapproval of the powers in Washington. Not this time. U.S. silence
makes the job of those of us in the opposition almost impossible.
It is the outrage of thousands of Nicaraguans who fought
hard for democracy in the 1980s that compels me to return to a political life.
It is tiring to spend your life as a political dissident—particularly if that
duty includes periodic stints in jail, where Sandinista thugs get to beat
prisoners for sport. But Nicaraguans need to believe in a truly democratic
That is why I am running for president with a relatively
new organization, called the "Alianza por la Republica" (APRE), which
gives the Nicaraguan people an alternative to the Sandinistas and a chance to
once again believe that their country can remain a democracy, and that we can
effect a significant change in governance without violence.
With money from Mr. Chávez, Mr. Ortega now owns most of
the media under the names of family members and junior supporters. In fact, the
State of Nicaragua is in a sense run as if it were his personal property.
Messrs. Ortega and Chávez have built an economic empire
in the shadow of the state, as a result of the government's unfair competition
with local entrepreneurs. With this, the middle class has disappeared, and the
vast majority of the Nicaraguan people have been excluded from the economic,
social and political life of the nation.
There is also the alliance between Mr. Ortega and the
government of Iran. Shortly after his inauguration, early in 2007, Mr. Ortega
made an official visit to Iran to meet with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
While there, he told the Iranian press that the "revolutions of Iran and
Nicaragua are almost twin revolutions . . . since both revolutions are about
justice, liberty, self-determination, and the struggle against imperialism."
Ahmadinejad has made a habit of stopping off in Nicaragua
during his periodic visits to Mr. Chávez. Exactly what ventures he has planned
in the country are unknown. But don't count out trouble in this hemisphere if
Iran acquires nuclear weapons or seeks to unleash terrorists on American soil.
Messrs. Chávez and Ortega would be all too willing to help their Iranian
Most Nicaraguans understand the benefits of remaining
friendly with the people of the United States. But the clock is ticking and we
must avoid any further deterioration of the U.S. image in Latin America. The
White House has recently named a new ambassador in Managua, who has yet to be
confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Jonathan Farrar is a career diplomat with the Foreign
Service, who will dutifully carry out the orders he receives from the White
House. If those orders continue to include the same cynical acceptance of the
abuse of the rule of law that we have seen over the last few years, Nicaragua
If, on the other hand, the new U.S. ambassador stands up
and holds the Sandinista government to account for the clear violations of
constitutional laws that have marked the run-up to the election, the opposition
might have a fair chance in November.
We urge the American people to stand by the people of
Nicaragua at this critical moment in history.
**Mr. Guevara is a lawyer and a candidate for president
of Nicaragua. He previously served as Nicaragua's Ambassador to the European
Union, the Benelux union, and Venezuela.