¡Viva el Capitalismo! (ÁLVARO VARGAS LLOSA, 11/13/06, NY Times)
The Sandinista leader shed his Marxist rhetoric and, conscious of the need to seduce a profoundly Catholic nation, mended fences with the Roman Catholic Church he had once persecuted. His old nemesis, Cardinal Miguel Obando, presided over the religious (should I say bourgeois?) ceremony in which Mr. Ortega married his longtime partner last year.
The man responsible for the infamous “piñata” — a series of laws put in place just before he lost power in 1990 that allowed the Sandinista leaders to take for themselves confiscated property worth hundreds of millions of dollars — is now talking about his respect for private property and foreign investment.
He has tossed the olive green fatigues and the red and black flag; his campaign colors were pink and turquoise, and his theme song a Spanish version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.” He apologized for the massacre of the indigenous Miskito people that took place in the north of the country during his first regime and, finally, he instructed his legislators to vote for a bill banning abortion even in cases of a threat to the woman’s life.
What this farcical saga tells us is that Daniel Ortega was much more interested in being president than in being principled and, more important, that anyone who wants to lead today’s Nicaragua needs to persuade voters that he will respect the rule of law and private property, will try to lure investment and will be sensitive to the nation’s religious heritage. The fact that Mr. Ortega’s past conduct casts a shadow over the proclamation that he is a reformed character does not detract from the fact that Nicaragua has not voted for radical leftist policies. […]
Hugo Chávez has been unable to reproduce his regime in any other country except in Bolivia, where President Evo Morales is now increasingly unpopular and has been forced to backtrack on some of his revolutionary announcements. Mr. Morales, for example, campaigned on a promise to force the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas fields, but last month came to a deal in which two major Brazilian companies agreed to share revenues and operate as service providers to the state energy company. He even sent his vice president to Washington in July to appeal to the White House for renewed trade preferences.
And in the week since his victory, Mr. Ortega has been sending the signal that he thinks joining the “vegetarians” will bring him more credit than being a clone of Hugo Chávez without the oil. “No one is going to allow the seizure of property big or small,” he told a group of Nicaraguan businessmen after his victory. “We need to eradicate poverty, but you don’t do that by getting rid of investment and those who have resources.”