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José Daniel Ortega Saavedra

The man who would twice serve as Nicaragua’s elected President was born in 1945 in La Libertad. José Daniel Ortega Saavedra was raised by staunch opponents to the Anastasio Somoza García dictatorship and grew up idolizing the revolutionary leader Augusto C. Sandino.

As an 18-year old law student, Ortega joined the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (Sandinista National Liberation Front) or FSLN. He was imprisoned in 1967 after a bank robbery, but was released as part of a prisoner exchange seven years later. Ortega was also briefly exiled to Cuba, where he learned guerrilla fighting.


Following the assassination of newspaper editor Pedro Chamorro, the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle faced increased opposition, both from within Nicaragua and from outside the country. In a further effort to force Somoza out of office, the FSLN, the Popular Social Christian Party and the PLI, among others, formed the National Patriotic Front. The FSLN also gained ground through guerrilla activities.


After Somoza fled the county in 1979, a so-called Junta of National Reconstruction – consisting of Ortega, Moisés Hassan, Sergio Ramírez, Alfonso Robelo and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro – took over the government. Ortega became the de facto leader after Robelo and Chamorro resigned.


Ortega’s term was opposed by Contra rebels, who had funding from the Ronald Regan administration. The conflict between Sandinistas and Contras lasted from roughly 1979 to 1990 and is reported to have killed tens of thousands of Nicaraguans.


Ortega called for national elections in 1984 and, among a field of seven political parties, won on a platform of land reform and wealth distribution. He was replaced by Chamorro and the Unión Nacional Opositora (Union of National Opposition), or UNO, during the 1990 elections.


Ortega ran as the FSLN's presidential candidate in 1996 and 2001, but dogged by rumors of corruption and a sex scandal, he lost both times. In 2006, however, due in part to a strategic alliance formed with the Liberal Conservative Party, Ortega won a plurality of the presidential vote and took office.


His second stint as president has been almost as controversial as the first was. He has drawn the ire of the West by befriending leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, and foreign aid was cut to the country when the FSLN was accused of rigging local elections. Domestically, his opponents have argued that Ortega has been curbing press freedoms in an effort to tighten his grip on the country.


Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Nicaragua : History, Aleman and Ortega: "The Pact", History of Leon and the North West, Augusto Sandino, Río San Juan History, Islas Solentiname History, History, The History of the Corn Islands, Caribbean Coast History and Granada and Around History.

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