How Daniel Ortega Became a Tyrant

From Revolutionary to Strongman

Sandinista supporters carry a portrait of Ortega at a rally in Managua, November 2009. Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters

What never should have happened is happening again in Nicaragua. Since April 18, when the violent suppression of protests against a Social Security Reform triggered a massive civic insurrection, President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, have abandoned all pretense of tolerance and restraint and unleashed a deadly wave of repression. It is as if Anastasio Somoza—the country’s previous dictator, toppled in 1979—has returned to Managua.

Over the past four months at least 317 people have been killed, more than 2000 wounded, and hundreds more put in jail. Police and paramilitaries arbitrarily detain citizens every day. They are tortured, accused of terrorism, organized crime, illegal possession of weapons, and a litany of other crimes. Hooded, heavily armed irregular forces roam the streets, shooting at will. After 6 PM, most cities in the country look deserted. The Nicaraguan government, much as it did under Somoza, has declared war on its people.

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