An American living in Costa Rica, Morris has written a sympathetic, forgiving treatment of Nicaragua’s strongman president. Motivated by moral compassion for the poor, the Ortega Morris describes is effective in delivering tangible goods -- reliable electricity, free primary education, low inflation -- to his base constituents. Battle-hardened and utterly pragmatic, Ortega cuts winning deals with his wife (who, in exchange for a power-sharing arrangement, apparently agreed to overlook his sexual molestations of her daughter), with the Catholic Church (by criminalizing therapeutic abortions), and with right-wing opponents (by releasing them from corruption charges). In his unprincipled wheeling and dealing, Ortega fits very much within traditional Nicaraguan political norms, Morris contends; furthermore, in forging warm relations with Venezuela, Iran, and Russia, Ortega is seeking greater autonomy from a United States that is corrupted by money and has cynically supported unscrupulous Nicaraguan elites. Although Morris was denied direct access to Ortega or his close circle and is sometimes muddled in his judgments, Unfinished Revolution stands as an informative and up-to-date review of the rise to power of Nicaragua’s latest caudillo.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Western Hemisphere From This Issue