Ramírez, a celebrated novelist, served as Daniel Ortega’s vice president during the chaotic era of Sandinista rule in Nicaragua in the 1980s. In this poignant memoir, Ramírez extols the idealism of the youthful Sandinistas, too many of whom fell as martyrs in their bloody battles against the tyrannical Somoza dynasty. At the same time, he recognizes the many errors the inexperienced revolutionaries committed once in power. Ramírez paints vivid portraits of those Latin American leaders who assisted the Sandinistas. As he so often does, Fidel Castro emerges as a master realist; the Panamanian strongman Omar Torrijos, it is shown, took his fill of liquor and women yet functioned as a savvy strategist. Ultimately marginalized by internal Sandinista intrigues, Ramírez disdains the new materialism of his putatively socialist ex-comrades (the “muchachos”). In yet another twist of history, the Nicaraguans recently reelected Ortega, in part because he has built a working relationship with the private sector, cemented by common interests in a growing economy. More pragmatic now, Ortega has raised the living standards of the Nicaraguan poor by drawing on funding from both the World Bank and the oil-rich Venezuela of Hugo Chávez.
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