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Daniel Ortega: Do You Look In The Mirror And See Somoza?


I’m sure I’m not the sole observer of recent developments in Nicaragua to wonder what the hell is going on inside the mind of Daniel Ortega.

At this point, I guess, no-one cares what’s going on in his head. Nicaragua wants him gone. The world wants him gone. Well, when I say “the world”, I mean the few individuals outside Nicaragua who know or give a damn about what’s taking place there.

Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo
Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo / TSiHonduras Facebook Page

The only people who still support Daniel Ortega are his “sapos” – the word used to characterize his band of fanatics inside Nicaragua – and those upstanding members of the world community like the Venezuelans and the Cubans. And I’m sure the North Koreans and the Syrians still support Ortega, too. He keeps good company with the world’s scumbags.

But despite knowing I shouldn’t care what’s going on inside Ortega’s head, I’m somehow fascinated with the guy.

Don’t get me wrong, I want him gone as much as anyone. He and his wife are a foul-smelling stain on the face of Nicaragua that needs cleaning off for good after almost forty years.

Since I last wrote about Nicaragua, things have intensified. We’re now approaching four-hundred deaths since this started in April. 

I got into it with some guy on social media the other week who said Nicaragua wasn’t a big deal because he was from Northern Ireland and had gone through The Troubles there. He spoke of over 3,600 deaths during The Troubles and how that was so much more than in Nicaragua.

What he neglected to point out was that those 3,600 tragic deaths occurred over a thirty-year period, from the late-1960s to the late-1990s. That works out at three times less than the current death rate in Nicaragua, putting Ortega up there in the premier league of state-sponsored murder. The Troubles look like amateur hour at the rate Ortega is killing. And trust me, The Troubles were not amateur hour.

But if Ortega kept up his current killing rate for thirty years, we’d be looking at over 50,000 deaths. That’s some serious genocide. Like I said, Ortega is in the big leagues now.

I say all this not like it’s a competition, but to outline how serious the situation is in Nicaragua.

It’s becoming tougher to cover or talk about Nicaragua.      

We receive articles from people in the country and we’re nervous to publish them. Nervous for their safety inside Nicaragua. One of our contributors said in an email this week,  “I am reluctant to write any opinion pieces as they are going house to house looking for people…”

I take what he says seriously and as much as we want to publish his articles, we worry for his safety if we do. We are really at that point now.

“I am reluctant to write any opinion pieces as they are going house to house looking for people…”

Many say things like, “where I am it’s fine”, “here it’s safe”.    

Good for them living on the Emerald Coast or San Juan del Sur or Ometepe or the Corn Islands. It’s almost like these oases of tranquility are like those calm communities in denial that Rick and the crew find from time to time on The Walking Dead before it all goes to hell and the walls cave in.

And talking of The Walking Dead... Daniel Ortega and his zombie regime
And talking of The Walking Dead… Daniel Ortega and his zombie regime / La Prensa Facebook page

Outside of the quiet places, madness reigns. This week we saw a sustained attack in Carazo Department, where dozens died and Ortega assaulted clergymen in Diriamba, including Monsignor Silvio Báez, a vocal critic of the government.

The excuse was the church was stockpiling weapons for use against the regime.

It’s like they notched things up a gear or three from protests to the edge of civil war – except as everyone says all the time now, it ain’t war. How can it be war when only one side has the weapons? People say this so much it’s almost become a cliche. But it needs saying.

And in the meantime, all this makes me more fascinated with Ortega himself. With his mindset, his thought process. What is he thinking? Does he have a game plan here?

I mean what is it with these guys? You have to be a serious megalomanic to still believe, after all this, that you’re the right man to lead the country. Especially when forty years ago you helped to overthrow another megalomaniac exactly the same as you.

So Daniel here’s a question. Do you look in the mirror and see Somoza? I’m sure you don’t. I’m sure you still think you’re a savior and a hero. That these protestors are an insignificant minority of agitators, terrorists, and criminals, right? That they’re funded by the right-wing and don’t represent the people. How can they? You represent stability and peace and you’re a walking cliche of every tyrant who’s ever existed.

“Do you look in the mirror and see Somoza?”

You’re lucky though, Daniel Ortega. No-one cares what you’re doing to your country.    

You know no-one cares and it allows you to act with total impunity. They don’t mention Nicaragua on mainstream TV news in the US or Europe. If you were a Middle Eastern dictator or an Eastern European or Balkan one, chances are NATO would be knocking on your door by now and you’d either be on your way to The Hague or exile or up against a wall somewhere. But no-one cares so you’re going full Assad in plain sight.

Daniel Ortega. Same as Somoza.
Daniel Ortega. Same as Somoza.

I guess you figure ratcheting this thing up will terrify Nicaragua into capitulation and the world won’t care because it never cared. Or even knew.

And afterward, I’m sure you think Nicaragua will embrace you again, alongside your wife and her trees and your pink billboards and your solidarity Christianity unity bullshit like nothing ever happened.

In February 2011, as the Libyan chapter of the Arab Spring got underway with protests erupting around Tripoli and other cities, Muammar Gadaffi sat down with journalist Christiane Amanpour and declared his people loved him and would die for him.

As the protests turned into civil war, Gadaffi fled and the people took over his compound and razed it to the ground. When they caught him hiding like a rat in a drainage pipe in October 2011, they thrust a bayonet up his ass and killed him. Is this is on Ortega’s mind? Surely not! His people love him and would die for him!

But the world cared about Libya and NATO helped oust Gadaffi. There is zero chance of anyone getting involved in Nicaragua. Ortega knows this and that is the saddest part.

I long to return to Nicaragua.    

It’s by far my favorite country in Central America and my personal “decompression” place. I find Nicaragua magical and it pains me to stay away. I want to surf at Maderas or party at Arenas or drink cold Toñas on the Calle Calzada or chill at Ojo de Agua. One day I’ll do all that again, but only once Daniel Ortega is gone.

One day I’ll go back with my friends from Granada and Masaya who have escaped down here to Costa Rica and claimed asylum.

Daniel Ortega: Paramilitaries on the streets of Leon
Paramilitaries on the streets of Leon / La Prensa Facebook page

My pain from staying away is nothing compared to my friends in exile or to the pain of those still inside Nicaragua. It’s nothing compared to those who have lost loved ones and friends to Ortega’s assassins and snipers. My pain is nothing compared to everyone who sits in fear while bullets hit their homes or those who have lost their livelihoods.

I understand that and every day I try to put myself in the heads of my friends and those in Nicaragua I don’t know, whose everyday lives I read about on social media every day.

And every day I also try to put myself in Daniel Ortega’s head and try to understand the mindset of a dictator.

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.