by Marvin J. Ramírez
Managua, the capital of Nicaragua looked like a militarily-occupied city on Jan. 10. It had the resemblance of a street in Bagdad, with convoys full of military personnel ready for combat.
Most streets and boulevards showed soldiers armed head-to-toe in corners and strategic bridges, while the National Police presence was in full alert, and posted at almost every corner in the neighborhoods Most obviously this was more prominent in route to and from the airport at the Pan American Highway.
Large groups of Ortega sympathizers waved red and black flags along the highways and streets in most low-income neighborhoods of the capital, were thousands hoped this would be a historic event that would bring them a new day in their lives. To them, this hope rested in the figure of the new president-elect, Daniel Ortega Saveedra, and his new friend, Hugo Chávez Frías, president of Venezuela, who has promised lots of financial help to Nicaragua.
“We have never seen something like this before,” said a young man to El Reportero, while a line of hundreds of buses carrying Sandinista sympathizers waving red-and-black flags, waited under a burning noon-sun. The miles-long line of packed buses, which were seen at different parts of Managua, and most likely had no air conditioning, were stuck on the highway in route to the Plaza John Paul II. There, after his swearing in ceremony, Ortega would be giving his first speech to the masses as president that eveing.
It would be the return to power of Comandante Ortega, 17 years after he lost the presidency to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and probably the beginning of a new economic order in Latin America, as new pacts with Venezuela would be revealed that day.
Ortega Saavedra, born Nov. 11, 1945, has been the leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional or FSLN).
After a popular rebellion resulted in the overthrow and exile of then dictator Gral. Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979, Ortega became a member of the ruling multipartisan junta and was later elected president, serving from 1985 to 1990. His first period in office was controversial, and was characterized by socialist policies, internal dissent, hostility from the United States, and armed rebellion by U.S.-backed Contras.
Ortega was defeated by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro in the 1990 presidential election, but he remained an important figure in Nicaraguan opposition politics. He was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1996 and 2001 before winning the 2006 presidential election.
This beginning, and his new term was about to start at the “Omar Torrijos Herrera” Non-Aligned Square (Plaza de los No Alineados “Omar Torrijos Herrera), where 15 heads of state and more than one score of international delegations, which were part of more than 2,000 international guests and 1,000 journalists in Nicaragua, would witness this historical swearing in.
The top guest of honor, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías was late, so delaying the ceremony. He arrived at 4:40 p.m., after having been sworn in as president in his country earlier in the morning that day.
Among the delegations present were the Organization of American States with its president José Miguel Insulza, as well as a special delegation of the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putín, South Korea, and the Vatican.
Also present were the Central American head of states of El Salvador, Elías Antonio Saca; of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya; of Guatemala, Oscar Berger; of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, including ex-presidents of the area Rodrigo Carazo Odio, Ernesto Balladares and Alejandro Toledo of Perú.
In representation of the Spanish Crown was Prince of Asturias Felipe de Borbón, whom with his 6.5” height was probably the tallest person in the event, making everyone else look short; and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States José Miguel Insulza.
Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez were the only heads of state who addressed the Nicaraguan people among the other 16 visiting presidents to the acts of investiture of Ortega. Both spoke words against “the North American imperialism “ and words of praise to the Cuban regime.
Among the national personalities stood out the presence of the ex-presidents Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and, sitting on fi rst row, former President Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo, accompanied by his wife, María Fernanda Flores of Alemán.
Alemán was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for corruption and money embasslement against the state. The Nicaraguan judiciary commuted his prison term for home arrest in the city of Managua, from which he cannot go out, but allows him to move freely. His presence at the Plaza, was a big surprise to the assistants. He was invited by the eventʼs Organizing Committee, according to the spokesman of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), Leonel Téllez.
The event was a true exhibition of the best of Nicaraguan culture and heritage, with two ballet group performing two of most significant exponents of the Nicaraguan folkloric pieces.
As part of the presidential inauguration and organized by the First Lady Rosario Murillo de Ortega, the two dance ballet groups entertained the audience through out the event performing “La Mora Limpia” a composition of its own crossbreeding, which includes Nicaraguan music with Spanish guitar, and “El Güegüense,” a folkloric masterpiece combining music, dance and theater, which recreates a satire that ridicules the Spanish conqueror. In 2005, UNUSCO proclaimed this masterpiece as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind for its unique place in Latin Americaʼs folk heritage.
Following the heads of state and dignitaries of different countries, which were part of a contingent of more than 2,000 international guests and 1,000 journalists, Ortega entered the Non-Aligned Square while two culturallyrich Nicaraguan folkloric dance groups, entertained the audience.
At the beat of La Mora Limpia music, a newly created Medal of the Latin-American Unit was delivered in a ceremonial act by the folkloric ballerinas and granted to all the presidents who were present at the act.
However, when it came the turn of President Chávez to receive it, they ran out of medals. Like a theatrical piece, the foreign presidents and the audience looked at each other and murmured, while the First Lady walked around, back forth of the stage fi guring out how to solve what it seemed to be an embarrassment.
The ceremony of investiture had to wait, again, because of Chávez, while an extra medal was found for the Venezuelan president.
The investiture ceremony fi nally started, and when Ortega was receiving the presidential banner from Assembly President René Núñez, after receiving it from outgoing President Enrique Bolaños, a 21- cannon salute stormed the capital, adding excitement and emotion to the event.
As it got dark, outside, hundred of buses packed with people continued pouring into the Plaza Juan Pablo II, adding to a crowd of approximately 400,000, to hear their new president speak after the ceremony.
Since winning the election of Nov. 5 with 38 percent of the vote, Ortega, who lead the country from 1979 to 1990, has shown moderation in his government policies with the intention of eradicating poverty.
On his fi rst speech, Ortega began criticizing neoliberalism, while announcing a “a new road” for Nicaragua.
“Where is all this wealth going to stop,” he said about all the previous neoliberal policies applied in the past in Nicaragua.
“What are the results of those policies that Pope John Paul II called savage capitalism? We now have the challenge to open a new way that will allow the Nicaraguan family to live with dignity,” Ortega said.
Just one day after taking office, Ortega signed Chávezʼs ALBA (Alternative Bolivariana of the Americas (DAWN), a leftist alternative by Venezuela to the U.S. free trade agreement Area of Free Commerce for the Americas (AUK).
Attending the signing were Chávez, Boliviaʼs Morales and Cuban Vice Presi- dent José Ramón Machado Ventura.
Ortega also asked the United States to create “a just economic policy towards Latin America “to stop the immigration to this country.”