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The Macbeth of Managua Axes His Rivals — And Writes More Nicaraguan Tragedy

Alfredo Zuniga
THE MACBETHS OF MANAGUA Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (right) and his wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo in Managua in 2019.

COMMENTARY After arresting seven opposition leaders, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega confirms comparison with the thug dictator he once overthrew.

He’s a dim but determined, paranoid and power-hungry former warrior, goaded by a sinister and unhinged spouse, bent on eliminating anyone who threatens his corrupt reign over a poor and mountainous country.

Macbeth of Scotland, you say? No, I’m talking about the Macbeth of Managua: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

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In league with his Lady Macbeth — wife and Vice President Rosario Murillo — the dictatorial leftist is committing a figurative political massacre this month. He’s arrested no fewer than seven opposition leaders and potential challengers in this year’s presidential election, slapping them with bogus treason charges that could wipe them from the November ballot.

Ortega’s first Duncan, er, victim was journalist Cristiana Chamorro. She’s the daughter of Violeta Chamorro, who defeated Ortega in 1990 and ended his first, decade-long presidency. It was a loss that the Three Weird Sisters, stirring cauldrons in Ortega’s Marxist mind, told him he would never let happen again.

READ MORE: Nicaragua's Ortega Has 'Vindicated' Himself. Cuba's Castro Would Have Been Proud

Cristiana Chamorro was put under house arrest last week a day after declaring her candidacy. Aside from a questionable money-laundering allegation, Chamorro’s accused of “ideological falsehood” — no, no one’s adequately explained to me what the hell that means — the sort of Orwellian sedition charge cabals like Ortega’s Sandinista regime concoct all the time.

Next was Arturo Cruz Sequeira, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the U.S. who was arrested Monday and ordered held for 90 days under investigation for committing treason — meaning, criticizing Ortega, which under a law passed in December means treason.

Someone please send Ortega and Murillo a volume of Shakespeare. Maybe they'll remember how tragically such tales of sound and fury, told by idiots like them, so often end.

That kangaroo code kept crashing down. On Tuesday human rights activist Felix Maradiaga, who'd returned from exile in Miami to challenge Ortega, was hauled in for questioning, released — then minutes later pulled over, roughed up and taken to Managua’s notorious El Chipote prison. Then came economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro (Cristiana’s cousin); business leader José Adán Aguerri; sociologist Violeta Granera, under house arrest; and on Wednesday, attorney José Bernard Pallais.


Whatever their politics, it’s hard not to call these seven people brave – and hard not to fear for their safety. That’s because it’s equally hard not to forget human rights groups say Ortega’s security forces have killed almost 400 civilians since anti-government protests broke out in Nicaragua three years ago. Many others have suffered torture in prisons like El Chipote.

The 75-year-old Ortega regained Nicaragua’s presidency in 2006 and has held it ever since by forcing a lapdog supreme court to allow him re-election for the rest of his life. Meanwhile he flips the bird at international condemnation and hardens his venal autocracy. Murillo — a poet-turned-political henchwoman who once condemned her own daughter for accusing stepfather Ortega of sexually abusing her as a girl — has largely taken the reins of power, say Nicaragua analysts. Did someone hear her say, Out damned spot?

Maradiaga Campaign
Leading Nicaraguan human rights activist and presidential candidate Felix Maradiaga in Managua on Tuesday just minutes before Ortega regime police arrested and jailed him.

Either way, it’s also hard to ignore the bird-flipping significance of the timing of the couple’s Macbeth-athon: This is the same week U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Central America, specifically Guatemala, touting the Biden Administration’s campaign to make the isthmus a less corrupt, violent and hopeless place that throngs of desperate migrants want to escape.

Biden’s strategy is aimed at Central America’s Northern Triangle: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. But as a Washington Post editorial notes, Ortega’s rule has made Nicaragua a hot mess, too – not to mention a dictatorship whose theft and thuggery rival that of the country’s right-wing Somoza dynasty, which Ortega’s Sandinista rebels overthrew in 1979. Miami has recently seen a ripple of the potential wave of desperate Nicaraguans who may also flee to the U.S. border.

The Trump Administration levied economic sanctions on Ortega and his regime. Ortega’s foreign minister recently told President Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to remove them. Blinken told him to take a hike. After his reply was trumpeted by independent Nicaraguan media — at least those Ortega hasn't yet shut down — the Macbeth of Managua decided to lash out by making sure he’ll face no real November presidential contender.

That only stands to strengthen U.S. congressional resolve to pass a bill, co-sponsored by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, to ramp up sanctions pressure on Ortega to force a fair vote. Someone should send Ortega the text — and a volume of Shakespeare. Maybe he'll remember how tragically such tales of sound and fury, told by idiots like him, so often end.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.