Daniel Ortega

Alfredo Zuniga / AP

Human rights groups say the number of anti-government protesters killed by security forces in Nicaragua has risen sharply in recent days. That's prompted a key anti-government activist – who had fled to Miami – to go back to Nicaragua.

Tim Padgett / WLRN.org

Alfredo Zuniga / Associated Press

More than 130 people have been killed in anti-government protests raging in Nicaragua since April. Demonstrators are calling for the removal of authoritarian President Daniel Ortega – but his security forces have responded with widely condemned brutality.

Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN

Attendees of Friday night's Miami Fashion Week runway shows walked through an unglamorous scene to get to the downtown event: dozens of protesters wearing blue and white waved Nicaraguan flags and whistled at people walking into the venue, Ice Palace. They had gathered to express anger about the possibility that Camila Ortega Murillo, the daughter of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, would show up.

Alfredo Zuniga / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

While a growing global chorus calls for Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega to step down, I’m thinking back to one of my favorite editorial cartoons.

It appeared 28 years ago, at the curtain call of Ortega’s first presidency – right after Nicaraguan voters tossed out him and his Marxist Sandinista party, ending their decade of authoritarian rule.

The cartoon shows Ortega rafting across the Caribbean to Cuba. Iconic communist dictator Fidel Castro stands onshore angrily shouting, “You lost a WHAT?!”

Daniel Ortega, the former Marxist revolutionary leader, handily won a third presidential term in Nicaragua.

With almost 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Ortega received 72 percent of the vote. The Liberal Constitutional Party received 14 percent of the vote.

Of course, this result was very much expected, because earlier this year, courts essentially blocked the leading opposition coalition candidates from participating in the election.

Esteban Felix / AP via Miami Herald

COMMENTARY

I understand why Miami Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is outraged at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Ortega’s a strongman, autocrat, caudillo, whatever authoritarian label you want to give a guy who’s mugged Nicaragua’s democracy and turned much of the impoverished Central American country into his fiefdom.

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