Thursday, September 14, 2006

Anatomy of a Smear

Here's an article that ran on the BBC website. I think it needs some annotation.

Could Nicaragua's former leftist revolutionary leader, Daniel Ortega once again become president of his country? Mr Ortega's Sandinista party led Nicaragua in the 1980s with strong US opposition.

Mr Ortega still enjoys public support
I had travelled to Nicaragua with a vague promise of an interview with a legendary figure of the Cold War era.

Those commies are always vague.

He is a hero of the left, whose name some say should have long faded into the past. But Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinista revolution, and thorn in America's side, is still alive and kicking - 16 years after being voted out of office.

Why exactly it should it have faded away?, we're not sure but something sinister is in the air with these vague Nicaraguans of the Cold War era

Back in Washington, Ortega's wife Rosario, the power behind the throne, had assured me that he wanted to talk to the BBC.

Hmmm, let's challenge his manhood why don't we, is he a mama's boy also?

Now in Managua, though, the doubts set in. It was proving hard to nail down a time or a place.

See how they are? Not to be trusted. How about nailing down a time before you left town big guy?

I had been told that Mr Ortega would be holding a political meeting on Saturday night. Now we were informed that it would happen in the morning.
The venue - one of Managua's more exclusive hotels, seemed a bit odd, too. It is hardly the choice of a self-proclaimed champion of the poor and man of the people.

A little left wing critique here. Is this guy a commie?

I had been hoping more for a mass rally near a Managuan slum.

Is this where you usually hang out?

But, yes, there in this conference room of a four star hotel with its own casino, was "El Comandante" - the commander of the Sandinista revolution.
The military fatigues have been dispensed with long ago. The Marxist rhetoric has softened. A few of his supporters wore Che Guevara T-shirts, but there was little else to suggest this was a revolutionaries' meeting.

More left wing out flanking. Is this guy in the Spartacists?
And there was still no sign that I would be getting the interview.

The one constant from the era of the revolution seemed to be the Sandinista love of long political discourse.

God, I hate commies, they are so long winded and analytical, can't they just give me a sound bite so I can get back to the people's struggle in the Managua and London working class neighborhoods?

The conference room, I was told, had been booked until five o'clock. There was a long list of speakers. Mr Ortega, it seemed, was intent on listening to every word and embracing each speaker when they had finally stopped talking.

Booooring! I am going to the bar.

I decided to cut my losses and come back later.

In other words, not do any reporting just believe....

Anyway I had a previous engagement to interview the US ambassador.

Ohhhhh? ....what the US ambassador has to say. Is this story about the US or Daniel Ortega or the Nicaraguan election? It's really hard to tell.

Washington is alarmed by Mr Ortega's political comeback and there is plenty of bad blood. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration had illegally funded the "Contras" to oust Ortega from power. Then it was the fear of creeping Soviet influence. Now Washington worries about interference from the confrontational Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Chavez wants Mr Ortega to win. But the Americans, too, are now openly voicing their support for other candidates. I wanted the ambassador to explain Washington's continuing animosity towards Mr Ortega. But, just as I was drawing up to the US embassy, a colleague called to say that Mr Ortega would do the interview in 20 minutes. Inconvenient, but still a sense of relief.

Actually I didn't really talk to the US Ambassador but I know they hate Chavez. Notice no critique of the US digs, oh yeah, he didn't make it to the interview.

Mr Ortega's many critics charge him with behaving like a dictator and I was beginning to see why. Sandinistas who have challenged him have been expelled from the party.

Did you see an example of this in your interview? Where is the evidence for this "dictatorial behavior?"

His opponents accuse him of political manipulation.

You mean like claiming Iraq had links with Al-Queda or had nukes and WMD? Where is your evidence Johnny Bull?

I asked him if he was still a revolutionary. He replied with an unequivocal yes.

You mean like Jefferson, Washington and Adams?

His minders said they would meet us at our hotel later. This time they proved true to their word.

This time............

They picked us up and drove us through the streets of Managua. For a visitor the city is virtually impossible to navigate. There is no real centre and few if any street signs. In 1972 an earthquake levelled the city. Managua's chaos can be blamed on the forces of nature - but the country's political troubles are more a man made disaster.

Did the FSLN do this? They have been out of power for 16 years!

We were eventually taken to what turned out to be the Ortega compound. After another short wait we were ushered into a room decorated in bright colours.

Garish aren't they, and commies too!

There we were warmly received Rosario. She was responsible, I was told, for the new colour scheme of the Sandinista movement - a garish pink. Seconds later Daniel appeared. We sat down for the interview in purple wicker chairs.

I had finally got my interview with the Sandinista leader.

His waistline was a little wider, his hair a little thinner - and still suspiciously dark. But there was still mischief in his eyes and strong anti-American rhetoric.

Fat and balding, what does this have to do with anything? Mischief makers. Like education, health care and subisdized electricity I am sure.

I asked him if he was still a revolutionary. He replied with an unequivocal yes.

Didn't he say this already? Is this guy drunk? Maybe too much time at the bar?

In the past he said he had fought a revolution with arms, but now Nicaragua had entered a new chapter. This time he was defending the revolutionary project with the vote.

Daniel Ortega talked for more than 40 minutes.

And? Does he give one quote? No. But he is still around. Maybe forever...

In the end my wait had been worth it. But the question now, will his own patience, endurance and careful political manoeuvring finally pay off? Will Daniel Ortega - the marathon man of Nicaraguan politics - once again become president of his country?

Here's the original article.

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