Ortega Returns, and So Does Biased Coverage of Nicaragua in U.S. Media

A Newsday article by Letta Tayler, “Ortega Headed for Stunning Victory in Nicaragua,” brings back old times…

…memories of 1980s media bias when it comes to U.S. coverage of Nicaragua.

For instance:

Fans [of Daniel Ortega] waved a sea of Sandista [sic] flags — some in the traditional red-and-black stripes of Ortega’s 1979 revolution that toppled the corrupt Somoza dynasty…

Somoza was toppled by a broad coalition the goals of which were subsequently hijacked by the Marxist-Leninist Ortega brothers.

During his first presidency, Ortega became a symbol of U.S. fears that a communist wildfire could sweep the Americas in the 1980s.

Ortega is more than a symbol. He’s a real guy, and USSR and Cuba-funded civil wars were not a “fear” in the 1980s, but a reality. The civil war in El Salvador, for instance, really happened.

As the seventh leftist leader to win office in recent years in a Latin America increasingly at odd [sic] with U.S. dictates, Ortega’s victory represents both a symbolic and a strategic blow to President George W. Bush.Many political analysts called it a self-inflicted wound, saying United States made the Cold War dinosaur who will lead this desperately poor, banana-exporting, New York-sized nation of 5.5 million into a far more important figure that he is.

What “dictates”? Who are the “many” political analysts?

Ortega won, if it turns out he did, with apparently little more than a third of the vote and cash from Hugo Chavez. The opposition split among numerous candidates. Pretty stupid, really, but democracy is messy in its own way.

As to the U.S. making Ortega important, as a bought-and-paid-for Soviet/Cuban proxy he WAS important — until he lost an election he agreed to in order to get the Contras demobilized — an election he tried to steal (he failed in part because he underestimated the disgust for his regime among members of his own military forces).

Moving to the present, the article describes Ortega as someone who has “softened over the years,” who “publicly preach[es] God and peace instead of Marx and God,” and who wants “wants free trade with the United States.” Yet Ortega’s presumed victory also is described as a “a strategic blow to President George W. Bush.”

If Ortega is an OK guy now, where’s the blow to Bush?

But most Nicaragua experts believed that by forging close ties with Ortega, the United States could ensure he steers a moderate course.

Citation, please. Who conducted this poll or survey, and what was the criteria for inclusion as a “Nicaragua expert”? Why did the Newsday editor let a line this vague through the editing process?

Those who did remember the food lines, mandatory draft and crackdowns on political foes were reeling from Ortega’s win.”Ortega is now preaching love and love is super important,” said Thelma de Quadra, a housewife in pearls and linens in affluent Las Colinas, a neighborhood of manicured lawns and elegant homes cloistered behind high walls. “But after all that hate, it’s too late.”

This has the ring of authenticity, since Daniel Ortega is a liar, a thief and a serial human rights abuser. Yet it is telling that in a nation full of people who remember the human rights abuses and many crimes of the Sandinista era, Newsday found a rare wealthy Nicaraguan to tell this tale and went out of its way to describe her wealth. You’d almost think Nicaragua’s poor liked having their ears cut off.

The race featured colorful — and, to some, chilling — appearances from many past players in Nicaragua’s civil war. Oliver North, the former White House aide who orchestrated the Iran-Contra scandal, came down to Nicargua [sic] to cavort with old Contra pals and compare Ortega to Hitler.

A former communist dictator is on the verge of reclaiming power and Newsday calls an appearance by Oliver North “chilling.” Unbelievable.

Former President Jimmy Carter, whose presidency was marred by his acceptance of the Sandinistas during his final weeks in office, was here to help monitor the vote.

Putting Jimmy Carter in charge of detecting misdeeds by left-wing authoritarians with an even halfway slick PR operation is like putting Bill Clinton in charge of protecting chastity at a whorehouse. On paper, they appear to have skills in the relevant areas, but in practice, you would be wise not to expect much success.

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