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The Nicaraguan Revolution (Spanish : Revolución Nicaragüense or Revolución Popular Sandinista) encompassed the rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, the campaign led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to violently oust the dictatorship in 1978–79, the subsequent efforts of the FSLN to govern Nicaragua from 1979 until 1990, and the Contra War, which was waged between the FSLN-led government of Nicaragua and the United States-backed Contras from 1981-1990.
Spanish, known in the Middle Ages as Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.
The Somoza Dynasty was an influential political dynasty who ruled Nicaragua as a family dictatorship from 1936 to 1979.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front is a socialist political party in Nicaragua. Its members are called Sandinistas[sandiˈnistas] in both English and Spanish. The party is named after Augusto César Sandino, who led the Nicaraguan resistance against the United States occupation of Nicaragua in the 1930s.
The Revolution marked a significant period in Nicaraguan history and revealed the country as one of the major proxy war battlegrounds of the Cold War with the events in the country rising to international attention.
A proxy war is an armed conflict between two states or non-state actors which act on the instigation or on behalf of other parties that are not directly involved in the hostilities. In order for a conflict to be considered a proxy war, there must be a direct, long-term relationship between external actors and the belligerents involved. The aforementioned relationship usually takes the form of funding, military training, arms, or other forms of material assistance which assist a belligerent party in sustaining its war effort.
The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. A common historiography of the conflict begins between 1946, the year U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow cemented a U.S. foreign policy of containment of Soviet expansionism threatening strategically vital regions, and the Truman Doctrine of 1947, and ending between the Revolutions of 1989, which ended communism in Eastern Europe as well as in other areas, and the 1991 collapse of the USSR, when nations of the Soviet Union abolished communism and restored their independence. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany and its allies, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.
The initial overthrow of the Somoza regime in 1978–79 was a bloody affair, and the Contra War of the 1980s took the lives of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and was the subject of fierce international debate. During the 1980s, both the FSLN (a leftist collection of political parties) and the Contras (a rightist collection of counter-revolutionary groups) received large amounts of aid from the Cold War superpowers (respectively, the Soviet Union and the United States).
The Contras were the various U.S.-backed and funded right-wing rebel groups that were active from 1979 to the early 1990s in opposition to the socialist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction Government in Nicaragua. Among the separate contra groups, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) emerged as the largest by far. In 1987, virtually all contra organizations were united, at least nominally, into the Nicaraguan Resistance.
Right-wing politics hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics, or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences or the competition in market economies. The term right-wing can generally refer to "the conservative or reactionary section of a political party or system".
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.
The Contra War ended after the signing of the Tela Accord in 1989 and the demobilization of the FSLN and Contra armies.A second election in 1990 resulted in the election of a majority of anti-Sandinista parties and the FSLN handing over power.
Following the United States occupation of Nicaragua in 1912 during the Banana Wars, the Somoza family political dynasty came to power, and would rule Nicaragua from 1937 until their ouster in 1979 during the Nicaraguan Revolution. The Somoza dynasty consisted of Anastasio Somoza García, his eldest son Luis Somoza Debayle, and finally Anastasio Somoza Debayle. The era of Somoza family rule was characterized by rising inequality and political corruption, strong US support for the government and its military,as well as a reliance on US-based multinational corporations.
The United States occupation of Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933 was part of the Banana Wars, when the US military intervened in various Latin American countries from 1898 to 1934. The formal occupation began in 1912, even though there were various other assaults by the U.S. in Nicaragua throughout this period. American military interventions in Nicaragua were designed to stop any other nation except the United States of America from building a Nicaraguan Canal.
The Banana Wars were occupations, police actions, and interventions on the part of the United States in Central America and the Caribbean between the end of the Spanish–American War in 1898 and the inception of the Good Neighbor Policy in 1934. These military interventions were most often carried out by the United States Marine Corps, which developed a manual, The Strategy and Tactics of Small Wars (1921) based on its experiences. On occasion, the Navy provided gunfire support and Army troops were also used.
Anastasio "Tacho" Somoza García was officially the 21st President of Nicaragua from 1 January 1937 to 1 May 1947 and from 21 May 1950 to 29 September 1956, but ruled effectively as dictator from 1936 until his assassination. Anastasio Somoza started a dynasty that maintained absolute control over Nicaragua for 55 years.
In 1961 Carlos Fonseca Amador, Silvio Mayorga, and Tomás Borge Martínez formed the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) with other student activists at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua. For the founding members of the FSLN, this was not their first experience with political activism. Amador, first General Secretary of the organization, had worked with others on a newspaper "broadly critical" of the Somoza reign titled Segovia.
Consisting of approximately 20 members during the 1960s, with the help of students, the organization gathered support from peasants and anti-Somoza elements within Nicaraguan society, as well as from the communist Cuban government, the socialist Panamanian government of Omar Torrijos, and the social democratic Venezuelan government of Carlos Andrés Pérez.
By the 1970s the coalition of students, farmers, businesses, churches, and a small percentage of Marxists was strong enough to launch a military effort against the regime of longtime dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. The FSLN focused on guerrilla tactics almost immediately, inspired by the campaigns of Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara. Penetrating the Northern coast of Nicaragua, the Río Coco/Bocay-Raití campaign was largely a failure: "when guerrillas did encounter the National Guard, they had to retreat…with heavy losses."Further operations included a devastating loss near the city of Matagalpa, during which Mayorga was killed, which led Amador to a "prolonged period of reflection, self-criticism and ideological debate." During this time, the FSLN reduced attacks, instead focusing on solidifying the organization as a whole.
In the 1970s the FSLN began a campaign of kidnappings which led to national recognition of the group in the Nicaraguan media and solidification of the group as a force in opposition to the Somoza Regime.The Somoza Regime, which included the Nicaraguan National Guard, a force highly trained by the U.S. military, declared a state of siege, and proceeded to use torture, extra-judicial killings, intimidation and censorship of the press in order to combat the FSLN attacks. This led to international condemnation of the regime and in 1978 the administration of U.S. president Jimmy Carter cut off aid to the Somoza regime due to its human rights violations (Boland Amendment). In response, Somoza lifted the state of siege in order to continue receiving aid.
On 10 January 1978, the editor of the Managua newspaper La Prensa, and founder of the Union for Democratic Liberation (UDEL), Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal was murdered by suspected elements of the Somoza regime, and riots broke out in the capital city, Managua, targeting the Somoza regime.Following the riots, a general strike on 23–24 January called for the end of the Somoza regime and was, according to the U.S. State Department staff at the U.S. Embassy, successful at shutting down around 80% of businesses in not only Managua but also the provincial capitals of Leon, Granada, Chinandega, and Matagalpa.
In the words of William Dewy, an employee of Citi Bank who witnessed the riots in Managua:
Our offices at the time were directly across the street from La Prensa and in the fighting that followed part of our branch was burned, but not intentionally. They were going after the Somoza-owned bank. In the turmoil they torched the [Somoza] bank and our building also burnt down. It was clear [to the U.S. business community] that the Chamorro assassination had changed things dramatically and permanently for the worse. — Interview with Morris H. Morley, 17 October 1988
On 22 August 1978 the FSLN staged a massive kidnapping operation. Led by Éden Pastora, the Sandinistan forces captured the National Palace while the legislature was in session, taking 2,000 hostages. Pastora demanded money, the release of Sandinistan prisoners, and, "a means of publicizing the Sandinista cause."After two days, the government agreed to pay $500,000 and to release certain prisoners, marking a major victory for the FSLN. Revolts against the state continued as the Sandinistas received material support from Venezuela and Panama. Further support would stem from Cuba in the form of "arms and military advising."
In early 1979 the Organization of American States supervised negotiations between the FSLN and the government. However, these broke down when it became clear that the Somoza regime had no intention of allowing democratic elections to take place.
By June 1979 the FSLN controlled all of the country except the capital, and on 17 July President Somoza resigned and the FSLN entered Managua,giving full control of the government to the revolutionary movements.
Immediately following the fall of the Somoza regime, Nicaragua was largely in ruins. The country had suffered both war and, earlier, natural disaster in the devastating 1972 Nicaragua earthquake. In 1979, approximately 600,000 Nicaraguans were homeless and 150,000 were either refugees or in exile,out of a total population of just 2.8 million.
In response to these issues, a state of emergency was declared. President Carter sent $99 million in aid. Land and businesses of the Somoza regime were expropriated, the old courts were abolished, and workers were organized into Civil Defense Committees. The new regime also declared that "elections are unnecessary", which led to criticism from the Catholic Church, among others.
The Revolution ended the burden the Somocista regime had imposed upon the Nicaraguan economy and which had seriously deformed the country, creating a big and modern center, Managua, where Somoza's power had emanated to all corners of the territory. Somoza had developed an almost semifeudalist rural economy with few productive goods, such as cotton, sugar and other tropical agricultural products. All sectors of the economy of Nicaragua were determined, in great part if not entirely, by the Somozas or the officials and others surrounding the regime, whether by directly owning agricultural brands and trusts, or actively putting them into local or foreign hands. It is famously stated that Somoza himself owned 1/5 of all profitable land in Nicaragua. While this is not correct, Somoza or his adepts did own or give away banks, ports, communications, services and massive amounts of land.
The Nicaraguan Revolution brought immense restructuring and reforms to all three sectors of the economy, directing it towards a mixed economy system. The biggest economic impact was on the primary sector, agriculture, in the form of the Agrarian Reform, which was not proposed as something that could be planned in advanced from the beginning of the Revolution but as a process that would develop pragmatically along with the other changes (economic, political, etc.) that would arise during the Revolution period.
Economic reforms overall needed to rescue out of limbo the inefficient and helpless Nicaraguan economy. As a "third-world" country, Nicaragua had, and has, an agriculture-based economy, undeveloped and susceptible to the flow of market prices for its agricultural goods, such as coffee and cotton. The Revolution faced a rural economy well behind in technology and, at the same time, devastated by the guerrilla warfare and the soon to come civil war against the Contras.
Article 1 of the Agrarian Reform Law says that property is guaranteed if it laboured efficiently and that there could be different forms of property:
- state property (with the confiscated land from somocists)
- cooperative property (part of confiscated land, but without individual certificates of ownership, to be laboured efficiently)
- communal property in response to reinvindication from people and communities from Miskito regions in the Atlantic
- individual property (as long as this is efficiently exploited and integrated to national plans of development)
The principles that presided Agrarian Reform were the same ones for the Revolution: pluralism, national unity and economic democracy.
The Nicaraguan Agrarian Reform developed into four phases:
In 1985, the Agrarian Reform distributed 235,000 acres (950 km2) of land to the peasantry. This represented about 75 percent of all land distributed to peasants since 1980. According to Project, the agrarian reform had the twofold purpose of increasing the support for the government among the campesinos, and guaranteeing ample food delivery into the cities. During 1985, ceremonies were held throughout the countryside in which Daniel Ortega would give each peasant a title to the land and a rifle to defend it.
The Nicaraguan Revolution brought many cultural improvements and developments. Undoubtedly, the most important was the planning and execution of the Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign (Cruzada Nacional de Alfabetización). The literacy campaign used secondary school students, university students as well as teachers as volunteer teachers. Within five months they reduced the overall illiteracy rate from 50.3% to 12.9%.As a result, in September 1980, UNESCO awarded Nicaragua with the "Nadezhda K. Krupskaya" award for their successful literacy campaign. This was followed by the literacy campaigns of 1982, 1986, 1987, 1995 and 2000, all of which were also awarded by UNESCO. The Revolution also founded a Ministry of Culture, one of only three in Latin America at the time, and established a new editorial brand, called Editorial Nueva Nicaragua and, based on it, started to print cheap editions of basic books rarely seen by Nicaraguans at all. It also founded an Instituto de Estudios del Sandinismo (Institute for Studies of Sandinismo) where it printed all of the work and papers of Augusto C. Sandino and those that cemented the ideologies of FSLN as well, such as Carlos Fonseca, Ricardo Morales Avilés and others. The key large scale programs of the Sandinistas received international recognition for their gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform.
The primary sources for the content in this section are not impartial.
According to The Heritage Foundation, censorship of the press under the new Sandinista regime began almost immediately. La Prensa, an independent newspaper of the country, was censored, despite its previous role as vocal opposition to the Somoza government. No information regarded as negative towards the Sandinistas was permitted to be published. All reporting was required to be submitted to government censors seven hours prior to printing.The Heritage Foundation claims that a "spy on your neighbor" system was instituted early in the Sandinista reign. This system promoted citizens to report any activity deemed counter to the revolution to the authorities. Those reported faced harassment from security representatives, including the destruction of property. Similar systems were apparent in Soviet-bloc countries.
On the contrary, the French journalist Viktor Dedaj, who lived in Managua in the 1980s, notes that La Prensa was generally sold freely and that the majority of radio channels were anti-Sandinista.
A further human rights violation arose in the government treatment of the Miskito people.Over 15,000 Miskitos were forced to relocate, their villages were destroyed, and killings not only went unpunished, but were promoted.
According to The Heritage Foundation, following the FSLN rise to power, it was claimed that Nicaraguan Jews became an often targeted group for discrimination. Jewish citizens faced physical attacks, confiscation of property without cause, and arbitrary arrests. However, investigations conducted by the United Nations, the Organization of American States and Pax Christi between 1979 and 1983 refuted allegations of anti-Semitism. Some Jewish people were expropriated for their collaboration with the Somoza regime, but not because they were Jewish. Moreover, there was the example of the high ranking Sandinista and mayor of Managua, Herty Lewites, who was of Jewish descent.
Although the Carter Administration had attempted to work with FSLN in 1979 and 1980, the more right-wing Reagan Administration supported a strong anti-communist strategy for dealing with Latin America, and so it attempted to isolate the Sandinista regime.As early as 1980-1981 an anti-Sandinista movement, the Contrarrevolución (Counter-revolution) or just Contras , was forming along the border with Honduras. Many of the initial Contras were former members of the Somoza regime's National Guard unit and many were still loyal to Somoza, who was living in exile in Honduras.
In addition to the Contra units who continued to be loyal to Somoza, the FSLN also began to face opposition from members of the ethnic minority groups that inhabited Nicaragua's remote Mosquito Coast region along the Caribbean Sea. These groups were demanding a larger share of self-determination and/or autonomy, but the FSLN refused to grant this and began using forced relocations and armed force in response to these grievances.
Upon taking office in January 1981, Ronald Reagan cancelled the dispersal of economic aid to Nicaragua,and on 6 August 1981 he signed National Security Decision Directive number 7, which authorized the production and shipment of arms to the region but not their deployment. On 17 November 1981, President Reagan signed National Security Directive 17, authorizing covert support to anti-Sandinista forces.
An armed conflict soon arose, adding to the destabilization of the region which had been unfolding through the Central American civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala. The Contras, heavily backed by the CIA, secretly opened a "second front" on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast and Costa Rican border. [ citation needed ] With the civil war opening up cracks in the national revolutionary project, the FSLN's military budget grew to more than half of the annual budget. The Servicio Militar Patriótico (Patriotic Military Service), a compulsory draft, was also established.
By 1982 Contra forces had begun carrying out assassinations of members of the Nicaraguan government, and by 1983 the Contras had launched a major offensive and the CIA was helping them to plant mines in Nicaragua's harbors to prevent foreign weapons shipments from arriving.The 1987 Iran–Contra affair placed the Reagan Administration again at the center of secret support for the Contras.
The 1984 election took place on 4 November. Of the 1,551,597 citizens registered in July, 1,170,142 voted (75.41%). The null votes were 6% of the total. International observers declared the elections free and fair,despite the Reagan administration denouncing it as a "Soviet style sham". The national averages of valid votes for president were:
The Esquipulas Peace Agreement was an initiative in the mid-1980s to settle the military conflicts that had plagued Central America for many years, and in some cases (notably Guatemala) for decades. It built upon groundwork laid by the Contadora Group from 1983 to 1985. The agreement was named for Esquipulas, Guatemala, where the initial meetings took place. The US Congress lobbying efforts were helped by one of Capitol Hill's top lobbyists, William C. Chasey.
In May 1986, a summit meeting, "Esquipulas I," took place, attended by the five Central American presidents. On 15 February 1987, Costa Rican President Óscar Arias submitted a Peace Plan which evolved[ clarification needed ] from this meeting. During 1986 and 1987, the "Esquipulas Process" was established, in which the Central American heads of state agreed on economic cooperation and a framework for peaceful conflict resolution. The "Esquipulas II Accord" emerged from this and was signed in Guatemala City by the five presidents on 7 August 1987.
Esquipulas II defined a number of measures to promote national reconciliation, an end to hostilities, democratization, free elections, the termination of all assistance to irregular forces, negotiations on arms controls, and assistance to refugees. It also laid the ground for international verification procedures and provided a timetable for implementation.
Nicaraguan historian and leading social investigator Roberto J. Cajina describes UNO as follows:
"Since the very moment of inception, under the political guidance and technical and financial support from the government of the US, the existence of UNO was marked by grave structural deformations, derived from its own nature. In its conformation concurred the most diverse currents of the Nicaraguan political and ideological range: from the liberal-conservative -traditionally anticommunist and pro-US, to marxist-leninists from moscovian lineage, openly declared supporters of class struggle and enemies of capitalism in its superior development stage".
The constitution of the UNO Coalition for the 1990 General Elections was as follows:(exact transcription and translation of the names of these political parties needed)
José Daniel Ortega Saavedra is a Nicaraguan politician serving as President of Nicaragua since 2007; previously he was leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, first as Coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction (1979–1985) and then as President (1985–1990). A leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, his policies in government have seen the implementation of leftist reforms across Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is the third least densely populated nation in Central America, with a demographic similar in size to its smaller neighbors. It is located about midway between Mexico and Colombia, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Nicaragua ranges from the Caribbean Sea on the nation's east coast, and the Pacific Ocean bordering the west. Nicaragua also possesses a series of islands and cays located in the Caribbean Sea.
Anastasio "Tachito" Somoza DeBayle was a Nicaraguan dictator and officially the President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979. He was the last member of the Somoza family to be President, ending a dynasty that had been in power since 1936. After being overthrown in an insurrection led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, he fled Nicaragua and power was ceded to the Junta of National Reconstruction. He was eventually assassinated while in exile in Paraguay.
Edén Atanacio Pastora Gómez is a Nicaraguan politician and former guerrilla who ran for president as the candidate of the Alternative for Change (AC) party in the 2006 general elections. In the years prior to the fall of the Somoza regime, Pastora was the leader of the Southern Front, the largest militia in southern Nicaragua, second only to the FSLN in the north. Pastora was nicknamed Comandante Cero.
Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal was a Nicaraguan journalist and publisher. He was the editor of La Prensa, the only significant opposition newspaper to the long rule of the Somoza family. He is a 1977 laureate of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize of the University of Columbia. He married Violeta Barrios de Chamorro who later went on to become President of Nicaragua (1990-1996). In 1978, he was shot to death, one of the precipitating events of the overthrow of the Somoza regime the following year.
Popular Action Movement - Marxist–Leninist is a communist party and Hoxhaist follower in Nicaragua that surged out of a split from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the early 1970s. Since 1985 it is officially named the Marxist–Leninist Party of Nicaragua, but the original name MAP-ML is far more known and has been used when participating in elections.
Miguel Obando y Bravo was a Nicaraguan prelate of the Catholic Church. He was the Archbishop of Managua from 1970 to 2005. Pope John Paul II created him a cardinal in 1985.
La Prensa is a Nicaraguan newspaper, with offices in the capital Managua. Its current daily circulation is placed at 42,000.
Women that joined the Sandanista movement in the revolutionary Nicaragua essentially fought a double battle: to secure national freedom from the Somoza dictatorship, and to advance gender equality. Revolution gave them a unique opportunity to organize.
Enrique Bermúdez Varela, aka. Comandante 380, was a Nicaraguan who founded and commanded the Nicaraguan Contras. In this capacity, he became a central global figure in one of the most prominent conflicts of the Cold War.
Luis Alfonso Robelo Callejas, a Nicaraguan businessman, was the founder of the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (MDN). He was one of the "moderates" on the five-members Junta of National Reconstruction that the Sandinistas claimed would rule Nicaragua following the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. However, Robelo found that the real power lay with the FSLN National Directorate.
Tomás Borge Martínez was a cofounder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua and was Interior Minister of Nicaragua during one of the administrations of Daniel Ortega. He was also a renowned statesman, writer, and politician. Tomás Borge also held the titles of "Vice-Secretary and President of the FSLN", member of the Nicaraguan Parliament and National Congress, and Ambassador to Peru. Considered a hardliner, he led the "prolonged people's war" tendency within the FSLN until his death.
Father Uriel Molina was one of the most prominent leaders of the liberation theology-oriented "popular church" in Sandinista-era Nicaragua. Tomás Borge was a childhood friend of his.
Dora María Téllez Argüello is a Nicaraguan historian known for her involvement in the Nicaraguan Revolution. As a young university medical student in Leon in the 1970s, Téllez was recruited by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Téllez went on to become a comandante in the popular revolt to oust the Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In the subsequent FSLN government, she served as Health Minister and has also been an advocate for women's rights. She ultimately became a critic of repression and corruption under FSLN President Daniel Ortega and left the party to found the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).
Nicaragua gained its independence in 1821, and after a period of instability, was ruled by the Somoza family from 1927 to 1979.
In 1979, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew Anastasio Somoza Debayle, ending the Somoza dynasty, and established a revolutionary government in Nicaragua. Following their seizure of power, the Sandinistas ruled the country first as part of a Junta of National Reconstruction. Following the resignation of centrist members from this Junta, the FSLN took exclusive power in March 1981.
In the decade of Sandinista rule following the triumph of the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979, close to 300 murals were created in that country. These murals provided a narrative of the revolution, portraying recent and more distant history, and visualizing the better future promised by the revolution.
Camilo Ortega Saavedra (1950-1978) was a Nicaraguan revolutionary and the younger brother of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and former Nicaraguan Minister of Defense Humberto Ortega.