FOXNews.com's Adam Housley is in Nicaragua to cover regional elections and to interview Sandinista Leader Daniel Ortega, who hopes to win the presidential election in November. Here is the first installment of his Reporter's Notebook.
He has an air of confidence and calmness that eases the room once he enters. Daniel Ortega has done interviews many times before, in times of war, in times of electoral loss and now in times of yet another leftist movement in Latin America.
It has been nearly a generation since Ortega led this country, but that could change come November because Ortega is back in the race yet again. He is polling sometimes in third place, but he has secured the support of the ever-controversial and sometimes brutal leader in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista party also has control of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (confirms election results) and also the countries Supreme Court and we have come here to question him about it.
The leader of Nicaragua’s Sandinista movement has aged since his days as the thorn in America’s side, but he still has a youthful glow to his face and he still has that fighting demeanor towards the “imperalist Americans” to the north. Ortega says he would like an open road with the United States, but he blames America, Great Britian and most of Europe for the continued problems in Latin America. Ortega tells me that he would like to work with the U.S., but if not, there are many other countries in the world and he cites China’s large market for goods.
But this interview is not how our trip started. We come to Central America at a time of an alarming leftist trend in the region. Fidel Castro has been joined by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, a strong leftist showing in the recent Costa Rica elections, and various other threats of socialist or strong-arm change throughout the South American region.
As our plane reaches Managua, we cross greenish-yellow fields, the rainy season has not come here yet. Rust and orange colored metal roofs envelop the city below, intermixed with barren soccer fields and baseball fields. It is clear even before our wheels touch down, that this country remains extremely poor. In fact, Nicaragua is said to be the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere next to Haiti.
The airport has only two small electronic baggage claims, it reminds me of arriving in Maui as a child years ago. The air is tropical and thick and this isn’t even the warm season. Quickly we move through customs and find our driver Hector Reyes, a 24-year-old local.
The van is in my name, so along with Reyes, I rent the van and proceed to drive the very short distance back to the airport to pick up the crew and baggage. One problem: la policia. It seems that in Managua in order to make a U-turn to return to the airport, you need to take a right turn into the local gas station, then pull back out of the station across three lanes of traffic to make a left.
It takes me about 10 minutes to convince the officer, who of course demands immediate payment, that we had only been in the country for 15 minutes and haven't even loaded our luggage yet. Eventually he tires of my persistence and he consents to our request. We leave without payment.
Once loaded we head straight to our hotel and quickly we notice why this country is mentioned in the same sentence has Haiti. Many roads and floors of homes are of dirt and the infrastructure is in dire need of improvement. I also notice there are few large buildings, no high rises like you see in other Latin American countries. It’s as if this place has been stuck in time.
Sure we pass cars and even some smaller SUVs, but we also pass men driving carts with horses down the four-lane highway. These scenes remind me of my FOXNews trips to Kuwait and Pakistan. This country needs help and we plan to press Ortega about this fact.
More on our interview to come.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.