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 second installment of the Reporter's Notebook.
As we make our way around the capital of Managua, people are surprised that Ortega has agreed to such a request and many say there is no way he will keep his word. We remain cautiously confident.
We talk with his wife Rosario who always returns my calls and continually reminds us that her husband will either be available Friday night or early on Saturday. In the meantime, we get as much video footage as possible.
We also get time to visit Eduardo Montealegre, a candidate who is polling higher than Ortega and a man the United States would surely prefer to Ortega.
The Montealegre campaign office is located in a small middle class Managua home. We decide to hold the interview in a covered veranda across the street, where campaign signs adorn the walls and the natural lighting is good.
Montealegre is a young-looking businessman who spent years on Wall Street and received his college education at an Ivy League school. He is well spoken, amiable and dressed in a casual style: gray slacks and an open collar shirt with the sleeves rolled up a bit.
Montealegre has all sorts of plans and has aligned himself with business. He believes that call centers and other outsourcing jobs would be a great way to help the people of his country.
As others we have met, Montealegre believes Ortega will lose the upcoming Presidential election in November. But Montealegre also understands that Ortega controls the Supreme Electoral Council and the Nicaraguan Supreme Court.
This is troubling to him and he tells me "If Daniel wins, the money will evaporate the first day. Companies will leave and people will be afraid the Sandinistas will again nationalize industry and scare companies away from investing in Nicaragua’s future."
After about an hour our visit is complete. A few handshakes, some pictures, and then we pile back onto the plastic seats in our Nissan van. I conclude will we be putting some serious miles on this thing before we leave.
We head to Granada, the Colonial and now tourist Capital of Nicaragua, in search of video footage of tourists. I'm told the city is as an example of what the rest of the country will eventually look like. The streets are clean and the homes are painted in pastels. Reds, blues, greens, even yellows jump from adobe painted buildings like they’ve been wrapped in a colorful quilt.
Like much of Latin America, the city has a plaza square at the center of town with an incredible Catholic church and a gazebo for fiestas.
The crew has just swapped the plastic van seats for chairs at a table for some cold drinks when my local cell phone rings. On the line is Rosario — her schedule has changed and El Comandante (as he is referred to) is ready for us now.
We leave the cold drinks on the table and jump back into the van to head for Managua. As in many third world countries, driving in Nicaragua is not always pleasant. Many roads are rough, detours are anything but smooth and traffic flow can be better in an old west stampede.
Add to our bumpy ride, phone calls every 5 minutes or so. Each one is an Ortega assistant asking our whereabouts and encouraging us to rush even faster. Hector, our driver, manages to get us to the Sandinista headquarters in about 35 minutes. Hector, it seems, has become a much more aggressive driver thanks to three Americans desiring one major interview.
The Sandinista location looks like it has been cut from Granada adobes in twenty-foot sections. The metal and cement walls that serve as the first line of defense from the surrounding neighborhood are bright reds, blues and yellows. It looks like someone has opened a giant roll of lifesavers.
Our monitor meets us outside the first wall and quickly shuttles our crew past a couple of armed guards and into a round interior about 40 yards in diameter. We see the prevalent colors on the inside walls as well and there are small tropical gardens and a couple of small buildings.
We are taken into a large circular glassed meeting room, which looks like a multipurpose room at a neighborhood church. There are four glass and wicker tables set in a square, and sticking with the drastic colored theme, a massive red, green, blue and yellow mural adorns one wall.
Also there seems to be a theme that reminds me of many locales in Tucson, Arizona. Colorful Native American-looking decorations and painted serpents adorn the colorful walls. I later find out that Ortega's wife Rosario is the artist behind the look, heavily influenced by her studies of mysticism and artwork of the world’s native people’s.
Within five minutes of setting up our camera and our lights, in walks Ortega, with wife Rosario and one of his sons. Both Ortega and his wife look youthful for their age and they greet us with handshakes and kisses on the cheek.
Ortega sits behind a table with one of his wife's murals behind him. Gone are the heavy glasses he wore in the 80’s. He wears a lightweight cotton white shirt and a pair of looser slacks. His mustache remains and for a man his age he looks young.
Ortega remains clam throughout most of our interview that is conducted primarily in Spanish. While he understands and speaks English, Ortega prefers to do the interview in his native tongue.
I ask questions as best as I can in my learned Spanish, but it is difficult to understand all of his answers. Our producer Elka Worner speaks Spanish fluently and she jumps in to translate when necessary.
It becomes obvious very quickly that Ortega is a confident and proud man. He likes to play the part of a man who has risen from the people. It is clear his theme in the campaign will be to represent the poor people. This has been a constant for the Sandinistas and for Ortega since the time of the Samosa Dictatorship.
More on the interview to come.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.