World

OPINION: Daniel Ortega and Muammar al-Qaddafi—An Old Story

In this handout photo released by Presidential House of Nicaragua,  Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, left, shakes hands with Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega during a meeting in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, June 5, 2007.(AP Photo/Presidential House of Nicaragua/Jairo Cajina) ** NO SALES **

In this handout photo released by Presidential House of Nicaragua, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, left, shakes hands with Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega during a meeting in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, June 5, 2007.(AP Photo/Presidential House of Nicaragua/Jairo Cajina) ** NO SALES **

The fact that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has come to the diplomatic rescue of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi should not surprise anyone. When Ortega returned as President of Nicaragua for the second time in January 2007, his first day in office he appointed Libyan national Mohammed Laster, as his Private Secretary with ministerial rank.

Lastar, whose origins date back to Qaddafi's secret service and who as a result of Ortega’s influence became a Nicaraguan citizen, has for almost two decades been the contact point between Ortega and Qaddafi. Prior to Ortega’s return to government, Lastar was like his shadow, frequently traveling with him, paying airline tickets, hotels and mobilization, all probably funded by the Libyan government.

Ortega’s relation with Qaddafi began way before the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, when Qaddafi backed the guerilla insurrects through funding and at least one arms shipment. Moreover, in the 1980´s during Ortega’s first Presidency, Libya granted the Sandinista government a $100 million loan, which was a significant amount at the time.

When the insurrection against Qaddafi began this last February, Ortega immediately supported the North African dictator. It is no surprise then, that as Qaddafi becomes increasingly isolated both internationally and by his former supporters, Ortega, in a confused diplomatic maneuver, has tried to accredit as Libya’s UN representative the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua, Miguel D´Escoto Brockman.

Friendship aside, Ortega’s attitude is rooted in something much deeper. It is his hostility toward the Western World, which is reflected in his speeches and rhetoric. He is constantly attacking American imperialism and European colonialism. It’s the same hostility that drove him to be one of the few world leaders to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The majority of Nicaraguan citizens, victims of his authoritarianism, do not support Ortega’s position. The fact is that Ortega also has a profound hostility for democracy and tolerates the market with disgust.

The people of Nicaragua are who pay the price of Ortega’s whims. As was recently the case of The Netherlands, increasingly more Western countries are withdrawing their international cooperation from this the second poorest country of Latin America.

Edmundo Jarquín is the vice presidential candidate for Nicaragua's Alianza Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI- UNE) party, an opposition alliance that will go up against Ortega in the country's elections this November.

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