When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

We Once Cheered Ortega: Revisiting History In Nicaragua

None should be more dismayed by Daniel Ortega's despotic slide than those who hailed his revolution as a triumph of democratic socialism, some 40 years ago.

Hooded students Managua, Nicaragua guard their university from Ortega's paramilitaries who storm campuses and injure dozens
Hooded students Managua, Nicaragua guard their university from Ortega's paramilitaries who storm campuses and injure dozens
Rodrigo Uprimny


BOGOTÁThirty-nine years ago, on July 19, 1979, those of us who were young were busy celebrating a historical event: the entry of rebel Sandinista forces into Managua, Nicaragua"s capital, after the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza.

It wasn't just us young people who celebrated the Sandinista triumph, but the full breadth of democratic Latin America, including then governments with no left-wing sympathies, including Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Only months before they had stated their hostility to the Sandinista front, though their posture only hastened the Somozas' downfall.

A tank of the Nicaraguan National Guard during clashes with Sandinista rebels in Estelí in 1979 — Photo: Wiki Yukito 2015

The enthusiasm was justified, because Somoza not only brutally suppressed his opponents but ran a veritable kleptocracy: his was a regime devoted to enriching a dictator and his family. And the family had wielded power since 1934, either directly with its members as president or through proxies and minions. The fall of the Somozas seemed to presage the end of the type of corrupt and brutal ruler that has proliferated in our region. They are a recurring theme in our literature, as in Mr President by Miguel Ángel Asturias, The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez or Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat.

39 years after overthrowing a dictator, Ortega is reproducing his worst traits.

Additionally the Sandinista front was not sectarian or dogmatic, but a refreshing movement. It was a pluralist coalition that did not resort to post-revolutionary executions as Cuba had done, but tried to combine political democracy with concerted effort to make profound social changes. And so they held open elections in 1984, which were won by Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega. There was hope Nicaragua would progress toward being an inclusive democracy.

But four decades later, and after a very complex history that exceeds the scope of this column, Ortega is in power again after being elected in 2006, 2011, and again in 2016 amid constitutional violations and grave accusations of fraud. Slowly he has installed an authoritarian regime that has harshly repressed opponents and favored the enrichment of those close to the government. Since April, street protests against him and his wife Rosario Murillo have intensified, and the repression has been brutal. Estimates by the Inter-American Rights Commission put the deaths from 86 days of protests up to July 12 at 264, with at least 1,800 injured due to disproportionate use of force against demonstrators. Estimates of the Nicaraguan Association For Human Rights register 351 deaths and 261 disappearances.

Daniel Ortega swears into his first term of presidency on January 10, 1985 — Photo: Chicho96

How ironic that 39 years after overthrowing a dictator, Ortega is reproducing the worst traits of the Somoza regime: brutal repression of opponents, widespread corruption, cronyism. This is why a favorite slogan of protesters is "Daniel and Somoza Are the Same." All democrats on the continent must condemn the brutal suppression of the Nicaraguan people, and push for a peaceful, democratic end to a painful situation. Out of historical justice, this should be particularly true for those of us who cheered the Sandinista triumph 39 years ago.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest