- The Washington Times - Monday, August 17, 2009


President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua is the latest Latin American leftist leader to follow the political “playbook” written by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, according to a former Costa Rican ambassador to the United States.

“Chavez established the model, and his fellow populist leftists are copying it,” Ambassador Jaime Daremblum wrote in an analysis of Mr. Ortega’s recent call a constitutional amendment to allow him to run again for president.

Nicaragua’s constitution limits a president to two terms, but they cannot be consecutive, Mr. Daremblum noted. Mr. Ortega first served as president from 1985 to 1999 after his Marxist Sandinista rebels overthrew the dictator, Anastasio Somoza. Mr. Ortega was elected to a second term in 2006. Last month, Mr. Ortega called for the removal of term limits in a speech on the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution.

“His timing was impeccable,” Mr. Daremblum said of the Nicaraguan leader. “The ongoing political crisis in Honduras began when its former president, Manuel Zelaya, tried to rewrite the Honduran Constitution in hopes of changing the term-limit requirements and prolong his presidency.”

The Honduran Supreme Court accused Mr. Zelaya of violation the constitution by trying to hold an unauthorized referendum to remove the one-term limit on the presidency. The court ordered the army to arrest Mr. Zelaya, and the military flew him into exile in Costa Rica. Mr. Zelaya is now in Nicaragua.

Mr. Zelaya’s ouster created outrage throughout Latin America, as allies such as Mr. Chavez demanded his reinstatement. The Organization of American States also denounced the coup.

The Obama administration, after initially siding with the critics of the coup, appeared to soften its position earlier this month in a response to a letter from the State Department to Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

“President Zelaya’s insistence on undertaking provocative actions contributed to the polarization of Honduran society and led to a confrontation that unleashed the events that led to his removal,” said the letter from Richard Verma, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs.

Mr. Daremblum said Mr. Ortega and Mr. Zelaya followed “Hugo Chavez’s playbook.” Mr. Chavez, elected in 1999, eliminated president term limits and introduced other constitutional changes to allow him to run for re-election and consolidate more power.

“When it comes to Central America, U.S. officials should remember that Zelaya and Ortega are faux democrats, willing to commit fraud in the service of their political ambitions,” he warned.

Mr. Daremblum was Costa Rica’s ambassador in Washington from 1998 to 2004 and now serves as director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.


Foreign visitors in Washington this week:


Saad Eddin Ibrahim, chairman of Egypt’s Al Ahram Foundation and a prominent political analyst. He holds a noon news conference at the National Press Club to discuss President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to Washington.


President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who meets President Obama.


“A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.” - Caskie Stinnett (American humorist)

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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