The first full-length biography of Daniel Ortega in any language, this exhaustive account draws from a wealth of untapped sources to tell the story of Nicaragua's continuing struggle for liberation through the prism of the Revolution's most emblematic yet enigmatic hero. It traces Ortega's life from his childhood in Nicaragua's mountainous mining region, where his parents instilled in him a hatred of Yankee imperialism, through a current presidential administration that has many of the earmarks of the authoritarianism he opposed in others. In between, it shows him as a teenager caught up in political agitation, a political prisoner locked in a jail cell for seven years, a strategist and fighter of the Revolution, a leader in the new republic, and a behind-the-scenes powerbroker plotting his own return to power. The portrait that emerges is of a man who wants the best for his country-and often gets it-yet also one prone to making questionable compromises in pursuit of his lofty ambitions.
Ortega has been called many things - revolutionary, political leader, even child molester - but poet? According to Ortega, "In Nicaragua everybody is considered a poet until he proves to the contrary," and Morris's inclusion of the leader's poems go a long ways toward recasting the man that George W. Bush called "an animal at a garden party." Yet Morris also reminds us of Ortega the killer, chronicling his crimes and prison life, where he acquired traits for clandestine action and matured as a revolutionary strategist. Freed in 1976, Ortega soon led a bloody but successful revolution, overthrowing the government and bringing the Sandinistas to power, but ultimately finding the state "remote, inefficient, and a little clueless" and out of money. "McDonald's customers were asked to return their paper cups to be washed and reused - if water supply was available." Ortega has spent a lifetime dedicated to improving the lives of Nicaragua's poor and remains, in Morris's view, innocent of the aggrandizement so prevalent in third world countries. But for all of Morris's accurate reporting, the book lacks enough color and depth to cast Ortega as a character - whether admirable or otherwise. (Aug.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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Lawrence Hill Books
June 24, 2010
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