A shadow of his former self, Ortega's victory is still an expression of the wider demand for change sweeping Latin America
By Tariq Ali
"Daniel Ortega, blessed by the church, flanked by a former Contra as his vice-president and still loathed by the US ambassador, may be a sickly shadow of his former self, but his victory undoubtedly reflects the desire of Nicaraguans for change. Will Managua follow the radically redistributive policies of anti-imperialist Caracas or confine itself to rhetoric and remain a client of the International Monetary Fund?
Ortega's victory comes at a time when Latin America is on the march again. There have been some spectacular demonstrations of the popular will in Porto Alegre, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Cochabamba and Cuzco, to name but a few cities. This has offered a new hope to a world either deep in neoliberal torpor (the EU, the US, the Far East) or suffering from the military and economic depredations of the new order (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, south Asia).
Chávez never concealed his politics. The two 18th-century Simóns - Bolívar and Rodríguez - had taught him a simple lesson: do not serve the interests of others; make your own political and economic revolution; and unite South America against all empires. This was the core of his programme.
In a speech in Havana in 1994, Chávez stated: "Bolivar once said that 'Political gangrene cannot be cured with palliatives', and Venezuela is totally and utterly infected with gangrene ... There is no way the system can cure itself ... 60% of Venezuelans live in poverty ... in 20 years more than $200bn just evaporated. So where is the money, President Castro asked me? In the foreign bank accounts of almost everyone who has been in power in Venezuela ... the coming century, in our opinion, is a century of hope; it is our century, it is the century when the Bolivarian dream will be reborn."
Will the Arabs act on a dream similar to the Bolivarian dream? The signs are not encouraging.