…or rather Chavez’ and Morales’ night. Fact is that the plaza were Ortega was to give his first public speech after inauguration was filled with cheering leftists while Chavez and Morales spoke, but when Ortega finally got to speak, everyone seemed to have better thing to do.
Sure, we had all been waiting three hours beyond the expected arrival of the 14 leaders of states (7PM rather than 4PM), and the way he spoke, it just seemed to be the beginning of a very long and tiresome discourse quite different from the political messages Chavez and Morales came with (Chavez: “Socialismo o Muerte”, Morales announcing the nationalization of the Bolivian mining industry), which made the crowd come alive.
However, Ortega did not just lack rhetoric and speech writing skills.
More than anything, he seems to lack much of a social movement behind him. Quite different from anything I have seen in Mexico, there were close to no other organizations present (handing out leaflets or anything like that). People bought Sandinista flag at the entrance, but that was it. Morales actually made a point of the need of working with social movements, such as also AMLO in Mexico has done. But here, there did not really seem to be anything beyond the traditional Sandinista party (FSLN). The catholic church might be what comes closest to a social movement he is cooperating with.
Also, there is the unanswered question of what the “Nicaraguan way” in the new leftist universe of Latin America is to be. Nicaragua joined Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) some months ago, and it opens the country up for trade, mainly with the United States. Exports have apparently increased 22% last year, mainly due to CAFTA, but as that is “free trade” it can not be really be channeled to those who need it (or “politically controlled” as I would say in socialist circles).
The Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA), the controlled trade exchange network mainly run by Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, would allow just for this control. And Ortega has pledged to make Nicaragua join ALBA last night — though without saying what will happen to its CAFTA membership.
Another sore point is the relationship with the United States. Morales screamed “Death to North American imperialism!” and everyone seemed to be there with him. About half an hour earlier, Managuan Juan (approximately somewhere in his fifties), who was waiting next to me together with his wife, had told me: “This is one of the most watched events in the world. We have 14 leaders of states here. [...] The north American imperialism is dying!” “Aren’t you afraid that Bush might bomb you?” I asked. “Hmprf… no, no, he doesn’t have the power. They can’t do anything.” However, when Ortega, who had been congratulated by Bush by phone only two days ago, spoke about the US, it all seemed to be about “reconciliation”: “we want good relations with all countries [...] With the governments of North America [...] with the European Union.” Although also talking about imperialism by Britain and Spain, it all seemed to be held in the past tense.
Of course, differently from Mexico, here he the left actually holds the actual presidency that is accepted by foreign governments, so Ortega definitely has some possibilities that are just not available to AMLO. It remains to be seen if he actually uses them, or if his “governing from below” (Ortega 1990) in the last 16 years, will just turn into a social democratic “governing from above.”