: Quote of the day: Nicaragua this story from the LA TIMES
At museum, Nicaragua president's favorite masterpiece is himself
Go to the Museum of the Sandinista Victory, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is everywhere. There he is on the northern front of the revolutionary war — and the southern front, and the western front.
Ortega has Forrest Gumped himself onto all the major battle lines of the struggle that dethroned dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, carried the Sandinista movement to power and radically changed Nicaraguan history.
As for all the other comandantes and major figures who shared in those events with similar or even more important roles?
"We have been erased," said Sergio Ramirez, the renowned writer and a member of the Sandinista government who served as vice president during Ortega's first term as president, from 1985 to 1990.
Ortega lost in 1990 — the first post-revolution democratic election — and lost three more times before finally returning to power by winning the presidential election in 2006.
The museum, a government-run project about a year old, is an open-air display that purports to illustrate the historic fight of the Nicaraguan people to rid their nation of decades of "gringo invasions" and other onerous shackles (as the young tour guide put it).
It is also but one example more of what many here see as the cult of personality surrounding Ortega.
In the age-old tradition of dictators including Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein (not to mention Somoza, whom Ortega did help depose), the Nicaraguan president has built a national homage to himself. Billboards dot this sprawling, haphazard capital with a larger-than-life picture of him alongside national heroes Ruben Dario and Augusto Sandino. Nicaraguans speak less of Sandinismo and more of Danielismo.
This reminds me of Stalin's image appearing in official pictures denoting October Revolution moments, where he had never been, or closer to Lenin.
Fact is, Daniel was the Sandinista's main polical tactician, his brother Humberto one of the main military tactician.
But, he was hardly a top battlefield commander during the main phases of the war which were the insurrection in 78 and the final offensive in 79, in any of the main fronts - Frente Norte, Frente Sur or Frente Interno.
And as a matter of policy after the triumph of the revolution the 9 commanders of the Sandinista National Directorate including Humberto and Daniel were co-equal in directing the affairs of the party, the army and the state. That was the result of a power sharing agreement, brokered by Fidel Castro, where the 3 main factions or "tendencias" within the FSLN would be represented at the top and theoretically co-govern equally. Even as president later in the mid-80's Daniel was still in theory accountable to the other 9 commanders.
Having spent years watching and seeing Sandinista propaganda on a daily basis, I can say that their message always focused on the party directorate and less on indviduals.
One of the main slogans of the FSLN, chanted by its cadres at rally's and propaganda was:
"Direcion Nacional Ordene!"
The only individuals they propped up in propaganda were dead - "martyrs".
The bottom line is that there was in the FSLN a tendency to not elevate individual commanders or politicians. Some of that due to them wanting to keep the peace internally, after the sectarian conflicts in the FSLN in the 70's. The other political one, was to avoid creation of a cult of personality that would bring back terrible memories by the Nicaraguan people. After all they had just risen up against Somoza 3.0 who ruled Nicaragua like the family farm for decades, continuing the dynasty started by 1.0 in the 30's.
Daniel Ortega placing himself everywhere in official memory is on the one hand misleading if not untrue. He was not in the main battle fronts when the fighting was going on -annoying former comrades who were there. Also annoying some other former Sandinistas because it is against their policy of subordinating individual personalities, and a dislike of personalism inherited from Somocismo.