Forget about the lava and ash from Central American volcanoes. Nicaragua’s voters served up some socialist fire and brimstone last November by electing former Marxist president Daniel Ortega, who was sworn back into power this morning. The leader of the former Sandanista regime now joins Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in forming a leftist coalition south of Mexico. Chavez was at Ortega’s inauguration, as was a representative of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Iran’s presence is ironic given that some two decades ago, Iranian money was secretly used by Americans to finance Ronald Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contra rebels in an anti-Communist jihad. That incident became known as the “Irangate” scandal. Some readers might recall TV news coverage from the time which showed President Reagan in the witness box unable to remember crucial key details. Also attending was Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian. When last in power, Ortega switched Nicaragua to recognition of communist China. After his loss, Nicaragua reverted to recognition of Taiwan. President Shui-bian and his delegation of 200 business people are hopeful Ortega won’t revert back to China. Despite openly campaigning against Ortega in Nicaragua’s recent election, US President George W Bush appeared somewhat more conciliatory following the result. He even made a point of telephoning Ortega to congratulate him. Apparently, a new free trade agreement was also discussed. With the old Cold War now over and with a very Hot War against Islamist extremism apparently continuing indefinitely, the US can afford to be a little more accommodating with old Cold War foes.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey