The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

The FSLN’s rise to power

November 20, 2021

The FSLN grew out of a resistance movement that fought to overthrow the former President Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979 after 46 years of a dictatorship run by the Somoza family. Committing to socialism and the replacement of the ruling party, the party organized students, farmers, and other supporters to conduct attacks on the Nicaraguan National Guard, led the Nicaraguan revolution of 1978-79, and eventually took control of the government and ruled the country from 1979-1990. 

With Marxist ideology animating the FSLN at that time, the party sought the support of the Soviet Union and Cuba in both economic and military terms. The U.S. had organized resistance efforts in the Contra movement from Honduras, now famously known as part of the Iran-Contra Affair, so Ortega and the FSLN leadership were highly skeptical of the U.S.’s intentions.

After losing the majority in the legislature in 1991, the party maintained political relevance as an opposition party before regaining the presidency in 2006 with campaign promises that aimed to eliminate hunger and illiteracy from Nicaragua’s poor. 

Julio Moreno, an associate professor and director of the Center for Latino Studies in the Americas at the University of San Francisco, noted that larger ideological and political movements enveloped Latin America at the time.

Moreno said, “In the 2000s, Latin America experienced the ‘pink tide,’ meaning a number of leftist presidents gained control over national governments. When [Daniel Ortega] reemerged into national politics, he came in with a great deal of political capital and approval.”

Soon after his 2006 re-election, Ortega’s government began imposing restrictions on journalists and reducing news coverage. After the 2009 elections, in which the FSLN won a “supermajority” in the legislative branch, the party was able to remove term limits, essentially providing Ortega with free rein to run for president as many times as he wanted and rule by decree, increasing his power.

In 2016, with many disenchanted middle-class Nicaraguans boycotting the election due to concerns over its legitimacy, Ortega tightened his control with a commanding majority of 72% of the recorded national vote, alongside his wife and running partner, Rosa Murillo. 

What came next was the defining point in Ortega’s presidency.

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