In a 1985 interview, then-mayor of Burlington, Vermont Bernie Sanders praised Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, bragged “the word socialism does not frighten me,” and attacked President Reagan, calling him a liar.
Asked what he thought of the sincerity of Nicaraguan Sandinista leaders, Sanders replied, “I was impressed. Now obviously, I will be attacked by every editorial writer in the free press for being a dumb dupe; maybe I am. I was impressed by their intelligence and their sincerity; these are not political hacks, you know? You don’t fight and lose your family and get tortured and go to jail for years to be a hack. They have very deep convictions, which people can disagree with and I think what is understood is even within the Sandinista government they’re not monolithic … Ortega is an impressive guy.”
Sanders plainly admitted he was a socialist, saying, “As a socialist, the word socialism does not frighten me, and I think it’s probably fair to say that the Nicaraguan government is primarily a socialist government.”
Sanders railed at President Reagan consistently during the interview, saying, “Reagan and his people are so sophisticated; they own the airwaves, of course. . Reagan, the media, every time Reagan gives them a photo-op it’s (unintelligible) be thousands, “Thank you, Mr. President! Thank you for very much for telling us another lie.”
Sanders’ praise of Ortega certainly wasn’t prescient; in June 2018, The Daily Beast, speaking with Nicaraguan native Bianca Jagger, reported of the Ortega regime:
Human rights groups have recorded more than 140 deaths, more than 1000 injured, and counting. Families search for relatives, especially young people, taken violently on the street and disappeared into the country’s prisons—or disappeared altogether. Bianca, representing the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, participated in a press conference where Amnesty International presented its investigation of the violence. The title summed up the government’s policy in three words: “Shoot To Kill.”
The regime of Daniel Ortega has shown it will stop at nothing to crush the opposition. Yet the spirit of the opposition will not be crushed. “The students are exhausted,” Bianca said, sounding exhausted herself. “They are worn out. They are drained. And they are aware of how much in danger they are. How threatened they are. Their courage and determination to achieve justice and democracy and free elections is astonishing given the horror they are facing.”
… These protests are non-violent. It’s the government that’s doing the killing, not the kids who’ve cordoned off their colleges and set up scores of roadblocks on the nation’s highways.
“Today Nicaragua” echoed, “The massacres and the murderous expeditions of the so-called ‘death squads’ and other paramilitary bodies of the Sandinista regime are countless. The crimes, atrocious. Arson, entire families attacked, and dignified and honorable cities and bastions of values, laid siege to, and destroyed.”
Reuters reported on Monday, “A farm leader who helped lead protests last year against President Daniel Ortega was sentenced on Monday to 216 years in prison, days after business leaders asked the government to release inmates considered political prisoners.”