Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, who was president of Nicaragua from 1990 to 1996, was born in the city of Rivas in the 1930s. She was educated in the US, however, and was also a newspaper publisher. In 1950 she married Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal who later took over the newspaper La Prensa. Pedro proceeded to turn the paper into a voice for the Somoza opposition. He was often thrown into jail because of this and he even had to go into exile in 1957 with Violeta. He was given amnesty in 1960, however, and he returned to his beloved country along with his wife. His troubles never ended, however, and he was assassinated in 1978, seemingly triggering the anti-Somoza revolution. Never one to give in, Violeta Chamorro took up where her husband had left off, speaking against Somoza's actions. Violeta was asked to join the five-member team to lead Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolution and she accepted, but she resigned a year later because she did not agree with the growing Marxist policies of her counterparts. She went on to attack these policies through her newspaper and it was closed down in 1986. However, it resumed uncensored publication in 1987.
See a picture of the previous president Violeta Chamorro.
The country was torn apart by civil war until President Ortega agreed to peace with the contras and arranged to have free elections. The Sandinistas nominated Ortega as their candidate, of course, and he led in all the polls during the entire campaign. Violeta Chamorro was sponsored by a coalition of 14 different parties who's goal was to get anyone in except Ortega. Chamorro won an astounding victory and became president of Nicaragua in 1990.
Chamorro went on to begin the difficult process of reconstruction and restoration of what was left of a totalitarian state, a polarized constituency, and a destroyed economy with a massive international debt, an average annual income of $400 per person and an inflation rate of 13,500%. She went on to succeed in reducing the military and retaining relative peace between the various factions. She undid much of the damage which her predecessors had done by: establishing a democratic, representative government; privatizing many state owned enterprises; and setting up a judicial board to review the property claims which were causing so much turmoil. Her efforts were criticized by the US, however, because she allowed certain Sandinistas to remain in office and she didn't immediately return the properties which Somoza had confiscated. One must realize that Violeta Chamorro's primary goal was in fact to keep the peace and she did this remarkably well while in office.
Ms. Chamorro is presently the president of a community service group and a passive but opinionated voice in the political scene of Nicaragua.