Daniel Ortega Saavedra was born in 1945 in the Nicaraguan city of La Libertad. Unlike his successor, Ortega was educated in Nicaragua at the Central American University in Managua. He studied law for a while but quit that in order to join the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1963. Ortega was so successful in this position that he was made the head of its urban resistance campaign after just four years. The Somoza regime caught up with him, however, and he was kept in prison from 1967 to 1974. He was then exiled to Cuba, but he was spirited back into Nicaragua to secretly join the FSLN once again.
Things began to look up for Ortega when Somoza resigned in 1979 as a result of the FSLN's efforts and some other factors. Ortega coordinated the junta called the Government of National Reconstruction which ruled the country for a few years after the revolution. Before Somoza stepped down, Ortega led the most moderate of the three FSLN guerrilla groups who warred against Somoza; this fact seems kind of strange considering that Ortega was the subject of strong criticism for his left-wing policies. In any case, when the junta took over, the task that faced them was one of the most daunting tasks imaginable--rebuilding a country, economically and physically, which had been absolutely destroyed by the Somoza dynasty. In 1984, national elections were held and Daniel Ortega became President of Nicaragua with 60 percent of the vote. Once in office, Ortega tried to preserve a position of international neutrality by neither leaning toward the US or toward other nations. And so, when he started asking for foreign aid in the reconstruction process he created a mix of aid from Latin American and Western European countries.
See a picture of Daniel Ortega.
Jimmy Carter's foreign policy had been to economically support the US global neighbors. However, Ronald Reagan's 1981 election brought many changes to the US foreign policy and economic maneuvers were no longer the medium used but rather military and diplomatic pressures. Therefore, in order to survive the attacks from the US funded and trained contras, Ortega began diplomatic talks with the US and finally signed a peace treaty drafted by impartial nations in the late 1980s. In 1990, Ortega hosted free elections in Nicaragua and was defeated by Chamorro only to become secretary general of his beloved FSLN in 1991. He once again ran for president in 1996 as the FSLN's candidate but took only 39 percent of the vote compared to Arnoldo Aleman's 49 percent. Ortega still speaks out often against the the government's policies and "international aggressors" and is the FSLN's most influential member, leading most student protests, worker's strikes, and other political maneuvers.