Daniel Ortega (born 1945) came to power in Nicaragua by overthrowing the Somoza dynasty and enforcing a Communist regime on the country. The Contras rose up to defy his socialist dictatorship and were supported by United States President Ronald Reagan including covertly diverting funds to their cause that created the Iran-Contra affair.
After seizing power in Nicaragua, the Sandinista regime instituted dictatorial rule as early as December 1979, and formally announced a State of Emergency in 1982. Under the new "Law for the Maintenance of Order and Public Security" the "Tribunales Populares Anti-Somozistas" allowed for the indefinite holding of suspected counter-revolutionaries without trial. The State of Emergency, however, most notably affected rights and guarantees contained in the "Statute on Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans. Many civil liberties were curtailed or canceled such as the freedom to organize demonstrations, the inviolability of the home, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and, the freedom to strike. All independent news program broadcasts were suspended. In total, twenty-four programs were cancelled. In addition, Sandinista censor Nelba Cecilia Blandón issued a decree ordering all radio stations to hook up every six hours to government radio station, La Voz de La Defensa de La Patria. The rights affected also included certain procedural guarantees in the case of detention including habeas corpus. The State of Emergency was not lifted during the 1984 elections. There were many instances where rallies of opposition parties were physically broken up by Sandinsta youth or pro-Sandinista mobs. Opponents to the State of Emergency argued its intent was to crush resistance to the FSLN. James Wheelock justified the actions of the Directorate by saying "... We are annulling the license of the false prophets and the oligarchs to attack the revolution.” 
Jamie Glazov describes human rights under this goverment as follows: "All Nicaraguans had to take part in the Marxist experiment. Thus, in perfect Khmer Rouge style, the Sandinistas inflicted a ruthless forcible relocation of tens of thousands of Indians from their land. Like Stalin, they used state-created famine as a weapon against these "enemies of the people." The Sandinista army committed myriad atrocities against the Indian population, killing and imprisoning approximately 15,000 innocent people. The crimes included not only mass murders of innocent natives themselves, but a calculated liquidation of their entire leadership – as the Soviet army had perpetrated against the Poles in Katyn in 1943. According to the Nicaraguan Commission of Jurists, the Sandinistas carried out over 8,000 political executions within three years of the revolution. The number of "anti-revolutionary" Nicaraguans who had "disappeared" in Sanadinista hands or had died "trying to escape" were numbered in the thousands. By 1983, the number of political prisoners in the Sandinistas' ruthless tyranny were estimated at 20,000. Torture was institutionalized. Numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, have documented the atrocious record of Sandinista human rights abuses, which stood as the worst in Latin America. Political prisoners in Sandinista prisons, such as in Las Tejas, were consistently beaten, deprived of sleep and tortured with electric shocks. They were routinely denied food and water and kept in dark cubicles that had a surface of less than one square meter, known as chiquitas (little ones). These cubicles were too small to sit up in, were completely dark and had no sanitation and almost no ventilation.”
The Sandinistas sent Soviet helicopter gunships and elite army units to attack the Indians; carried out mass arrests, jailings and torture; burned down 65 Indian communities; inflicted ethnic cleansing on 70,000 Indians; and tried to starve the Indians by cutting off food supplies. The Sandinistas boasted that they were “ready to eliminate the last Miskito Indian to take Sandinism to the Atlantic Coast.” 
For decades, Nicaragua had experienced some of the fastest economic growth in the hemisphere. Within a few years of Sandinista rule, wages had been fixed below poverty level and there was mass unemployment. There were shortages of nearly all basic goods, with inflation at 30,000%. Government studies found that three-quarters of schoolchildren suffered from malnutrition, while living standards were lower than Haiti. The World Bank found that Nicaragua was on the economic level of Somalia.
An inability of the Sandanistas to defeat the Contras caused Ortega to call the first free and open elections in Nicaragua since the Communists seized power for 1990. Although he was heavily favored to win, in a shocking turn of events he was defeated in an election for the Presidency of Nicaragua by Violetta Chamorro in 1990. Ortega stepped down with the defeat, but left much of his power structure behind that would make it difficult for the new government.
His regime was responsible for the deaths of as many as 50,000 people.
Ortega never completely left the political scene and ran and lost again for President in 1996 and 2001, but 16 years later after his initial defeat, he became president of Nicaragua again, this time democratically, after winning the election held on November 5, 2006. He was aided by a change to the rules that a candidate only needed 35% of the vote to avoid a runoff instead of the previous 45%. He campaigned as the candidate of peace and that land grabbing and attacking the church would no longer be a part of his future as it was his past.
Soon after Ortega assumed the presidency it was discovered that his ways had stayed the same. Under Ortega, Nicaragua established close ties with the terroristic regime of Iran and Hugo Chavez's tyrannical government. Ortega has also used voter fraud in order to help his party win mayoralties during the 2008 municipal elections and had judges loyal to him use judicial activism in order to disregard the Nicaraguan constitution allow him to run for president again in the upcoming November 2011 elections. He was re-elected with a 62% popular vote.
- As one of the leading commanders of the Sandinista forces that ousted Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza Debayle in July 1979, he became head of the ruling junta in the subsequent leftist regime. In disputed elections in November 1984, he was elected president. (CNN)
- West, W. Gordon. "The Sandista Record on Human Rights in Nicaragua (1979-1990)" http://www.reds.msh-paris.fr/publications/revue/pdf/ds22/ds022-03.pdf (PDF). Réseau Européen Droit et Société. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Chomorro Cardenal, Jaime (1988). La Prensa, The Republic of Paper. University Freedom House. p. 20.
- West, W. Gordon, ibid.
- "Behind the State of Emergency". Envío. November 1985. http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/3413. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
- Roger Miranda and William Ratliff, The Civil War in Nicaragua (Transaction Publishers, 1993), pp253-4.
- Max Blumenthal, "The Kinder, Gentler Daniel Ortega," http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070205/blumenthal
- Iran and Nicaragua vow close ties - BBC
- Nicaragua and Venezuela’s Well-Oiled Relationship - The American Enterprise Institute
- Nicaragua’s Presidential Elections: How Daniel Ortega Could Shame Democracy - The American Heritage Foundation