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The Day Daniel Ortega Betrayed His Country Giving a Medal to a “Gringo,” and Celebrated It

Ortega accused his brother of being a traitor to the homeland for awarding a medal to a U.S. military officer, but he did the same in 2019

Redacción Confidencial

4 de junio 2024

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Dictator Daniel Ortega recently accused his brother Humberto Ortega of being a traitor to the homeland because he awarded a medal to a US military officer when he was head of the Army, in 1992. However, the dictator did the same in 2019, as supreme chief of the Army: he decorated another US military officer.

After awarding the medal, Ortega even celebrated with his wife and then vice president, Rosario Murillo, and the head of the Army, Julio César Avilés, telling them that he “bet on the gringo” to receive the decoration, according to what can be heard among the murmurs recorded through a microphone that was on at the central table.


On May 28, 2024, Ortega called for a national broadcast for a partisan event in the presence of the high command of the Army and Police and officers of both institutions. The objective was purportedly to commemorate the beginning of the final offensive against the Somoza dictatorship.

However, the main purpose was to annul the decoration awarded by his brother 32 years ago in the presence of the Army and Police high command. The gesture was read as a staging to signify the submission of the Army and Police as the family guard of Ortega and Murillo, and his loyalty to Murillo and her project of dynastic succession.

Acto por el 40 aniversario del Ejército en septiembre de 2019
Ceremony for the 40th anniversary of the Army in September 2019.
Rosario Murillo, Daniel Ortega, Julio César Avilés and Bayardo Rodríguez, at the central table during the ceremony for the 40th anniversary of the Army in September 2019. // Photo: CCC

The celebratory whispers: "We bet on the gringo"

On the other hand, Ortega said nothing about when he gave a medal to Lieutenant Colonel William Hogan, in September 2019. Nor when the same U.S. military officer was decorated again in December of the same year by the Chief of the General Staff, Bayardo Rodríguez, seated to Ortega's right at the ceremony. 

After placing the medal at the Army's 40th-anniversary ceremony in 2019, Ortega returned to the central table to sit next to Murillo and Avilés and, before the ceremony continued, the three exchanged the following dialogue:

-Ortega: Well, we bet on the gringo. That is the most important thing.

-Avilés: Yes.

-Murillo: Oh, what did he say?

-Ortega: The most important thing is that we bet on the gringo, I tell you.

-Avilés: Oh, yes.

-Murillo: The gringo.

-Ortega: The gringo, yes, that's why I'm telling you, to accept the decoration.

-Murillo: That's right.

-Avilés: For that, he had to have consulted everything.

-Murillo: Everything, yes.

-Ortega: Yes, the attaché was Comando Sur, although he is the military attaché here. No, I told him that, the Florida thing. Thank you, he told me.

Previously, upon presenting him with the medal, Ortega and Hogan exchanged a few words which, according to Ortega's later comments, would have included the correction of Hogan's position, whom the master of ceremonies identified as a representative of the Southern Command. In reality, he was the Chief Defense Affairs Officer and Defense Attaché. Ortega also reportedly spoke to Hogan about the emergency that Florida and other coastal states in the southeastern United States were experiencing at the time, due to Hurricane Dorian.

Daniel Ortega colocando la medalla a William Hogan
The moment in which Daniel Ortega greets U.S. Lieutenant Colonel William Hogan, in September 2019, recorded by the pro-government media at the time // Photo: CCC

The medals and courtesies of the current Army

The “courtesies” of the Army under the command of Julio César Avilés with the United States were always highlighted by the Army, and led by the higher commands of the General Command.

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The second decoration to Lieutenant Colonel William Hogan was the “Medal of Honor for Merit Friendship and Cooperation”, on December 3, 2019, delivered by the Chief of Staff, Major General Bayardo Rodríguez, “on behalf of the Commander in Chief of the Nicaraguan Army, Army General, Julio César Avilés”.

And earlier, in December 2018, Army Inspector General Marvin Corrales, - also “on behalf of the commander in chief of the Nicaraguan Army, Army General Julio César Avilés” - went to the U.S. Embassy in Managua to offer condolences for the death of former President George W. Bush, and to sign the book of remembrance.

Ortega questioned that the decoration made by his brother to the U.S. military attaché, Dennis F. Quinn, was an act of “shame”, after pointing out that the U.S. has an “army that invaded Nicaragua several times”. Ortega said of his brother - mentioning his position, but at no time his name - that he gave his “soul to the devil”. However, he did not criticize the recent recognitions to the United States, including the one he delivered to Hogan.

On September 2, 2019, Ortega presented Hogan with the Army's 40th anniversary commemorative medal. In the same act, General Julio César Avilés thanked the “friendly” armed forces - among which he mentioned and decorated in addition to the United States, Taiwan, Spain, and Germany - “the cooperation and collaboration of brotherly peoples who through their governments have maintained and maintain collaboration with Nicaragua”.

In the same intervention, Aviles promised the dictator that he could count on the Army to “continue on the path of a Nicaragua with security, stability, and development,” in statements questioned for the Army's show of complicity with the repression imposed by the dictatorship since 2018.

Hogan said goodbye to Nicaragua in December 2019, when the Chief of Staff thanked him with that second medal. Hogan expressed that it was an “honor” to receive the decoration and stressed that they had a “good relationship” with the Army and that he “remained very willing to work in areas of mutual interest (...) that affects everyone.”

Hogan's predecessor, Defense Attaché Col. Darren D. Lynn, was also awarded the same medal when his mission concluded in October 2018.

Also, on May 19, 2015, the dictatorship decorated Lieutenant Colonel Cristhian Thomas Simon, “in recognition of the ties of friendship and cooperation with the Army of Nicaragua.” That medal was granted by the then Chief of Staff, Oscar Mojica Obregón, who continues to serve Ortega and is in charge of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI).

“What a shame, a betrayal of the homeland!”

On May 31, 2024, the dictatorship published in the Official Gazette La Gaceta, an Agreement that annuls the decoration “Medal for Valor Camilo Ortega Saavedra”, given by Humberto Ortega to the US military attaché Dennis F. Quinn.

“This inconceivable action qualifies as a national disgrace, by handing over to a Yankee military officer a medal of such relevance and transcendence. It constitutes an act of surrender,” quoted Presidential Decree 04-2024.

The regime decreed “to invalidate and withdraw this infamy that offends all Nicaraguans (...) insulted by the decoration of a military representative of the US empire.”

“What a shame, what a shame, a betrayal of the people, a betrayal of the homeland,” Ortega repeated at the May 28 event.

Humberto Ortega remains under “de facto house arrest”

Retired Army General and younger brother of the president, Humberto Ortega Saavedra, remains under “de facto house arrest” since May 19, 2024, after the publication of an interview in the Argentine media Infobae, in which he declared that he did not consider Rosario Murillo or her children as candidates for possible dynastic succession.

“If Daniel Ortega is absent, there is no possibility that anyone from that power group can exert influence in front of a process,” he said.

He added that “in a sudden absence of Daniel Ortega, there would be first an enormous confusion and impossibility for the civilian part of the Government and the party (Frente Sandinista) to assume a solid power.”

Therefore, in his opinion, “the only thing that can solve this vacuum, and that there is no anarchy and chaos in the country, is the Army. In the first place, the Army coordinated with the National Police. And to look for a way out in the short term, perhaps a year or less, to call for an electoral process, be it the one scheduled for 2026.” 

On May 21, the National Police confirmed the measure against the retired general, but justified it with the “surveillance” of specialists from the Ministry of Health and private doctors for the 77-year-old former military chief.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.

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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.

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