But today, Chamorro is one of the most outspoken critics of Ortega; in a regular television program and a weekly newsletter, he routinely denounces what he says is widespread government corruption and abuse of authority by an increasingly heavy-handed president.
And Chamorro pays a price. Government security forces raided his offices last fall, confiscating files and equipment as part of a months-long prosecution of Nicaragua's most famous journalist on money-laundering charges.
The charges were bogus, Chamorro contended. But news outlets loyal to Ortega went into overdrive attacking Chamorro and lumping him with drug traffickers, mafiosi and other ne'er-do-wells.
When he finally emerged from court this year, criminal charges dropped, Carlos Fernando Chamorro had survived his latest battle with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Chamorro is almost as emblematic of Nicaragua's 30-year-old Sandinista revolution as Ortega. During Ortega's first presidency, in the decade that followed the 1979 revolution, Chamorro edited the official newspaper Barricada, largely a mouthpiece for the Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN.
"It was a very black campaign to discredit me," Chamorro said in an interview at the modest two-story house where he runs his journalistic enterprises.
The attacks on Chamorro peaked during a tense election season that saw the Ortega government harass a number of human rights activists and other critics, according to a recent report for the United Nations. The elections, to choose mayors in 146 municipalities, were won mostly by Sandinista candidates amid allegations of rampant vote fraud, denounced by the same activists Ortega allegedly sought to silence.
Verbal attacks against those "who dared to criticize the policies of President Ortega or his government were systematically and continuously taken up by the official or pro-government media," said the June report of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. The official news outlets branded the critics "puppets of imperialism" and "traitors to the country," the kind of labels that could endanger their lives, the report said.
This shows Ortega's fundamental weakness. He is clearly a very insecure man who believes that his viability relies on suppressing those who disagree with him rather than debating them. Chavez has the same weakness which he displayed recently in knocking 34 radio stations off the air. These guys are faux democrats.