Nicaraguan newspaper publisher and politician, president 1990–96. With strong US support, she was elected to be the candidate for the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO) in 1989, winning the presidency from Daniel Ortega Saavedra in February 1990 and thus ending the period of Sandinista rule and the decade-long Contra war. She brought greater stability and democracy to the country, but chose not to contest the 1996 presidential election and to retire from politics. She was succeeded by Arnoldo Aleman of the right-of-centre Liberal Alliance.
As president, she attempted to reverse many of the Sandinista's policies and promoted a free-market economy and press freedom. Nicaragua's relations with the USA improved, but she faced rising unemployment, strikes, and obstruction in parliament from the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN), which remained the largest party. There were also continuing skirmishes between Sandinista militants in the mountains and US-backed anti-Sandinista Contra rebels, despite official disbanding of the Contras in June 1990. A peace accord was reached with the rebels in 1994 and the military was reformed.
Born in Rivas, in southwest Nicaragua, she was educated at colleges in Texas and in 1950 married Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (1924–78), the son of the publisher of the influential newspaper La Prensa. Pedro Chamorro became a crusading editor who was repeatedly jailed for his newspaper's opposition to the right-wing Somoza family regime which ruled Nicaragua between 1934 and 1979. Violeta Chamorro's political career began in 1978 with her husband's assassination by the Somoza dictatorship. A devout and conservative Catholic, she took over the management of the newspaper, which helped to overthrow the Somoza regime in 1979. She became a member of the new Sandinista-led Government of the National Reconstruction, but opposed the direction of the revolution and resigned in 1980. She faced repression from the Sandinista regime, but won the right, in 1987, to resume publication of La Prensa as an uncensored opposition newspaper. She was chosen as presidential candidate for UNO, a 14-party anti-Sandinista coalition, in September 1989 and was elected Nicaragua's president in 1990.