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Lewites was born in the San Felipe barrio of Jinotepe, the son of a Jewish immigrant from Poland. He joined the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship in 1958 and went into exile in Brazil in 1960. Herty's brother, Israel Lewites, died in the attack on the Masaya barracks in October 1977 by the Tercerista Sandinista Front. Instead of fighting, Herty was apparently involved in financial matters and arms smuggling for the revolutionary movement.
During the period of Sandinista rule in the 1980s, Lewites was an ally of the powerful Ortega brothers. As Minister of Tourism, he promoted state development projects, such as the Montelimar beach resort in 1986 and the Olof Palme Convention Center in Managua. After leaving government, he built the "Hertylandia" private amusement park.
Lewites was elected to Congress on the FSLN ticket in 1990, the year Daniel Ortega lost the presidency. He aligned himself with Sergio Ramírez's Sandinista Renewal Movement (Movimiento Renovador Sandinista or "MRS") against the faction of Secretary General Ortega in 1994. He ran for mayor of Managua, the capital, in 1996 on his own "Sol" ticket, splitting the Sandinista vote to throw the election to the Liberal candidate. With the support of the FSLN "Business Bloc" led by Bayardo Arce, Lewites rejoined the mainline FSLN in 1998 and, with Ortega's blessing, won the Managua mayorship as a Sandinista in 2000.
Lewites opened Nicaragua's only amusement park, Hertylandia (named after himself), between Jinotepe and San Marcos.
Following Ortega's third successive election defeat in 2001, Lewites advocated FSLN cooperation with President Enrique Bolaños in his struggle to hold ex-President Arnoldo Alemán accountable for corruption. Ortega, however, eventually concluded a pact with Alemán. Meanwhile, Lewites removed corrupt members of the Ortega and Arce factions from positions in the Managua municipality. By appealing to both leftists and rightists fed-up with corruption, Lewites was for a while the most popular politician in Nicaragua and attracted the support of many historically prominent Sandinistas. He attempted to challenge Daniel Ortega for the 2006 FSLN presidential nomination, but was expelled from the FSLN (Sandinista Party) in February 2005.
On July 2, 2006, it was reported that Lewites died of a massive heart attack at the Hospital Metropolitano "Vivian Pellas" in Managua, aged 66, four months prior to the 2006 national elections. Some of Lewites supporters suspected he was poisoned by Ortega because it is very rare to die of a heart attack for average Nicaraguan due to its low-risk diet. His wife did not ask the doctor for autopsy to identify the cause of his death and later remained silent to the press. Lewites was polling in third place before dying, trailing very closely behind Ortega and Eduardo Montealegre.
He was buried in his native city of Jinotepe three days after he died. His burial counted with the presence of: the president of the republic, cabinet members, diplomatic representatives, artists, politicians and entrepreneurs. It is calculated that more than 20,000 people were in attendance in the small cemetery of Jinotepe.