8 Nov 2006
Daniel Ortega, the 60-year old former Marxist leader of Nicaragua (1985-1990) has been declared victorious in the presidential elections organized Sunday in this poor Central American nation. Ortega defeated his nearest conservative challenger Eduardo Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance by a comfortable margin. He scored over 38% in the polls. This score was sufficient for him to be declared president without a run-off. According to the Nicaraguan constitution, a candidate that scores 40% and above or scores 35% and defeating his nearest challenger by 5 percentage points can be declared president without a run off. Ortega’s nearest challenger scored 29%. The absence of unity between Montealegre and fellow conservative Jose Rizo of the Constitutional Liberal Party played in Ortega’s favor. Since leaving power in 1990, Ortega has tried thrice unsuccessfully to return to power in previous elections.
Nicaragua (pop. 5.5million) was the theatre of a bloody ‘cold war’ conflict in the eighties between the U.S. backed Contra rebels and the Sandinista government backed by Cuba and other Socialist countries. That war claimed between 30,000 and 50,000 lives and helped to bring down the Ortega-led Sandinista government in the 1990 elections.
The victory of Ortega is unpleasant news for the conservatives in Washington DC. The Bush administration has not hidden her preference for Ortega’s main opponent Eduardo Montealegre, a Harvard-trained banker. As to be expected, the U.S was already taking an exception to the general consensus that the elections have been free and fair. “We are receiving reports of some anomalies in the electoral process”. Said a statement credited to the U.S embassy in Managua during the vote counting process. Washington is wary that Ortega will come to add to the number of left-leaning leaders in her neighborhood. Before the Nicaraguan elections, America already had Morales of Bolivia, Castro of Cuba and Chavez of Venezuela as leftist leaders to contain with. Even though Ortega is doing everything not to project himself as a Marxist, the suspicion about him is still rife in Washington D.C.
The bitter taste left over from the war of the eighties is hard to go away. The hatred for Ortega by the then Reagan administration was such that the white house had to resort to illegal means to wage war against him. When the US Congress banned covert military actions by the CIA against the Sandinistas, the white house had to use proceeds from illegal arms sales to Iran to clandestinely finance the war. The operations leaked and eventually burst into the Iran-Contra affair with Lt. Col. Oliver North at the Center. It was therefore not a surprise to see Oliver North in Nicaragua last week trying to mobilize support for his former allies of the cold war.
Njei Moses Timah