Despite a relentless campaign by the Bush administration to derail
his election, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won Nicaragua’s November 5 presidential election.
Ortega, the candidate of the Sandinista National Liberation
Front (FSLN) and the country’s president from 1985 to 1990, won almost 40% of the vote in his race against four other
candidates. That was more than enough to avoid a runoff against the US-backed candidate, Harvard-educated banker Eduardo Montealegre.
For weeks, US officials pulled out all the stops to try to derail Ortega’s victory, including pressuring the
country’s right-wing parties to come together behind a single candidate. But when conservatives remained divided between
Montealegre and ruling party candidate Jose Rizo, the US
turned to making dark threats in the event of an Ortega victory.
US ambassador Paul Trivelli
warned Nicaraguans not to vote for Ortega, promising some “surprises” in the run-up to the election. Republican
member of Congress Dana Rohrabacher threatened an economic embargo against the impoverished country, while other politicians
warned that the US might take action to block Nicaraguans living in the US from sending money
home to Central America’s poorest country.
But if anything, the anti-Ortega rhetoric and
threats may have prompted more Nicaraguans — particularly the poor — to vote for Ortega as a protest against US
Historically, the US not only propped up the brutal dictatorship of Anastazio Somoza, it also funded
and armed the right-wing paramilitary contras, who carried out a bloody war against the left-wing Sandinista government following
Somoza’s overthrow in 1979.
The Bush administration even sent former White House aide Oliver North — best-known
for his role in organising the secret illegal funding and arming of the contras during the Reagan administration — to
warn Nicaraguans that an Ortega government would be faced with the cut-off of the country’s estimated US$220 million
in annual aid.
“Imagine Osama bin Laden visiting the United States 10 or 15 years from
now”, wrote Mark Weisbrot, a Latin America expert at the Center for Economic and Policy
Research, “telling Americans who to vote for if they want to avoid getting hurt”.
Today, Ortega insists
that he is a “pragmatist” in favour of “reconciliation”. That was evident during his campaign, when
he chose Jaime Morales — a former political opponent and contra supporter — as his running mate.
has also held back from criticising the US, and promised that
he would not institute drastic reforms that would threaten business interests.
In the days leading up to the election,
he supported a vote for a ban pushed by the Catholic Church outlawing all abortions, even when a woman’s life is in
danger. The measure passed.
Despite this, Ortega’s victory is worrying to the US for a number of reasons
— especially his ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “Though Ortega … is a pale shadow of his former
self, having jettisoned his leftist rhetoric and hostility towards his northern neighbor, nevertheless, Washington must now
recognize that it has patently failed to isolate Chavez diplomatically”, wrote author Nikolas Kozloff in an article
on the CounterPunch website. “Ortega will be hampered in bringing about radical change, but will at least look upon
Venezuela as an important regional ally and friend.”
the US Socialist Worker, newspaper of the International Socialist Organization. Visit Socialistworker.org>.]
From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #690 15 November 2006.