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GUATEMALA / NICARAGUA
Unlikely bedfellows
Inter Press Service
6/22/2006
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Ex-Contra named as Ortega’s running mate ahead of November elections.

Amid mounting criticism for lack of internal democracy, Nicaragua’s Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) formalized the candidacy of former President Daniel Ortega (1979-90), who has unsuccessfully run for his country’s highest office three times since 1990.

On May 28, the FSLN announced Ortega’s unlikely running mate: Jaime Morales Carazo, a 70-year-old banker and ex-Contra leader, who headed the Contra’s peace accord negotiation team in the late 1980s and served as an advisor to disgraced ex-President Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2001).

Upon the announcement, Morales described himself as "a liberal," "a fighter" and "independent" who is "not a member of or thinking about becoming a member of any party, just Nicaragua’s party."

Ortega justified his choice to include Morales on the ballot. "Alone we can’t, we must unite," he said, though aside from the obvious, the two may be incompatible.

On one hand, Morales announced that he plans to focus on macro economics, currency stability, the protection of bank accounts and property security. Morales has also expressed interest in foreign trade and the maquila industry. He said that the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central America and the Dominican Republic has "development potential".

But Ortega’s government plan has an emphasis on social development, noting cooperation with Cuba and Venezuela for literacy campaigns, free health care and cheaper energy, among others.

A random mix

FSLN heads an alliance called United Nicaragua Triumphs. Members include liberals, conservatives, indigenous groups, religious officials, and even members of the former Nicaraguan Resistance, more commonly known as the Contras.

The list of congressional candidates is headed by conservative Miriam Argüello, of the National Convergence movement, followed by former interior minister and FSLN founder Tomás Borge, and the ex-guerilla commander René Núñez.

Brooklyn Rivera Bryan of the Yatama (Children of Mother Earth), an autonomous movement of Atlantic Coast indigenous Nicaraguans, who fought against the Sandinistas, is also among the list of candidates.

"Today we are paradoxically making this alliance because both have come to know and respect our approaches," said Rivera. "The FSLN is a party that understands and respects our autonomy the most."

Regarding FSLN’s seemingly conflictive alliances, Ortega said that "we have to understand one another to face poverty and unemployment as well as the lack of health care and education together."

The politics of alliances

For his part, Borge did not express worry that congressional candidates at the top of the list are not from the left.

"The alliances are made with forces that do not coincide with everything," he said. "You have to make certain concessions, but we are going to conserve our fundamental principles."

Visión Sandinista

, the official magazine of the FSLN, said that the parliamentary elections were open to members and non-members of the FSLN.

For political analyst Carlos Tünnerman, "the FSLN’s internal democracy is an unresolved matter."

Ortega was named presidential candidate in a March 2005 congressional session that eliminated primaries and barred ex-mayor of Managua, Herty Lewites, from the party. Lewites is running for president under the Sandinista Renewal.

Economist Alejandro Martínez Cuenca, a former foreign trade minister during Ortega’s government, who originally hoped to run as the FSLN’s presidential candidate, told the press that Ortega should have held primary elections.

Martínez said that Ortega’s candidacy will prevent a FSLN victory. He cited a May 18 poll in which 37.9 percent of those surveyed supported Martínez as the FSLN candidate, while only 24 percent supported Ortega for the position.

Although the Sandinistas are confident in winning a solid vote this November, members recognize that Lewites’ candidacy could pull voter support from the FSLN. Ortega and Eduardo Montealegre, candidate for the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance-Conservative Party, are tied for first place in the polls with 27 percent voter intent, according to a late May survey by the M & S company. Lewites trailed with 17.9 percent and José Rizo of Alemán’s Constitutional Liberal Party came in fourth place with 13.3 percent.

Lewites told the Nicaraguan press that the Ortega-Morales platform is "the continuation of the pact between the FSLN" and Alemán’s party.

The FSLN is expected to win in the first round, but it would need more than 35 percent of the votes, and a lead of at least 5 percent over the second-placed candidate.


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