the Rational Radical  

No Ipod Needed!  Listen on your computer.     






nicargua electionortega bolanos


U.S. Interference in Nicaraguan Election Process Causes Ortega to Fall Behind in Polls

August 29, 2001

As a result of continued U.S. interference in the Nicaraguan presidential election process, Sandinista (FSLN) party candidate Daniel Ortega has been overtaken in the polls by Liberal Constitutionalist party candidate Enrique Bolaños.  Bolaños stands at 38.6%, Ortega 35.8%, and Conservative Party candidate Alberto Saborío 4.5%, according to an August 24 article in the Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa.

U.S. interference in the Nicaraguan electoral process has taken three forms:

  • direct pressure on the Conservative Party so that its popular candidate quit the race;
  • public warnings against a Sandinista victory; and
  • the allocation of relatively huge amounts of money to "assist" in the election.

Nicaragua Election: Direct U.S. pressure on the Conservative party

The Conservative party used to have a far more popular candidate, Noel Vidaurre, who was taking a good share of the electorate in the polls.  There was talk in Nicaragua that without Vidaurre in the race, Bolaños would have a much better chance of defeating Ortega, since Vidaurre's supporters would be expected to switch to Bolaños proportionally more than to Ortega.

The Conservatives are in an alliance with a number of other parties.  Vidaurre was strongly in favor of opening up the Conservative slate for lower offices to candidates from the other groups in the alliance.  After the head of the Conservative Party, Mario Rappacciolo, decided against this course of action, Vidaurre and his running mate quit the race on July 17.

The Conservative party's replacement candidate is, as expected, garnering a much lesser share of the vote than Vidaurre, and also as expected, Bolaños picked up more of the defectors than Ortega.

The U.S. played a critical role in Rappacciolo's decision and Vidaurre's subsequently quitting the race, according to a July 18 article in the Nicaraguan newspaper El Neuvo Diario:

  • Rappacciolo extended a visit to Miami just so he could meet with several members of the U.S. Congress. The Representatives are said to have  pressured him to close up space within the Conservative party so that Vidaurre would resign and the party could then throw its support to the Liberal candidate, Enrique Bolaños.
  • A delegation of Republican Congressmen, headed by Cass Ballanger (R-NC), visited Managua in July and let it be known that the Conservative party support should go to Bolaños to ensure an Ortega defeat.
  • The week of Vidaurre's resignation, Rappacciolo met several times with U.S. State Department officials in Managua.
  • The morning of Vidaurre's resignation, Rappacciolo had breakfast with the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Oliver Garza.
  • As La Prensa summarized it, under a headline referring to "North American Pressure and Interference to Line Up All Groups Against the FSLN":

A breakfast yesterday with U.S. Ambassador Oliver Garza, and several meetings with officials of that country’s State Department the previous week, seem to have been too much pressure for Conservative Party President Mario Rappacciolo who decided to put an end to what they were calling the "universal ticket."

Nicaragua Election: Public U.S. warnings against a Sandinista victory

According to the British newspaper the Guardian, a high-ranking U.S. State Department official and former ambassador to Nicaragua, Lino Gutierrez,

made it clear in a barely coded address to the American chamber of commerce in Managua that the US would not look kindly on the Sandinistas' re-emergence.

Observers say the message was that those opposed to the Sandinistas should bury their differences or suffer the economic consequences.

That same message was later couched in diplomatic language by a State Department spokesman In Washington on July 24, who said

we will continue to have serious concerns about the Sandinistas, absent clear commitments from candidate Ortega that he is now prepared to embrace democratic policies.

And again, according to the Maryknoll organization, U.S. Ambassador Garza has publicly warned in Nicaragua that, should the FSLN win without changing its policies, the U.S. would not change its hard-line policy toward the Sandinistas.

Most disturbingly, Garza made the statement while standing with a group of recently arrived U.S. troops.  A photo of himself and the troops was widely circulated in the Nicaraguan national news media.

This symbolism -- most likely deliberate --  is quite powerful in Nicaragua, where people have raw memories of the 1980's contra terrorist war the U.S. organized, financed and directed against Nicaragua the last time the Sandinistas were in power.  Indeed, "many people have expressed the fear that if the Sandinistas are returned to office, a renewal of the 1980s war with the U.S. would be likely."

(In another ominous sign, a delegation of former contra leaders went to Washington in April to seek help in preventing a Sandinista electoral victory.)

Nicaragua Election: Allocation of huge amounts of U.S. money to "assist" in the election

As discussed in more detail in a previous column, the U.S. has allocated $5.6 million for  "monitoring" and other "help" in the upcoming Nicaraguan presidential elections.  (That number may be changing somewhat, according to an official I spoke to at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which will administer the funds. The final number will likely be at least the figure reported on the Agency's website.)

Proportional to the relative populations of Nicaragua (4.4 million) and the United States (280 million), the $5.6 million is the equivalent of a foreign country spending over $356 million to "assist" in a U.S. presidential election. 

Such an action would cause an enormous uproar here, and never be tolerated.  Remember the trouble caused by the much smaller Chinese contributions in the 1996 presidential election.

Indeed, how would the U.S. react were government officials of an infinitely more powerful nation to pressure the Republican or Democrat parties to change their candidate slate?  Or if such foreign officials warned the U.S. people of dire consequences were the election to go in a way not desired by that foreign power?

The U.S. behavior in connection with the Nicaraguan presidential election is obscene, treating that nation as if it's a colony, or a wholly owned subsidiary.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the U.S. press has reported virtually nothing about this.

[Here's a link to a group opposing U.S. intervention in Nicaragua.  The group urges people to call their Representatives and Senators to demand an immediate end to all U.S. interference in the Nicaraguan electoral process, and for people to also call the press to demand that they cover this story.]

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on Nicaragua Elections

sandinista usnicaraguan elections

Latest Updates on my BLOG!!

























Go to top of this "Nicaragua Election" page

Back   Home 

© 2001  All rights reserved