In the 1980s, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was a source of pride for many Nicaraguans. Those old enough to remember the Somoza family point out it was the Sandinistas who ended 43 years of its brutal dictatorship in 1979. This US-backed string of dictators began with Anastasio Somoza in 1936; it continued as power was passed from father to son to brother.
Since then, Daniel Ortega has unsuccessfully run for president three times. On 5 November, Ortega will have his fourth chance for victory. To avoid a run-off, he must win 35 percent of the vote, with a 5 percent margin between him and the second-place candidate. The possibility of an Ortega first-round win has significantly increased since the death of former Sandinista and presidential candidate Herty Lewites.
Lewites died of a heart attack on 2 July. At the time, his candidacy split the Sandinista vote, considerably weakening Ortega’s position. With Lewites no longer in the race, many observers believe Ortega could very well be the next president of
Chavez has made no attempts to hide his support for Ortega and the Sandinistas. In April, Chavez reached an agreement with the FSLN to supply oil at a reduced price to areas of strong Sandinista support. Perhaps more valuable to Nicaraguan farmers is fertilizer. Some 20,000 tonnes, shipped from
Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Tom Shannon, visited
Shannon knows that
Beyond personal relationships, there are other items at stake.
Regional support for the installation of another US-military base in
General Romeo Vasquez told the Honduran daily La Prensa that the area was a “zone where there is conflict and problems,” referring to the narco-trafficking in the region. Over 100 tonnes of cocaine are smuggled through
The stakes are still low since the election is still months away. Nicaraguan pollsters are on the streets assessing how Lewites’ death has affected the Nicaraguan voting public. In the latest poll released by Nicaraguan marketing firm Borge and Associates, Ortega led the pack with 30.1 percent of the intended vote. Montealegre trailed by just under six points.
The poll, conducted from 20 June to the day of Lewites’ death, 2 July, gave Lewites 17.2 percent of the intended vote. This is the margin that both Montealegre and Ortega seek to gain. Because Lewites is known to be a former Sandinista, most of his votes are likely to migrate to Ortega. If even half of the 17 percent decides to vote for Ortega, the Sandinista would move from 30.1 percent to 38.6 percent - enough to win if Montealegre does not come within five percentage points.
Chavez’s horse, Ortega, is on his fourth run for president, and he has never been closer to winning. Perhaps that is why elections in
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