- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Former Marxist revolutionary Daniel Ortega cannot be elected president of Nicaragua even though he is narrowly leading in polls for November's election, said Enrique Bolanos, the man who expects to defeat him.
"He has reached the ceiling," Mr. Bolanos, the Liberal Party candidate, said in an interview yesterday. "Ortega has been a candidate since 1990. I started June 3. I have 30 percent. He has 33 percent. That is his ceiling. The rest of the vote is mine."
Residents of Nicaragua, the poorest nation in Central America, will go to the polls on Nov. 3 to elect their third president since the end of Sandinista rule.
Mr. Ortega and his Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979 and, with Russian and Cuban backing, replaced it with a Sandinista dictatorship. Peasants, angry over the closing of churches and whose land was confiscated by the Sandinistas, revolted, and with U.S. support started the Contra civil war that in 1990 forced the Sandinistas to hold elections.
The 1990 election was won by Violeta Chamorro, who led a coalition of anti-Sandinista parties, defeating Mr. Ortega 55-40 percent. The 1996 election, which featured 24 candidates, was a repeat. Liberal Alliance candidate Arnoldo Aleman defeated Mr. Ortega 51-37 percent.
Mr. Bolanos, who served as vice president under both Mrs. Chamorro and Mr. Aleman, said this year will be no different.
"Do the math. The Sandanistas get 33 or 35 percent. Who gets the rest? The Conservative Party has broken down. There are just two candidates this time, not 24 candidates like in 1996," he said.
Mr. Bolanos said his presidency will be built on two pillars the peace won by Mrs. Chamorro and the roads, schools, hospitals built by the Aleman government.
To avoid a run-off, the winning candidate needs at least 35 percent of the vote and must defeat his nearest rival by at least 5 percentage points.
The Conservative Party candidate, Noel Vidaurre, who was running third with 17 percent in several polls, dropped out of the race earlier this month.
The polls are causing some concern in Washington. Last month the State Department sent a senior official to Managua to urge the parties to work together to prevent a Sandinista victory in November.
Mr. Bolanos said that he expects his party will spend about $8 million during the campaign. The United States is providing $3.3 million to run the election and help pay for Organization of American States election observers.
He said there are strong suspicions that the Sandinistas are being funded from abroad.
"Ortega made a trip to Libya to see [Libyan President Moammar] Gadhafi in May. He came back smiling," Mr. Bolanos said.
While the Aleman government is accused of corruption, Mr. Bolanos is considered squeaky clean.
"Don Enrique is a true Nicaraguan, a patriot and a very honest man," said Dan Fisk, Latin America specialist at the Heritage Foundation. "In the 20 years I have been dealing with Nicaragua, there have never been any questions regarding his integrity."
Mr. Bolanos said that he stands on his reputation.
"As vice president, and in my life, there has never been the least accusation that I am dishonest. Ortega has been accused of human rights violations from A to Z, but everyone in Nicaragua knows me and knows I am honest," he said.
He said that if elected he will nullify "the pact" made between the Sandinistas and the Aleman government guaranteeing the Sandinistas places in the judiciary, the electoral council and in the comptroller's office.
"It is important that we not only win, but win enough seats in Congress to change some laws," he said. "We expect and we hope for a mandate."
Mr. Bolanos said that in his visits to the State Department and Capitol Hill this week, he is requesting aid for Nicaraguans reeling from drought.
"One million Nicaraguans are threatened," he said. "I am asking, urgently, that the United States send one Hercules cargo airplane, filled with food. We desperately need to help our people."

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