- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Sandinista alert

The ambassador of Nicaragua is alarmed by the growing power of the Sandinista party, the former revolutionary Marxist rulers of the Central American nation who are threatening to remove the democratically elected president who opposes them.

Ambassador Salvador Stadthagen said the Sandinistas, who captured the presidency of the National Assembly this week, have gained “virtual control” over the legislative, judicial and electoral branches of government and “substantial influence” in the comptroller’s office, which investigates charges of official corruption.

Mr. Stadthagen, a longtime opponent of the Sandinistas, warned that “representative democracy” is at risk by the power play of the Sandinistas and the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, which broke with President Enrique Bolanos over his anti-corruption drive.

Mr. Stadthagen complained that Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega has aligned himself with former President Arnoldo Aleman, former leader of the constitutionalist party who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on corruption charges. Mr. Ortega was able to stack the Nicaraguan Supreme Court with Sandinista allies who released Mr. Aleman to a comfortable house arrest in what Mr. Stadthagen described as his “luxury ranch” outside the capital, Managua.

Now the Sandinistas and the constitutionalist party are supporting legislation that would strip the presidency of much of its power, Mr. Stadthagen said.

“If Ortega and Aleman are allowed to move forward with their radical agenda, it will mean the end of separation of powers in Nicaragua and probably will mean the end of representative democracy in our country,” he said.

“At the very least, it will force a constitutional showdown with the democratically elected president over who actually controls the executive branch. At that point, things will be in dangerous and uncharted waters.”

Mr. Stadthagen noted that Mr. Ortega recently told Nicaragua’s La Prensa newspaper that Mr. Bolanos could be “removed from office.”

The ambassador said Mr. Bolanos has received support from members of the U.S. Congress, the State Department, the presidents of other countries in Central America, the Organization of American States and the European Union.

Mr. Stadthagen also complained that Mr. Ortega praised Fidel Castro in a Jan. 4 letter to the Cuban dictator, who strongly supported the Sandinista government in the 1980s.

Mr. Ortega, whose letter was printed in La Prensa, wrote, “Cuba arises on this 46th anniversary of its triumphant revolution more firm, more dignified, more heroic before the admiration, respect and love of the peoples of the world and shames the Yankee empire and its accomplices.”

Mr. Stadthagen, ambassador here since December 2003, served as the liaison in Washington for the Nicaraguan resistance in the mid-1980s.

Syrian tension

The ambassador of Syria is worried about his country’s tense relations with the United States but foresees no U.S. invasion.

“I believe that neither the U.S. administration nor the American people are ready, both mentally and practically, to engage in a new military action against Syria after the invasion of Iraq,” Ambassador Imad Mustafa told the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Hayat.

“Our relations with the United States are extremely tense, but I don’t think that tension will escalate to the point of military confrontation or invasion of Syria.”

The Bush administration repeatedly has accused Syria of supporting terrorists in Iraq and backing the insurgency of forces loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Mustafa rejected those accusations as “ridiculous” and said Syria “is equally worried and deeply concerned about mounting violence in Iraq.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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