- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

Two-headed caudillo

Nicaraguan democracy is under siege from an odd alliance of a corrupt former president and a former Marxist dictator, according to the country’s ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Using the Spanish word for “strongman,” Ambassador Jose Luis Velasquez denounced the “two-headed caudillo” of Arnoldo Aleman, who was convicted of corruption, and Daniel Ortega, who ruled Nicaragua as head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front until he was defeated in an election in 1990.

Both men have allied their political parties to undermine President Enrique Bolanos, Mr. Velasquez said in a speech at the OAS headquarters in Washington this week.

“Nonetheless, as Nicaraguans, we trust that we have acquired the necessary maturity for self-governance,” he said. “We do not need the guardianship of any caudillo, and we are in the position to [achieve], with the support of the international community, a successful … transition that will end, once and for all, the client state and the two-headed caudillo system to allow for a future of prosperity and greatness to which … the Nicaraguan people aspire.”

Mr. Velasquez cited grim statistics of the Sandinista regime, which fought a resistance backed by the United States.

“Fifty thousand deaths — 1 percent of our population; 10,000 political prisoners rotting in the penitentiaries of the secret service; 800,000 exiled who managed to vote with their feet; [and] more than $50 billion in losses [to the economy] was the legacy left by the [Sandinista] management during the 1980s,” he said.

The armed resistance and the political opposition, backed by international pressure, forced the Sandinistas to hold an election, which they lost by a “colossal majority.” Violeta Chamorro replaced Mr. Ortega as president. Tomorrow marks the 16th anniversary of the election.

“Nevertheless, the enemies of democracy were not resigned to their defeat; and from the beginning [of her presidency], they organized themselves to conspire against her,” Mr. Velasquez said.

He accused Mr. Ortega of “betraying the ideals of the revolution” of 1979 that ended the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

Salon to embassy

Latvia next week will dedicate a new embassy in the historic Sheridan Circle home of one of Washington’s most famous patrons of the arts, Alice Pike Barney.

The new Latvian Embassy at 2306 Massachusetts Ave. NW was purchased from the Smithsonian Institution and renovated to its original Spanish mission-style architecture, built in 1902 and designed by Waddy B. Wood. Mr. Wood was one of Washington’s premier architects in the early 1900s.

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Economics Minister Krisjanis Karins will open the embassy on Wednesday in a 1 p.m. ceremony.

“The opening of the new [embassy] in a symbolic sense will also be a commemoration of the U.S. policy of nonrecognition of the occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviets,” said Kaspars Ozolins, a counselor at the embassy.

The United States refused to accept the Soviet annexation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and continued to deal with exiled diplomats from those countries in Washington during the Cold War.

From 1902 to 1924, the building once known as the “Studio House” was the scene of lavish parties for Washington artists and musicians. Mrs. Barney, a wealthy socialite, also was an artist whose work is part of the Smithsonian’s art collection.

During her visit, Mrs. Vike-Freiberga will meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

In November, the Latvian president will host a NATO summit, which President Bush is scheduled to attend.

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

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