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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Round Two for Ortega and Nicaragua

By Circles Robinson

Daniel Ortega retakes the reigns of political power in Nicaragua on January 10, pledged to moderation and reconciliation with his business, religious, political and military adversaries during the Sandinista government of 1979-1990.

At the same time, Ortega hopes to maintain old friends from his revolutionary days and count on newer ones promoting Latin American integration and cooperation. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is Daniel’s ace in the hole to help face some of the country’s biggest problems including a serious energy crisis and a shortage of dignified housing.

Ortega says he will combat poverty among the country’s poorest with a Zero Hunger Program, while his economic advisors insist on maintaining a macro-economic policy similar to that of his neoliberal predecessor Enrique Bolaños.

The new Nicaraguan government is expected to seek an agreement with the IMF during Ortega’s first months in office to guarantee stability and stay on as good of terms as possible with the United States. Nicaragua’s last accord with the IMF expired on December 12.

The Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations made governing all but impossible during Ortega’s last term in office (1985-1990), with an economic blockade and the “Contra” war.

During the election campaign managed by Ortega’s wife Rosario Murrillo, --also the spokesperson of the Sandinista National Liberation Front Party (FSLN)--, the president elect made many promises leading to widespread expectations as he is poised to take office.

The offers made included an employment boom, higher salaries for many lower-end public employees, investment credit and incentives to the different local and foreign business sectors, lower utility rates, and free education and health care for the poor as in the 1980s.

Conservative social policy on issues important to the Catholic Church, like abortion, contraception and sex education, mixed with a push for more inclusive public assistance and economic programs to combat extreme poverty appear to be the initial direction the new government will take.

Ortega will be sworn in next Wednesday at a ceremony where over a dozen heads of state are planning to attend including Hugo Chavez (Venezuela), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Alan Garcia (Peru), Mahmud Ahmadinejad (Iran), Leonel Fernandez (Dominican Republic), Felipe Calderon (Mexico) and all the Central American leaders. Ecuador’s President-elect Rafael Correa, who takes office five days later, is also expected.

Managua’s El Nuevo Diario newspaper reported Saturday that the United States delegation to the swearing in ceremony will be headed by Michael Leavitt, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and also include Paul Trivelli, the US ambassador for Nicaragua; John Danilovich, chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Tom Shannon, the assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.


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