Aleman favored in Nicaragua's presidential election
October 18, 1996
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EDT (16:00 GMT)
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (CNN) -- Daniel Ortega, a former
Sandinista leader who once was Nicaragua's president, will
try to regain the office in elections Sunday.
But, his past is haunting his campaign. His opponent,
conservative Arnoldo Aleman, is constantly reminding
Nicaraguans of the abuses of the Sandinistas, who overthrew
the dictatorial Somoza regime in 1979 and ruled for 11 years.
Most polls predict an election-day victory for Aleman, but
Ortega's popularity can't be dismissed. The backgrounds of
the two candidates will play heavily into how the
impoverished country casts its ballots.
Aleman: Conservative on an anti-Sandinista mission
Born: Managua, Nicaragua's capital, in 1946
Family: Four children by his wife, Maria
Dolores Cardenal, who died of brain cancer in 1989. He has
Job history: Aleman graduated from Nicaragua's
Autonomous University in 1967 with a law degree. He has
worked as a lawyer for many of Nicaragua's major banks and
businesses, and was a leader of the coffee producers' union.
He was Managua mayor for five years, starting in 1990. He
began his tenure in office by firing thousands of Sandinistas
on the city payroll.
Aleman is running for president on the Liberal Alliance
Platform:He believes a free-market approach to
Nicaragua's economy will create jobs. He plans to help small
and medium-sized producers and reactivate agriculture.
He has also pledged to make wealthy Sandinistas pay for what
they took away from other people before they left power in
1990. The house Ortega lives in was confiscated from banker
Jaime Morales Carrazo, now Aleman's campaign chief, and
Aleman says Ortega must pay for the house or get out.
Sandinista sentiments: Aleman has nothing good
to say about the former leftist Sandinista government, which
ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990. During that time, some of
Aleman's property was confiscated, and the government
As mayor, he wiped out as much of the Sandinista influence as
he could in Managua. Among his actions: he ordered that
workers paint over several elaborate revolutionary murals on
public buildings. He cut off the gas to a lamp burning at
the home of Carlos Fonseca, founder of the Sandinista party.
And he had letters carved into a hillside changed from FSLN,
the initials of the Sandinista party, to FIN, "the end" in
Ortega: "New-look" candidate abandons revolutionary
Born: La Libertad, Chontales, Nicaragua, in
Family:Ortega is married to Rosario Murillo.
The couple is raising nine children.
Job history: Although he was born to a
shoemaker, Ortega briefly studied law in the 1950s. He
dropped out of school in the late 1950s to join the
then-illegal Sandinista Front.
His political philosophy matured during seven years'
imprisonment by former dictator Anastasio Somoza, whose
government Ortega helped topple in the 1979 Sandinista
takeover. When the Sandinista government won control of the
country, he became Nicaragua's president, remaining in that
position until 1990.
During his tenure, U.S. President Ronald Reagan dubbed him a
"dictator," and Reagan's administration supplied the
opposition Contras with arms and money, escalating an armed
conflict between the two political groups. Violeta Chamorro
defeated Ortega for the presidency in 1990.
Platform: Ortega has promised to be the
"candidate of the poor," recalling the early days of his
party's rule during which the state provided every citizen
with tortillas and beans. Like Aleman, he advocates a
He also supports continuing the reconciliation process
between the Contras and the Sandinistas -- their
eight-year civil war killed about 25,000 people.
Sandinista sentiments: The Sandinista leader
admits his party made mistakes in the past, but has promised
that "these mistakes will never be repeated." He also
upholds his stance as a revolutionary, although he has shed
military fatigues for a shirt and tie.
"I'm a revolutionary, and a revolutionary needs to be
constantly changing if he wants to carry out the reforms that
are needed," he said. "The international reality has changed
and the Sandinista Front has changed with it."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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