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  Number 301 | Agosto 2006
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Nicaragua

How Things Stacks Up on the Official Campaign Starting Date

What elements are in place and what still have loose ends as the campaign for the November 5 elections officially opens? The FSLN, which has most of the advantages on its side, has a good shot at winning the presidency after a three-time losing streak.

Nitlápan-Envío team

Saturday, August 19, was the official starting date for this year’s national elections, but it was pure formality. Most of the five parties running presidential candidates have been engaged in an intense campaign since the beginning of the year and some even before, with abundant propaganda in the media and posted along streets and highways, increasing numbers of political rallies and candidates stumping all over the country.

How many still don’t
have a voting card?

The central controversy right now is over the issue of voter registration cards. According to the big business organizations grouped within the Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) as well as various prestigious social organizations such as IPADE, Ethics and Transparency, and Movement for Nicaragua, as many as 800,000 voters—roughly a quarter of those eligible—don’t have their ID/voter registration card. Some 500,000 apparently either never applied for one or lost the original and made no effort to replace it and the rest have one waiting for them but never picked it up, whether due to death, emigration, neglect or disinterest.

Through a 1995 change in the law, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), which ranks as a branch of state, was put in charge of the entire civil registry process including the issuing of these cards, which are indispensable for any official transaction ranging from applying for a passport to paying one’s utility bills at the bank—and, of course, voting.

CSE officials argue that these figures are exaggerated, even a “conspiracy” to discredit the electoral branch. They counter with significantly lower but still sizeable figures of their own: roughly 200,000 requested cards are still being made up, a similar number have been made and are now being distributed and 120,000 have not been picked up from as far back as 1997.

The deadline for applying for a card in time for this year’s elections was originally August 6, but following sustained media pressure the National Assembly ruled to extend it two more weeks, to August 21. Although long lines can be seen in supermarkets and other sites in Managua where the CSE has set up application booths, this won’t solve the many underlying reasons behind such a considerable shortfall.

There are bureaucratic deficiencies in the procedures to obtain a first card or replace one, at least some of which can be attributed to the crucial absence of a culture of registering births, deaths, change of address, etc. There are also the political interests of the two parties that control the CSE: the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and, more particularly, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which when dividing the labor in the CSE smartly chose technical departments such as the civil registry and electoral rolls. It has reportedly shown favoritism toward its sympathizers in expediting some applications and being a stickler for detail in others.

And then there is the lack of interest displayed by a huge number of eligible voters due to indolence, economic limitations, a lifestyle that has never hinged on obtaining formal papers for much of anything, voter apathy or that ever-so-human tendency to put things off till the last minute.

How reliable is the voter list?

According to the CSE, the voter rolls contain over 3.4 million names. That is an indefensible inconsistency with the 2005 census, which shows a population of just under 3.25 million voting-age Nicaraguans (at least 16 years old).

The rolls have not been adequately cleaned, and could contain a large number of people who have either died or left the country, but could conceivably “vote” on November 5 because their cards are in the hands of relatives or other people who look enough like their picture to represent them. Other irregularities such as lack of current addresses in a country of rampant rural-to-urban migration could mean that legitimate voters no longer live anywhere near their listed polling center and don’t know where to go, while others can vote twice.

Many analysts and other observers suspect that the technical departments and electoral cartography—voter lists, mapping of the voting centers, routes, etc.— in the hands of FSLN functionaries favor abstention. And for the FSLN, the more abstention the better, because it has a greater mass of loyal and disciplined voters than any other party plus the best organized national, departmental and municipal machinery for mobilizing people and getting them to the polls on election day.

The majority of those who don’t have their card seems to be in the 16-20 age range, which is also a disproportionately large part of the population curve as a whole and either the most politically apathetic or the most undecided about who to vote for. The hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans living in the United States, Costa Rica or other countries cannot vote because the concept of an absentee ballot has never been legislated due to a lack of political will to deal with this costly and complicated challenge.

Saturation, reconciliation
and intimidation

After three consecutive defeats by quite diverse rightwing candidates, FSLN general secretary Daniel Ortega and his party are now in a much better position to walk away with the electoral victory. According to the polls, Ortega is almost within reach of the percentage needed to win the presidency on the first round—only 35% of the votes as long as the second-place candidate trails by at least 5 points—thanks to a deal negotiated between him and then-President Arnoldo Alemán in their 2000 pact.

He has an assured 26%, plus a real possibility of attracting the extra 9% through a campaign that for months has been featuring saturation, reconciliation and intimidation. The success of this rather contradictory package has sparked boundless optimism in FSLN ranks and concern among almost everybody else.

The last public poll done before the campaign officially opened (by Borge & Assoc. at the end of June) put Ortega in first place with 31.4% of the decided voters, followed by alternative Liberal candidate Eduardo Monte-alegre with 29.1% in what is effectively a technical tie. PLC candidate José Rizo and MRS Alliance candidate Edmundo Jarquín are technically tied for third place at roughly 15% each, with the fifth candidate, Eden Pastora, trailing far behind.

Daniel Ortega’s huger-than-life face plastered on walls, billboards and banners saturates Managua’s streets and avenues, continues along the highways leading to all the departmental capitals and even greets visitors at the border posts. Smaller flyers and posters of his face also adorn the walls of peasant and urban houses all over the country. There’s no escaping him.

The FSLN has again downplayed its powerful red and black combo in favor of what Nicas refer to as chicha (a popular corn-based drink flavored with artificial strawberry or raspberry syrup to create a milky pink color) selected for other recent elections by poet and artist Rosario Murillo, Ortega’s wife and campaign orchestrator. The difference this year is that it’s not part of the rainbow of other designer colors denoting the 5-year alliance with various parties, party fractions and loose political notables known as the Convergence, which officially fell apart when the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) pulled out last year to back alternative Sandinista candidate Herty Lewites. Instead, it’s occasionally accompanied by a swath of sky blue in honor of this year’s vice presidential running mate, Liberal banker and former contra negotiator Jaime Morales Carazo. This combination of colors traditionally associated with newborns inspired one political pundit to wonder who was the boy and who the girl on the FSLN’s ticket.

Since principles and integrity have long since lost their trade value in Nicaraguan politics, the FSLN’s overriding message of reconciliation, unification, love and peace doesn’t imply abandoning other tactics. As one source close to the FSLN’s municipal structures commented to envío, “Most of the 87 municipal governments headed by FSLN and Convergence mayors—an alliance that has now been replaced by what the FSLN calls the Grand Nicaragua Triumphs Alliance—are being used for electoral patronage: I’ll give you what you’re asking for if you vote for us; I’ll get your ID card if you vote for us; I’ll issue you a birth certificate if I can be sure you’ll vote for us. Worse yet, they’re being used for political reprisal: they go around looking for people who don’t support them to harass or extort them, offer them work or threaten to get them fired, or slap some municipal tax on them.”

Love and promises on horseback

On July 19, the 27th anniversary of the revolution, the FSLN carried its exhibition of power to the extreme, combining traditional, spectacular and exoteric elements, all designed to leave a mark on the popular consciousness. An hour after the celebration’s scheduled start at 2 pm, the 200,000 or so people waiting in the Plaza of Faith plus many more watching on television were startled by this year’s scenographic novelty: Daniel Ortega, wearing the Nicaraguan flag draped over his shoulders like Superman’s cape, rode up to the stage astride a white thoroughbred horse flanked by flag bearers hoisting the FSLN flag on one side and, of all things, the US flag on the other. Where some saw a pompous hacienda boss who was offending the nation’s sacred symbol, others saw “the man,” master of the situation, responsible for the country.

Hours more passed before he spoke, but his message of reconciliation, peace, love and unity was hammered home in every symbolic touch that preceded his speech: a row of gigantonas, representing Pacific coast culture, was stationed along the back of the stage as a symbol of unity with the various dance troupes from Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast and even from Guatemala invited to perform. Another symbol was a speech by Brooklyn Rivera, leader of the once-armed Miskitu opposition organization Yatama, with which the FSLN has signed a governing pact following the March elections for the new autonomous government. Yet another was the convocation by Father Antonio Castro, a vivid reminder of the remarkable reconciliation with Cardinal Obando. And if all that didn’t make the point well enough, Ortega was also preceded by his unlikely running mate, who waxed eloquent about his enthusiasm at the chance to share the ticket with a man so capable of reconciliation and unity.

Apologizing to those who still had to travel hours into the night to reach places as far away as Wiwilí, Ortega took the mike at 6 pm, still wearing the flag, and gave a rambling hour-and-a-half dissertation on the love, reconciliation and pardon that Nicaragua needs if it is to move toward the kind of economic measures that will put an end to the current “dictatorship of poverty” and “savage capitalism.” While he was at it he promised massive credits and subsidies for farmers like the ones in the developed North—“there’s no reason to fear the word subsidy,” he challenged—as well as both the pardoning of all producers’ existing debts and state mechanisms to intermediate the arrival of remittances from emigrant relatives and thus eliminate the commission currently paid to money-transfer agencies such as Western Union. “You’ll get 100% of what your relatives send,” he promised

All these promises were calculated to trigger huge expectations among the poorest and most impressionable of the still undecided voters. More educated and thinking voters recognize that they are impossible to enact without producing unmanageable economic convulsions.

Black gold: The most
welcome promise of all

The promises of Venezuelan support through the supply of cheaper oil to Nicaragua—“Venezuela is ready to send us gasoline, bunker, diesel and cooking gas… and in our government there will be fair trade with Venezuela and a petroleum supply that will put an end to the energy blackouts”—got the most applause. The majority of the urban population has been coping with near-daily power outages for several months, while the cost of living has continued to climb due to the energy disaster Nicaragua is experiencing. The crisis is thanks in part to sky-rocketing international oil prices, but it hasn’t been helped by the Bolaños govern-ment’s impotence and indolence.

Hugo Chávez’s real—or perhaps only illusory—capacity to resolve Nicaragua’s energy, health and education problems is one of the high cards in Ortega’s seemingly unstoppable campaign. Despite the endless right-wing propaganda against Venezuela’s President, his power is more admired than feared in Nicaragua.

If there’s one point on which all electoral analysts solidly agree, it is that Ortega can only win on the first round. If he fails to get 35% in a field of five candidates, he would be hard pressed to get the 50+% needed to win against one run-off contender—most likely one of the two Liberals, around whom all anti-Sandinista voters would close ranks. The FSLN is quite aware of this, which is why it’s pulling out all stops in its first-round campaign. If the results between the two lead candidates remain as close as they are now, the FSLN will be irresistibly tempted to tweak the results in its favor, and is perfectly positioned to do so given the posts it holds in the CSE.

More success for the banks

Among the two Liberals and a Sandi-nista who are seriously challenging the political power the FSLN has garnered through its pact with the PLC over the years, the only candidate who is breathing down Ortega’s neck in the polls right now is banker Eduardo Monte-alegre, former finance minister to both Bolaños and Alemán. He represents the anti-Alemán Right of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), organized only a year or so ago to provide continuity to the Bolaños administration and running in alliance with the like-minded traditional Conservative Party. The ALN-PC is also neck and neck with the FSLN with respect to economic and political resources, enjoying the open political endorsement of both the current Nicaraguan government and the US government and the less open financial endorsement of moneyed interests in several countries.

Proof of the Montealegre-Bolaños continuity is the fact that the ALN’s list of legislative candidates includes a number of top current government officials—some still in strategic positions who have not wanted to resign their posts as they are theoretically obliged to do in order to run. More proof if needed are declarations such as the one by ALN campaign chief, banker Adolfo Argüello: “The banking sector has developed the most successfully, and Montealegre and I have directed the most successful banks; that’s the success we want to give Nicaragua.” Since Bolaños’ favoritism toward the banking sector is precisely what guaranteed this success, Argüello is simply announcing that the ALN will do “business as usual.”

Even before the firing of the campaign’s starting gun, Montealegre has spent a small fortune on media propaganda and visits to Liberal strongholds throughout the country to win votes away from the PLC, its principal rival until September, when the results of the polls should start to be more credible and consistent

He’s backed by big national capital, big Central American capital, US government capital and his own sizable contribution. His campaign motto is “Sowing opportunities,” and his electoral discourse offers nothing orginal; just the same old promises of more jobs, more health, more education, more opportunities, less poverty…

Montealegre’s weak flanks: Elitism and the CENIs fraud

The ALN has two weak flanks. One of them is the arrogant and elitist style of the presidential candidate and the tight-knit group around him. This reproduction of the vices of national political culture is generating conflicts that are being capitalized upon by the more homespun PLC Liberals, who are closer to the grassroots party base.

Far more serious for Montealegre’s chances, however, is the investigation into recent accusations of irregularities surrounding the plague of fraud-riddled bank collapses in 2000. At that time the Central Bank had to issue high-interest bonds known as CENIs to cover the debts run up by the failed banks given that, in all the enthusiasm to privatize the banking system following the Sandinistas’ electoral defeat in 1990, it never occurred to anyone to set up a depositor’s insurance system. Those bonds, gobbled up by various banking groups, including Monte-alegre’s Bancentro, are the main source of the enormous domestic debt that Nicaraguan taxpayers are now saddled with, while the boards of the banks got away unpunished and in a number of cases significantly wealthier.

The issue currently being studied by the Comptroller General’s Office and a couple of independent researchers is the suspected fraudulent reclassification of the failed banks’ portfolios and the similarly doctored acquisition of their embargoed properties. While Bancentro profited from its purchase of the CENIs, it allegedly made out like a bandit in these subsequent operations. Another bank closely linked to Alemán at the time, Banpro, reportedly did even better. One of its largest stockholders is Mario Rapaccioli, president of the Conservative party and now allied with Montealegre.

During the past few months, the mounting evidence, declarations and even a legislative finding have imprinted this complex and confounding swindle in the minds of broad segments of public opinion. While there’s no doubt that the timing was chosen to undermine Montealegre’s candidacy, the facts in the case are irrefutable, had remained hidden for years and needed to be exposed. Although none of the accused admits to any guilt, Monte-alegre’s attempt to sweep the case under the rug hasn’t convinced anybody. His total evasion of responsibility in this latest—and some believe largest—theft to have economically and morally impoverished the Nicaraguan state and its people in recent years is unconscionable.

Does the US favor
the PLC or the ALN?

In the other corner of the Liberal ring is the PLC, the party that has handed Daniel Ortega enormous quotas of power through a pact that started in 1998 with a property law, was consecrated in 2000 with constitutional reforms and an exclusionary electoral law then ratified through multiple institutional and legal agreements following former President Alemán’s imprisonment for embezzling and laundering massive amounts of state funds. That accumulation of power explains Ortega’s advantageous situation, which could end in electoral victory in November.

Although the United States is gambling on Montealegre to defeat Ortega, it is quite aware that the ALN lacks structures rooted in the Liberal territories and fears that Montealegre’s sparkling eyes and clean-cut smile won’t translate into enough votes come election day. The experience of last March’s coast elections, in which the PLC did far better than anyone expected and the ALN only won 5 of the 47 autonomous Regional Council seats despite spending a reported $2 million on its campaign, was a word to the wise. Acknowledging the PLC’s vastly superior organization, the US Embassy hasn’t given up pushing for some formula by which the two Liberal groups might end up offering Nicaraguan voters a united anti-Sandinista option.

Animal Farm:
The Liberals rebel

On July 12, seven PLC mayors, governing traditionally Liberal and anti-Sandinista former war zones, plus a group of their Municipal Council members made a trip to Managua for a novel publicity event. Under a banner that read “We’re neither blind nor deaf nor mute!” they publicly exhorted Alemán to withdraw from both their party and its campaign, and requested the restructuring of the PLC’s National Executive Committee.

“We don’t want to be led by personal and family interests,” they told the gathered media. “We all feel ashamed of either being dubbed part of the corruption or considered submissive sheep… We’re calling on Alemán to resign: for himself, his family and most importantly for Nicaragua. Your time has passed; you’ve already been governor, you’ve been a leader; now leave us be, for Nicaragua, for democracy…”

It was soon learned that US Ambassador Trivelli was behind this rebellion: visits to the municipalities offering aid for local projects, an invitation to three of the seven mayors to visit the State Department, meetings with PLC mayors in the embassy building in Managua… None of what was reported was denied. In fact, there was speculation that PLC presidential candidate José Rizo knew of the rebellion and even encouraged it in hopes of convincing Alemán of the need to let go of the party reins.

Some come, others go

It’s not real clear what happened next. What is known is this: Alemán met with the rebel mayors, who had been joined by others—together they seem to represent about a quarter of the 56 PLC mayors. René Herrera, the PLC’s most astute politician, warned Rizo that he’s nothing without Alemán. Trivelli continued working in the shadows to shell the PLC pod of Alemán and his shameless loyalists. In the month leading up to the campaign’s starting shot new mayoral rebellions kept cropping up, joined by rebellious spurts among party militants. But they didn’t all move in the same direction. The flow of desertions is daily, with some going over to and others returning from the ALN camp, making it foolhardy to forecast the final headcount.

MRS Alliance legislative candidate Dora María Téllez, a skilled analyst who always seems to have her finger on the political pulse, offered the following explanation: “Montealegre for the ALN and Rizo for the PLC are locked in a fierce battle. At the start of their campaigns they each tried to position themselves as the one that could defeat Daniel. Montealegre claimed he was the only one who could do it and Rizo came out with a campaign jingle saying ‘Only Rizo can beat Daniel!’, but he had to pull it quickly because it was really awful. Since then there’s been a change of emphasis in both campaigns, with Montealegre saying, ‘I’m a different Liberal’ and Rizo saying, ‘I’m the true Liberal.’ At this point in the campaign they are fighting for the Liberal vote, and it’s a seesaw: each rise for Rizo is a drop for Montealegre. It’s impossible to tell if this flow between the two is spontaneous or organized; if it’s a river or just a little stream. But whatever else it may be it’s symbolic of the crisis of Liberalism. The Liberal vote isn’t like the vote for the FSLN. While Liberalism has cultivated the possibility of options, the Sandinista crop has been almost allpro-Daniel. Liberals choose somewhat more freely among different figures. Montealegre is attractive, but Rizo is sharing the ticket with someone who has always been attractive within Liberalism: José Antonio Alvarado.”

Between the ALN and the PLC, which one will win over more of the Liberal grass roots? Between Monte-alegre and Rizo, who will demonstrate to the US ambassador that he guarantees more votes and has the most reliable anti-Ortega machinery? It is known that to calm the fears of his big backers, Montealegre has promised he will pull out of the race if the polls end up showing it’s the PLC that can guarantee Ortega’s defeat. In public, Rizo has announced that Montealegre will reunite with the PLC in September, while Montealegre has announced the same thing in reverse: in September Rizo will throw in the towel.

Mundo Jarquín: The “ugly one”

Also challenging the FSLN’s possible triumph is the MRS Alliance, a new Sandinista option, opposed to the FSLN-PLC pact and determined to avoid emulating Montealegre and the ALN in offering “more of the same.”

A survey by the M&R polling firm done after the unexpected death on July 2 of Herty Lewites, its charismatic presidential candidate, showed the MRS Alliance hanging on to the votes Lewites had captured in Managua, where he was an exceptionally strong and respected mayor in the 2001-2004 period. And in the new poll taken just before official campaign began, the replacement ticket of Edmundo Jarquín—who moved up from vice-presidential to presidential candidate—and the universally popular singer-songwriter Carlos Mejía Godoy—who has taken the vice-presidential slot vacated by Jarquín—has climbed another two points (15.2% versus 13%).

This same poll shows Jarquín as the candidate that triggers the least rejection and criticism, either because he seems like a guy you could trust or because he’s been living out of the country for years and isn’t tarred by the brush of self-serving political corruption. The MRS Alliance’s TV campaign is the most creative and sympathetic of all. Within days of Lewites’ death, it aired a brief spot featuring Jarquín and Mejía Godoy surrounded by a host of Sandinista luminaries who have left the FSLN to join the MRS Alliance campaign, all holding candles in a nighttime vigil but looking forcefully and confidently into the camera. The silent message was that they were moving on with Herty still among them as what they call their “candidate in spirit.” More recent slots feature a brief presentation by a craggy-faced Jarquín who good-naturedly trades on being “the ugly candidate,” but one aspiring to build “a beautiful Nicaragua.” This candor was shown to have hit the mark when a woman in a neighborhood rally in Managua was heard to remark, “Hey, he’s not at all ugly in person!”

“Politically correct”

All this means that the MRS Alliance is officially kicking off its electoral campaign right where its promoter, Herty Lewites, left it. But does this mean nothing has changed? Hardly. With the loss of its principal capital—the charismatic, high profile Herty, an able challenger with strong financial contacts—the MRS has experienced many changes and has various tests ahead.

It is facing enormous challenges with scant economic resources and a still diffuse discourse, combining the “politically correct” language Jarquín has adopted from his years in the world of international financing institutions, the assured congeniality of Carlos Mejía and the symbolic, agglutinating power—which is at the same time disintegrating—that death and memory trigger.

The lack of clarity in the MRS message is the product of generational and political tensions common to a group of very recent formation, in which experienced veterans and novices originally came together not around a thoroughly discussed and assumed project but around the opportunity represented by Herty Lewites. And not even he had been able to develop his project before he disappeared abruptly from the scene.

Does the electorate perceive this as being a project that “will make Herty’s dream a reality”? Is there any clarity to the contents of that dream or only a disorderly amalgam of personal and group agendas? Does this alliance amount to the “rescue” of Sandinismo, its “renovation? Or is it just a fleeting proposal whose objectives will only take shape if it wins the presidency or at least gets a number of seats in the National Assembly?

Where’s Sandino?

Some say the MRS Alliance is leery of mentioning Sandino and Sandinismo. Is it because these words have been held hostage by the FSLN or because it’s hard to imbue them with any concrete content in today’s Nicaragua?

Isn’t it necessary to accept that Nicaragua has reached its current levels of impoverishment and backwardness because of the existence of powerfully contradictory interests in the country? Won’t any political group that wants to be truly effective politically—and also win votes—have to chose and clearly state the interests it’s going to defend, and accept that by defending them it will jeopardize other interests? The worst that could happen to the MRS Alliance would be to end up as a group that generates no major rejection only because it can’t or won’t identify its objectives, and thus fails to convince Nicaraguans politically.

Will its certainly attractive and original propaganda sow any central political message in the hearts and minds of the electorate? The MRS leadership recognizes that doing so among either hard-line, organized pro-Daniel Sandinistas or rightwing anti-Sandi-nista voters who have already decided on one of the Liberal candidates will be extremely hard. What the MRS Alliance, and all the other candidates, are targeting are the undecided voters (a number that varies widely from one polling firm to another), including the vast majority whose current life is also “ugly.” If the MRS Alliance messages remain so “politically correct,” these people will never figure out if it has anything new on offer, capable of truly “beautifying” Nicaragua and their own lives.

What and how?
Just more of the same?

All three electoral options challenging the FSLN’s justified optimism have sketched out a gamut of projects within still diffuse programs. All agree on the priority problems that need to be addressed, if only because assessments of Nicaragua’s reality can’t differ substantially. And should any party miss a couple of points, they have all been copiously studied, dissected and analyzed in reports and consultancy studies that now cram the file drawers of embassies, NGOs and cooperation agencies.

It isn’t easy to distinguish any distinctive stamp in each group’s offer. Mundo Jarquín says that “all government programs are as alike as drops of water” and that the voter should look for the difference in the messenger, not the message. In large measure he’s right. He then recalls the trajectory of the messengers competing with him: “José Rizo has had the chance to do what he’s now promising during two governments; Daniel Ortega has been governing or co-governing for the past 27 years and is now promising what he hasn’t been able to do either; and Eduardo Montealegre has governed in the last two governments.” The latter, it would appear, is perfectly happy with what he’s been doing.

The analysts say that all of the candidates pretty much agree on what they’ll do, but none offers any credible explanation of how they’ll do it. The budget for the first year of the new government, which takes office in January 2007, already contains strong conditionalities through 2008 and 2009. Nicaragua’s economy is so dependent and fragile that the what has everything to do with the how.

As one observer of the national reality remarked to envío,“What’s being offered so far? A purely administrative how, by which I mean that each group is offering managerial models with different priorities, but they all add up to ‘more of the same’ by different names, different modalities. It’s the same gas station with a paint job and an optimistic sign announcing ‘under new management.’”

Even the FSLN’s program would appear to be a “whole bunch” more of the same, only because it’s making a lot more promises than the other parties. It’s promising to unite Nicaragua and even offering an inter-oceanic canal, providing that voters rally around Ortega and the income from the Venezuelan oil President Chávez has promised him. But what economic system are people being asked to unite around? According to Sandinista leaders with close links to the financial world and anxious to quiet the anguish of the anti-Sandinista elites, it will be the same economic system we enjoy so much today.

In 75 more days Nicaraguans must decide not simply who’s going to govern the country for the next five years, but possibly the nation’s political course over the coming decades. Will it be another catastrophe like the one the Alemán government created? Another period of increasingly concentrated privilege and wealth following the Bolaños government model? Perhaps a return to an authoritarian form of government that abuses rather than channeling its social power, which would cancel the nation’s democratic aspirations and lead us to an even more uncertain future? Or is there still a chance for a more agreeable surprise?

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