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Nicaragua: Ortega starts third term

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Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a socialist former guerrilla leader, has registered a landslide victory and has started his third term as a President. Ortega had 62.7 percent of the vote, his closest rival, conservative radio personality Fabio Gadea got 30 per cent followed by discredited former president, Arnoldo Alemán with 6 per cent, in November 2011. This majority in the unicameral legislature had given his party Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to bring about changes in the Constitution. Ortega was a leader of the Sandinista revolution that toppled the Somoza family's brutal dictatorship in 1979. Ortega was elected president in 1984 but voted out in 1990 and then spent 16 years in opposition and came back as President in 2006 with just 38 percent support.

Nicaragua occupies a strategic place in Central America. Ortega has very close relations with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan Hugo Chavez. Nevertheless, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla was absent for the inauguration ceremony. Chinchilla is the only regional head of state that will not attend the event. This equation has likely to play a bigger role in coming time, especially, when action is taken against Iran to stop its nuclear plans.


  1. Ortega has moderated some of his socialist policies since regaining the presidency five years ago and he has won praise for letting private businesses operate freely even as he pushed policies aimed at combating poverty.
  2. With the help of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his petrodollars, contributing, according to some estimates, between US$1 and 1.5 billion, or approximately 8 per cent of the national GDP, Ortega put money into health and education programs, provided loans for small businesses and gave aid to farmers. This has consolidated his mass base.
  3. The ailing economy has done slightly well. About 57 percent of its people now live below the poverty line, down from 65.5 percent in 2005. Besides that the economy grew 4.5 percent in 2010 and is expected to expand 4 percent in 2011-12, making it one of the best performers in Central America. Nevertheless, it is still the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, behind Haiti.
  4. Ortega, unlike, Chavez, has a more pragmatic approach to relations with the USA and free trade, with the Nicaraguan economy benefiting from high commodity prices for its exports. To maintain its strategic interests with the United States Ortega has even agreed to the CAFTA with the US and has cultivated Nicaragua’s business sector by creating programmes for poor.