Friday, April 1, 2011

Nicaragua: The return of “El Pacto”

There’s a saying that goes “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Ex-president Arnoldo Aleman seems to have taken this to heart with the announcement this morning that he would again join with current president Daniel Ortega.

In a surprising move, Aleman said that he would withdraw his bid to compete in the primaries of Nicaragua’s main conservative party and would instead run with the Sandinista leader. “We ran the country before so why not do it again?” asked Aleman to the press in reference to their previous political alliance.

So far there has been no official response from Ortega or from other senior government officials. But according to a February article in Nicaragua’s El Nuevo Diario, Ortega “spoke very warmly” about Aleman after Ortega accepted his confirmation as the Sandinista presidential candidate.

Known as “El Pacto,” the agreement permitted the country’s main leftist and right-wing parties to run the country for over a decade. Both strongmen originally entered the pact in 1999 as equal partners though Ortega would gain the upper hand as he consolidated power via possibly dubious means. His bid for a consecutive reelection was blasted by opponents as unconstitutional.

Aleman was imprisoned in 2003 after being convicted of corruption during his presidency. Yet Aleman has attempted a political resurgence after the Supreme Court dubiously overturned his conviction last year.

The new alliance is expected to debilitate political parties outside of the Ortega-Aleman sphere such as small opposition groups and Sandinista dissidents. As Tracy Wilkinson wrote in the Los Angeles Times last September:
Caudillos like Ortega and Aleman thrive in Nicaragua, backed by huge political machinery and able to crush aspiring rivals with the flick of a wrist, partly because of the fractured, personalistic nature of politics here. Big egos in a small country, everyone and his brother wants to lead a party; there are dozens of parties so small you can fit the membership on a bicycle, as one local wag put it.
The Nicaraguan presidential elections will be held on November 6th.

Image- El Nuevo Diario (Arnoldo Aleman and Daniel Ortega in a 2000 public appearance).
Online Sources- El Nuevo Diario, Time, Canadian Press, Los Angeles Times

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