At the same time as the Americans are holding their midterm elections another very interesting contest is going on in Central America. Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front appears to have won the presidential elections in Nicaragua with a popular vote as I write this is 38.07%. His nearest rival is the right wing candidate Eduardo Montealegre with 29% of the vote. Under Nicaraguan law the winner has to receive either 40% of the vote or 35% with a five point lead over the nearest rival.
This result adds Nicaragua to a growing number of South American nations which have elected left wing governments in recent years. These include not just Venezuela, but also Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The USA has viewed these elections with varying degrees of dismay, and the winners have evidenced varying degrees of opposition to the American neo-liberal project in the Western hemisphere. The USA engaged in massive interference in the Nicaraguan elections and threats from members of the administration and Congress were frequent during the process. These included threats to cut off aid, to exclude Nicaragua from the Central American Free Trade Agreement and that remittances from Nicaraguans working in the USA to their families back home would be blocked.
Ortega and his party have more or less lived down their previous reputation for heavy handedness and corruption. In actual fact the right in power has proven to be far more corrupt than the Sandinistas ever were. They have also done some very intense cuddling with the Catholic Church, voting to restrict abortion even if the mother's life is in danger. In the context of Nicaragua the alliances formed between the Catholic right and the Sandinista left are very much marriages of convenience. If the face the Sandinistas now publicly present seems to be one of opportunism...well that's only because it is indeed what it seems.
Yet the people there seem to have taken them as "the lesser crooks" which is also probably very accurate. To my own lights the social democratic face that Ortega now presents is much better than his previous Leninist dreams, but I cannot be accused of being a cheerleader for any such movement. Yet I can't help smiling at least a small smile to see the Bush administration's dream receive one more small rejection.