Sandinista Candidate Daniel Ortega Vows Not to Repeat Mistakes
ELOY O. AGUILAR
Oct. 19, 1996
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Sandinista presidential candidate Daniel Ortega spent much of the campaign trying to convince voters that he has changed with the times.
His top opponent in Sunday's vote, Arnoldo Aleman, zoomed in on the negatives of the Sandinista years: Marxist ideology, clashes with the United States, food rationing, civil war.
In reply, the 50-year-old former guerrilla leader aimed to refocus the image of the leftist Sandinistas, who seized power in 1979 after overthrowing a rightist dictator.
Ortega altered his appearance and his rhetoric. Gone are the military uniforms of the Sandinistas' glory days. And when Ortega talks about his government, he sounds more like Aleman, of the conservative Liberal Alliance.
And he says he has changed his political thinking.
``The world has changed,'' he told thousands of followers at his closing rally Wednesday.
He's had some success. Ortega trails Aleman by only a few points in the polls.
In a poor nation whose civil wars over recent decades have killed nearly 100,000 people, Ortega also emphasizes reconciliation.
And he counts on the political capital gained when the Sandinistas accepted defeat in the 1990 election.
``We all make mistakes,'' he said, appealing to voters for a second chance. ``Only those who do not act, do not make mistakes ... But we will not repeat the mistakes of the past.''
Ortega was president for 10 years, four as head of a government junta and six as elected president.
Many of fellow Sandinistas have tried to link Aleman to the late dictator Anastasio Somoza, whose family ruled Nicaragua in an oppressive dynasty for four decades. Ortega was tortured and jailed during the Somoza dictatorship, including one prison stretch for seven years.
Among Sandinista leaders he was considered a moderate in a group that included radicals such as Interior Minister Tomas Borge, who shut down newspapers and jailed businessmen after confiscating their properties.
Borge has been kept under wraps during the campaign. Other radicals have also been noticeably absent.
It was Ortega who favored negotiations with the U.S.-financed Contra rebels and ended the military draft.
Ortega now speaks of alliances with the business sector, and promised to create an ``economic program with social justice.'' He vows to generate 150,000 jobs, but like his opponent is vague on specifics.
He also speaks of cooperating with all political groups. During his campaign he forged an alliance with small Contra groups that fought his government.
``We are not going to establish the government of one party because that no longer has a place in Nicaragua,'' Ortega said. ``We are going to establish a government of all Nicaraguans.''