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American Flag Flies in Nicaragua

July 1, 2001

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ A startling sight appeared at a Sandinista National Liberation Front rally this weekend: an American flag _ not burning, but waving alongside the party’s own black-and-red banner.

The flag carried by a Nicaraguan living in Miami is another sign of the leftist party is trying to project a more moderate image, setting aside the conflicts of the 1980s, when Washington sponsored Contra rebels fighting the then-Sandinista government.

The inclusion of the U.S. flag at the rally comes as Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega _ who was president from 1985 to 1990 _ leads in the polls ahead of Nov. 4 presidential elections.

Alarmed by his possible victory, U.S. officials have warned that a Sandinista victory could have damaging consequences.

The rally, which began Saturday and ended early Sunday, commemorated a successful Sandinista retreat from the capital 22 years ago during their battle against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

The Sandinistas took power in a 1979 revolution. Backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, they adopted an increasingly left-wing stance that led the United States to back efforts to topple them.

At party rallies in that era, the Sandinistas sang an anthem describing Yankees as ``the enemies of humanity.″

Since losing power in a 1990 election, Ortega has tried to ease hostility with the United States, insisting that a new Sandinista government could have normal relations with Washington.

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