Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How Ollie North Helped Ortega Win

By Robert Parry
January 11, 2007

As Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega takes over as Nicaragua’s new president, some U.S. diplomats are privately blaming Iran-Contra figure Oliver North for unwittingly helping his longtime enemy split the anti-Sandinista vote and win last November’s election.

The bitter irony for some Bush administration officials is that North is a hero to many on the Right because, as a National Security Council aide in the 1980s, he spearheaded Ronald Reagan’s contra war seeking to oust Ortega and the leftist Sandinistas.

But now North is coming under criticism for making a last-minute trip to Nicaragua and throwing his weight behind a right-wing candidate who undercut another conservative favored by the U.S. Embassy.

Ortega prevailed in Nicaragua’s Nov. 5 election by winning a plurality of the vote (38 percent) while two conservative candidates – Eduardo Montealegre (28 percent) and Jose Rizo (27 percent) – divided up the anti-Sandinista vote.

The U.S. Embassy was behind Montealegre, a Harvard-educated economist and banker from the reformist Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance or ALN. But North was persuaded by former contra leader Adolfo Calero that Rizo, the candidate of the Liberal Constitutional Party or PLC, had the better shot to beat Ortega, according to sources familiar with the inside workings of Nicaragua’s politics.

Read on.

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