June 9, 2006

Nicaragua’s Ortega Says US Aims to Block Return

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega told regional observers on Friday the U.S. and Nicaraguan governments were working together to try to disqualify him from November's presidential election.

Ortega, a former president and leader of Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista revolution, is seeking to return to power and has clashed in recent months with the U.S. envoy and the country's main right-wing parties.

"We see a coordinated action between the United States government and the government of President (Enrique) Bolanos, both of whom want to disqualify the Sandinistas," Ortega said after a meeting with Organization of American States observers.

A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy in Managua declined to comment on Ortega's remarks. Nicaraguan government officials were not immediately available for comment.

U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli has repeatedly criticized Ortega, who many think could return to power and end the 16 years of pro-Washington government that followed his 1990 defeat. In April, Trivelli met with right-wing parties to discuss forming an alliance to oppose Ortega in the November 5 election.

The United States has a controversial history of involvement in Nicaragua, although Trivelli said he was merely concerned with promoting democracy in the Central American nation.

Recent polls have shown solid support for the Sandinistas, which in the 1980s led a Soviet- and Cuban-backed government that battled U.S.-funded Contra rebels.

"The United States government will have to understand that it is Nicaraguans that will decide who our national authorities will be," Ortega added.

He is making his fourth bid to regain the presidency. Many voters say they are tired of U.S.-backed administrations that have failed to raise living standards.