October 11, 2005

Nicaragua crisis eases as key reforms are frozen

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Nicaraguan President Enrique
Bolanos and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega have agreed to
postpone controversial constitutional reforms, easing a
political crisis that the United States called a "creeping

U.S. ally Bolanos has been under pressure from dissidents
in his party and leftist Sandinistas to accept reforms that
would weaken him by giving Congress jurisdiction to name
officials to some influential posts.

Bolanos said after a six-hour meeting on Monday night with
Ortega, a Cold War adversary of Washington who ruled Nicaragua
during a 1980s civil war, that the reforms would take effect in
2007, after he finished his five-year presidential term.

"All the constitutional reforms are frozen," he said.

Bolanos' government has been crippled since his right-wing
Liberal Party sided with its former head, ex-President Arnoldo
Aleman, who was convicted of money laundering and other crimes
committed during his 1997-2002 term.

Visiting Nicaragua last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of
State Robert Zoellick warned of the threat to Nicaraguan
democracy from a "creeping coup" by Aleman and his unlikely
ally Ortega.

The alliance between Aleman and Ortega, who is favored to
win elections in late 2006, now controls the judicial and
legislative branches of Nicaragua's government.

The United States supported Contra rebels against Ortega's
left-wing government in the 1980s. Ortega has lost the last
three presidential elections, but U.S. officials worry he could
return to power next year.

That would strengthen a growing trend of Latin American
nations electing leftist presidents critical of Washington.