December 21, 2005

Eyeing return, Ortega says Bolivia poll is US loss

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Former Nicaraguan President
Daniel Ortega, a Cold War U.S. foe, hailed Bolivia's election
of a leftist president and said on Wednesday it was part of a
trend that will help him return to power next year.

Ortega said the victory of Evo Morales, who was elected on
Sunday to become Bolivia's first indigenous president,
represented defeat for the United States, which undermined
Ortega's Soviet-backed Sandinista government during the 1980s.

"The big loser in Bolivia now is the United States,
defeated in a humiliating way," Ortega told reporters. "They
will have no choice but to sit down with Evo, they will have no
choice but to come to terms with us when we win the elections."

Ortega led the 1979 Sandinista revolution that overthrew a
dictatorship in his poor Central American nation and is running
for president again next year after losing three elections in a

"People are disenchanted with the promise that free market
policies would take them out of poverty, and people have
realized that it is not true, that it is a big lie," he said.

His government, supported by Cuba, faced the U.S.-backed
Contra rebel insurgency and a U.S. economic embargo that left
the economy in ruins and the nation polarized.

In 1990, Ortega lost a bid for re-election to Violeta
Chamorro, a darling of Washington. He has since lost two more
presidential races to U.S.-backed candidates.

Morales, a former coca grower, tapped into centuries of
indigenous resentment against the country's elite in South
America's poorest country.

He wants to roll back free-market economic policies and has
sharply criticized U.S. anti-drug policies in South America.

His praise for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an enemy
of the Bush administration, has raised White House fears of a
leftist bloc gathered around Chavez and Cuban President Fidel