San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Jailed Candidate Shakes Up Party, Election

GRANADA – Less than three monthsafter bursting onto the national politicalscene with promises to distinguish itselffrom the two traditional political partiesand create a new participatory politicalculture, the upstart Alliance for theRepublic this week found itself ensnared inthe traps of traditional Nicaraguan politics.The alliance, known as APRE, faced itsfirst political crisis this week, when its mayoralcandidate for Managua, AlejandroFiallos, was jailed for seven days on allegationsof fraud. Following his release fromjail Tuesday night, Fiallos and the upstartparty are trying to spin the crisis into anopportunity to win Nicaragua’s capital citynext November.“They jailed me, but they couldn’tsilence me,” Fiallosroared uponbeing released onprovisional freedomafter postingbail.THE four-partyAlliance for theRepublic was formedwith the backingof PresidentEnrique Bolaños lastMay as an anti-corruption and base-engagingalternative to the ruling LiberalConstitutional Party and opposition SandinistaLiberation Front, which are tightly controlledby respective caudillos (party bosses)Arnoldo Alemán and Daniel Ortega.The new party intended to return partypolitics to the masses, delivering it fromthe hands and gridlock power strugglesemployed by Alemán’s Liberals andOrtega’s Sandinistas (TT, June 4).But APRE’s attempts to play by differentpolitical rules apparently have languishedunder a status quo that was intentionallycreated to prevent third-partychange.TWO weeks after being namedAPRE’s mayoral candidate for Managua,Fiallos was jailed Aug. 17 and sentenced to21 months on allegations of fraud committedduring his tenor as head of theNicaraguan Institute of Municipal Developmentunder the government ofPresident Alemán (1996-2002). The criminaljudges who filed the accusations didnot show for their audience with Fiallos onMonday, and it appeared the candidatewould not be able to negotiate his release.However, on Tuesday the case passedinto the hands of Sandinista judge DavidRojas, who posted bail at $31 and allowedFiallos out of jailunder the conditionhe check in once aweek.Fiallos insists onhis innocence, andclaims he is a victimof the political corruptionhe is trying toend with his candidacy.Many of APRE’ssupporters believeFiallos’ incarceration was an act of politicalrevenge authored by Alemán, who alsois jailed and serving a 20-year sentence forcorruption. It was rumored that Alemán,who has been unsuccessful at negotiatinghis release from jail with the Sandinistas,was posturing to attempt to negotiate hisrelease with President Bolaños inexchange for Fiallos.Sandinista criminal judge David Rojas,meanwhile, is thought to have issued therelease of the third-party candidate underthe orders of Ortega, assuming he will betterserve the Sandinista’s electoral causesby campaigning on the street and potentiallytaking votes away from the frontrunningLiberals.WHILE Fiallos and other leaders ofthe Alliance for the Republic claim theyare victims of the dirty politics their partyendeavors to change, at least one of theparty’s founding members claims the jailscandal reveals that APRE already isdeeply involved in the corrupt politics asusual.Leonel Teller, coordinator of the GrandLiberal Union Party and one of thefounders of the Alliance for the Republic,told The Tico Times this week that APREis a “failed experiment” and that he and hisvoting bloc are defecting from the upstartmovement.Teller says the first signs of APRE’sunraveling occurred in July, during its contentiousprimary elections. AlthoughFiallos won the nod, Teller claimed he wonthe popular vote but had his candidacyvetoed by President Bolaños.Although Bolaños insists he does notplay the role of party boss inside thealliance, Teller argues that the President iscontrolling the party the same as Alemáncontrols the Liberals and Ortega theSandinistas.NOW, Teller and his Grand LiberalUnion, which he claims was the largestbloc within the Alliance, are publiclyendorsing the candidacy of Liberal frontrunnerPedro Joaquín Chamorro, son offormer Nicaragua President VioletaChamorro (1990-1996).Teller said he expects the GrandLiberal Union’s support for Chamorro totranslate into some 50,000 additionalvotes, pushing the candidate to an easy victoryin Managua.Asked if he still thinks its possible todo politics differently in Nicaragua, Tellerreplied with a laugh: “Apparently not.”

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