MANAGUA – With the Bolaños presidencyon its heels, and the former revolutionarySandinista Front taking the lion’sshare in the Nov. 7 municipal elections, theU.S. government this week sent two of itstop dogs to appeal for democratic continuancein Nicaragua.On two separate trips, U.S. Secretaryof Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and DanFisk, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary forthe Western Hemisphere, met with topconservative political leaders in Managuathis week and reiterated their support forthe country’s struggling institutionaldemocracy.Rumsfeld said during a nationally televisedpress conference last Friday that hewas not in Nicaragua to meddle in internationalpolitics, or to speculate about theconsequences of Sandinista party bossDaniel Ortega returning to the presidencyin 2006.The hard-line defense secretary did,however, make it clear the U.S. governmentstands firmly behind embattledNicaraguan President Bolaños, who is facingthreats of impeachment over a campaignfinance scandal (TT, Oct. 15, 22)BOLAÑOS’ “dedication to freedomand democracy is evident in his leadershipof Nicaragua,” Rumsfeld said. “Nicaraguahas been a strong and resolute partner inthe global struggle against terrorism. TheUnited States supports the constitutionalorder in Nicaragua and the rule of law andwe appreciate your (the Bolaños government’s)efforts to eradicate corruption andwe will certainly continue to support youin your efforts.”Rumsfeld’s visit was followed thisweek by a less public visit by Fisk, whomeet with conservative political leadersreportedly to discus his concerns over theSandinistas’ massive gains in the Nov. 7municipal elections, where they won themayor’s seat in virtually every importantcity in the country, including the capital(TT, Nov. 12).Wilfredo Navarro, congressman andvice-president of the LiberalConstitutional Party (PLC), told The TicoTimes the meeting was to urge the socalled“democratic forces” to unite to preventOrtega from winning the 2006 presidentialelections.Fisk also stressed the Liberals ought tofind new leadership other than incarceratedformer President and supreme partyboss Arnoldo Alemán, serving a 20-yearjail sentence on corruption charges.ORTEGA has lost the last three presidentialcontests, but consistently garnersaround 40-43% of the vote from the disciplinedSandinista vote base. While he hasalways been a few points shy of winningthe country’s highest office, analysts claimthat percentage might be enough to win thenext election, if the opposition voteremains divided between the Liberals andthe Bolaños-backed Alliance for theRepublic (APRE).Navarro, who represents Liberals loyalto incarcerated party boss Alemán, insistsany alliance between the “democrats”would have to occur under the banner ofthe PLC, and not APRE.Navarro said last week’s municipalelections served to show “who we are, andwhat each party’s value is.”THE congressman pointed out that thePLC won 37%, while APRE only won9.4%, and actually received 50,000 fewervotes than the minority Conservative Partydid in the 2000 municipal elections.While the PLC and APRE are at whatappears to be irreparable odds, Navarrosaid the two will most likely form analliance for the 2006 presidential elections,united – for a day – by their mutual dislikeof the Sandinistas.“In Nicaragua we love to formalliances of convenience, but neither partywill disappear,” the congressional leadersaid.