San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Montealegre Shakes Up The PLC

MANAGUA – Just across the political tracks fromthe internal rebellion that is rattling the ranks of the leftleaningSandinista National Liberation Front, EduardoMontealegre is launching a similar insurrection withinthe right-wing Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC), controlledby incarcerated former president ArnoldoAlemán.Montealegre, a wildly popular investment bankerand former Cabinet member, is endeavoring to be theLiberal’s candidate in the 2006 presidential elections – acontest that he could easily win against any other potentialcandidate except for Sandinista maverick HertyLewites, according to recent polls.Yet despite his hopeful polling, Montealegre must first gothrough Alemán, who runs the party like a fiefdom and doesn’tappear willing to cede power to a charismatic and independent-minded upstart.THE PLC structure maintains that Montealegre separatedhimself from the party’s ranks last year, by disobeyingAlemán, and now is ineligible for the candidacy.Montealegre rejects his alleged expulsion from the party,and is calling for primary elections, which the PLC has neverheld in the past.“I am looking to become a candidate for the ‘democraticforces’ through a process of primaries,” Montealegre told TheNica Times during a recent interview, speaking in flawlessEnglish. “Unfortunately, as is common in most Latin Americapolitical parties, the Liberal party refuses to have primaries,despite the fact that the statutes of the party approved in July2002 contemplates that the selection of the candidate bethrough the process of internal primaries.”MONTEALEGRE, a Harvard-educated businessmanwho is most likely the only Nicaraguan to ever play collegiateintramural ice hockey, insists that his fight for the candidacy– like Lewites’ – will continue from within the party, despitehis non-grata status.He refers to the Sandinista and Liberal party bosses as“caciques” (tribal Indian chieftains) and “dinosaurs,” whoeventually will die of natural causes if unable to adapt to thechanging times.“The more that caciques move away from listening towhat the people want, the faster they will become extinct,” said Montealegre, 49. “Both caciques willbecome extinct if they don’t rejuvenatetheir parties and allow them to modernize.This starts by having primary elections.”MONTEALEGRE, the formerMinister of the Presidency and Minister ofForeign Relations during the Alemánadministration (1997-2002), now refersdisparagingly to his former boss as a“kingmaker.”He says he once “believed” in Alemán,but later changed his mind because hethinks public servants should represent thepeople, not the political personalities whoappoint them to office.Alemán still holds tight reins over thePLC from his jail cell, where he is servinga 20-year sentence for using the presidencyto bilk Nicaragua out of $100 million.Montealegre predicts Alemán’s continuedstranglehold on the party will eventuallyprove to be his Cretaceous-ending meteorstrike.“I don’t believe that anyone shouldattempt to kill dinosaurs,” he said. “Theyeventually will make themselves extinct.”THE presidential hopeful insists he has“very good” relations with the United States– a claim that appears to be supported by hispresence at all U.S. Embassy events, whichare notably absent of other political oppositionleaders and pre-candidates.“I think it’s very important to havegood relations with United States and theinternational community,” Montealegresaid. “Certainly, it’s important to havethem not against you. But if you have thebacking of the people, you will have backingof the United States and the internationalcommunity.”According to the polls, Montealegrealready has the backing of a substantialgroup of Nicaraguans. CID-Gallup lastmonth released a survey showingMontealegre with a 41% favorability rating,ranking him number two amongNicaraguan politicians, behind Lewites’60%.MONTEALEGRE insists “the bestthing for Nicaragua and for CentralAmerica” would be for him and Lewites toface each other in the 2006 presidentialelections on the Liberal and Sandinistatickets, respectively.For that to happen, Ortega and Alemánwould have to cede some power and allowfor primaries.“The best way would be for thecaciques to allow a transition to democracy,”Montealegre said. “They will securethemselves a place in history as the oneswho allowed a true democratization of thecountry. The best contribution they couldmake to Nicaragua would be to be the lastcaciques.”IF the party bosses continue to fightthe reform efforts within their respectiveparties, Montealegre does not entirelyrule out the possibility of someday joiningforces with Lewites on a third-partyticket.Although one is a Liberal and the othera Sandinista, Montealegre said the tworeformers “are on parallel tracks headingin the same direction.”Asked if there was room in the sametrain for both of them, Montealegresmiled.“That’s an interesting question,” hesaid. “I am not going to become aSandinista and he (Lewites) is not goingto become a Liberal. Now, whether in thefuture that might become a bigger train,that will be up to the people to decide.”Montealegre hinted that he would liketo be the one driving that train.However, sticking with the railroadanalogy, Montealegre warned: “Theproblem is that if our parallel tracksapproach, both trains might collide andderail.”

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