San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Montealegre Challenges Ortega

MANAGUA – After months of a continuous TV smear campaign on official and semiofficial Sandinista television accusing opposition politician Eduardo Montealegre of stealing $600 million in the Negotiable Investment Certificates (CENIs) banking bailout scandal of 2000, Montealegre went on the counteroffensive last week by challenging President Daniel Ortega to hire an international auditing firm to investigate the matter once and for all.

Montealegre, the Liberal Constitutional Party’s candidate for mayor of Managua, said he thinks that Ortega is going to use the accusation – which he calls a lie – as grounds to eliminate him from the mayoral race, as the government cracks down on other minority parties (see story above).

“I am clear that neither your Tax Collection Office (DGI), nor your Comptroller General’s Office, nor your Attorney General’s Office, nor your Prosecutor’s Office, nor your court system will disobey the order that you, President Ortega, have given to condemn me,” he said.

Montealegre, who finished runner-up to Ortega in the 2006 presidential elections, issued this challenge to the president: If the international auditing firm finds Montealegre guilty of stealing money, he’ll spend a month in jail for each million dollars he stole – or up to 50 years. But for each million Montealegre didn’t steal, Ortega would have to reduce his presidential term by one month.Montealegre said he’s giving the president 15-to-1 odds, and that “anyone would accept those.”

Ortega has not addressed the challenge. Montealegre said that if the president doesn’t accept the challenge, the people of Nicaragua will clearly understand that he’s innocent of the Sandinista allegations, which are as of yet unproven in court.


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