MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Evoking former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Managua mayoral hopeful Eduardo Montealegre spoke before a crowd of some 15,000 supporters Sunday to launch his campaign, calling on all voters to unite in their opposition to President Daniel Ortega.
“President Ortega, tear down these billboards,” Montealegre said, referring to the monstrous pink Sandinista billboards covering the capital city, and remembering that Reagan called on former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall 21 years ago.
Representing the Liberal Constitutional Party, Montealegre, a former banker, finance minister and presidential runner-up to Ortega in 2006, is taking on Sandinista mayoral candidate and former three-time boxing champion Alexis Argüello, whom Montealegre claims is unfit for the job.
“The mayor´s office is not a boxing ring. We need a qualified person with experience to administer resources,” Montealegre told the crowd gathered in the Plaza de la Fe.
The rally was originally scheduled to be held in Managua´s Plaza de la Revolución, but the Ortega-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) denied permission without explanation, even though Argüello´s campaign is scheduled to hold a similar rally there next Saturday.
Montealegre urged all anti-Ortega sectors of society, which together represent a clear majority, to unite with him against the Sandinista leader on Election Day, Nov. 9.
Yet not all of the opposition is on board. The Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which had its party status canceled two months ago by the CSE, has not endorsed Montealegre because they say that would be legitimizing an election they claim is a sham due to the “illegal” ban preventing them from participating – something they have been challenging before the national courts.
Some in the MRS have already called upon their supporters to vote null in the upcoming vote – a situation that some analysts claim could favor Argüello. The MRS has already announced it is going to take its case before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights since Nicaragua´s Supreme Court did not rule on its case before the Sept. 28 official start date to the campaign.
The U.S. Department of State, which has called on the Nicaraguan government to allow international observers for the elections – a request that was denied – acknowledged the official beginning of the campaign and urged the government to “ensure that all Nicaraguans are provided the opportunity to participate in free, fair and transparent elections.”
The State Department also renewed its call for independent observers.
Sandinista candidate Argüello is the only candidate who has come out against international observers, echoing Ortega´s position.
Argüello told The Nica Times in a recent interview that he plans to win the mayor´s office with “60 percent” of the vote and will immediately start to implement an “aggressive new model” of government that he calls “socialist.”
“If you like it or not, we´re going to develop a new model,” Argüello said.
See the Oct. 10 issue of The Nica Times for the full, exclusive interview of Argüello.