EL CRUCERO – Despite polling as the least popular public figure in Nicaragua, former President and ex-convict Arnoldo Alemán insists his base of support within the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) is urging him to run again for president in 2011. And run he will.
“We have decided to propose our candidacy to the PLC for consideration,” Alemán said last week, referring to himself in the first-person plural.
Though the elections are nearly two years away, Alemán, comparing himself to the turtle in the Aesop tale of the Tortoise and the Hare, says he’s getting an early start on the race. Every Thursday and Friday, Alemán travels to different municipalities throughout the country to meet with his supporters, slap backs and press palms.
“We are running now,” Alemán said with his characteristic toothy smile, during a meeting with the press at his sprawling private hacienda, El Chile. “Some of us are fat and need to leave early and go slowly. We are traveling to 153 municipalities to visit with people and hear what they say. And that is the real poll.”
Alemán said he and his team are “Traveling around the country like John the Baptist did 2010 years ago, when he spoke of the arrival of the savior. We are telling the Liberals that in a short amount of time, the person will come who will substitute the Ortega regime.”
Alemán thinks he will be that savior. But first, he said, he is concentrating on winning the candidacy of his own party, and then he wants to hold a primary election among all the other opposition candidates to see who should run on a unified ticket against the Sandinistas in 2011.
Alemán is campaigning on his old slogan of “Obras No Palabras” (actions, not words), which was the mantra of his government from 1997-2002. “We want to continue doing what we did” during our first government, he said, adding that he feels like he’s in his “second youth.”
The former president said he’s unconcerned about the 10 pending corruption cases against him in Singapore, Finland, Japan and Panama. He´s also not worried that the U.S. government has canceled his U.S. travel visa. “Thank god the State Department doesn’t vote here,” he said.
Alemán, who in 2004 was named one of the top ten most corrupt leaders in modern history by Transparency International, noted that he was exonerated of corruption charges in Nicaragua in 2009 by PLC judges, who reversed his 20 year prison sentence, making him a free man.
“In Nicaragua I am totally clear and I am running for president inNicaragua,” he said. “I’m not trying to be the candidate in Panama or Singapore. I am running in Nicaragua.”
Alemán also said his health is no longer a concern that´s serious enough to keep him at home, despite allegedly suffering from 10 chronic illnesses, which in 2005 were deemed by a judge to be serious enough to commute his 20-year prison sentence to house arrest.
Asked by The Nica Times if his health is strong enough for him to be campaigning again, Alemán, who this week turns 64, said he has to take care of himself, but at least his virility is in good shape.
“If Maria Fernanda (Alemán’s wife) doesn’t take care of herself, she’s going to end up with a fourth child,” Alemán said with a laugh.
Alemán insists that the process of Liberal Party unification continues to evolve, despite publicly expressed concerns that unity remains an elusive promise.
The PLC party boss noted that his lawmakers did not give the Sandinistas the votes they needed in the National Assembly to reform the Constitution to allow President Daniel Ortega’s reelection, forcing the ruling party to resort to more questionable judicial moves to green-light the former revolutionary’s aspirations to perpetuate himself in power.
Alemán, however, insists the Sandinista judges’ ruling was illegal, and that Ortega cannot and will not be a candidate for president in 2011.
“Daniel Ortega can’t be a candidate, he is violating the constitution,” Alemán bellowed. “And whoever proposes Ortega’s candidacy is committing a crime against the constitution.”
The PLC boss told The Nica Times that once Ortega is no longer the Sandinistas’ candidate, the rest of the party will “collapse like thetowerofBabel.”
Alemán also denied that he’s in cahoots with Ortega to elect new magistrates to the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), whose terms end in February and June. Alemán said that according to the agreement he signed last year with other opposition parties, the PLC will not back the reelection of any of the current CSE magistrates, who are accused of authoring the alleged electoral fraud in the 2008 municipal elections.
The Sandinistas have already proposed the reelection of CSE president Roberto Rivas, an Ortega sympathizer considered the mastermind of the alleged electoral fraud in 2008.
Rivas is currently under investigation for corruption inCosta Rica, where he owns property and spends much of his time.
“There will be no reelection for any of the 10” CSE magistrates and their supplements, Alemán promised. He denied that he was already negotiating a new list of candidates.
It’s Gotta Be PLC
While Alemán continues to speak of Liberal Party unity as an “obligation of the democratic forces,” the message is still one of unity on his terms.
Alemán said he is focusing on his candidacy now, but the process of unification will come later down the road.
However, he said, he thinks his PLC is the “best vehicle” for the opposition, and that it would “be crazy” to try to unite against the Sandinistas under another party’s flag.
PLC spokesman Leonel Teller went a step further, saying his party thinks it “would be suicide” to run a single opposition candidate on the ticket of another party.
He said that the PLC is the most organized and judicially secure party, and that all the other opposition parties are being held “captive” by the Ortega-controlled CSE, which could cancel their legal status at any moment, as it did to the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and Conservative Party (PC) in 2008.
Plus, Alemán added, the PLC ticket “already beat Daniel Ortega once in 2001.”