San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Thousands call for new elections in Nicaragua

MANAGUA – About 5,000 people protested in Managua on Saturday against alleged electoral fraud which they said led to the re-election of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, and called for new polls.

Demonstrators shouted slogans such as “Where is my vote?” and “Democracy, yes — dictatorship, no!” as they marched in the western part of the capital.

“Electoral fraud is state violence!” they cried.

At the head of the protest – the first called by the opposition since the Nov 6 election – was Fabio Gadea, a liberal radio host and the 66-year-old Ortega’s main rival for the presidency.

“Everyone knows that I am the rightful president, stripped of the title… everyone voted for me and their votes were mocked,” the 80-year-old Gadea said in a speech at the end of the march.

Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla leader who was president of Nicaragua from 1984 to 1989 and then re-elected in 2006, ran for a third term after the Supreme Court waived a constitutional ban on consecutive terms in office.

Electoral authorities said Ortega won 62.4 percent of the vote, but his two main rivals – Gadea, who came in second with 30.9 percent, and former president Arnoldo Aleman, who received six percent – charged fraud.

Foreign electoral observers also raised questions about the process. The United States said the election was “not transparent” and voiced concerns over irregularities reported by vote monitors.

Ortega, who was in Venezuela for a regional summit, denounced the march and accused the United States of funding it in part.

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