On the Threshold of a New Era

The "post-mortems" of the Nicaraguan election have now been recorded. Far from edifying, they amounted to an unseemly spasm of credit claiming. Success has many parents, and Washington's pundits and politicians have been tripping over each other claiming responsibility for the UNO (National Opposition Union) victory at the polls.

Supporters of Oliver North and defenders of former President Ronald Reagan's contra policy crowed that the Sandinista defeat represented a vindication of the war they sponsored. Administration officials proudly asserted that President George Bush and Secretary of State James Baker deserved the accolades for their continuing efforts to squeeze the Sandinistas diplomatically and economically. Democrats wanted the spotlight focused on Costa Rican president Oscar Arias and the Central American peace plan for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

What is unmistakably true is that Daniel Ortega lost because the Nicaraguan voters believed, probably correctly, that re-election of the Sandinistas would not translate into a definitive end to the contra war or into desperately needed economic revitalization. In the end, as President Ortega himself admitted, the voters let their stomachs decide.

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