Chavez Congratulates Nicaraguan Presidential-elect Daniel Ortega

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated Nicaraguan Presidential-elect, Daniel Ortega this Tuesday, on his official win in Nicaragua’s Presidential elections.

Caracas , November 8, 2006 (— Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated Nicaraguan Presidential-elect, Daniel Ortega this Tuesday, on his official win in Nicaragua’s Presidential elections.

With 91% of the votes counted, Ortega–the head of Nicaragua’s Sandinista party and Nicaraguan president from 1985-1990–was pronounced the winner of the elections on Tuesday, winning 38% of the vote, 9% more than his closest rival, Harvard-educated, Eduardo Montealegre, of the newly formed, Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance. Under new Nicaraguan electoral rules, the winner of the presidential elections must have at least 35% of the vote, and lead his/her opponent by at least 5%, in order to avoid a runoff.

“We’re happy here. We’re very proud of you,” said Chavez in a phone call to Ortega, which was televised on Venezuela state television, and reported on by Reuters. “Now like never before, the Sandinista revolution and the Bolivarian revolution unite, to construct the future, socialism of the 21st century.”

“I am convinced that in the same way we achieved this victory today, the Venezuelan brother [Chavez], on December 3rd will also achieve a new victory giving continuity to this struggle for justice, peace and solidarity among the people,” said Ortega according to Reuters.

But the cards are not clear about the political direction of Ortega’s presidency, 16 years after the former guerrilla was defeated in the 1990 Nicaraguan elections, and after 2 subsequent failed re-election attempts.

According to the AP, Ortega has admittedly toned down his more radically socialist stance of the 1980s. He has promised to support a regional free trade agreement with the United States and maintain good relations with Washington. His running mate, Jaime Morales, a former Contra commander and once a staunch Ortega enemy, commented that the first thing they will do is talk with all the businessmen “to maintain their confidence.”

Nevertheless, Chavez has welcomed Ortega’s win with open arms.

“The Nicaraguan President-elect has already been officially recognized, Lula also won and moreover by a large margin, all of this fills us with optimism,” said the Venezuelan President according to Union Radio.

In an interview with NPR on Sunday, Nicaragua’s election day, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, (and head of the Carter Center, who sent a delegation to observe the elections) verified that although there were some “minor problems” with delays at some of the voting sites, he believes that this year’s elections were set to be “much better than in the past.”

Nicaraguan elections, he continued, are now “a much more careful and meticulous process and much more uniform throughout the country than anything we’ve ever seen in the United States.”

The run up to the Nicaraguan elections was highly conflictive, with the United States lobbying hard against Ortega. U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Paul Trivelli, openly opposed him during the campaign and even Oliver North–the former White House aid under Reagan who was at the heart of the Iran-Contra debacle–made an appearance to ask Nicaraguan voters not to support the Sandinista leader.

Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, stated on Monday that the United States would respect the will of the Nicaraguan people. The U.S. has now accepted the results of the election and Ortega’s victory.