Democracy is not working correctly in Nicaragua—at least by Washington's standards. That's because a poll released Monday reveals that with 32 percent support Sandanista Daniel Ortega has a seven point lead over Washington-backed candidate Eduardo Montealegre.
Ortega could win the election outright with just 35 percent of the vote as long as he is five percentage points ahead of the next challenger.
According to Richard Feinberg, who served as President Clinton's Latin American expert on the National Security Council, the survival of unchecked free market policies are at stake.
"Montealegre promises continuity with the IMF-certified policies of the past 16 years," wrote Steinberg in the Latin Business Chronicle. "Indeed, with its low costs of labor and land, Nicaragua could be poised to attract significant foreign investment inflows."
This explains why Washington has increased its meddling in the campaign for the Nov. 5 election. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Reagan-era U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick have each visited Managua to denounce Ortega.
U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli has urged Ortega's opponents to unite behind Montealegre.
"This is excessive," said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.
"Even if Montealegre does win," Shifter said, "he'll always be seen as the candidate the gringos put in."