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US to Nicaragua's opposition: We can dance, but you lead

If Nicaragua’s sluggish opposition is waiting for Uncle Sam to swoop in like Superman to rescue Lady Democracy from the grips of mustachioed villain Daniel Ortega, they’re in for a long wait.

By Tim RogersCorrespondent / March 3, 2011

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (C) and First Lady Rosario Murillo (C L) take part in the IV Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) Congress, at the Revolution Square in Managua, on February 26. Ortega was officially proclaimed by the Sandinista Congress as presidential candidate for a second consecutive period, for November 6 elections.

Elmer Martinez/AFP Photo/Newscom

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Managua, Nicaragua

If Nicaragua’s sluggish opposition is waiting for Uncle Sam to swoop in like Superman to rescue Lady Democracy from the grips of mustachioed villain Daniel Ortega, they’re in for a long wait.

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That was the gist of the message delivered Wednesday afternoon by US Ambassador Robert Callahan, who stressed that Washington wants to be Nicaragua’s partner in democracy, but Nicaraguans need to do their own leg work.

“Democracy needs to emanate from the bosom of the people; It can’t come from another country or international [organization]. It can’t be imposed or created by magic,” Mr. Callahan told a group of 150 business leaders gathered at a luncheon event organized by the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM).

While Callahan’s words might have sounded inspirational at a commencement speech to university graduates, they most likely fell on slumped shoulders at the business luncheon. That’s because many in Nicaragua have lost hope in their country’s divided political opposition and want the US to take the lead.

Even the country’s business leaders, who have been criticized in the press for kissing up to President Ortega, say they feel forced to play ball with the Sandinista strongman because the political opposition is too ineffective to partner with.

“We tried for several years to work with them without any success,” one business leader told me about Nicaragua’s political opposition.

The ambassador’s message came four days after Ortega accepted his party’s nomination to run as the Sandinista presidential candidate for the sixth consecutive election, despite a constitutional ban prohibiting his reelection and amid increasing concerns that he’s pushing Nicaragua towards dictatorship.

While the US has expressed serious reservations about Ortega’s candidacy, Callahan says Nicaragua must find its own footing on the path back toward democracy.

And it’s not going to be easy, he warned. Democracy, the ambassador stressed, is hard work; it takes strong and dedicated leadership, constant vigilance, tolerance, sacrifice, and energy. And above all, it takes an entire nation.

“Whether it be a mature and prosperous democracy, or a nascent democracy, or a country that is fighting to create a representative government – it’s the people of that country who have to assume responsibility for their own affairs. The people need to build their future and define their destiny,” Callahan said.

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