Former revolutionary wins over Church in Nicaraguan election victory

Now a mass-going Catholic who says "Jesus Christ is my hero", former Sandinista revolutionary leader, Daniel Ortega, appears to have won the election as Nicaragua's president after reconciling with the Church.

The BBC reports that Ortega has 38 per cent, nine points ahead of his conservative rival Eduardo Montealegre, with more than 91 per cent of votes counted.

Mr Montealegre conceded to his rival, but said he would hold him to account for his promises to promote business and free trade.

Ortega previously led Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, but says he has changed from the leader who seized property from the wealthy during the 1979 Sandinista revolution.

"Jesus Christ is my hero now. In fact, he always was. He was a rebel and a revolutionary. He always sided with the poor and humble, never with the powerful," Ortega now says, the Independent adds.

Ortega attends weekly Mass and has publicly asked for forgiveness for the excesses of his first Sandinista regime.

The US pledged to work with Nicaragua's leaders, if they back democracy.

"The United States is committed to the Nicaraguan people," said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

"We will work with their leaders based on their commitment to and actions in support of Nicaragua's democratic future."

Regional leaders were quick to congratulate Mr Ortega, including a leftist ally from his earlier period in power, Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In a statement read on Cuban TV, he hailed a "Sandinista victory that fills our people with happiness".

And Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a firm opponent of US policy in Latin America, enthused: "Latin America is leaving forever its role as the backyard of the North American empire. Yankee go home!"

Chavez is also expected to help Ortega finance social programs in his nation of 5.6 million people, where many peasants live on less than a dollar a day, in crumbling shacks with no facilities, and have no access to medical treatment or education.

At least one million children of school age do not attend because they cannot afford fees, uniforms or materials, and are forced to work to help their families earn an income.

Daniel Ortega: Return of the Sandinista (Independent, 8/11/06)
Ortega wins Nicaraguan election (BBC News, 8/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Daniel Ortega (Wikipedia)

All abortions banned in Nicaragua (CathNews, 30/10/06)
Nicaraguan cardinal forgives Sandinistas (CathNews, 21/7/04)

The Sandinistas' Impact in Nicaragua: Interview With Humberto Belli, Ex-Education Minister (Zenit 5/11/06)

9 Nov 2006