U.S. remains stringent on Nicaragua over election

CNN Wire Service

(CNN) — The United States will continue to give “aggressive scrutiny” to aid loans made to Nicaragua in light of reported irregularities in the country’s presidential election, the U.S. State Department says.

Nicaragua’s November elections “were not conducted in a transparent and impartial manner,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. “The elections marked a setback to democracy in Nicaragua and undermined the ability of Nicaraguans to hold their government accountable.”

With 64% of the vote, Daniel Ortega won his second consecutive term and third presidential term overall.

Nicaragua’s constitution bars presidents from being re-elected, but that did not stop Ortega from running in his sixth straight presidential race.

According to a report presented by the Organization of American States, irregularities included problems providing identification cards to vote, problems in the accreditation of observers, and imbalances in political parties present at polling stations.

As a result of the final report by the OAS, the United States will scrutinize all project loans to Nicaragua from sources such as the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, Clinton said in a statement released Wednesday.

The United States “will oppose any loan proposals that do not meet these institutions’ high standards, or do not provide sufficient development impact,” the statement said.

The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to the announcement.

Since the elections, Ortega, 66, has reached for the political middle, making overtures to the business class with promises of encouraging foreign investment.

But his critics say they fear the former leftist revolutionary is looking to solidify Sandinista party control over state institutions and have pointed to reports of ballot fraud and voter intimidation.

Ortega was first elected as president in 1985, and ran unsuccessfully in 1990, 1996 and 2001 before being elected again in 2006.