Tensions mount in Nicaragua over Ortega re-election

MANAGUA (Reuters) – Supporters of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega have fired up protests against opposition efforts to block the leftist’s re-election next year, worrying business leaders and the United States.

Opposition lawmakers accuse Ortega of turning Nicaragua into a Cuban-style dictatorship and say they have enough support in Congress to overturn a 2009 ruling in the Supreme Court — where Ortega’s Sandinistas have control — that lifted a ban on the former guerrilla leader and Cold War-era US foe from being able to run again for president.

Their stance sent Ortega’s supporters onto the streets last week, reigniting last year’s sporadic protests. In the latest demonstrations, some attacked the National Assembly building, smashing windows.

Protesters burned two cars belonging to opposition members and threw rocks and small firecracker bombs at a hotel where lawmakers were meeting, wounding a state TV reporter.

Opposition leader and lawmaker Eduardo Montealegre called on both sides to step back from the violence.

“I think we have to talk for the good of the country. The violence is unacceptable,” he said.

An ally of Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez, Ortega would have been barred by the constitution from serving two consecutive five-year terms but he petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the ban.

Disagreement over whether the Supreme Court or Congress has the final say on lifting the ban on a second term could blow up into a institutional crisis, analysts warn.

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