Nicaragua: Sandinista Candidate Divides Evangelicals

Some Christians fear return of Daniel Ortega to the presidency of Nicaragua
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Bob Trolese arrived in Managua in 1980, launching the independent Verbo Church a year after Nicaragua's revolution led by Daniel Ortega. Trolese was one of a handful of American Christian missionaries who remained in Nicaragua during the entire 11-year rule of the repressive Sandinistas. He remembers bugged telephones, spies in church services, and "human-rights violations that were pretty grotesque."

Now former President Ortega is seeking reelection, and he's ahead in the polls. Even many evangelicals seem ready to vote for him in the November 4 election. Trolese says that Verbo members are split between Ortega and the ruling Liberal Constitutionalist Party candidate, Enrique Bolanos.

While some evangelicals fear a Sandinista return to power, Trolese does not believe the Sandinistas would bring back the anti-religious Marxist policies that oppressed the church. "I don't think the leopard has changed its spots," he says. "[But] the country wouldn't stand for it."

A Sandinista victory could happen, in large part because of strong dissatisfaction with President Arnoldo Aleman and his dishonest government, says Kevin Sanderson, Nicaragua director for World Relief. Aleman took office in 1997. Most young people do not remember much about life under the Sandinistas.

A Sandinista victory is not a sure thing. A few weeks ago, the Conservative Party candidate dropped out of the presidential race, leaving only Bolanos and Ortega. This may mean that anti-Sandinista voters will move toward Bolanos.

Although Ortega now publicly supports free enterprise and trade, he may still see Christian leaders as political rivals since church leaders have been critical of him for years. Uriel Tercero, pastor of Light and Life Assembly of God in Condega, ...

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