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, remembers when Sandinista soldiers shot up small churches, killing 18 members in one attack.

But Tercero says he's not worried. "Now the church has experience because it's been through this before," he says. "[The Sandinistas] know that to confront the church in a negative way was a failure. Now their tactics are different. That's why we don't trust them. We only trust God."

Related Elsewhere:

Recent media coverage of the Nicaragua elections includes:

Nicaragua's Ortega Seeks Return to Power in New Age — Reuters (Oct. 15, 2001)

The United States spent millions to ensure fair electionsThe Miami Herald (Oct. 8, 2001)

U.S. steps up criticism of Sandinistas before Nicaraguan elections — Associated Press (Oct. 7, 2001)

U.S. notes worry for Nicaragua electionThe Miami Herald (Oct. 6, 2001)

Former rebel Ortega moves fight to political arena, and is leadingChicago Tribune (Oct. 5, 2001)

Vote could jolt NicaraguaThe Miami Herald (Oct. 3, 2001)

Ortega comeback sets up Cold War re-run with BushThe Independent (Sept. 3, 2001)

For more on the November 4 elections, see Nicaragua News.

Previous Christianity Today stories about Nicaragua include:

Restore Trust In Politics, Nicaraguan Churches Tell Presidential Candidates | Protestants and Evangelicals "extremely concerned" about nation's ills. (August 23, 2001)

Missionary Nurse Hiding in Nicaragua | Dorothy Granada says government's claims against her clinic are false. (Jan. 12, 2001)

Sowing Seed, Growing Churches | Central American farmers gather more than one harvest. (July 27, 2000)

Evangelicals Reject Religious Statues | (Jan. 11, 1999)

Evangelicals Press Political Leader to Focus on Poverty Issues | (Jan. 11, 1999)

Relief Hindered by Devastation | (Dec. 7, 1998)

Fighting for Fairness | Does religion in schools favor Catholics?(Oct. 5, 1998)

Catholic Influence Questioned in Nicaraguan Schools | (Apr. 28, 1997)

New Evangelical Party Gains Political Power | (March 3, 1997)

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