Sandinista leader drops efforts to oust Nicaragua president

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega said Monday he is telling his party's lawmakers to drop efforts to have President Enrique Bolanos impeached _ a move that apparently heads off an immediate political crisis.

Ortega said the action was meant to re-establish dialogue in the Central American country, whose political standoffs has drawn warnings from the United States, the Organization of American States and neighboring governments.

It also means that the conservative president's traditional, left-wing foe has saved him from a possible ouster engineered by leaders of his own Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

Daniel Ortega, who had been Nicaragua's leader throughout the 1980s, had met with Bolanos Sunday night at the urging of OAS special envoy Dante Caputo, who has been urging Nicaraguan politicians to resolve their disputes.

Bolanos had earlier told reporters that their talk centered on the Central America Free Trade Agreement with the United States and on the constitutional reforms. He said they had come to no agreement.

The Liberal lawmakers broke with Bolanos after the president launched an anti-corruption campaign that soon led to a 20-year prison sentence for the Liberal Party leader, former President Arnoldo Aleman, who had hand-picked most of the party's congressional delegation.

Under an agreement worked out in earlier years, the Sandinistas and Aleman loyalists in Congress share appointments to courts, electoral boards, auditing agencies and other departments.

Ironically, Bolanos' foes are trying to remove his immunity from prosecution so that he can be tried on charges of violating campaign finance laws during the party's 2001 presidential campaign, which was heavily influenced by Aleman.

Bolanos also is resisting constitutional reforms passed by the opposition-dominated single-chamber legislature. He claims the measures, which would remove most of his authority, violate the principle of separation of powers.

The OAS over the weekend called for "the immediate end" of actions that sharpen the political standoff, warning the country's democracy was at risk.

The anti-Bolanos faction of the Liberal Party has 43 of 91 seats in Congress _ not enough to pass an impeachment measure if the 10 pro-Bolanos congressmen are joined by the 38 Sandinistas.

Aleman, whose term ran from 1997 to 2002, had held a 92nd legislative seat as a former president, but he lost the post because of the corruption investigation.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraud, misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and criminal association in December 2003, but legal maneuvering has kept him out of prison for most of the period since then, AP reported.

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