By Marc Lacey, New York Times
After three failed attempts to return to power in the last 15 years, El Comandante, as Mr. Ortega is widely known, is once again smiling down from campaign billboards across Nicaragua. Now 60 and balding with a slight paunch, he stands his best chance yet of returning to power in elections on November 5th.
Though opinion polls give Mr. Ortega about 30 percent support, he is the front-runner in a race splintered among five candidates. Yet the sentiment against him is broad and the scrambling to head off an Ortega victory is intense, and not just in Nicaragua.
The prospect has stirred deep anxiety in the Bush administration, which envisions him as a new ally for President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela in challenging United States policy. Mr. Chávez has lent his support to Mr. Ortega, while Washington has sent word in no uncertain terms that aid will be re-evaluated if Mr. Ortega is elected.
The latest in a string of visitors to Managua was Representative Dan Burton of Indiana, chairman of the House subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs. While insisting that he was not telling Nicaraguans how to vote, he made it clear to local reporters that he opposed Mr. Ortega and that relations between Nicaragua and the United States would suffer should he win.
But Mr. Ortega's fiercest opposition is homegrown. He is not just a candidate. He is the main issue in the race.