Sandinista Has Hopes as Nicaraguans Go to Polls

But Cardinal Criticizes Ortega´s Election Promises

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ROME, NOV. 4, 2001 ( Nicaraguans began voting today in a presidential election that could decide whether Daniel Ortega, a Sandinista, returns to power.

Polls put Ortega, 55, neck and neck in a race with businessman Enrique Bolaños of the Liberal Party, successor of outgoing President Arnoldo Alemán. Alberto Savorio of the Conservative Party is also running.

Ortega, who was voted out of office in 1990 and defeated in 1996, has changed his hard commander´s tone to more moderate terms.

He has declared that the abuses that occurred during his presidency, which included state confiscation of private property, will not be repeated.

He also has promised $1,400 to peasants if he is elected.

Cardinal Obando Bravo, archbishop of Managua, criticized Ortega´s promise, describing as degrading «a gift that might influence the vote» because «conscience is not for sale.»

The cardinal, who in the name of liberty is a strong opponent of the Sandinista regime, stressed that «we must look into the past history of candidates» to ensure their capacity to govern.

The requisites are professional capabilities and moral qualities, the cardinal said in his homily on the feast of All Saints.

At the start of the electoral campaign in August, the Nicaraguan episcopate published a document, «Christ Has Freed Us to Be Truly Free.»

The document emphasized the principles of democracy, responsibility of Christians to ensure respect for the rights of the human person, the need to «elect the most suitable individuals who are outstanding in their knowledge of the country´s needs, and who have clear and realizable proposals in promoting reconciliation, justice, progress and the common good, especially of the poorest.»

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