Sixteen years after he was defeated at the polls in the wake of a decade-long civil war financed by the CIA, Daniel Ortega, 61, is back. This time, it seems there isn’t much Washington can do stop him. Ortega is headed to the voting boot this morning as the clear favorite, in spite of US attempts to derail his latest presidential bid. Daniel Ortega gained fame in 1979 when his coalition of leftist revolutionaries (the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN)) swept to power after defeating one of the most repressive dynasties in the Americas: the Somoza dynasty. The young revolutionaries soon ran into direct collusion course with Washington interests that Somoza helped protected for more than three decades. Refusing to bow to US demands, the FSLN paid a heavy price. For nearly 10 years, the Sandinista Government headed by Daniel Ortega was forced to fight a bloody counter-revolutionary war against a made-in-theUSA, reactionary coalition called the “Contra”. The coalition was made of former Somoza army officers and wealthy landowners with full backing of the CIA and the surrounding countries, mainly Honduras. In 1990, the Sandinista lost a crucial election to US financed candidate Violeta Chamorro. The Contras dropped leaflets, warning the people about voting for Ortega. The people were cowed into voting for Violeta, for the leaflets told them the war would drag on indefinitely along with all the misery that came with it, unless they voted for the opposition. But today, Daniel seems poised to retake control of the government as most polls indicate. The key question was whether the Sandinista leader would get enough votes to avert a second round pollsters said he would certainly lose. However, Ortega is no longer the legendary revolutionary, who became famous after leading his urban guerilla front against the National Guard during the Somoza’s last hours. He has long become a button-down technocrat, flirting with the business community as well as American investors in order to earn Washington favor. Still, no one in Washington seems to be interested in dealing with him. Much to Washington’s chagrin, conservatives have failed to rally behind a single candidate, with Jose Rizo of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party and Eduardo Montealegre, a PLC dissident, both hoping to make it to a runoff against Ortega. International electoral observers, who have turned out in force to monitor Sunday’s voting, have been highly critical of what they termed US meddling in the campaign, and warned it could eventually backfire. US Ambassador Paul Trivelli has been outspoken in urging voters to defeat Ortega and has made it clear Washington favored Montealegre. The US administration has indicated the impoverished country would pay the consequences of an Ortega victory that could lead Washington to reconsider aid and bilateral trade. Several lawmakers have also suggested blocking remittances sent home by Nicaraguans living in the United States, causing an uproar in this country of 5.4 million people, where almost half the population lives in poverty and many rely on funds sent by US-based relatives. But the Nicaraguan people may still get the last say if the election is allowed to be a fair one.