CSMS Magazine Staff WritersEarly results from yesterday’s presidential election in Nicaragua seem to indicate that the Sandinista candidate, Daniel Ortega, easily defeated his opponents. Ortega, who led Nicaragua from 1985-1990, repeatedly has said he no longer is the Marxist revolutionary who gained fame after his FSLN movement defeated the fascist regime of Somoza in July of 1979. Instead, he has pledged to continue free-trade policies. Still, the United States remains openly wary of its former Cold War foe. Washington has threatened to withhold aid to the nation, fearing a return to the socialist economic policies of the 1980s.Nicaragua’s presidential election has generated intense international interest, including a visit by Oliver North, the former White House aide at the heart of the Iran-Contra controversy. That effort to oust Ortega’s Moscow-leaning Sandinista regime created a huge scandal in the United States when it became known that Washington secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund and arm the Contra operation.A statistical survey of official results, carried out by the Nicaraguan Civic Group for Ethics and Transparency, gave Ortega 38.5 percent to 29.5 percent for the wealthy banker Eduardo Montealegre.Three others rivals were well behind: Sandinista dissident Edmundo Jarquin, ruling-party candidate Jose Rizo and former Contra rebel Eden Pastora. To win outright and avoid a runoff, Ortega needs just 35 percent of the vote and a 5-point advantage over his closest opponent.Late Sunday, Ortega’s supporters flooded the streets, setting off celebratory fireworks, waving the party’s red-and-black flag and swaying to the candidate’s campaign song, set to the tune of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”The U.S. Embassy in Managua, the capital, said it was too soon to “make an overall judgment on the fairness and transparency of the process.” The US ambassador there has been openly criticized Ortega and openly called people to vote against the Sandinista candidate. Yesterday, tons of Nicaraguans hiked miles through the jungle, paddled canoes down remote rivers and waited under a searing sun to vote. We have to wait and see if Ortega can deliver. To show that he has undoubtedly changed, Ortega has chosen Jaime Morales as his vice presidential candidate. Morales was once Ortega’s biggest enemy, who supported the bloody US-backed Contra war against the Sandinista during the 1980s—a war that left more than 30,000 people dead. It’s hard to believe that the people will benefit from an Ortega victory. The choice of Morales is one of Ortega’s biggest acts of contrition to his former imperialist enemies.Also see Nicaragua’s election.