US intervention 2006-style does not involve spending US$300 million ($465 million) to support anti-government Contra forces, an intervention that led to a vicious war and the death of up to 30,000 people.
This time, America's involvement involves making clear its preferences by having its ambassador denounce Ortega as "anti-democratic", a "candidate from the past" and a "tiger who hasn't changed his stripes".
There is also the veiled threat that the US may not co-operate with a government headed by the Sandinistas. One senior US official wrote in a Nicaraguan newspaper last year that should Ortega be elected, "Nicaragua would sink like a stone".
Some experts say the Americans' behaviour in Nicaragua continues a pattern in a region where the US has for decades sought to undermine governments it opposes - through peaceful means or otherwise - to secure one it believes it can do business with.
Under the Administration of President George W. Bush, the policy has, if anything, gathered pace.
"US policy in Latin America under the Bush Administration has been uniquely ideologically driven, far more than it was even under the Reagan Administration," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington think tank.
"The latest thing is that US ambassadors in places such as Bolivia, El Salvador and Costa Rica all walk in and say, 'The US has made it clear it supports free and fair elections, but if a non-US-friendly candidate wins we will cut off US aid'. They are quite open about it."
He added: "That is why [Cuban leader] Fidel Castro is so popular in Latin America, because he is defiant. That is why [Venezuela's elected President] Hugo Chavez is so popular in Latin America, because he gives the finger to Washington. He makes obscene gestures literally and metaphorically."
American policy in Nicaragua is being most clearly delivered by its ambassador in Managua, Paul Trivelli, who has spoken of his disapproval of Ortega and his Sandinista party, and indicated his support for Eduardo Montealegre, the candidate for the National Liberal Alliance.
His outspokenness - in contrast to the more considered language usually used by diplomats - has created a stir in Nicaragua.
Ortega, a former president who is heading the polls for November's election, told the Houston Chronicle: "Even in the worst of times during the Reagan Administration, the US envoy was careful with his words. But the current ambassador acts like he is the governor of Nicaragua."
Trivelli was confronted about his comments by Carlos Chamorro, a leading Nicaraguan television journalist and son of former Nicaraguan president Violet Chamorro, the woman who beat the Sandinistas in the 1990 election.
Chamorro said no foreign diplomat had ever acted with such "belligerence" in the nation's domestic affairs.
"Why," Chamorro asked the ambassador, "do you mention the names of the presidential candidates the US thinks well or badly of, making it appear that the US vetoes certain candidates?"
Trivelli replied: "Since [last] October we have been trying to speak in a more direct way so that people understand what our decision is. I think it is important that people have no doubts about what we think."
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Subverting Nicaraguan democracy again: