Managua, Nicaragua Sixteen years after voters swept Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua's presidency, the former Marxist icon appears to have his best chance yet for a comeback in elections scheduled for Nov. 5.
The bloc of staunch anti-Ortega voters who denied him victory by backing the rightist Liberal Party in three previous elections has been fractured by the recent emergence of popular splinter parties on both the left and the right.
Ortega, 60, whose armed revolution made him the Reagan administration's chief antagonist in the hemisphere during the 1980s, is also getting a boost this time from Washington's current bete noir in Latin America: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Among other shows of support, Chavez recently bypassed Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos and negotiated a deal directly with Ortega to sell oil to Nicaragua under a long-term credit scheme intended to free more government funds for social spending.
Yet in recent elections in Peru and Mexico, Chavez's backing has proved a mixed blessing for the losing candidates. And the shifting political landscape could prove Ortega's undoing if a breakaway Sandinista party, known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement, or MRS, manages to peel off more of Ortega's traditional supporters in the next several months.