Bolaños, Enrique (Nicaragua)
Enrique Bolaños, leader of the Constitutional Liberal Party, won the presidential elections of Nov. 2001. He assumed office in Jan. 2002, tasked with rejuvenating Nicaragua’s ailing economy, but was hampered by congressional opposition. His term of office ended in Jan. 2007.
Bolaños was born in 1928 near Managua. Having graduated from Saint Louis University in Missouri, USA, he embarked on a career in business. During the Sandinista revolution he was jailed for his criticism of the government, and his business interests were nationalized. In 1996 he was appointed vice-president in the corruption-tainted government of Arnoldo Aleman. With strong backing from the US government, and especially the governor of Florida, he stood successfully for the presidency at the elections of Nov. 2001, winning with 56.3% of the vote.
Among Bolaños’ chief election promises was the elimination of government corruption, with offenders facing prison. Former president Aleman was subsequently convicted and jailed for fraud and money laundering. However, this move cost Bolaños the support of his party’s Aleman loyalists who allied with the opposition Sandinistas to secure control of the National Assembly, leaving Bolaños politically isolated. In 2005 the Assembly sought to amend the constitution and weaken the president’s powers, leading to court action and political stalemate.
Economically, advocating a free market with low unemployment and a redeveloped infrastructure, Bolaños negotiated with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank in April 2002 to secure increased long-term financing of development projects, debt relief and structural support loans. In Jan. 2004 the World Bank agreed to cancel 80% of Nicaragua’s debt, and later in that year Russia wrote off the country’s debts incurred during the Soviet era. Bolaños also established a national development plan that sought to diversify the economy away from its traditional agricultural base.
Keen to develop relations with the USA, Bolaños vowed on election to combat drug smuggling and he supported the Bush regime in the aftermath of the 11 Sept. 2001 attacks. He subsequently signed trade agreements with the USA and other Central American countries, reducing tariffs on major exports.
With his tenure having been blighted by consistent opposition from congress, Bolaños was defeated by Daniel Ortega of the Sandanistas at the general election of 5 Nov. 2006. He was expected to play a prominent role in opposition. Instead, he retired from politics and established a foundation that aims to maintains a virtual library gathering documents on Nicaragua’s history and politics.