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Group Slams Ortega Ahead of Nicaraguan Vote

Three days before Nicaragua’s November 5 presidential election, a Jewish-affiliated group issued a statement blasting the front-runner and eventual victor, leftist Daniel Ortega, for being a child abuser.

U.N. Watch, which is connected to the American Jewish Committee, expressed “concern that an individual credibly accused of incest and child abuse is a candidate in this Sunday’s ballot for Nicaragua’s next president,” the statement said. “The election of former president Daniel Ortega — whose own colleagues substantiated accusations that he sexually abused his stepdaughter when she was a child — could send a negative message and prejudice international efforts to protect children.”

Ortega, a revolutionary Marxist who battled a Contra insurgency in the 1980s that was backed by the Reagan administration, emerged as a winner, according to election results published Tuesday. He maintains an open friendship with another nemesis of Washington, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, fueling concerns that he will align himself with the leftist anti-American front in Latin America. The United States has criticized Ortega throughout the campaign and threatened to cut aid to the country if he took power.

Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, rejected the notion that the group’s statement condemning Ortega was politically motivated. “Our statement speaks for itself,” Hillel wrote in an e-mail to the Forward. “We took up this public case of child abuse because the universal problem is a compelling human rights issue on which we are now engaged… We issued the press release about Mr. Ortega as soon as his particular record came to our attention. The matter is already well-known to all Nicaraguans so there was no ‘political’ intent on our part… When an acknowledged child abuser becomes a world leader, or is about to be, U.N. Watch and other human rights groups active on this issue are obliged to speak out.”

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