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Sandinista leader Ortega taking oath for 3rd term as president of Nicaragua
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) ' Daniel Ortega was starting his third term as president of Nicaragua on Tuesday, shrugging off opposition complaints the re-election was illegal and vowing to govern with moderation.
Presidents from all other Central American nations were attending the inauguration, but the most notable visitor was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is touring the region to bolster his country's alliances in Washington's neighborhood at a moment of sharp disputes with the U.S.
Ortega was a socialist firebrand when he headed the Sandinista rebels who toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. The U.S. government, enmeshed in the Cold War, tried to overthrow him by backing Contra rebels, but he eventually was voted out of office in 1990.
Ortega is still a firm ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's communist government, but he has worked to maintain ties with Washington. He signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and has cultivated relations with the Roman Catholic Church and Nicaragua's business sector. He also has boosted his popularity by creating dozens of programs for the poor in a country where more than 40 percent of the people live on less than $2 a day.
Ortega has promised to follow a moderate path in his third term, even though his Sandinista party dominates Nicaragua's legislature.
Still, critics allege he aims to become president for life, using courts and electoral institutions that are stacked with Sandinista appointees. The Supreme Court ruled that Ortega could seek re-election though the country's constitution forbids it.
Despite that controversy, the 66-year-old Ortega won 64 percent of the vote in November, though opposition parties allege that total was inflated by fraud.