Ortega sworn in again as protestors fume over "illegal" election victory

President's Sandinista party assumes full control of National Assembly

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was sworn in on Tuesday to a controversial third term in a high-profile inauguration ceremony held under heavy security and attended by controversial leaders, notably Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The capital Managua had the look of a city under siege with more than 15,000 police officers guarding Revolution Plaza where the ceremony took place.

Having won re-election for his second consecutive term in office, Ortega has taken complete control of the National Assembly with little opposition. On Monday, lawmakers of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) took office in the assembly where they also elected their new leadership for the next five years. The opposition, which holds 26 seats compared to the FSLN's 63 deputies, boycotted the session.

A protest against the prince's visit was held outside the Spanish Embassy

Observers, including those from the European Union, say the November 6 elections were plagued with irregularities, such as missing voter registrations, and were not transparent in some regions of the country. Ortega has enough support to push through his political agenda, including a reform of the Constitution that may open up the possibility of further re-election.

Before November's poll, the former Sandinista guerrilla, who helped topple the pro-US dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, lifted term limits through a controversial political reform, which was supported by the courts and allowed him to run for re-election. The Constitution, however, bars presidents from serving consecutive terms. Ortega first served in office from 1985 to 1990 and was elected to a second term in 2006.

At his swearing-in ceremony the Nicaraguan leader was received by his supporters and dozens of dignitaries, including Prince Felipe of Spain, who said his country would continue its cooperation with Nicaragua. The prince's visit, however, sparked controversy among Ortega's critics who say that the Spanish royal's presence could be interpreted as conferring legitimacy to the electoral fraud that they say swept him to power. Demonstrators, who claim that Ortega's re-election was in violation of the Constitution, held a protest outside the Spanish Embassy in Managua.

Ortega also met with Ahmadinejad, who is currently on a four-nation tour of Latin America. "People have tried to give many interpretations to the visit of [Ahmadinejad]. I think they still don't understand that it is necessary to look for an authentic path toward peace," Ortega said.

This was the Iranian leader's second visit to Nicaragua. During his first visit in 2006, which also coincided with Ortega's inauguration, Ahmadinejad promised great infrastructure projects for the Central American nation, including forgiving a $152-million debt it holds with Iran. But until now, none of those promises have been fulfilled. According to the Nicaraguan Central Bank, Iranian cooperation has only amounted to $300,000 since 2007.

Nicaragua does not have much to offer Iran beyond public support for its anti-American stance. Despite Nicaragua's anti-Washington rhetoric, the United States remains its major trading partner.

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