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Can Nicaragua continue to play both sides?

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Miguel Alvarez

(Read caption) Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, top, delivers a speech during the XVII Sao Paulo Forum in Managua, Nicaragua, Thursday, May 19 2011.

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In many ways, today, the Sandinistas, or more accurately (President Daniel) Ortega, is following the same foreign policy as the Sandinistas of 1979 and the early 80s. President Ortega's Nicaragua is a member of DR-CAFTA, a free trade agreement with the Dominican Republic, other Central American states, and the US. Nicaragua is also a member of the Venezuelan and Cuban-led Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (click here for an Americas Quarterly report on ALBA). While the stakes are not nearly as high as during the Cold War, Ortega is again playing both sides.

There are a few potential scenarios that might affect Nicaragua's simultaneous participation in DR-CAFTA and ALBA. First, there might be a new occupant in the White House following the US presidential election in 2012. If the next US president takes a more hard-line approach to its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere (one that does not look kindly on Nicaragua's support for Chavez, Castro, Gadhafi, or Ahmadinejad), Ortega might be forced to choose.

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