January 21, 2007 / 10:51 AM / 13 years ago

Bush congratulates new Nicaraguan President Ortega

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush congratulated by telephone once bitter U.S. foe Daniel Ortega on his election as Nicaraguan president, the White House said on Monday.

Ortega won the November ballot despite American support for his opponent. He led the 1979 Marxist revolution there and his Sandinistas spent years fighting a civil war against U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

After his election, Ortega slammed the United States for the Iraq war and is close to other Latin American leaders who have been critical of the Bush administration, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

During the call, Bush and Ortega discussed areas of cooperation, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account which aids developing free-market democracies, said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

“The president also noted that reconciliation, unity, democracy, and job creation — the agenda outlined in Daniel Ortega’s election platform — are areas for possible cooperation,” Johndroe said.

Ortega has tried to ease concerns over his domestic plans by offering to work with former enemies in rebuilding a country devastated by the Contra war. He has dropped his Marxist past and pledged to avoid radical changes in the economy.

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