Enrique Bolaños, Former President of Nicaragua, Dies at 93

Enrique Bolaños, the previous Nicaraguan president who noticed his predecessor convicted of corruption and drove financial improvement throughout a quick interval of democratic transition, died on June 14 at his residence in Masaya, Nicaragua. He was 93.

His dying was confirmed by his son Enrique Bolaños Abaunza, who mentioned his father had been handled for emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.

Once a number one determine of the anti-Sandinista opposition and later, as president from 2002 to 2007, hailed as a staunch defender of democratic norms, Mr. Bolaños was extensively seen as an elder statesman so dedicated to driving out corruption that he even took down his former working mate.

His dying comes at a critical time for Nicaragua. His successor as president, Daniel Ortega, has in current weeks presided over a nationwide crackdown, arresting greater than a dozen politicians and civic leaders forward of elections to be held in November.

“He’s going to be remembered for his honesty, his moral integrity and his commitment to institutions,” mentioned Mateo Jarquín, an assistant professor of historical past at Chapman University in California. Given the present crackdown, Mr. Jarquín added, “His term will be remembered with a lot of nostalgia.”

Born in Masaya, in western Nicaragua, on May 13, 1928, Enrique Bolaños Geyer was the third of 4 sons. His father, Nicolás Bolaños Cortés, was a businessman who ran a pharmacy and cultivated espresso and livestock; his mom, Amanda Geyer Abaunza, was a homemaker.

Mr. Bolaños attended the Monseñor Lezcano and Cardenal Juan Cagliero colleges in Masaya, in addition to the Colegio Centro América, a storied non-public Roman Catholic faculty in Granada. He graduated with a level in engineering from Saint Louis University in Missouri, and later studied at the INCAE Business School in Nicaragua.

In 1949 he married Lila Abaunza, whom he had met after they had been youngsters. Ms. Abaunza died in 2008, and in keeping with the youthful Mr. Bolaños, his father was nonetheless carrying a marriage ring at his dying.

“He used to say he had married for life,” Mr. Bolaños Jr. mentioned. “And that meant eternal life, not just earthly life.”

The couple had 5 kids. The youngest, Alberto, died in a automobile accident in 1976 when he was 16, a loss that affected Mr. Bolaños deeply.

Over the following few many years, Mr. Bolaños labored in a number of industries, together with working a milk manufacturing unit and a shoe manufacturing unit. He discovered his best monetary success within the cotton trade, creating one of the biggest cotton consortiums within the nation.

In the 1980s, he headed quite a few vital commerce associations, together with the nation’s essential enterprise foyer, the Superior Council of Private Business. That position gave him an vital platform, and he quickly turned one of essentially the most vocal critics of the leftist Sandinistas, who had seized energy in 1979.

“The most powerful voice from the business world in Nicaragua through times of tremendous repression was the voice of Don Enrique Bolaños,” mentioned Joel Gutiérrez, who had identified the Bolaños household for the reason that 1970s and labored as Mr. Bolaños’s press secretary throughout his presidency.

But being so outspoken got here at a price. Mr. Bolaños was jailed twice by the Sandinistas, and in 1985 the state seized a lot of his enterprise belongings and properties.

“He had to start over from scratch,” his son mentioned. “He reinvented himself several times.”

In 1996, he was chosen as Arnoldo Alemán’s working mate by the Liberal Alliance, which regardless of its identify is a conservative coalition, and which went on to defeat Mr. Ortega’s Sandinistas in elections that yr. As vp, he was charged with overseeing the nation’s response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch.

Mr. Bolaños ran for president in 2001 and received; Mr. Ortega was once more defeated. During his presidency Mr. Bolaños launched a far-reaching anti-corruption investigation, which resulted within the arrest of his predecessor, Mr. Alemán, though he was later absolved underneath Mr. Ortega’s authorities.

As president, Mr. Bolaños targeted on liberalizing the nation’s financial system, popularizing the phrase “Let’s roll up our sleeves.” He managed to get a lot of Nicaragua’s debt forgiven and promoted a free-trade settlement between Central America and the United States.

“He would work from very early in the morning at home, from 5 in the morning,” mentioned Avil Ramírez, who was Mr. Bolaños’s non-public secretary and later turned protection minister. He labored “until late at night,” Mr. Ramírez mentioned, “despite the fact that he became president at 73.”

Still, for all his exhausting work, Mr. Bolaños discovered a lot of his agenda stymied by fierce opposition in Congress, which remained loyal to each his predecessor, Mr. Alemán, and his longtime rival, Mr. Ortega. Critics additionally contended that he did little to raise many Nicaraguans out of poverty.

“It was a period of economic growth,” Mr. Jarquín, the historical past professor, mentioned of Nicaragua’s democratic governments. “But also of growing inequality, which became fertile ground for the dictatorship of Ortega.”

Mr. Ortega retook the presidency in 2006, profitable with simply 38 p.c of the vote due to authorized adjustments pushed by way of by Mr. Alemán in 1998 in a doubtful pact with Mr. Ortega that allowed presidential candidates to be declared victorious with a minimal of 35 p.c help.

Mr. Bolaños then largely retreated from public life, dedicating a lot of his time to creating a web-based library, which bears his name, that holds digitized copies of vital paperwork from his presidency and past. It has grow to be one of crucial archives of Nicaraguan historical past and tradition.

His later years had been marked by tragedy: Between 2005 and 2008, he misplaced two extra sons, one to a stroke and the opposite to leukemia, and his spouse died of most cancers.

“It affected him enormously,” his son mentioned. “He made a huge effort to get into a routine and be able to overcome that pain he had every day.”

In addition to his son Enrique, Mr. Bolaños is survived by a daughter, Lucía, in addition to 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Bolaños was additionally pained having to observe Mr. Ortega cement his rule, typically in essentially the most brutal methods. In 2018, greater than 320 folks had been killed during protests in opposition to him, the worst political violence in Latin America in 30 years.

In current weeks the crackdown has intensified, with politicians, enterprise executives and others detained and journalists questioned or intimidated, in what would seem like additional makes an attempt to demolish the fragile democracy that Mr. Bolaños had sought to protect.

“Nicaragua is immersed in a profound state of political, social and moral crisis,” Mr. Bolaños told a local news outlet in 2019, including: “We can’t fool ourselves — to create a Nicaragua we dream of, we have to defeat the great vices that have historically characterized our society.” Otherwise, he added, “the future will be more of the same.”

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