Violeta Chamorro, the U.S.-backed candidate who surprised the world with her election victory over President Daniel Ortega two months ago, assumed the Nicaraguan presidency Wednesday, ending more than a decade of leftist Sandinista rule.
Chamorro was given the oath of office by newly elected National Assembly President Miriam Arguello, and Ortega then removed the blue and white presidential sash from himself and placed it over Chamorro.Earlier, Chamorro, dressed in a white suit and supported by crutches she uses because of a broken knee, arrived for the inaugural ceremonies at a crowded outdoor stadium in a white pickup truck. Supporters greeted her with chants of "UNO, UNO," the Spanish acronym of her National Opposition Union coalition.
She was welcomed by Ortega, who had entered the stadium earlier to loud applause and the waving of red and black flags, the colors of his Sandinista National Liberation Front. Ortega, dressed in black jeans and a red shirt, had a blue and white banner draped across his chest - the colors of the Nicaraguan flag and the banner of Chamorro's UNO coalition.
As Chamorro arrived in the stadium before the start of the ceremonies, the two leaders embraced. Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo led a prayer to begin the ceremonies.
The ceremonies were attended by Vice President Dan Quayle and 11 heads of state, including all the Central American presidents.
Quayle, his wife, Marilyn, and other members of the U.S. delegation arrived at the stadium in a black limousine an hour ahead of the inaugural.
There was applause at first, but then some of the crowd began to chant "Assassin, assassin" and "Here, there, the Yankee will die" _ apparent references to U.S. backing for the now-ended Contra insurgence against Sandinista rule.
Chamorro, a one-time member of the Sandinista-led junta whose presidential candidacy was a tribute to the memory of her assassinated husband, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, defeated Ortega in the Feb. 25 elections. She garnered 55 percent of the vote to Ortega's 41 percent in the Feb. 25 election.
Hours before she was to be inaugurated, a controversy over who would be the next chief of staff of the army created divisions with Chamorro's UNO coalition.
Newly named Agriculture Minister Jaime Cuadra and Construction Minister Gilberto Cuadra announced they would not accept their posts if Sandinista Defense Minister Humberto Ortega, brother of Daniel Ortega, remains as head of the largely Sandinista armed forces.
On Tuesday, the Political Council of the 14-party UNO coalition also said it was unacceptable for Ortega to remain as chief of staff. Reliable political sources told UPI Wednesday that Chamorro had apparently agreed to keep Humberto Ortega as army chief of staff while naming a new defense minister.
In Washington, White House Marlin Fitzwater reacted to reports of Chamorro's decision to retain Ortega, saying, "That's a decision that she has every right to make."
Chamorro has fought the Sandinistas for most of the past decade and has used her late husband's newspaper, La Prensa, as a mouthpiece for that criticism. Her husband, a leading critic of the Somoza regime, was assassinated in 1978, and his death helped spark the Sandinista revolution that brought Ortega to power.