The Miami Herald
Feb. 17, 2002

'There is a feeling of hope'

                      Nicaraguan leader's priority is more jobs

                      Enrique Bolaños, a former anti-Sandinista activist who was Nicaragua's vice president, took over as
                      president Jan. 10 amid much anticipation and expectation. After beating Sandinista leader Daniel
                      Ortega in a crushing victory, Bolaños pledged to combat corruption and bring employment to a nation
                      where nearly half the people are without steady work.

                      Bolaños spoke recently with Managua Bureau Chief Frances Robles about his plans for governing and
                      increasing investment in his country.

                      Q: Why do you think there is such a buzz in the air over your election?

                      A: First of all, on the 4th of November, Nicaragua did something historic for Central America and the
                      world: More than 93 percent of the voters went to the polls -- in a country where voting is not

                      mandatory. Second, that victory was a mandate. There was a 14 percent spread between first- and
                      second-place winners. It's what in English you call a landslide.

                      Third, during the campaign I did not promise anything. I did not tell anyone they could have anything. I
                      didn't say: ''I will give you this'' or ''I will solve all problems.'' What I offered Nicaraguans is help. What I
                      said was, ''Nicaraguans, roll up your sleeves and work for your benefits.'' People will be successful
                      because of their own efforts.

                      For the first time, the next day after an inauguration, there was an investors' forum here. First time. We
                      sent invitations to 300 people, and 400 came. That means there is a feeling of hope in this new era.

                      Q: What are investors' fears?

                      A: Investors invest to make money. That's what motivates them. To make profits, they need personal
                      security. In this country, they don't need to go around with bodyguards. I am going to ensure clear
                      rules of the game, and for when there are differences, courts that guarantee correct decisions.

                      Q: How do you change something so fundamental?

                      A: Through the will of the people. We are mobilizing people. I think there were more than 20,000
                      people at my inauguration celebration -- the newspaper claims 10,000 -- people who came by their own
                      will on foot or by paying bus fare. There is great enthusiasm by the people. The people want to make
                      changes; they will make changes.

                      Q: Wouldn't those kind of changes have to be made by the government? The people don't run the

                      A: The people will make these things happen. It can succeed. It has succeeded in other countries.

                      Q: What are the biggest economic problems Nicaragua faces?

                      A: The gravest problem is unemployment, undeniably. Nicaragua is a poor country. Well, not a poor
                      country -- an impoverished country. Money that in 1979 was worth seven cordobas for the dollar
                      reached 25 billion cordobas to the dollar. I am not exaggerating the zeros, nor am I mistaken. Foreign
                      debt that was equal to two years of our annual exports reached the value of 48 years of exports --
                      impossible to pay. Half a century of exportations to pay debt? That brings poverty.

                      When there's an accident on the corner, the car's bumper winds up dented. You can leave it the way it
                      was -- it takes a lot of work to fix it. Our economy was damaged. Rehabilitating it, putting it back to how
                      it was, takes years. I don't expect or promise to cure all the economy's ills in five years.

                      Nicaragua is in the center of Central America. It takes less time to get to Managua from Miami than from
                      Miami to Washington. We are two hours from the largest port and international market ever.

                      Investors are convinced. They were waiting for this administration's inauguration. Payless is coming
                      with 6,500 jobs, and in two years, they will have different factories in different parts of the country with
                      20,000 jobs. Yasaki is bringing an electrical parts factory with a little more than 5,000 jobs. Then there
                      is Hotel Pacifico, a $42 million investment.

                      In the campaign we said, ''More jobs.'' The slogan was, ''With Bolaños, more jobs. Yes, we can.'' We are
                      proving that yes, we can.

                      Q: Do you have any specific target goals?

                      A: My specific goal is 450,000 [additional] jobs in five years.

                      Q: Can you do it?

                      A: In five years, you will attend my going-away speech where I will say, ''Yes, we could.'' It will be a
                      short speech, two or three minutes. You don't have to talk a lot to say, ``Yes, we could.''

                      Q: Does all this expectation make you nervous? Maybe this is a mission nobody can complete.

                      A: Why do you say nobody can do it? The people of Nicaragua can. Nobody in the world has ever seen
                      93 percent of its voters at the polls. Nicaragua did that; Nicaragua can do a lot of things.

                      Q: How is your relationship with former president Arnoldo Alemán, particularly since you supported
                      his opponent, Liberal Party President Jaime Cuadra, to be president of the National Assembly?

                      A: I don't think I supported Jaime Cuadra. I am highly respectful of separation of powers. This is the
                      executive, that is the legislative. What I said was that it would be an honor if Jaime Cuadra became
                      president of the assembly. I said that for two reasons: We have been friends since childhood. Second:
                      He is honorary president of my party and has not reached a high position in government. All the others
                      have. He deserves a high position.

                      Q: Wasn't that politically risky for you?

                      A: To say that it was an honor? I don't see it that way. It doesn't have a major political gain or loss.

                      Q: Getting back to the question, how is your relationship with Alemán?

                      A: Same as before the elections. For journalists, since I became vice president, they have said we were
                      at odds every day. . . . Nobody ever saw a fight between us. What happens is that we are talking
                      about two people with a certain degree of minimal intelligence who express their opinions. We had a
                      difference of opinions in a few things. That's natural in a democracy.

                      Q: Now that he is president of the assembly, will it be harder for you to govern?

                      A: With him as president of the assembly, and the clout he has with the rest of the Liberal Party, it will
                      be much easier to pass legislation.

                      Q: You've talked a lot of battling corruption. How will you do it?

                      A: First of all, I have never been accused of doing something dishonest or that wasn't transparent. In
                      any ministry in the entire country, generally the functionaries act in the example of the head of state. If
                      ministers are dishonest, the people will act in that manner. My government will act in the aura I project.
                      I will not tolerate any corruption. Under my government, everyone will be the same under the law.

                      Q: If you only accomplish one thing, what would it be?

                      A: More jobs. We live in a market economy. Everyone has a right to work and everyone has a right to
                      happiness. You get that through sweat. That gives dignity and prosperity. Work is most important.