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The Sandinistas assumed power on July 19 promising to maintain a mixed economy a nonaligned foreign policy and a pluralist political system On Jan 23 1981 the Reagan administration suspended US aid charging that Nicaragua with the aid of Cuba and the Soviet Union was supplying arms to rebels in El Salvador The Sandinistas denied the charges Later that year Nicaraguan guerrillas known as Contras began a war to overthrow the Sandinistas The elections were finally held on Nov 4 1984 with Daniel Ortega the Sandinista junta coordinator winning the presidency The war intensified in 198687 with the resupplied Contras establishing themselves inside the country Negotiations sponsored by the Contadora neutral Latin American nations foundered but a peace plan sponsored by Arias the Costa Rican president led to a treaty that was signed by the Central American leaders in Aug 1987 Violetta Barrios de Chamorro owner of the opposition paper La Prensa led a broad anti-Sandinista coalition to victory in the presidential and legislative elections of 1990 ending 11 years of Sandinista rule After a year in office however President Chamorro found herself besieged Business groups were dissatisfied with the pace of reforms Sandinistas upset with what they regarded as the dismantling of their earlier achievements threatened to take up arms again In Feb 1991 the president brought the military under her direct command By early 1993 relations between the president and the coalition that backed her had soured over charges of corruption and the continuing influence of the Sandinistas on the government and the army Former Managua mayor and Conservative candidate Arnoldo Aleman won the 1996 election His closest rival was former president and Sandinista Daniel Ortega In 1998 Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua killing more than 9000 people leaving 2 million people homeless and causing 10 billion in damages Many Nicaraguans fled to the US which had extended an immigration amnesty program lasting until July 1999 to Nicaraguans
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