Ortega faces sex abuse case from his stepdaughter

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The Independent Online
WHILE Nicaragua's former president, Daniel Ortega, was in New York for UN General Assembly sessions in the Eighties, he regularly forced sex on his teenage stepdaughter in hotel closets, she alleged yesterday.

The stepdaughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez, now 30, made this and a 48-page list of other sexual abuse allegations against Mr Ortega, who is still the leader of the Sandinista Party, at a Managua news conference before filing civil and criminal charges against him in a Managua court.

In her affidavit, she said her stepfather pulled her into hotel room clothes cupboards to rape her because he feared the CIA, during the Ronald Reagan era when revolutionary Nicaragua was seen as a thorn in the America's flesh, had planted spy cameras in his hotel rooms. Claiming that having sex with him was her "revolutionary duty, to give him spiritual tranquility so that he could better fulfil the high obligations thrust upon him by history," the former president often invited a third person to join in, she said.

Even after she was married in 1990, Mr Ortega, now 52 and a father of eight children, would call her for phone sex. Sometimes he insisted on listening on the telephone while she made love with her husband. It was still her "revolutionary duty." He continued making sexual propositions to her until early this year, she said.

In the affidavit, Ms Narvaez, daughter of Mr Ortega's longtime wife, Rosario Murillo, detailed a dozen years of sexual abuse she said began when she was 11, a year before the Sandinista revolution toppled the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza in 1979.

Mr Ortega, who was re-elected leader of the opposition Sandinistas last weekend, made no immediate comment. However, he has not denied the charges since they were first made, more vaguely, by Mrs Narvaez to the local media in March. At that time she did not intend to press charges but changed her mind after a series of attacks by Sandinista officials calling her "mentally deranged".

Mr Ortega's wife, a leading Nicaraguan poet, has denounced her daughter's accusations as "totally false". A Sandinista party spokesman, Silvio Mora, yesterday described Mrs Narvaez, who is herself a Sandinista activist, as "capricious and traumatised" and said Mr Ortega may sue her for libel.

The court will decide if there is enough evidence to prosecute Mr Ortega, widely known, even to his opponents, only as Daniel. At present he enjoys immunity from prosecution as a party leader in the National Assembly. The Assembly would have to strip him of immunity for the case to go forward, unlikely at present though possible if the court gives credence to the allegations.

Mrs Narvaez's biological father - Rosario Murillo's first husband - died when she was a child. She was raised by her mother and by Mr Ortega. But while the couple travelled the world on state visits, taking the girl along, the Sandinista leader took advantage of his stepdaughter, according to the affidavit.

Rumours had been rife in Nicaragua for years that Mr Ortega had had sexual relations with Mrs Narvaez, now a mother of two small children. But her charges angered many Sandinistas, to whom Mr Ortega is still the revolutionary hero. Some felt the allegations were part of a political conspiracy against him at a time when the Sandinistas are at a low ebb, having been out of power for eight years.

Mr Ortega lost the last two presidential elections to the right-wing Violeta Chamorro in 1990 and then to current President Arnoldo Aleman in 1996. Despite his recent re-election as the head of the Sandinistas, few believe he would have run for president again in the year 2002, even without the sexual abuse allegations.

In the affidavit, Mrs Narvaez said the sexual abuse began when she was 11 and living with Ortega and her mother in guerrilla camps in neighbouring Costa Rica during the final stages of the Sandinista war against Somoza. What began as fondling escalated to rape in 1982 when Mr Ortega was president, she claimed. "He threw me down on the rug, where he not only pawed me but, with aggressive and brusque movements, damaged me. The whole act was forced. It was without my pleasure or consent. This I swear."

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