Enrique Bolaños, the previous Nicaraguan president who noticed his predecessor convicted of corruption and drove financial growth throughout a short interval of democratic transition, died on June 14 at his dwelling in Masaya, Nicaragua. He was 93.
His demise was confirmed by his son Enrique Bolaños Abaunza, who stated his father had been handled for emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.
As soon as 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 operating mate.
His demise comes at a critical time for Nicaragua. His successor as president, Daniel Ortega, has in latest 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 ethical integrity and his dedication to establishments,” stated Mateo Jarquín, an assistant professor of historical past at Chapman College in California. Given the present crackdown, Mr. Jarquín added, “His time period will probably be remembered with lots of nostalgia.”
Born in Masaya, in western Nicaragua, on Could 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 College in Missouri, and later studied on the INCAE Enterprise Faculty in Nicaragua.
In 1949 he married Lila Abaunza, whom he had met after they had been youngsters. Ms. Abaunza died in 2008, and in line with the youthful Mr. Bolaños, his father was nonetheless sporting a marriage ring at his demise.
“He used to say he had married for all times,” Mr. Bolaños Jr. stated. “And that meant everlasting life, not simply earthly life.”
The couple had 5 youngsters. The youngest, Alberto, died in a automotive 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 operating a milk manufacturing facility and a shoe manufacturing facility. He discovered his best monetary success within the cotton trade, creating one of many largest cotton consortiums within the nation.
Within the Eighties, he headed quite a few necessary commerce associations, together with the nation’s primary enterprise foyer, the Superior Council of Non-public Enterprise. That function gave him an necessary platform, and he quickly grew to become one of the vocal critics of the leftist Sandinistas, who had seized energy in 1979.
“Essentially the most highly effective voice from the enterprise world in Nicaragua by means of instances of large repression was the voice of Don Enrique Bolaños,” stated Joel Gutiérrez, who had identified the Bolaños household for the reason that Nineteen Seventies and labored as Mr. Bolaños’s press secretary throughout his presidency.
However being so outspoken got here at a value. Mr. Bolaños was jailed twice by the Sandinistas, and in 1985 the state seized a lot of his enterprise belongings and properties.
“He needed to begin over from scratch,” his son stated. “He reinvented himself a number of instances.”
In 1996, he was chosen as Arnoldo Alemán’s operating mate by the Liberal Alliance, which regardless of its title 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 gained; Mr. Ortega was once more defeated. Throughout 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 centered on liberalizing the nation’s economic 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 USA.
“He would work from very early within the morning at dwelling, from 5 within the morning,” stated Avil Ramírez, who was Mr. Bolaños’s non-public secretary and later grew to become protection minister. He labored “till late at night time,” Mr. Ramírez stated, “even though he grew to become president at 73.”
Nonetheless, for all his laborious 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 carry many Nicaraguans out of poverty.
“It was a interval of financial progress,” Mr. Jarquín, the historical past professor, stated of Nicaragua’s democratic governments. “But additionally of rising inequality, which grew to become fertile floor for the dictatorship of Ortega.”
Mr. Ortega retook the presidency in 2006, profitable with simply 38 p.c of the vote because of authorized adjustments pushed by means 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 necessary paperwork from his presidency and past. It has change into one of the necessary 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 stated. “He made an enormous effort to get right into a routine and be capable of overcome that ache he had day-after-day.”
Along with 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, usually in probably the most brutal methods. In 2018, greater than 320 individuals had been killed during protests towards him, the worst political violence in Latin America in 30 years.
In latest weeks the crackdown has intensified, with politicians, enterprise executives and others detained and journalists questioned or intimidated, in what would look 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 ethical disaster,” Mr. Bolaños told a local news outlet in 2019, including: “We will’t idiot ourselves — to create a Nicaragua we dream of, now we have to defeat the nice vices which have traditionally characterised our society.” In any other case, he added, “the long run will probably be extra of the identical.”