Arnoldo Alemán

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Arnoldo Alemán
President of Nicaragua
In office
10 January 1997 – 10 January 2002
Vice PresidentEnrique Bolaños Geyer (1997-2000)
Leopoldo Navarro Bermúdez (2000-2002)
Preceded byVioleta Barrios de Chamorro
Succeeded byEnrique Bolaños Geyer
President of the National Assembly of Nicaragua
In office
9 January 2002 – 19 September 2002
Preceded byÓscar Moncada
Succeeded byJaime Cuadra Somarriba
Mayor of Managua
In office
26 April 1990 – 20 September 1995
Preceded byCarlos Carrión Cruz
Succeeded byRoberto Cedeño
Personal details
José Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo

(1946-01-23) 23 January 1946 (age 77)
Managua, Nicaragua
Political partyConstitutionalist Liberal Party (until 2021)
SpouseMaría Fernanda Flores Lanzas
Alma materNational Autonomous University of Nicaragua

José Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo (born 23 January 1946[1]) is a Nicaraguan politician who served as the 81st president of Nicaragua from 10 January 1997 to 10 January 2002.[1] In 2003, he was convicted of corruption and sentenced to a 20-year prison term; the conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Nicaragua in 2009.[2]

Early life[edit]

Alemán was born in Managua and received his early education at the La Salle institute in Managua. His father was a prominent lawyer who was an associate of the 1970s Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and served as Somoza's minister of education for a period, and the family owned a large coffee plantation south of Managua.[citation needed]

In 1967 he graduated with a law degree from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua-León with specializations in regional economic integration and financial law. Between 1968 and 1979, he worked as a lawyer in the commercial and banking world. He became an official in the government of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1980 he was arrested by the Sandinista junta, had some of his property seized and spent nine months in prison. The period of his arrest coincided with the death of his father. This kept him from attending his father's funeral.[3] After he was released from prison, he spent some time in the United States.

Upon his return to Nicaragua, Alemán became heavily involved in business, political, and academic activities. He was a member of the Consejo Superior de la Empresa Privada (COSEP, 1988–1990), vice-president of the Unión de Productores Agropecuarios de Nicaragua (UPANIC, 1986–1990). He was president of the Asociación de Cafetaleros de Managua (1983–1990); the Unión de Cafetaleros de Nicaragua (UNCAFENIC, 1986–1990); the Federación de Municipios de América Central (1992–1993) and of the Federación Municipal de Ciudades de Centroamérica (1993–1995). He also imparted conferences at Tulane University and at Florida International University in the United States.[3]

Political career[edit]

In the early 1990s he became mayor of Managua after serving for two months as a councillor in Managua. He was popular due to his urban renewal projects which helped spruce up the city, severely damaged and never rebuilt after a 1972 earthquake. He became known as "El Gordo" ("The Fat Man").

Alemán became president of the Liberal Alliance and helped to resurrect it. Besides the PLC, other members of this alliance were the Partidos Neoliberal (PALI), Liberal Independiente de Unidad Nacional (PLIUN) and the Liberal Nacionalista (PLN). On 1 September 1995 he resigned as mayor in order to be able, under Nicaraguan law, to stand as a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election.[3]

In 1996 he campaigned for president as the Liberal Alliance's candidate under a strong anti-Sandinista platform. It is reported that unidentified individuals attempted to shoot Alemán, killing one of his bodyguards in the process.[4] He defeated Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader, by 48% of the vote to Ortega's 40%. Many claimed widespread election fraud and Ortega refused to concede.

Alemán was successful in promoting economic recovery with reduced inflation and growth of GDP. Foreign investment grew during his administration, which helped to improve Nicaragua's infrastructure.[citation needed] Under his slogan of "Obras, no palabras!" ("Actions, not words"), Alemán directed a comprehensive reconstruction of the roadway system throughout Nicaragua. In the 1980s roads had deteriorated to the point that many were little more than sparsely paved dirt trails. Alemán also created a program to build schools throughout Nicaragua in some of the poorest regions.

He has participated in international conferences and awards given to him include the Orden Nacional al Mérito of the Colombian government and the Orden de Isabel la Católica of the Spanish government.

His first wife, Maria Dolores Cardenal Vargas died of cancer in 1989. Alemán has two sons and two daughters by his first wife.[3] On 23 October 1999, ten years after the death of his first wife, he married Maria Fernanda Flores Lanzas, with whom he has two daughters and a son.[citation needed]

Electoral history[edit]

Elections for mayor of Managua 1990[edit]

Managua mayor elected by acclamation of the Managua City Council 26 April 1990.

Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo, a lawyer by profession, was one of the 20 councilors of the National Opposition Union (UNO), elected for a term of six years in general elections and municipals of 25 February 1990, these 20 councilors, 16 belonged for the UNO, and the other 4 the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Subsequently, at its first session, the city council chose from among its members the mayor of Managua in the person of Dr. Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo and mayor substitute functions of vice mayor, in the person of Roberto Cedeño Borgen engineer.[5]

Presidential election results, 20 October 1996[edit]

Candidate Party Votes %
Arnoldo Alemán Liberal Alliance 896,207 50.99
Daniel Ortega Sandinista National Liberation Front 664,909 37.83
Guillermo Antonio Osorno Molina Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path 71,908 4.09
Noel José Vidaurre Argüello Conservative Party of Nicaragua 39,983 2.27
Benjamin Ramón Lanzas Selva National Project 9,265 0.53
Sergio Ramírez Sandinista Renovation Movement 7,665 0.44
Francisco José Mayorga Balladares Bread and Strength Alliance (PAN–ASR) 7,102 0.40
Francisco José Duarte Tapia National Conservative Action 6,178 0.35
Edgar Enrique Quiñónes Tuckler Nicaraguan Resistance Party 5,813 0.33
Andrés Abelino Robles Pérez Nicaraguan Workers, Peasants and Professionals Unity Party 5,789 0.33
Virgilio Godoy Independent Liberal Party 5,692 0.32
Jorge Alberto Díaz Cruz National Justice Party 5,582 0.32
Alejandro Serrano Caldera Unity Alliance 4,873 0.28
Elí Altamirano Communist Party of Nicaragua 4,802 0.27
Miriam Auxiliadora Argüello Morales Popular Conservative Alliance 4,632 0.26
Ausberto Narváez Argüello Liberal Unity Party 3,887 0.22
Alfredo César Aguirre UNO-96 Alliance (PND–MAC–MDN) 3,664 0.21
Allan Antonio Tefel Alba National Renovation Movement 2,641 0.15
James Odnith Webster Pitts Democratic Action Party 1,895 0.11
Sergio Abilio Mendieta Castillo Central American Integrationist Party 1,653 0.09
Issa Moises Hassán Morales Renovating Action Movement 1,393 0.08
Gustavo Ernesto Tablada Zelaya Nicaraguan Socialist Party 1,352 0.08
Roberto Urcuyo Muñoz Nicaraguan Democratic Party 890 0.05
Invalid/blank votes 91,587
Total 1,849,362 100
Registered voters/turnout 2,421,067 76.39
Source: Nohlen

Presidential election results, 6 November 2011[edit]

Candidate Party/Alliance Votes %
Daniel Ortega Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) 1,569,287 62.46
Fabio Gadea Mantilla Independent Liberal Party (PLI) 778,889 31.00
José Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) 148,507 5.91
Edgar Enrique Quiñónez Tuckler Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) 10,003 0.40
Róger Antonio Guevara Mena Alliance for the Republic (APRE) 5,898 0.23
Total valid votes 2,512,584 100.00

Corruption charges and conviction[edit]

Presidential styles of
Arnoldo Alemán
Reference styleEl Honorable Arnoldo Alemán, Presidente de la República de Nicaragua The Honorable Arnoldo Aleman, President of the Republic of Nicaragua
Spoken stylePresidente Alemán President Aleman
Alternative styleSeñor Presidente Mister President

Alemán, constitutionally barred from another term, was succeeded by his vice president, Enrique Bolaños. Allegations emerged that Alemán had concealed massive corruption in his administration. At the end of his presidency, public information about alleged corruption committed under his government became available.[6][7]

Bolaños accused Alemán of widespread corruption in the Alemán administration. The scheme was reported to have involved several members of Arnoldo Alemán's closest family, including a brother and sister.[citation needed] Ex–ministers and close friends were also charged, some of whom fled the country. However, one of the central figures in the corruption plot, the former chief of the Department of Taxes Byron Jeréz, was imprisoned "on the basis of another charge of corruption. All in all, fourteen persons were charged."[8][9] Several foreign governments froze Alemán's bank accounts in their countries and threatened to confiscate the funds. In such cases, his defense has been to claim that the funds were not stolen, but that they came from his coffee plantations.[10]

Alemán was formally charged in December 2002, and on 7 December 2003 he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term for a string of crimes including money laundering, embezzlement and corruption.[11] During his trial, prosecutors produced evidence showing that he and his wife had made extremely large charges to government credit cards, "including a $13,755 bill for the Ritz Carlton hotel in Bali and $68,506 for hotel expenses and handicrafts in India."[12] In addition prosecutors allege that on top of the $30,878 he spent at the Taj Mahal Hotel in India during a vacation, in Cairo in 1999, he charged $22,530 at a carpet shop, and in August that year, charged $3,867 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, for his engagement party. He also used $25,955 for a honeymoon trip to Italy after his wedding. All of these expenses, along with others, have contributed to the growing concerns about the political corruption scandals in Nicaragua, a nation where the average citizen earns about $430 a year.[13] Because of health problems, he had been serving his prison term under house arrest. He was also barred from entering the United States.[14] In 2004, Transparency International named him the ninth most corrupt leader in recent history, estimating that he had looted the country of $100 million in state funds to Panamanian bank accounts controlled by him and his family and then funneled some of the money to his party's candidates affiliates.[15]

Meanwhile, following his presidency, Alemán developed a strategic alliance with Daniel Ortega to rule without effective opposition by offering employment in public offices and other privileges to key members of the Sandinista party, in order to stabilize the country. There are those who claim that the main purpose of this agreement, which led to a constitutional reform, was to distribute the institutions of the state in proportion to the power managed by the two main political parties of the country.[16]

On 16 January 2009, Nicaraguan Supreme Court justices and Chief Justice Manuel Martinez overturned the 20-year corruption sentence against former President Arnoldo Alemán. The decision generated some controversy: "stunned opposition lawmakers immediately suspected a secret deal between Mr. Alemán, ranked one of the world's 10 most corrupt leaders ever by Transparency International, and Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua and leader of the Sandinista Party, who wields considerable influence and control over the courts. "He's handing over the National Assembly in exchange for his personal liberty", said Congressman Enrique Saenz. Mr. Alemán, who denies the allegation, said, "Justice has finally been served"."[17]

The following president, Enrique Bolaños, who served under Aleman as his vice president, succeeded him in January, pledging to clean up the corruption in the nation's government, which put him at odds with his predecessor and his administration.[18]

On 9 November 2020, the United States Department of State put Alemán on a list of corrupt foreign officials and also barred his family from entering the country. [2]


  • Anderson, Leslie "The Authoritarian Executive? Horizontal and Vertical Accountability in A New Democracy: A Nicaraguan Perspective," Latin American Politics and Society Vol. 48, No. 2 (Summer 2006), 141-69.
  • Close, David and Kalowatie Deonandan. eds. 2004. Undoing Democracy: The Politics of Electoral Caudillismo. Lanham: Lexington Books.
  • Kampwirth, Karen. 2003. "Arnoldo Alemán Takes on the NGOs: Antifeminism and the New Populism in Nicaragua" Latin American Politics and Society Vol. 45. No. 2. (Summer). pp. 133–158.
  • McConnell, Shelley A. "Nicaragua's Turning Point," Current History (February 2007), 83-88.
  • Rogers, Tim (2 May 2007). "Why Nicaragua's Caged Bird Sings". Time. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2007.


  1. ^ a b "Gobernantes de Nicaragua". Ministerio de Educación. 9 December 2012. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. puts sanctions on ex-Nicaragua president Arnoldo Alemán". The Associated Press. 9 November 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Nicaragua Actual Archived 11 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo, Biografia.
  4. ^ "Nicaraguan Candidate Escapes Armed Attack". The New York Times. 26 January 1996. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  5. ^ "Alcaldes de Managua". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  6. ^ Lacey, Marc (29 December 2006). "Nicaragua: Ex-Leader To Fight For Seized Funds". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  7. ^ Rohter, Larry; Forero, Juan (30 July 2005). "Unending Graft Is Threatening Latin America". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  8. ^ "Ex–president Alemán charged with corruption". MS Central America. 8 August 2002. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  9. ^ Global Integrity – 2004 Country Report Archived 8 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Arnoldo Alemán apelará en Atlanta confiscación fondos familiares Noticias Mundo
  11. ^ "Nicaragua: 20-Year Sentence For Ex-President". The New York Times. 9 December 2003. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  12. ^ Jordan, Mary (8 January 2005). "Facing Charges, Not Discomforts". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 August 2007.
  13. ^ "Corruption charges grip Nicaragua". Chicago Tribune.
  14. ^ Marquis, Christopher (13 March 2002). "Bush Official Is Seeking to Bar Entry to Corrupt Latin Officials". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 August 2007.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Suharto tops corruption list". BBC News. 25 March 2004.
  16. ^ Global Integrity – 2004 Country Report Archived 8 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Schmidt, Blake (17 January 2009). "Nicaragua: Ex-Leader's Sentence Lifted". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  18. ^ Dellios, Hugh (15 September 2002). "Corruption charges grip Nicaragua". Chicago Tribune.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Nicaragua
10 January 1997–10 January 10, 2002
Succeeded by
Preceded by Mayor of Managua
Succeeded by