Nicaragua Says No to HBS Alum

Election Day is today, but one Harvard alum has already lost his bid for office—in Nicaragua.

Eduardo R. Montealegre, a 1980 Harvard Business School grad, saw his hopes of gaining the Nicaraguan presidency crushed by a former Marxist.

Most preliminary counts show 60-year-old Daniel Ortega, who served as the Nicaraguan president from 1985 to 1990, as having already won 40 percent—the minimum a candidate needs to win an election in one round. If those counts are verified by electoral officials, Montealegre will not have the chance to challenge Ortega in a second round.

As of Monday night’s counts, Liberal Alliance candidate Montealegre lagged behind Ortega by 7 percent. That wide of a gap rules out Montealegre’s only other conventional shot at a second round. For that to happen, Ortega would have to lead Montealegre by less than 5 percent and have won less than 35 percent.

Now a wealthy banker, the 51-year-old Montealegre served as senior adviser to the president and foreign minister in 1998. From 2002 to 2003 he served as finance minister.

Many perceived Montealegre to be the United States’ unofficial choice for Nicaraguan president. The U.S. had threatened to pull aid from an Ortega-led government, according to the Associated Press.

At least one person at Harvard wasn’t sorry to see the crimson-colored candidate fall to the former red.

Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics John Womack Jr. ’59 said he believed the Business School alum would not have helped the developing country’s working class.

“I felt absolutely bad about the U.S. candidate—not that he lost, but that he would have been bad news for Nicaragua,” Womack said. “It would make a few people in the United States and a few people in Nicaragua nice little bundles of money but would not do anything in general for Nicaraguan life or working people.”

Womack said he did not think that Montealegre’s Harvard past made him more qualified than any other candidate.

“Harvard alumni can be anything between one of Satan’s imps and a saint,” Womack said. “So the fact that Mr. Montealegre went to Harvard cuts no ice with me. Harvard leaders on the whole are better for bankers and the worst for working people.”

Harvard-educated heads of state in Latin American history include Mexican President-elect Felipe J. Calderon, a 2000 Kennedy School alum, and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who earned a certificate in administration and management from the Extension School in 1993.

—Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.