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Enrique Bolaños

Enrique Bolaños Geyer
Enrique Bolaños during a visit of United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Managua in 2004
President of Nicaragua
In office
January 10, 2002 – January 10, 2007
Vice President José Rizo Castellón,
Alfredo Gómez Urcuyo
Preceded by Arnoldo Alemán
Succeeded by Daniel Ortega
Vice President of Nicaragua
In office
January 10, 1997 – October 24, 2000
Preceded by Julia Mena
Succeeded by Leopoldo Navarro
Personal details
Born (1928-05-13) 13 May 1928
Masaya, Nicaragua
Political party Alliance for the Republic
Spouse(s) Lila Abaunza (deceased)
Children 5
Alma mater Saint Louis University
Religion Roman Catholicism

Enrique José Bolaños Geyer (born 13 May 1928) was the President of Nicaragua from 10 January 2002 to 10 January 2007. President Bolaños is of Spanish and German heritage and was born in Masaya (department of Masaya).

He received his education in the United States, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering from Saint Louis University in 1962.

He publicly opposed the Sandinista controlled government of the 1980s, resulting in brief imprisonment. His family cotton farming operations, SAIMSA, were confiscated during the first Sandinista administration of the 1980s.

Bolaños served as vice president under his predecessor, Arnoldo Alemán. On 4 November 2001 he defeated Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front party in the presidential elections and was sworn in as president on 10 January 2002.

He was a member of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) until he broke with it to help form the Alliance for the Republic (APRE). At the beginning of his term he led an anti-Corruption campaign against his predecessor and the head of the PLC Arnoldo Alemán politically isolating himself from the influential Liberal Party. Institutional struggles for power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches resulted in great inefficiency for the Bolaños government.

Enrique Bolaños is an Honorary Member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and a major contributor to several universities and foundations including: Columbia University, Fundacion Enrique Bolaños, University of Virginia and Operation Smile.


  • Biography 1
  • Early political career 2
  • 2001 presidential elections 3
  • Presidency 4
  • Enrique Bolanos Foundation 5
  • Electoral history of Enrique Bolaños Geyer 6
  • Vice Presidential election results, 20 October 1996 7
  • National Convention of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC)) presidential primaries, January 28, 2001 8
  • Presidential election results, 4 November 2001 9
  • References 10
  • Notes 11
  • External links 12


Enrique Bolaños was born in Masaya on 13 May 1928 to Nicolás Bolaños Cortés (1890–1963) and wife Amanda del Rosario Geyer Abaunza, and paternal grandson of Alejandro Bolaños Cuadra (1858–1914) and wife and cousin Cándida Cortés Bolaños (1854–1918). His father, a wealthy businessman, was poisoned by an employee. He was also a maternal relative of Justo Abaunza, 25th and 27th President of Nicaragua. The Bolaños family has played a minor role in Nicaraguan politics, traditionally associated with the deep-rooted Liberal Party that brought Somoza dynasty to power in 1939. Bolaños, however, carefully aligned himself with the anti-Somoza Liberal Constitutionalist Party founded by Ramiro Sacasa Guerrero in 1968. The Bolaños family has usually maintained a hands-off approach to Nicaraguan politics, focusing rather on business endeavors.

Enrique Bolaños received his primary and secondary education in Nicaragua, and graduated from Saint Louis University with a degree in industrial engineering. He married Lila T. Abaúnza in 1949[1] and bore five children: Enrique José, Lucía Amanda, Jorge Alejandro (deceased, 2005), Javier Gregorio (deceased, 2007) and Alberto (deceased, 1976). Enrique José Bolaños Abaunza married Lourdes Chamorro Cesar and have five children: Enrique José Bolaños, Lila Maria Bolaños, Alberto José Bolaños, Leandro José Bolaños and Gabriel José Bolaños. Jorge Alejandro Bolaños leaves behind one daughter: Valerie Bolaños. Javier Gregorio Bolaños leaves behind three daughters: Jennifer Bolaños, Michelle Bolaños and Linnete Bolaños.

In 1952 he began a successful agro-production company, SAIMSA (Industrial Agricultural Services of Masaya), which grew to become one of the largest cotton producers in Central America. Bolaños served as an active member of the influential COSEP (Supreme Council for Private Enterprise), and served as president from 1983 to 1988. COSEP was an anti-Sandinista institution that focused on promoting free enterprise and limiting governmental interference in the private sector.

Bolaños publicly opposed Daniel Ortega's Sandinista government during the 1980s. He was arrested on 20 October 1981 for having violated censorship laws. One month later he was imprisoned again upon returning from an AIL (Association of Latin American Enterprises) conference in Venezuela. In July 1982 he was jailed after sponsoring a conference of potential American investors at his cotton plantation in Masaya. Under the government's controversial agrarian reform program SAIMSA was confiscated and reappropriated to small farmers.

After the nationalization of his business, Bolaños worked as a freelance computer programmer until his election to the vice-presidency in 1996.

Early political career

In the 1990 elections, Bolaños was denied presidential candidacy for the National Opposition Union (UNO, a coalition of multiple anti-Sandinista parties), as he was considered too stubborn and difficult to work with in the context of democratization and national reconciliation. Violeta Chamorro was chosen instead.

In 1996 Bolaños was chosen by presidential candidate and former mayor of Managua Arnoldo Alemán as vice-presidential candidate for the PLC (Liberal Constitutionalist Party). Bolaños was also elected as campaign manager for the Liberal Party in the 1996 elections. Alemán defeated Ortega with 51% of the vote, and Alemán and Bolaños were sworn in as president and vice president, respectively, on 10 January 1997.[2] During his tenure as vice president, Bolaños kept a discrete profile even with rising allegations of corruption against Alemán and many members of his cabinet.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Bolaños was responsible for the management of foreign aid. He spearheaded a movement to review and redact Nicaragua’s laws concerning the prevention and management of natural disasters.

2001 presidential elections

Presidential styles of
Enrique Bolaños
Reference style El Honorable Enrique Bolaños, Presidente de la República de Nicaragua The Honorable Enrique Bolanos, President of the Republic of Nicaragua
Spoken style Presidente Bolaños President Bolanos
Alternative style Señor Presidente Mister President

Bolaños was chosen as the presidential candidate for the 2001 elections at the Grand Convention of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) meeting in 2001. Former President Arnoldo Alemán handpicked Bolaños as his successor.

La Prensa and other Nicaraguan newspapers have since reported that Alemán chose Bolaños as an interim president. Because the Nicaraguan constitution forbids consecutive presidential terms, it is believed that Alemán sought a candidate who could be easily manipulated, allowing him to govern from behind the scenes until the 2006 elections, when he would seek re-election. Alemán has denied these allegations.

While Bolaños had the support of the powerful PLC, he was widely regarded as an American “puppet” candidate and was also seen as apathetic and lacking charisma. Many voters saw him as a weak public figure, particularly because he had failed to speak out against the rampant corruption present during Alemán’s tenure as president. Daniel Ortega, the main opposition candidate, commonly referred to Bolaños as a “candidate for the wealthy” and a “senile” old man unfit for office. He was nicknamed by some “bola de años” a pun on his surname literally translated as “bunch of years.”

In August 2001 he publicly denounced corruption in the presidency, distancing himself from Alemán without publicly attacking him. Bolaños also accused Daniel Ortega of “destroying” the country’s economy during the 1980s and criticized his close ties to Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Public polls showed Ortega and Bolaños virtually tied up to the elections held on 5 November 2001. On election day, a massive 90% voter turnout overburdened the polls. Some Nicaraguans waited in line for as much as 10 hours before casting their vote. Bolaños won the presidential elections with 56.3% of the vote, Daniel Ortega received 42.3% and Conservative Party candidate Alberto Saborio received 1.4%. International observers from the United States, United Nations and Europe declared the elections clean and fair, and there was no violence and minimal public disturbance during the elections.


Enrique Bolaños was sworn in as President of the Republic of Nicaragua on 10 January 2002 to serve a five-year term (2002–2007). Two days later, he began an anti-corruption campaign to investigate and prosecute all former and current state employees who engaged in corrupt behavior.

Arnoldo Alemán, then serving as a member of the National Assembly and the Central American Parliament, was formally charged with corruption in December 2002, and was stripped of his parliamentary immunity. Alemán, along with some family members and other high-ranking party officials, was convicted of money laundering, embezzlement of over $100,000,000 and corruption. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison from which he was recently released.

Immediately following the prosecution of Alemán, Bolaños was kicked out of the PLC – the party which Alemán still retains strong influence over – and helped to form another political party, APRE (Alliance for the Republic).

In September 2005 Bolaños publicly announced what he called a “slow motion coup” by the joint efforts of the PLC and the FSLN. The executive branch was partially stripped of its powers to appoint ministers and public officials, but with backing from the international community, particularly the OAS, the EU and the United States, any constitutional changes were postponed until the following year [4] [5]. This reversal coincided with passage of the CAFTA by the Nicaraguan legislature [6].

Bolaños has been frequently criticized for his previous close ties to Alemán. It has been argued that during his term Bolaños received a substantial pension from his tenure as vice-president, as well as a $300,000 a year salary for the presidency. However, the monthly presidential salary was reduced at the outset of the Bolanos administration, and the pension from his tenure as vice-president was eliminated by the National Assembly.

Bolaños attempted to work closely with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in attempts to reduce Nicaragua’s foreign debt by means of cooperation with Structural Adjustment Programs. He also created a long-term National Development Plan meant to reduce poverty and diversify Nicaragua’s traditionally agriculture dominated economy.

In the 2006 presidential election campaign Bolaños' Alliance for the Republic party joined the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, whose candidate Eduardo Montealegre took second place. Bolaños turned over the presidency to his longtime political opponent Daniel Ortega on 10 January 2007. By nature of his status as outgoing President, he was legally entitled to a seat in the new session of the National Assembly, but has since remained out of the political arena and never assumed his seat. He also faced a series of verbal allegations from opposition party members ranging from mismanagement of public funds to human trafficking, however evidence was never presented and he was never formally accused at the courts nor charged. Bolaños argued that the accusations were false and politically motivated.

Enrique Bolanos Foundation

Following his presidency, Bolaños has retired from politics. He currently runs a non-profit educational foundation[3] that provides free and democratic access to all documents from Bolaños' presidency as well as many digitized collections of Nicaraguan historical, political, cultural and juridical documents. It is the first Nicaraguan presidential library, and one of Latin America's first virtual presidential libraries.

The Foundation's goal is to collect, preserve and disseminate Nicaragua's historical patrimony to promote transparency in the Nicaraguan political sector and provide free, unrestricted access to information.The foundation's mission is to give all citizens equal access to verifiable information in hopes of mitigating educational inequalities in Nicaragua.

Electoral history of Enrique Bolaños Geyer

Vice Presidential election results, 20 October 1996

Candidate Party/Alliance Votes %
José Arnoldo Alemán Lacayo w Enrique Bolaños Geyer Liberal Alliance (AL) = Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) / Independent Liberal Party for National Unity (PLIUN) / Nationalist Liberal Party (PLN) / Neoliberal Party (PALI) 896,207 50.99%
José Daniel Ortega Saavedra w Juan Manuel Caldera Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) 664,909 37.83%
Others 21 Political Partis 196,659 11.18%
Total valid votes 1,757,775 100%
Spoilt and invalid votes 91,587 04.95%
Total votes/Turnout 1,849,362 76.39%
Registered voters 2,421,067
Population 4,706,000

National Convention of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC)) presidential primaries,[4] January 28, 2001

Presidential election results, 4 November 2001

Candidate Party/Alliance Votes %
Enrique Bolaños Geyer Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) 1,228,412 56.31%
José Daniel Ortega Saavedra Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) 922,436 42.28%
Alberto Saborío Conservative Party of Nicaragua (PC) 30,670 01.41%
Total valid votes 100% 2,181,518


  1. ^ "Lila Abaunza, former Nicaraguan first lady, dies at 79".  
  2. ^ History of Vicepresidency
  3. ^
  4. ^


  • This Biography was Translated from Spanish

External links

  • Biography and tenure by CIDOB Foundation (in Spanish)
Political offices
Preceded by
Julia Mena
Vice President of Nicaragua
Succeeded by
Leopoldo Navarro
Preceded by
Arnoldo Alemán
President of Nicaragua
Succeeded by
Daniel Ortega
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