Violetta Barrios de Chamorro, owner of the opposition paper La Prensa, led a broad anti-Sandinista coalition to victory in the 1990 elections, ending 11 years of Sandinista rule. Enthusiasm for Chamorro gradually faded. Business groups were dissatisfied with the pace of reforms; Sandinistas, upset with what they regarded as the dismantling of their earlier achievements, threatened to take up arms again; and many people were disillusioned over governmental corruption.
Former Managua mayor and Conservative candidate Arnoldo Alemán won the 1996 election. Former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was his closest rival.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed more than 9,000 people, left 2 million people homeless, and caused $10 billion in damages. Many people fled to the U.S., which offered Nicaraguans an immigration amnesty program until July 1999. Nicaragua remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
In the Nov. 2001 presidential elections, Enrique Bolaños, the ruling Liberal Party leader, defeated Ortega, who was attempting a comeback.
In Aug. 2002, former president Arnoldo Alemán was charged with fraud and embezzlement, and in 2003 he was sent to prison for 20 years. Current president Bolaños triumphantly called it the “frying of the Big Fish.” The anticorruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranks Alemán among the most corrupt leaders of the past two decades.