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The Return of Ortega

Overcoming a concerted U.S. drive to thwart his comeback, former Marxist revolutionary Daniel Ortega on Monday appeared headed to a clear victory in Nicaraguan presidential elections.

Fireworks punctuated the sky, and thousands of supporters whizzed through Managua's streets in pickups and motorcycles shouting ``Long live El Comandante!' after preliminary results released before dawn Monday gave Ortega a seven-point lead over his closest rival in the five-way race.

Fans waved a sea of Sandinista flags -- some in the traditional red-and-black stripe of Ortega's 1979 revolution that toppled the corrupt Somoza dynasty, others in pink, the campaign color he adopted to show he'd softened his Cold War ideology.

``It is God's miracle. Our savior has returned,' said Fernanda López, 76, tears of joy streaming down her face.

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