By Jackie Coleman
MANAGUA â More than 30,000 supporters of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) rallied in the Plaza of the Revolution here on February 19 to mark the 61st anniversary of the assassination of Augusto C. Sandino.
During recent months the FSLN has suffered a split, with several members of its National Directorate leaving to form a new party, the Movement for Sandinista Renewal (MRS) under the leadership of former vice president Sergio Ram¡rez.
In this context, the rally was a reaffirmation of the FSLN's revolutionary project. The slogan, "Black and Red Forever", was a reference to the party's colours. The MRS flag has added white to the red and black.
Speakers included Francisco Pe¤a G¢mez, the president of the Socialist International for Latin America and presidential candidate of the Revolutionary Democratic Party of the Dominican Republic.
Pe¤a G¢mez drew parallels between the history of Nicaragua and his country. Both have suffered US invasions which installed brutal dictatorships which were eventually overthrown by popular uprisings. He also referred to the FSLN as an example to all Latin American revolutionaries and warned of the dangers of division in the party's ranks. His presence indicated the support of the Socialist International (SI) for the FSLN in the face of moves by the MRS and other small parties in Nicaragua to gain affiliation to the SI.
Also present was Gustavo Carvajal, a leader of the 60-member Congress of Political Parties of Latin America and international relations secretary of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico. He, like Pe¤a G¢mez, expressed his belief that the FSLN will be returned to government in the next elections.
Other speakers included representatives of the women's organisation (AMNLAE), the Sandinista Youth (JS 19), the teachers union (ANDEN), which has called for a national strike on the first day of school this year, and founding member of the FSLN Tom s Borge.
Borge said that the FSLN must become more belligerent in its opposition to the Chamorro government. He called for the formation of alliances with the social movements and a program of national unity to confront Nicaragua's grave social and economic problems.
The keynote speaker, FSLN general secretary Daniel Ortega, was enthusiastically received as he made his first public appearance after spending three months in Cuba to recover from a heart attack. He repeated Borge's call for a broad social alliance to confront the government's indifference to the fact that 80% of Nicaraguans live in extreme poverty.
Ortega also announced that the party's recruitment and membership renewal drive had signed up 336,000 people. The FSLN, he said, remains the guarantee of the real interests of the population, and only a government led by the FSLN will act in accordance with these interests.