Nicaragua - one year later

Issue 

By Daniel Flakoll Alegría

"What is there to celebrate?", Vice President Virgilio Godoy says with a tone of resignation. "This isn't the UNO [National Opposition Union] government. It's Antonio Lacayo's government presided over by Violetta Chamorro." He doesn't fail to mention that Antonio Lacayo, minister of the presidency and President Chamorro's son-in-law, does not belong to any party, but is, nonetheless, Nicaragua's strong man.

This crisis within UNO has intensified since it took office, and the differences seem to be irreconcilable. From the outset it was clear that disputes would arise for larger shares of power inside the coalition of 14 parties which make up UNO. But it was also expected that the aim of destroying Sandinism would predominate above all else.

The first symptoms of division appeared during the signing of the transition accords between the outgoing and incoming governments. For Virgilio Godoy's sympathisers, who reresent the radical right sectors, this agreement tied the hands of the new government. "It's true", they said, "that the Sandinistas continue to govern from below".

The incoming government had to make more concessions than it wanted to. It had no alternative at the time, but it also felt that time was clearly in its favour, and the initial obstacles had to be overcome in order to then impose its ideology and class project. However, in the opinion of the ultraright wing, not one concession should have been made; rather, it was necessary to destroy every vestige of the revolution and finish Sandinism off. They had to reduce 10 years of Sandinism to one paragraph in the new history books and follow up on the bourgeois social project — different from that of Somocismo — which was cut short by the revolution.

The period between the elections of February 25, 1990, and the inauguration three months later, was for UNO an epoch of euphoria a bit tarnished by the concessions it had to make to the FSLN. After the inauguration, the situation rapidly deteriorated, and the euphoria turned into frustration.

Ex-contras

Another important agreement was the disarmament of the counterrevolution and its integration into society. This agreement was not easy either, and the government was pressured by the Sandinistas as well as the counterrevolutionaries themselves, who resisted demobilisation.

Arguing that the Sandinistas were still giving the orders, that General Humberto Ortega's permanence as chief of the army was unacceptable and that they did not believe that the government would give them the lands it had promised, the demobilised ex-contras, geois sectors, often resorted to force to take over lands belonging to Sandinista cooperatives.

Today there are still thousands of demobilised contras who are demanding, along with campesinos and former army soldiers, that the government comply with the signed accords. The land problem remains unresolved and is a constant point of tension for the government.

Despite 10 years of war and the inevitable polarisation, there is greater identification between the ex-contra campesinos and Sandinista campesinos than with the Chamorro government.

It cannot be said that this is a "honeymoon" period for the ex-contras and the Sandinistas. Profound differences exist, but their demands with respect to land are the same.

At the same time, there are irreconcilable differences among the ex-contras themselves. For many who put down their arms, the Sandinistas are no longer the enemy, but for those who support Vice President Godoy, the Sandinistas still are, and the government is not their friend either. The government they backed is not meeting their basic needs; nor do they see themselves represented by the "technocrats" who dominate the executive branch.

Compromise

After the May and July strikes in which the National Workers Front (FNT) put the government in a tight spot and it was forced to acknowledge that it had not fulfilled its commitments — but at the same time demanded a certain "flexibility" from the Sandinista Front — a different dynamic developed, and the three power groups had to make concessions.

The government recognised Sandinism's strength; the ultraright wing, excluded from the executive but with belligerent and armed grassroots support, was relegated to a low level of participation and nearly disregarded as part of the government; the FSLN mediated and agreed to put an end to the strike without substantial concessions to the workers' demands. Everyone lost, but a fresh wave of violence was averted.

In October, when, after negotiation and disagreement, the Chamorro government got to the point of having to sign the social and economic concertación agreements, it preferred to acquire the FNT's signature than that of the High Command of Private Enterprise (Cosep) — its class ally. The aim was to give lending agencies the impression that opposing sectors were in agreement on the need to coincide on some points in order to obtain foreign resources enabling the country's development.

This gave rise to the November uprising in Region V, where ultraright-wing groups, sectors of the ex-contras and some sectors of Cosep rioted and demanded that President Chamorro give greater shares of power to the faction of Godoy, or resign. Everything indicates that this situation has not been resolved. The vice president remains on the fringes, and his support base is unhappy, saying that "their" government is leaderless and inconsistent; the FSLN maintains the government has not even minimally fulfilled the agreements signed at the conclusion of the concertación process; the country's most important trade unions (health workers, educators, public employees and construction) are on virtual strike, and if an answer is not found quickly, strikes and protests such as those of May and July last year could be repeated.

The government is shielding itself behind the argument that it has not received the aid it expected from its allies (Japan gave only US$7 million and the United States is caught up in a war in the Gulf and has not given more than a part of the promised aid).

If the FSLN does not intervene and reason with the government to defend basic revolutionary achievements, the country could once again be caught up in a spiral of chaos. If the ultraright wing does not abstain from fomenting violence and revenge, the people's response could be devastating. If the government does not come through on its promises to improve the economic and social situation of the majority, this country will remain ungovernable. — Slightly abridged from Barricada International