Nicaraguans celebrate anniversary of revolution


By Peter Devereux

MANAGUA — "Ortega Threatens the Government" was the headline in La Prensa, the conservative daily newspaper, on July 20, the day after the celebration of the 14th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution.

The headline was characteristically alarmist, but it did have an element of truth in it. It was not, however, Daniel Ortega who had threatened the government as much as the 60,000 people who turned out to the Plaza of the Revolution.

They were there to celebrate the anniversary and to make it clear to the government that, despite three and a half years of neo-liberal UNO government and its resulting widespread poverty and inequality, the grassroots were ready to mobilise and force the government to rethink its policies and platform.

By comparison, the arch-conservative Managua Mayor Aleman's rally some two weeks before pulled in an estimated 5-10,000 people.

Barricada, the Sandinista daily paper, had a cartoon of a journalist from the right-wing COSEP business association saying, "Again as with past years, the only ones to turn out for the anniversary celebrations were Daniel Ortega and his 60,000 bodyguards!"

Tomas Borge, in his introductory address, said the people were not going to endure much longer the government's economic policies, which meant they were paying for basic services like health and education and now even for Managua rubbish collection. He said "we now pay extra taxes to have the rubbish removed from our houses and to keep rubbish inside the mayor's office", referring to Aleman.

The size of the rally has given new weight to calls by 29 prominent Sandinistas that the party can no longer afford to support the moderate elements in the UNO government in order to keep at bay the real hardliners

in UNO. They said that support has had dramatic social and political costs that cannot be maintained indefinitely. Lucio Jimenez, leader of the National Workers Front, said to the July 19 crowd: "We must return social justice to this country, fall who may and what may" — referring to the UNO government and its leaders.

Daniel Ortega said that in the recently concluded national dialogue, the Sandinistas had made quite clear that the ideal would be for the government to last until 1996, when the next elections are expected, but that that would depend on the government.

"If they change their economic policies, they may complete their term, but if they do not they will not be able to maintain government", he said. "If they don't respect the law and the constitution, the people have every right to throw them out."

Ortega also proposed a special FSLN congress to discuss the party's position. The congress was last held in 1991 and is not scheduled again until 1995, but with the many pressing issues and pressure to change the current relationship with the government, many see the suggestion as timely.

What is clearest after the anniversary rally is that the UNO government will have to take a more careful account of the effects of its economic and social policies. The Nicaraguan people are feeling the pinch, and, one way or another, they are not going to let the government get away with ignoring it indefinitely.