Nicaragua's Sandinistas hold second congress

June 17, 1998

By Dorotea Wilson

MANAGUA — The second national congress of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was held here on May 22-23. Of the 600 eligible delegates, 440 were present at the opening session. Representatives of left parties from Vietnam, China, Australia, Spain, Mexico, El Salvador, Sweden, Cuba, Germany, the United States, France, Italy, Angola, Colombia, Guatemala and others were also present, as were members of the Nicaraguan cabinet.

In his opening remarks the FSLN general secretary, Daniel Ortega, discussed many national issues and acute social problems, such as the proposed consumer protection law and the three month-long doctors' strike. His call for a national dialogue, as a way of trying to resolve many of the country's problems, was positively received.

The congress identified capitalism, especially its neo-liberal variant, as a form of oppression and called for the creation of a more just society committed to tackling poverty, hunger, misery and oppression.

The FSLN considered key international issues and reaffirmed its view that the Third World debt is unpayable. The servicing of this debt, enforced by the multilateral financial institutions through the imposition of structural adjustment packages, causes untold misery for poor Third World countries.

The congress recognised these new forms of imperialist intervention and control and concluded that an anti-imperialist stance signifies the defence of national interests and national development in contradiction to the imposition of the current economic model.

The FSLN remains committed to international solidarity. Many of the international representatives gave greetings. The intervention by the delegate of the Democratic Socialist Party (Australia) mentioning the Indonesian struggle was enthusiastically welcomed. The congress moved a special motion calling for solidarity with the democratic struggle in Indonesia.

It also ratified the FSLN's socialist orientation and its commitment to participatory democracy.

An important decision was the recognition of the new property sector emerging out of the Sandinista revolution. These associative and communal forms of property include production and service industry cooperatives as well as the houses, land and businesses transferred to the workers in 1990 as part of the transition accords in the changeover from the FSLN government to that of Violeta Chamorro.

In relation to its central leadership committee, the congress decided to retain its name "National Directorate", size (15 members) and the statute that 30% of its members be women and a further 15% be under 30 years old.

Delegates representing the two autonomous regions of Nicaragua's Caribbean coast decided not to nominate for party positions. Instead, the respective regional congresses will elect their representatives to the FSLN leadership bodies, if they so desire.

A new National Directorate was elected. Following are the names and votes for those elected: Daniel Ortega 420, Victor Hugo Tinoco 328, Rene Nuñez Tellez 326, Tomás Borgé Martínez 312, Gladys Baéz 299, Miguel D'Escoto 268, Miguel Angel Casco 244, Doris Tijerino 237, Manuel Coronél 238, Gustavo Porras 225, Emilia Torres 201, Vladimir Soto 199, Martha Heriberto Valle 188, María Esther Solís 145, Roberto Calderón 119. The last two were elected on the basis of the 15% youth quota, displacing candidates who gained more votes. The 45 candidates comprised 26 men, 16 women and three youth.

Daniel Ortega was re-elected unopposed by 95% of delegates as general secretary. Tomás Borgé was opposed by Victor Hugo Tinoco for the position of vice-general secretary. Borgé won by 25 votes.

As this was only the FSLN's second full congress, it is only the second time that the members have exercised a direct secret ballot to elect their individual national leaders. The myth, prevalent in previous congresses, that only one candidate should stand for the key positions, was broken at this congress.

The highest decision-making body between congresses is the Sandinista Assembly. One hundred and thirty-five candidates stood for its 25 positions. A Legal and Ethical Commission, and an Electoral Commission, which make recommendations to the Sandinista Assembly in matters relating to the party's internal functioning, were also elected.

In an overall balance, the debate involved important levels of participation and mature negotiation in the process of reaching consensus.

However, one setback was the defeat of the proposals to increase the minimum quota of women on the National Directorate to 40% and the youth quota to 20%. Despite this rejection, the idea of minimum quotas has won general acceptance. In previous congresses this had been a hard fight, so there has been an overall recognition of the political rights of women.

In terms of the implementation of congress decisions at the base, and the tasks of daily party life, the next step is the election of new territorial structures (based on departments). Sandinistas must ensure that women fill at least 30% of positions. The membership needs to prepare for the local government elections in the year 2000 and the presidential elections in 2001.

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