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Εμείς, ως αναρχικοί, επιζητούμε κάθε λαϊκή εξέγερση να γίνει μια επαναστατική δύναμη στην κατεύθυνση της συνολικής απελευθέρωσης από την ταξική εκμετάλλευση και την κρατική κυριαρχία. Ωστόσο, λόγω των αυταρχικών ριζών του κρατικού καπιταλισμού της Κούβας και της συστηματικής συνεργασίας σχεδόν κάθε μορφής αντιπολίτευσης με την κυβέρνηση των ΗΠΑ, οι πολιτικές οργανώσεις με ταξική βάση είναι πρακτικά ανύπαρκτες στην Κούβα, καθιστώντας τη συγκρότηση ενός αυτόνομου ταξικού κινήματος ως μια ιδιαίτερα δύσκολη πρόκληση.

Ανακοίνωση για την εξέγερση στην Κούβα

Η παρούσα κατάσταση στην Κούβα ξεκίνησε τη νύχτα της 10ης Ιουλίου με δημοσιεύματα περί αυθόρμητης διαμαρτυρίας στην πόλη Πάλμα Σοριάνο που βρίσκεται στην επαρχία του Σαντιάγο της Κούβας. Άνθρωποι άρχισαν να διαδηλώνουν στους δρόμους με κατσαρόλες και τηγάνια, διαμαρτυρόμενοι για τις αυξανόμενες διακοπές ρεύματος, την έλλειψη τροφίμων και την κρίση της δημόσιας υγείας που βαθαίνει το τελευταίο διάστημα.

Καθώς ο αριθμός των ασθενών των νοοσούντων και των θανόντων από τον Covid-19 άρχισε να αυξάνεται στις αρχές του 2021, δημοσιεύματα που έκαναν λόγο για απελπισμένους ανθρώπους που αφήνονταν να πεθάνουν στα σπίτια τους λόγω έλλειψης βασικών πόρων και προμηθειών στα νοσοκομεία άρχισαν να διαδίδονται στο διαδίκτυο. Οι Κουβανοί μπόρεσαν να ενημερώσουν ο ένας τον άλλον αλλά και τον κόσμο, καθώς τους απαγορεύτηκε η πρόσβαση σε τρόφιμα και φάρμακα, ενώ περίμεναν σε τεράστιες ουρές για ελάχιστα και υπερκοστολογημένα αγαθά. Επιπλέον, υπέμειναν παρατεταμένες περιόδους απομόνωσης λόγω της αδυναμίας του κράτους να αντιμετωπίσει τις συναπτές κρίσεις. Το πρωί της 11ης Ιουλίου ένα κύμα εξέγερσης πυροδοτήθηκε σε ολόκληρο το νησί, καθιστώντας αυτήν τη λαϊκή εξέγερση την πιο σημαντική εδώ και δεκαετίες.

Αυτή η μεγάλη κρίση που αντιμετωπίζει ο κουβανικός λαός είναι απότοκο όχι μόνο της κυριαρχίας των εθνών κρατών αλλά και των ιμπεριαλιστικών και διακρατικών ανταγωνισμών. Αυτό είναι ιδιαίτερα σαφές υπολογίζοντας την όξυνση του εμπάργκο των ΗΠΑ, τους πρόσφατους περιορισμούς στα εμβάσματα και τις εκκλήσεις για «ανθρωπιστική παρέμβαση». Αυτή η επιβολή στον λαό είναι η πραγματική συνεχιζόμενη κληρονομιά των κρατών παντού, και ιδίως του κουβανικού κράτους.

Εμείς, ως αναρχικοί, επιζητούμε κάθε λαϊκή εξέγερση να γίνει μια επαναστατική δύναμη στην κατεύθυνση της συνολικής απελευθέρωσης από την ταξική εκμετάλλευση και την κρατική κυριαρχία. Ωστόσο, λόγω των αυταρχικών ριζών του κρατικού καπιταλισμού της Κούβας και της συστηματικής συνεργασίας σχεδόν κάθε μορφής αντιπολίτευσης με την κυβέρνηση των ΗΠΑ, οι πολιτικές οργανώσεις με ταξική βάση είναι πρακτικά ανύπαρκτες στην Κούβα, καθιστώντας τη συγκρότηση ενός αυτόνομου ταξικού κινήματος ως μια ιδιαίτερα δύσκολη πρόκληση.

Όσον αφορά την τρέχουσα κοινωνική και ανθρωπιστική κρίση είναι πολύ νωρίς, για να προβλεφθούν από τώρα οι μελλοντικές εξελίξεις. Ωστόσο, πρέπει να έχουμε υπόψη ότι, εάν οι λαϊκές διαμαρτυρίες στην Κούβα συνεχίσουν να εξελίσσονται προς μια πιο γενικευμένη εξέγερση, το σημερινό κουβανικό κράτος και το Κομμουνιστικό Κόμμα Κούβας (PCC) ενδέχεται να εισέλθουν στο τελικό τους στάδιο. Πιστεύουμε ότι η λαϊκή δύναμη αναδύεται και έχει την ικανότητα να υπερασπιστεί τη δική της αυτονομία. Φοβόμαστε τόσο την καταστολή από το κράτος της Κούβας όσο και την ικανότητα της δεξιάς αντιπολίτευσης να χειραγωγεί λαϊκά κινήματα. Και τα δύο έχουν ήδη αρχίσει να συμβαίνουν.

Για παράδειγμα, στο Μαϊάμι ένας πολύωρος αποκλεισμός ενός μεγάλου αυτοκινητόδρομου στις 13 Ιουλίου που οργανώθηκε από την κουβανική-αμερικανική διασπορά ήγειρε δημόσια την απαίτηση των ΗΠΑ για στρατιωτική επέμβαση. Για εμάς αυτό εγείρει το ερώτημα για το πώς οι κουβανικές λαϊκές τάξεις θα επωφεληθούν από μια αλλαγή καθεστώτος. Δεδομένης της απουσίας αυτοοργανωμένων λαϊκών οργανώσεων, πρέπει να περιμένουμε ότι τον αγώνα τους και αυτήν τη συγκυρία θα εκμεταλλευτούν αποκλειστικά τα καπιταλιστικά και δεξιά συμφέροντα.

Δε θα είναι, όμως, παράξενο, αν ανατραπεί το καθεστώς, να περιμένουμε τα εξής:

Οι λαϊκές τάξεις της Κούβας θα αναγνώριζαν τους εαυτούς τους ως ενεργούς και καθοριστικούς κοινωνικούς παράγοντες με αυτοδιάθεση και ικανότητα αμεσοδημοκρατικής διαχείρισης των κοινωνικών υποθέσεων. Πρόκειται, βέβαια, για μια πραγματικότητα που σπανίως βιώνουν γενιές στην Κούβα τα τελευταία 60 χρόνια.

Πιθανότατα θα δούμε την αντικατάσταση του υπάρχοντος καθεστώτος από μια νέα νεοφιλελεύθερη αποικιοκρατική πολιτική διακυβέρνηση, που θα «φορά», όμως, τη «μάσκα» της «δημοκρατικής» ρητορικής. Παραδόξως, όμως, οι εκμεταλλευόμενες τάξεις της Κούβας μπορούν να κερδίσουν περισσότερο χώρο για να οργανωθούν, αναπτύσσοντας παράλληλα την απαραίτητη ταξική συνείδηση, επιτρέποντας την ανάπτυξη αυθεντικών επαναστατικών τάσεων και πρακτικών. Εντούτοις, γνωρίζουμε, επίσης, ότι όλα αυτά μπορούν να συμβούν μέσα σε ένα κλίμα όπου πολλές θετικές κοινωνικές αλλαγές που εισήγαγε η κουβανική επανάσταση θα εξαλειφθούν ή θα διαβρωθούν. Και πάλι οι λαϊκές τάξεις που ηρωικά πολέμησαν ένα καταπιεστικό καθεστώς θα ήταν αυτές που θα ζημιώνονταν περισσότερο από μια τέτοια εξέλιξη.

Έχοντας όλα αυτά κατά νου, συμπεραίνουμε ότι ο δρόμος μπροστά μας είναι δύσβατος. Στέλνουμε την αγάπη και τη διεθνιστική αλληλεγγύη μας στον κουβανικό λαό. Απαιτούμε την απελευθέρωση όσων συνελήφθησαν κατά τη διάρκεια των διαμαρτυριών, λογοδοσία για τις περιπτώσεις δολοφονιών και σωματικής κακοποίησης, την αποκατάσταση των υπηρεσιών διαδικτύου και τον τερματισμό του γενοκτονικού αποκλεισμού. Οι ελπίδες μας είναι μαζί σας και χαιρετίζουμε κάθε προσπάθεια λαϊκής κοινωνικής δύναμης, κάθε ξεσηκωμό, κάθε εξέγερση, κάθε διαμαρτυρία που αποσκοπεί στην κοινωνική απελευθέρωση.

Είμαστε στο πλευρό όσων αγωνίζονται!

Black Rose / Rosa Negra – Anarchist Federation (Miami)

https://www.alerta.gr/archives/20200?fbclid=IwAR00Rxtqp-KLyqujRdjtSfch--yNZmX1dKsBqkWzX6C73wZK__QndRxOx7Q

américa central / caribe / community struggles / non-anarchist press Thursday March 28, 2019 09:04 byMario Hernández

Entrevista a Henry Boisrolin, del Comité Democrático Haitiano

M.H.: Las movilizaciones en Haití nos llamaron la atención. Lamentablemente solo tuvimos audios de Camille Chalmers y otros compañeros pero no tuvimos la versión directa de lo que pasó. ¿Cuál es la situación en Haití en estos momentos?
H.B.: Haití está pasando hace ya varios años por distintas rebeliones e insurrecciones que anuncian algo en el fondo, más allá de los elementos detonantes de algún momento particular.

En julio fue el tema del aumento del combustible, luego el tema de Petrocaribe, pero nunca hay que dejar que un árbol tape el bosque, porque está desarrollándose en Haití un embate, un ataque, una rebelión de las masas en contra de un sistema neocolonial.

Estamos asistiendo quizás al final de ese sistema, porque ya no admite más parches. Tuvo una intervención yanqui de 1915 a 1934, transformándonos en una neocolonia, luego la dictadura de los Duvalier, la huida del dictador en 1986, un gobierno militar que también fue rechazado por las masas, un Presidente con gran carisma, Aristide, que derrocaron 7 meses después de asumir, provocando 5.000 muertos. La traición del movimiento Lavalas aceptando una intervención norteamericana para volver al poder. Elecciones truchas, intervenciones de la ONU, golpes de Estado. Todas formas que intentaron para perpetuarse. Ahora, llega un momento donde esos parches ya no corren más, entonces la radicalización de la lucha es cada vez mayor, el enemigo está identificado, es el imperialismo norteamericano, entendiendo que los actuales gobernantes no son otra cosa que sus lacayos.

Lo que pide el pueblo a través del rechazo al aumento del combustible, a través del reclamo de un proceso para detener el despilfarro de los fondos de Petrocaribe, es la renuncia del Presidente, del Primer Ministro y el cierre del Parlamento. Lo que significa una transformación radical. También están reclamando no organizar elecciones ya, reclaman un gobierno de unidad nacional, de transición para poder tener por lo menos 3 años con un programa mínimo para atender las necesidades básicas, llamar a una Asamblea Constituyente y después sí llamar a una nueva elección. Esto es lo que está pasando en Haití, un rechazo al régimen neocolonial.

Eso significa que el pueblo quiere recuperar su libertad, su derecho a la autodeterminación y su soberanía. Por supuesto, está sumergido en una miseria atroz, pero no porque el país fuese pobre sino porque el país ha sido empobrecido.

M.H.: Una situación invisibilizada por la prensa hegemónica. Que de alguna manera está en paralelo con la que se vive en Venezuela. Y las autoridades haitianas han tomado partido contra Venezuela a pesar que ha sido uno de los países que más ha ayudado a Haití.

H.B.: Esto hay que interpretarlo como un acto de desesperación y de sometimiento. Porque si Macri lo hace se entiende, si Bolsonaro lo hace se entiende, si Duque lo hace también, pero el actual señor que está a cargo de la presidencia de Haití, que se llama Jovenel Moïse, en mayo cuando terminaron las elecciones en Venezuela, felicitó a Maduro y fue a verlo. Pero en julio, cuando estalló la primera insurrección fuerte, los días 6/7 de julio entonces el CoGroup, que es una especie de engendro que tiene su mandamás en el embajador yanqui, los embajadores de Canadá, España, Brasil y representantes de la OEA y la ONU, con EE UU a la cabeza, que dictan lo que hay que hacer, salieron a respaldar a Jovenel. Eso impidió su caída y lo mismo sucede ahora.

Entonces Jovenel debe votar a favor de la moción norteamericana o caer frente al embate popular, evidentemente optó por traicionar a Venezuela, pero la contradicción es tan extravagante porque la misma elección por la que había reconocido y había felicitado a Maduro, ahora dice que Maduro no puede asumir porque no es válida.

Pero además no fue una contradicción solamente, fue una traición. No fue solo el tema de Petrocaribe, porque hay una relación histórica entre Venezuela y Haití, tejida desde 1806 entre Dessalines y Miranda y luego entre Petión y Bolívar en 1816. Hay un reconocimiento mutuo que creíamos indisoluble y lo sigue siendo entre los pueblos pero evidentemente no con los gobiernos que tenemos. Lo mismo hizo Duvalier respecto de Cuba, cuando en Punta del Este aceptó la expulsión de Cuba de la OEA a partir de una moción norteamericana.

Esto el pueblo haitiano lo ha interpretado como una traición más, no una contradicción. Porque uno puede tener una contradicción, significa que se ha equivocado, acá no se trata de ninguna equivocación, sino de una elección política para poder sobrevivir y mantenerse en el poder. Porque el único apoyo real del gobierno actual en Haití frente al embate de las masas que es muy fuerte, es la posición norteamericana. La traducción es esta. No hay que hacer un reduccionismo solo al tema de que Venezuela dio 3.800 millones de dólares a Haití para su programa, no es solamente esto, hay algo que va mucho más allá del dinero, es algo que incluso fue sellado con sangre, no solamente con elementos materiales como fue el dinero que dio Petion a Bolívar, las armas, las municiones, sino los voluntarios haitianos que derramaron su sangre para la independencia en Venezuela, en Colombia, etc. Yo creo incluso que si pensáramos en función del intercambio de dinero nos estaríamos centrando en una cuestión mercantil.

Y hay otro aspecto más, no reconocer los ataques del imperialismo a la Revolución Bolivariana, lo que está haciendo el gobierno norteamericano con sus socios evidentemente para poder derrotar y someter al pueblo de Venezuela, ahogarlo económicamente, todo esto está pasando y no hay duda de que lo saben, sin embargo, hicieron la vista gorda. Eso es grave. A mí no me gustaría reducirlo solamente a un problema de los fondos que dio Venezuela de Petrocaribe. Doy un ejemplo para poder entender lo que estoy diciendo, hubo una misión de las Naciones Unidas en Haití, disfrazada de misión humanitaria que se llama Minustah, quienes ofrecieron participar a Venezuela y se rehusó, entendiendo que significaba una violación de la soberanía. A pesar de la buena relación que Chávez tenía con Lula y con Kirchner. Él se jugó por Haití. Lo mismo hizo Cuba. Todas esas cosas nos hacen ver que estamos frente a un ser repugnante.

Haití en este momento está “funcionando” sin presupuesto, que no fue votado por el Parlamento porque el pueblo dijo que era un presupuesto criminal y que si lo votaban iban a quemar el Parlamento con los diputados y senadores adentro. Se acobardaron y no lo votaron. Entonces, cómo un país puede funcionar sin saber cuánto va a recaudar, cuánto va a gastar y cómo lo va a gastar. Esto es un presupuesto. Entonces hoy nadie sabe nada. No se sabe qué se hace, no está dirigiendo nada este hombre. Llama a un diálogo nacional, todo el arco opositor, el 90% dijo que no, la única condición es su partida. Hasta los sectores religiosos dijeron que no. El sector protestante hizo un llamado a los demás sectores religiosos para organizar una gran marcha en Puerto Príncipe para pedir la renuncia.

Por supuesto ellos tienen atrás a una nueva insurrección que saben que puede ser mucho peor y que habrá inocentes que paguen por los culpables. Ven que cada vez las rebeliones son más fuertes, entonces para que no haya una pérdida total o para poder desviar o confundir más al movimiento de masas ven que hay que sacrificar a este hombre. Y yo creo que la comunidad internacional va a terminar por reconocer esto. Porque Jovenel no manda nada.

Detuvieron en Haití un domingo a la noche a 8 mercenarios, 5 ex militares norteamericanos, 2 serbios con residencia en EE UU y un ruso en dos autos sin patente. Cuando la policía los detuvo abrieron los baúles y encontraron armas de guerra tan sofisticadas que ni Haití las tiene. Cuando tomaron sus pasaportes vieron que no tenían sello de entrada al país lo que significa que lo hicieron clandestinamente. Detuvieron a esa gente, un día y medio después hubo una intervención de la Embajada norteamericana y el ministro de Justicia y terminaron saliendo por el aeropuerto internacional. Como si fueran turistas. Hasta hicieron compras en el Free shop. Esto significa que el gobierno está utilizando mercenarios para reprimir y matar. Esa misma gente estuvo en Irak, en Libia. Y se sabe que hay por lo menos 120 distribuidos por el país.

M.H.: No llama la atención. En nuestro país escuchamos la declaración del Juez Ramos Padilla que acusa a D’Alessio, un abogado trucho que dice ser un agente de inteligencia de EE UU. Y tenemos un fiscal, Stornelli, implicado. Hay centenares de llamados entre él y D’Alessio. Hay audios que prueban esto. Por eso no me extraña lo que comentás respecto de tu país.

Te dejo el cierre ¿Qué podemos esperar del pueblo haitiano?

H.B.: Podemos esperar más luchas, nuevas insurrecciones. Pero quiero asegurar que estamos en camino de escribir una nueva página en la historia. Ojalá sea similar a la de 1804. La realidad histórica nos impone este deber, es una obligación y confío plenamente en la capacidad de lucha del pueblo de Haití. Pero ojalá que haya una solidaridad plena, no ayuda humanitaria, solidaridad plena para acompañarnos en esta lucha tan difícil y compleja.

M.H.: La difusión es fundamental porque se conoce muy poco. Hay dos grandes hechos en este momento en Latinoamérica, una fue la derrota del imperialismo en Venezuela el 24 de febrero y la otra es la movilización popular en Haití.

H.B.: Quiero agradecerles en nombre de todo el Comité Democrático Haitiano y ojalá que podamos encontrarnos en un Haití victorioso. Y también ¡viva Venezuela!, que podamos terminar con esta locura y que pueda seguir desarrollándose la revolución bolivariana. Arriba los que luchan y un saludo a los luchadores y trabajadores en Argentina.
central america / caribbean / the left / non-anarchist press Saturday January 12, 2019 19:30 byNathan Legrand and Éric Toussaint

The violent repression against demonstrators protesting brutal neoliberal policies, which resulted in more than 300 people being killed by regime forces since April 2018, is just one of the reasons why different leftist social movements have condemned the Nicaraguan regime led by President Daniel Ortega and Vice-president Rosario Murillo. The Left has many more reasons to denounce the policies of the regime. To understand this, we must go back to 1979.

The Sandinista Revolution
1979 saw the victory of an authentic revolution in Nicaragua that combined a popular uprising, self-organization of cities and neighborhoods in rebellion, and the action of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (in Spanish – Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional – FSLN), a political-military organization inspired by a Marxist-Guevarist/Castrist model. The revolution put an end to the 42 year-long authoritarian rule of the Somoza dynasty, which had appropriated the state (its armed forces, administration and significant parts of its economic assets) and established a strong alliance with the United States – the Somoza dictatorship proving to be an effective bulwark against progressive political forces – whose multinationals could maintain and increase their plundering of Nicaragua’s national resources in exchange for commissions which added to the increasingly important wealth of the Somozas.

The FSLN was founded in the 1960s as a leftist group opposing the government mainly through guerilla warfare. It was not until some of its guerillas spectacularly took high-ranking members of the Nicaraguan ruling classes as hostages, in December 1974, that it was considered a potentially serious threat to the Somocista dictatorship. Earlier that year, liberal fractions of the bourgeoisie, opposing the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the Somoza ruling clique, had already formed the Democratic Union of Liberation (in Spanish – Unión Democrática de Liberación – UDEL) under the leadership of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, editor of the liberal newspaper La Prensa, to try and gather political momentum in favor of the liberalization of the regime. After the stunt of the Sandinista guerillas, the regime declared a state of emergency, increased its repressive grip over the Nicaraguan society and hunted down the FSLN.

Faced with increasing difficulties, the FSLN eventually split into three factions. The “prolonged people’s war” faction stayed loyal to the strategy of accumulating forces in the remote areas until they would have enough strength to liberate entire regions of the country and launch a final assault against Somoza’s army. The “proletarian tendency” emerged in order to challenge the prolonged people’s war strategy, considered not to be adequate given the absence of a permanent occupying army (hence the rural populations would not directly witness the imperialist endeavor and would not massively join the guerilla) and the development of a capitalist mode of production in the country (the economic development of the 1950s and 1960s had given rise to an agricultural and an industrial proletariat, which constituted respectively 40% and 10% of the active population by 1978). The “proletarian tendency” therefore focused on organizing mass working-class organizations in urban areas and gaining the support of industrial workers with the perspective of launching a swift insurrection when the conditions to do so would be met. Finally, the “Terceristas,” whose main figures included Daniel Ortega and his brother Humberto, also advocated for an insurrectional strategy, but were open to tactical alliances with the liberal fractions of the bourgeoisie opposing Somoza. While the “proletarian tendency” stressed the need for a mass uprising and for self-organization, the “Terceristas” displayed substitutist tendencies which implied that an armed insurrection led by organized guerillas, without a simultaneous mass uprising, would be sufficient to overthrow the regime and take power.

Eventually, the regime lifted the state of emergency in 1977, thinking the guerilla war was defeated and the conditions for entering negotiations with the liberal opposition were met. But FSLN groups were prompt to resume their armed actions in urban areas. In January 1978, the murder of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal by the regime’s soldiers was caught on video and sparked anger among the liberal opposition as well as among the toiling masses. A general strike supported by the liberal bourgeoisie was launched while FSLN groups staged armed actions against Somoza’s National Guard. In August, another general strike was called, while Sandinista guerillas staged an assault against the National Palace where a joint session of both chambers of the Parliament was taking place, taking hundreds hostage, which successfully resulted in the liberation of several political prisoners from Somoza’s jails. More importantly, spontaneous uprisings took place against the regime, enabling the Left to gain momentum over the liberal opposition. This culminated in several urban uprisings in September 1978 after the FSLN called for insurrection. While these uprisings were severely defeated by the National Guard, they scared away the liberal opposition whose representatives sought to enter negotiations with the regime, mediated by the U.S.-dominated Organization of American States (OAS). The “Terceristas” denounced it and withdrew from the “Broad Liberation Front” (in Spanish – Frente Amplio Opositor – FAO) which they had constituted together with the liberal opposition, paving the way for the reunification of the three Sandinista currents.

In January 1979, Somoza turned down the proposals of the liberal opposition. The momentum was then with the Sandinistas, who dominated the new “Patriotic National Front” (in Spanish – Frente Patriótico Nacional – FPN), created in February 1979 and in which the liberal opposition was marginalized. After reuniting, the FSLN called for a general strike to be held in June, and prepared a broad military offensive to be launched at the same time.

The population effectively accompanied these actions through mass urban uprisings. As the armed insurrection quickly liberated areas of the country one after the other, Somoza’s army largely decomposed and, when its last stronghold in the capital was finally liberated on July 19, 1979, its last remnants had no choice but to flee abroad (in particular to the neighboring country of Honduras). Now in the government, the revolutionary political forces, among which the FSLN was dominant, pledged to install a democratic regime, to guarantee a non-alignment of Nicaragua’s foreign policy (thus putting an end to the alliance with the United States) and to develop a “mixed economy” in which the development of cooperatives and state-owned enterprises would be encouraged while the existence of private capital would not be fundamentally threatened as long as it was perceived as “patriotic,” that is, loyal to the Sandinista revolution rather than to the overthrown Somocista regime or to U.S. imperialism.

During the first two years following the revolutionary victory, several developments made the case of Nicaragua different from other cases in which the Left has come to power through elections in Latin America, including Chile in 1970, Venezuela in 1998-99, Brazil in 2002-03, Bolivia in 2005-06 and Ecuador in 2006-07. Due to the destruction of Anastasio Somoza’s army and the flight of the dictator, the FSLN not only assumed governmental power (which the other cases cited did via the electoral process), it also replaced the Somocista army with a new army that was put at the service of the people, took over total control of the banks and decreed a public monopoly on foreign trade. Weapons were distributed to the population for their self-defense due to risks of outside aggression and an attempted coup coming from the Right. These are fundamental changes that did not take place in the aforementioned countries. They did take place in Cuba between 1959 and 1961, and were extended during the 1960s.

In the 1980s, major social progress was made in Nicaragua in the areas of healthcare, education, improving housing conditions (even if they remained rudimentary), fuller rights to organization and protest, access to credit for small producers thanks to nationalization of the banking system, and more. These represented undeniable progress.

However, throughout the 1980s the FSLN government had to fight a decade-long war against the counter-revolutionary forces known as the Contras, heavily supported by the United States which could never satisfy its ambition of direct military intervention to topple the Sandinistas but settled for a “low-intensity” conflict which would strangle Nicaragua economically and isolate the FSLN politically. U.S. imperialism and its vassals (such as the regime of Carlos Andrès Perez in Venezuela or dictatorships as in Honduras) found it necessary to contain the spreading of this extraordinary experiment in social liberation and renewal of national dignity. In fact, social revolt was rampant in the region, in particular in Salvador and Guatemala where revolutionary forces close to the Sandinistas had been active for decades.

In 1990, the FSLN lost the general election to the Right, with Violeta Chamorro, the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, being elected President. Under Chamorro, Nicaragua was to fully embrace the neoliberal austerity promoted by the “Washington consensus,” which was to result by the end of the decade in Nicaragua becoming the second poorest country in the Americas, after Haiti.

Change Society Without Taking Power?
In the 1990s, as a result of disappointed hopes, there were those who were saying that what is needed is to try to change society without taking power. One aspect of their approach was quite pertinent: it is absolutely vital to promote processes of change that take place at the base of society and which presuppose self-organization by citizens, freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate and organize. But the idea that power must not be taken is not valid, because it is not possible to really change society unless the people take power at the level of the State.

The question is rather: how to build an authentic democracy in the original sense of the word – that is, power exercised directly by the people for the purpose of emancipation? In other words, power of the people, by the people and for the people.

We feel that it was necessary to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship through the combined action of a popular uprising and the intervention of a political-military organization. And as such, the victory of July 1979 remains a popular triumph worthy of celebration. It must be stressed that without the ingenuity and tenacity of the people during the struggle, the FSLN would not have succeeded in striking the decisive blow against the Somoza dictatorship.

The FSLN leadership did not go far enough in radicalization for the benefit of the people.

Several questions arise. Did the FSLN go too far in the changes it made in the society? Did it take the wrong direction? Or are the disappointing subsequent developments the result of aggression by North American imperialism and its allies – in Nicaragua and elsewhere in the region?

Here, we will highlight errors made in two main areas.

First, the FSLN leadership did not go far enough in taking radical measures in favor of the segments of the population who were most exploited and oppressed (beginning with the poor rural population, but also factory workers and healthcare and education workers, who were generally underpaid). It made too many concessions to agrarian and urban capitalists.

Second, the leadership of the FSLN, with its slogan “National Directorate – Give us your orders!” did not provide sufficient support for self-organization and worker control. It placed limits that were highly detrimental to the revolutionary process.

Of course, responsibility for the outbreak of the war lies exclusively with the enemies of the Sandinista government, the latter of which had no choice but to confront the aggression. Nevertheless, errors were made in the means of waging the war: Humberto Ortega, the head of the army, formed a regular army equipped with expensive heavy tanks, unsuitable against the guerrilla methods of the Contras, and the conscription of the country’s youth in order to reinforce the army was also badly perceived by the population. This, combined with the errors made in the area of agrarian reform, had damaging consequences. In a recent interview, Henry Ruiz, one of the nine members of the national leadership in the 1980s, underlines the fact in these terms:

“The campesinos were not favored [in agrarian reform]; on the contrary they were affected by the war. The war waged by the contra and the war waged by us.”

Errors Made by the Sandinista Leadership
What errors were made? Here is a summary presentation of a question that deserves long discussion.

The agrarian question was not dealt with properly. Agrarian reform was seriously insufficient and the Contras took full advantage of that fact. Much more land should have been distributed to rural families (giving them title to the property), because expectations were enormous among a large part of the population who needed land and were struggling to have the arable land in the large private estates – including (but not only) those belonging to the Somoza clan – distributed to those who wanted to work it. The orientation that won out among the Sandinista leadership was to target the major Somoza estates but to spare the interests of major capitalist groups and powerful families whom certain Sandinista leaders wanted to turn into allies or fellow travelers.

Another error was made: the FSLN wanted to quickly create a State agrarian sector and cooperatives to replace the large Somocista estates, which was not in line with the attitudes of the rural population. Priority should have been given to small (and medium) private farms, distributing titles to the property and providing material and technical aid to the new campesino owners. Priority also should have been given to support for production for the domestic market (which was already substantial but could have been improved and increased) and the regional market, making maximum use of organic-agriculture methods.

To sum up, the leadership of the FSLN combined two serious errors: on the one hand, it made too many concessions to the bourgeois who were considered allies in the change then in progress, and on the other hand it engaged in excessive statism or artificial cooperativism.

The result was not long in coming: a part of the population, disappointed by the decisions of the Sandinista government, was attracted by the Contra. The latter had the intelligence to adopt a discourse that was aimed at the disillusioned campesinos, telling them that they would help them overthrow the FSLN, resulting in a truly fair distribution of land and true agrarian reform. This was deceitful propaganda, but it was widely disseminated.

That is corroborated by a series of studies in the field – which Éric Toussaint, one of the authors of this article, had access to from 1986-1987, after several trips made to Nicaragua to provide internationalist solidarity – in particular studies led in rural regions where the Contra had gained popular support. Certain entities within the Sandinista movement itself conducted very serious surveys on the ground and alerted the Sandinista leadership about what was happening. These included the work coordinated by Orlando Nuñez, whose later political evolution led him to remain loyal to Ortega despite his initial left-wing Sandinista stance. Work done by other entities independent of the government and related to Liberation Theology came to the same conclusions. A number of rural organizations linked to Sandinism (UNAG, ATC, etc.) were also aware of the problems, but engaged in self-censorship. And internationalist experts specialized in the rural world also sounded the alarm.

Concerning self-organization and worker control, the FSLN inherited the Cuban tradition, which promotes popular organization, but within a very controlled and limited framework. Cuba, which at the start of the 1960s had experienced a broad movement toward self-organization, gradually moved toward a model in which there is much greater control from above, starting with the increase in Soviet influence in the late 1960s-1970s. And part of the FSLN leadership was trained in Cuba at that time. The decade after 1970 has been defined as the “grey period” by an entire generation of Cuban Marxists. In short, the Sandinista leadership inherited a tradition that was strongly influenced by the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union and its destructive impact on a large part of the Left internationally, including in Cuba.

Similarly, the application, starting in 1988, of a structural adjustment program that strongly resembled the programs dictated to other countries by the IMF and the World Bank is another error made by the Sandinista government. Regarding this question, Sandinista members have made their criticism of the orientation that was taken by their leadership very clear. They expressed their point of view both internally and publicly, but unfortunately no correction of the errors ensued. The government extended a policy that was leading the process straight into a wall and would result in popular rejection at the polls and a victory of the Right in the election of February 1990.

It was not overly radical policies that weakened the Sandinista revolution. What prevented it from advancing sufficiently with the support of a majority of the population was its failure to put the people at the core of the transition that followed the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

In short, the government maintained an economic orientation that was compatible with the interests of Nicaragua’s wealthy bourgeoisie and major private foreign corporations – that is, an economy oriented toward export and based on low wages in order to remain competitive on the worldwide market.

This was not doomed to happen – alternative policies could have been implemented. The government should have paid more attention to the needs and aspirations of the people, in rural as well as urban areas. It should have redistributed land for the benefit of the campesinos, developing and/or strengthening small landholding and, to the extent possible, forms of voluntary cooperatives. The government should have promoted wage increases for workers, both in the private and public sectors.

If the Sandinistas had really wanted to break away from the export-oriented extractivist model that depends on competitiveness on the international market, they should have gone against the interests of the capitalists that still dominated the export-oriented extractivist industry. They should have done more to gradually implement policies in favor of the small and medium-sized producers who supplied the domestic market, such as protectionist measures in order to limit importations. This would have allowed the peasants and small and medium enterprises not to have to make sacrifices for the sake of competitiveness on the international market.

Instead of encouraging the masses to follow orders given from the top of the FSLN, self-organization by citizens should have been promoted at all levels, and citizens should have been given control over the public administration as well as over the accounts of private companies. The political institutions that were installed by the FSLN did not fundamentally differ from the ones of a parliamentary democracy with a strong presidential role, something which would impede the capacity of the masses to constitute a counter-power when the Right would be elected in 1990.

Concessions were made to local big capital, which was wrongly perceived as being patriotic and an ally of the people: the increases in wages were limited, fiscal incentives in the form of lower taxation were given to the bosses. Any such alliance should have been rejected.

At each important stage, criticism from within the FSLN emerged. The magazine Envio, for instance, was founded in 1981 “as a publication that provided ‘critical support’ to Nicaragua’s revolutionary process from the perspective of liberation theology’s option for the poor.” But such criticism was not actually taken into account by the leadership, which was more and more dominated by Daniel Ortega, his brother Humberto, and Víctor Tirado López – all three of whom supported the “Tercerista” faction (which, as was explained above, did not have a full understanding of the necessity of self-organization, and was inclined to alliances with the bourgeoisie) and were joined by Tomas Borge and Bayardo Arce of the “prolonged people’s war” faction. Further, the four other members of the national leadership did not form a bloc to oppose the continuation and deepening of the errors that were made.

It is very important to point out that proposals for alternative policies were formulated both inside the FSLN and from outside, from political groups who wanted to further the revolutionary process that was underway.

Constructive critical voices did not wait for the electoral failure of February 1990 to propose new directions, but they received only a limited hearing and remained relatively isolated.

Illegitimate and Odious Debt
The leadership of the FSLN should also have questioned repayment of the public debt inherited from the Somoza dictatorship and should have broken with the World Bank and the IMF. As a dependent country aligned on the United States, Somoza’s Nicaragua had been a receiver of booming foreign lending in the 1970s, by multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF as well as by international private banks. While the loans were officially intended for development, they benefitted the strengthening of an authoritarian regime and the increase in wealth of Somoza and his clique. After the latter left the country with most of their assets, the new Sandinista rulers of Nicaragua were in dire need of funding in order to implement progressive policies and to encourage the industrialization of the country. Somoza’s debt would soon be a burden and impede the implementation of such policies. When the FSLN took power, the foreign debt stood at $1.5-billion, and in 1981 its servicing represented 28% of the country’s export revenue.

The Sandinistas should have conducted an audit of the debt with broad citizen participation. This is a fundamental point. The Sandinista government’s agreeing to continue repaying the debt was in keeping with its defense of the interests of a part of Nicaragua’s bourgeoisie who had invested in the debt issued by Somoza and borrowed money from U.S. banks. For the Sandinista government, this was also a way of avoiding a confrontation with the World Bank and the IMF, despite the fact that they had financed the dictatorship. Despite the government’s efforts to maintain collaboration with the two institutions, the latter decided to suspend financial relations with the new Nicaraguan authorities. This shows that it was useless to make concessions to them.

Admittedly, it was not easy for the government of a country like Nicaragua to face its creditors alone, but it could have begun by questioning the legitimacy of the debts claimed by the World Bank, the IMF, and the States and private banks that had financed the dictatorship. The government could have launched an audit of these debts by calling for citizen participation, and could have gained support for a demand for abolition of those debts by the broad international movement in support of the Nicaraguan people.

Instead, in 1988 after the external debt had reached $7-billion, the government went as far as implementing a structural adjustment plan that degraded the conditions of the poor without affecting the rich, very much resembling the usual conditions imposed by the IMF and World Bank while these institutions had still not resumed their financial relations with Nicaragua.

It can never be repeated often enough that a refusal to stand up to creditors who demand repayment of an illegitimate debt is generally the beginning of the abandonment of the program of change. If the burden of illegitimate debt is not denounced, the people are condemned to bear that burden.

In 1979, two months after the overthrow of Somoza, Fidel Castro said in a speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations:

“The developing countries’ debt has already reached $335-billion. It is estimated that the total payment for servicing the foreign debt amounts to more than $40-billion each year which represents more than 20 per cent of their annual exports. Furthermore, the average per capita income in the developed countries is now 14 times greater than that of the underdeveloped countries. This situation is already unbearable.”

At the Continental Dialogue on the Foreign Debt held at Havana’s Palace of Conventions on August 3rd, 1985, he said: “The debts of the countries with less relative development in a disadvantaged situation are unbearable and do not have a solution, and they should be cancelled.”

As part of a major international campaign for the abolition of illegitimate debt, Castro made a series of arguments at that conference that are quite applicable to Nicaragua’s case:

“To all these moral, political, and economic reasons, we can add many legal reasons: Who signed the contracts? Who is sovereign? On the basis of what concept can it be said that the people committed themselves to paying and that they signed for the credits and received the credits? Most of those credits were secured by repressive military dictatorships that did not consult the people. Do the debts and the commitments of the peoples’ oppressors have to be paid by the oppressed? This is the moral and philosophical basis of this idea. The parliaments were not consulted. The principle of sovereignty was violated. What parliament participated in this debt-signing process and knew about it?”

We stress the issue of illegitimate debt because, should the oppressive regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo be overthrown, it would be essential for a popular government to call repayment of the debt demanded of Nicaragua into question. Should the Right take leadership of the overthrow of the regime, we can be certain that it will not call the debt repayment demanded of Nicaragua into question.

After the defeat in the election of February 1990, Daniel Ortega extended a policy of class collaboration.

In 1989 the FSLN government reached an agreement with the Contras that put an end to fighting, which was of course a positive development. It was presented as the victorious outcome of the strategy that had been adopted. Yet it was a Pyrrhic victory. The Sandinista leadership called a general election in February 1990 and felt certain it would win. Election results struck the Sandinista leadership with an amazed wave of panic: the Right had won, partly by threatening that fighting would resume if the FSLN won. Many people wanted to avoid further bloodshed and thus reluctantly voted for the Right, hoping for an end to war for good. Some were also disappointed by the FSLN government’s policies in the countryside (deficient agrarian reform) and in cities (negative consequences of the austerity measures enforced by the structural adjustment program begun in 1988) though Sandinista organizations could still rely on a lot of support among young people, workers and civil servants, as well as among a significant number of farm labourers.

The Sandinista leadership expected to reap 70% of the votes in the elections, so it was flabbergasted, as it hadn’t perceived the growing discontent in a large portion of the population. This illustrates the gap between the majority of the people and a leadership that had become used to giving orders.

After the defeat in the election of February 1990, Daniel Ortega adopted an attitude that swung back and forth between compromise with the government and confrontation.

The Sandinista leadership, with Daniel and Humberto Ortega at its head, negotiated the transition with Violeta Chamorro’s new government. Humberto was still General in Chief of a starkly reduced army. The most left-wing members of the army had been dismissed, under the pretext that they had supplied missiles to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), which was still attempting to bring about a general uprising in Salvador. In the context of presidents Gorbachev and Bush coming closer together, Soviet authorities had denounced the fact that SAM-7 and SAM-14 missiles that had been supplied by the USSR to the Sandinistas had been passed on to the FMLN and used to shoot down U.S. army helicopters operating in El Salvador. Four Sandinista officers were imprisoned on an order from Humberto Ortega with the following explanation: “Blinded by their political passion and guided by extremist arguments, this small group of officers flouted military honor and the Institution’s and Military Command’s loyalty, which is the same as flouting the sacred, patriotic and revolutionary interests of Nicaragua.”

This led to strong criticism from the Workers’ National Front (which included Sandinista trade union organizations), from the Sandinista Youth as well as from a number of FSLN activists. Moreover, a left-wing group of former members of the “prolonged people’s war” faction that published the bulletin Nicaragua Desde Adentro disapproved of Humberto Ortega’s decision to remain head of the army under a right-wing presidency instead of leaving his position to his deputy, who was also a member of the FSLN, so that Humberto Ortega could remain in the FSLN leadership and join the political opposition to the new regime.

A few months after Violeta Chamorro started her mandate as president, a massive movement spread throughout the country in July 1990, protesting massive layoffs planned in the public services as well as other issues linked with the implementation of a market-oriented economic policy. Managua and other cities were covered with Sandinista barricades and the trade unions launched a general strike. This resulted in a compromise with Violeta Chamorro’s government, which was forced to withdraw some measures, but the Sandinista grassroots was disgruntled at the FSLN leadership having halted protest actions. Later, the Front’s leadership gradually made concessions to Chamorro, accepting the dismantling of the public banking sector, the reduction of the public sector in both agriculture and manufacturing, the end of the State’s monopoly on foreign trade. Chamorro also organized the cleansing of the police force and incorporated former Contras into it.

It must be said that after the victory of the Right, a significant part of the estates formerly expropriated from the Somocistas after the 1979 victory were appropriated by a few Sandinista leaders, who consequently accessed to the role of capitalists. This process was called piñata. Those who organized it accounted for it as meeting the need to secure assets for the FSLN against a government that might want to confiscate the Party’s assets.

Despite a radicalization of some elements of the FSLN throughout 1990 and 1991, others such as former Sandinista minister Alejandro Martinez-Cuenca openly mentioned the need for a “co-gobierno,” a kind of conditional external support to Violeta Chamorro’s government, and supported the policy enforced by the International Monetary Fund, which to some extent could be perceived as in line with the policy followed by the Sandinista government from 1988. Éric Toussaint was a first-hand eyewitness to such class-collaborationist policies advocated for by Daniel Ortega and other FLSN leaders in 1992 as a participant in the 3rd Forum of São Paulo.

In Managua in 1992, Éric Toussaint accompanied Ernest Mandel, a leader of the Fourth International, who had been invited to deliver the inaugural speech at the 3rd Forum of São Paulo. The Forum, launched in 1990 by Brazil’s Workers’ Party (in Portuguese – Partido dos Trabalhadores – PT) under Lula da Silva’s leadership, brought together a broad spectrum of the Latin American Left, from the Cuban CP to the Frente Amplio of Uruguay and including guerrilla organizations like the FMLN in El Salvador.

Ernest Mandel entitled his speech “Socialism and the Future.” Beginning with an observation of the great difficulties facing the forces of the radical Left worldwide, he stated that priority had to be given to emphasizing demands aimed at attaining fundamental human rights, while at the same time maintaining the perspective of socialism. In his conclusion, he stressed that:

“This socialism must be self-managing, feminist, ecological, radical-pacifist, pluralistic; it must qualitatively extend democracy, and be internationalist and pluralist – including in terms of multiparty system. […] the emancipation of the workers will be the work of the workers themselves. It cannot be done by states, governments, parties, supposedly infallible leaders or experts of any kind.”

During the Forum, Víctor Tirado López, one of the commandants who were closest to Daniel Ortega at that time, asked to have a private meeting with Ernest Mandel, who asked Éric Toussaint to accompany him. Víctor Tirado López began by saying that he had much admiration for Ernest Mandel’s work, and in particular his Marxist Economic Theory. Then, the commandant expounded his analysis of the international situation: according to him, the capitalist system had reached maturity and would undergo no further crises, and would lead to socialism without the need for further revolutions. This was totally absurd, and Ernest Mandel said so very clearly and with emotion. When Mandel then responded that crises would indeed continue and that in certain parts of Latin America, such as Brazil’s Northeast, living conditions were clearly worsening for the most exploited populations, Tirado López answered that those regions had not yet been reached by the civilization that had been brought by Christopher Columbus five centuries earlier. Ernest Mandel and Éric Toussaint then put an abrupt end to this preposterous conversation.

The following day, Daniel Ortega expressed the desire to meet in private with Mandel to present the proposed alternative program he wanted to defend publicly as the FSLN against the rightist government of Violeta Chamorro. After reading it, we realized that the program did not meet the minimum conditions for constituting an alternative. To put it simply, it was compatible with the reforms undertaken by the rightist government and would not enable the offensive against the Right to be resumed. Mandel said so very clearly to Daniel Ortega, who was not at all pleased.

These two discussions show how profoundly certain FSLN leaders had gone astray. The subsequent evolution of Daniel Ortega and those who accompanied him on his path back to power was already clearly perceptible in the early 1990s.

Daniel Ortega’s Consolidation of Power Within the FSLN
A large part of the Sandinista militants from the revolutionary period rejected that orientation in the years that followed. It took time, and Daniel Ortega took advantage of the slow dawning of awareness of the danger to consolidate his influence within the FSLN and marginalize or exclude those who defended a different orientation. Simultaneously, Daniel Ortega succeeded in maintaining privileged relations with a number of leaders of popular Sandinista organizations who felt that in the absence of anyone else, he was the leader most likely to defend the series of gains made during the 1980s. That explains in part why, in 2018, the Ortega regime still has the support of part of the population and the popular movement despite its use of extremely brutal methods of repression.

Ortega’s consolidation of power within the FSLN in the 1990s is best summed up by Mónica Baltodano, former guerilla commander, former member of the FSLN leadership and now a member of the Movement for the Rescue of Sandinismo (in Spanish – Movimiento por el Rescate del Sandinismo – MpRS):

“The dispute within the FSLN between 1993 and 1995 [which culminated in a large number of professionals, intellectuals and others splitting away, many of them to form the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which is different from Mónica Baltodano’s MpRS that was founded later] persuaded Ortega and his iron circle of the importance of controlling the party apparatus. That became more concretized precisely in the FSLN’s 1998 Congress, in which what remained of the National Directorate, i.e. the Sandinista Assembly and the FSLN Congress itself, were replaced with an assembly whose participants were mainly the leaders of the grassroots organizations loyal to Ortega. Little by little even that assembly stopped meeting. At that point an important rupture occurred. By then it was already evident that Ortega was increasingly distancing himself from leftist positions and centering his strategy on how to expand his power. His emphasis was power for power’s sake.”

Mónica Baltodano goes on to explain the building of alliances that ultimately led to Daniel Ortega’s coming back to the presidential office:

“An alliance-building process started then to increase his power. The first was with President Arnoldo Alemán, which produced the constitutional reforms of 1999-2000. Ortega’s central aims in that alliance were to reduce the percentage needed to win the presidential elections on the first round, divvy up between their two parties the top posts in all state institutions [such as the Electoral Council, the Court of Auditors and the Supreme Court] and guarantee security to the FSLN leaders’ personal properties and businesses [acquired during and after the piñata]. In exchange, he guaranteed Alemán ‘governability’ by putting a stop to strikes and other struggles for grassroots demands. The FSLN stopped opposing the neoliberal policies. In the following years, the main leaders of the party’s once mass organizations became National Assembly representatives or were brought into the structures of Ortega’s circle of power. With that they obviously stopped resisting and struggling for all the things they had once believed in.

“Those years also saw the forming of ‘ties’ – I wouldn’t call it an alliance – with the head of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Obando. The main purpose of that linkage was control of the electoral branch of government through Obando’s personal, intimate relation with Roberto Rivas, who had been heading the electoral branch since 2000. It also bought Ortega increased influence with both the Catholic faithful and the church hierarchy.”

After Alemán was charged with corruption and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, the agreement he had concluded with Ortega proved to be profitable: Ortega saw to it that the men he had placed in the judicial system arranged preferential treatment for Alemán, allowing him to serve out his sentence in house arrest. Later, in 2009, two years after his election as president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega gave his support to the Supreme Court’s decision to quash Alemán’s conviction and release him. A few days later Alemán returned the favor by ensuring that the parliamentary group of the Liberal Party he led voted for the election of a Sandinista at the head of the National Assembly.

The constitutional reforms of 1999-2000 reduced the percentage needed to win the presidential election on the first round to 35% of the votes if the candidate has a 5% margin over the candidate coming in second. Ortega was elected with 38.07% of the votes in November 2006 and took office in January 2007. He was re-elected in November 2011 and in November 2016, after what Rosario Murillo, whom he had married in the church with Cardinal Obando as officiant and who had been spokesperson of the government since 2007, became vice-president.

The Revolution Betrayed

Since 2007, the policies which have been implemented by Ortega and Murillo have looked more like a continuation of the policies pursued by the three right-wing governments that succeeded one another between 1990 and 2007 than like a continuation of the Sandinista experience from 1979-1990. In this respect, the article by Mónica Baltodano, published in January 2014 and quoted above, deserves a full reading.

In the last eleven years, Daniel Ortega’s government did not carry out any structural reform: no socialization of the banks, no new agrarian reform despite the very important concentration of land in the hands of big landowners, no urban reform in favor of the toiling classes, no tax reform in favor of more social justice. Free-trade zone regimes have been expanded. The contracting of internal and external debt has been pursued under the same conditions that favor the creditors through the interest payments they receive and that allow them to impose policies in their favor through blackmail.

In 2006, the Sandinista parliamentary group voted hand in hand with the right-wing MPs in favor of a law totally prohibiting abortion. It was under the presidency of Daniel Ortega, who refused to call the measure into question, that the prohibition was included in the new criminal code that entered into force in July 2008. There are no exceptions whatsoever to the prohibition, including cases of danger to the health or the life of the pregnant woman or pregnancy resulting from rape. This retrograde legislation was accompanied by serious attacks on organizations defending women’s rights, who have been among the most active in the opposition to the Ortega government. In another very troubling development, references to the Catholic religion have been systematically used by the regime, in particular by Rosario Murillo who has made a point of denouncing women’s rights organizations and the support they receive from abroad in their struggle for the right to abortion as being “the Devil’s work.”

Nicaragua can still be characterized by its very low wages. ProNicaragua, the official agency promoting foreign investment in the country, brags about “[t]he minimum wage [being] the most competitive at the regional level, which makes Nicaragua an ideal country to set up labour-intensive operations.” Over the recent years, labour insecurity starkly increased: informal economy represented 60% of the total employment in 2009, a figure which stood at 80% in 2017. No progress was made toward a diminution of social inequalities, and the number of millionaires increased. The growth in wealth produced was not distributed to the toiling classes but benefitted the big national and international capital, with the help of Daniel Ortega’s government. Furthermore, the latter and his family also became richer.

The main trigger of the social protests that started in April 2018 was the announcement by Ortega’s government of neoliberal measures to be taken concerning social security, in particular, pension reform. These measures were advocated for by the IMF, with which Ortega had maintained excellent relations since he took office in 2007. In a statement published in February 2018, the IMF congratulated the government for its achievements: “Economic performance in 2017 was above expectations and the 2018 outlook is favorable … Staff recommends that the INSS [Nicaraguan Social Security Institute] reform plan secures its long-term viability and corrects the inequities within the system. Staff welcomes the authorities’ efforts to alleviate INSS’ financing needs.”

The most unpopular measures were a 5% decrease of the pensions meant to finance medical expenses and a limitation of the annual indexation of these pensions over the inflation rate. Future pension benefits for the close to one million workers affiliated to the pension system were meant to be based on a less favorable calculation, which would have resulted in cuts in pension benefits that could have been as high as 13%.

These measures sparked a mass protest movement, at first mainly composed of students and young people. The movement quickly joined with other protests, in particular with the mainly peasant- and indigenous-based movement against the construction of a transoceanic canal meant as an alternative to the Panama Canal that would endanger large parts of the environment and livelihoods.

Eventually, Ortega gave up on these reforms. This was not before he had initiated a criminal spiral of repression which resulted in more than 300 protesters being killed by security forces and pro-regime militiamen. Now joined by parts of the population horrified by the government’s repressive response, the protests radicalized, eventually demanding the fall of the regime.

The government accused the protesters of being right-wing “golpistas” and “terrorists” working toward regime change with the support of U.S. imperialism. The government was, however, unable to provide any non-fabricated evidence to support such claims. In fact, the United States, which has little to say about Ortega’s neoliberal economic policies, took rather timid sanctions in reaction to the repression so far. Similarly, the examination by the U.S. Senate of the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) of 2017, which deserves to be denounced as an imperialist policy impinging on Nicaragua’s national sovereignty, was not sped up by recent events.

Furthermore, Ortega and Murillo strengthened their use of religious fundamentalist references and denounced the protesters as having “Satanic” rituals and practices, as opposed to the rest of the Nicaraguan people, “because the Nicaraguan people are God’s people!” On 19 July 2018, during the rally organized on the anniversary of the Sandinista revolution to try and strengthen his legitimacy, Ortega repeated these absurd claims and called on the Catholic bishops to exorcize the protesters and chase out the devil which supposedly had taken possession of them.

By the middle of July, the policy of terror led by the government allowed the latter to regain control of the streets. Since then, massive arrests have taken place and several hundreds of people, labelled as “terrorists” by the government, are still imprisoned. Human rights associations are not permitted to enter the prisons, nor are the lawyers of some of the detainees. Some of them were tortured and forced to give false confessions supporting the claim according to which the regime faces a foreign-led plot aimed at removing it by force.

By Means of Conclusion
The Sandinista revolution started as an extraordinary experience of social liberation and renewal of national dignity in a dependent country whose status as a backyard for U.S. imperialism had been accepted by its authoritarian, dynastic rulers for decades. The achievements of the Sandinista government between 1979 and 1990, however, did not go far enough. While they allowed for significant improvements of the living conditions of most of the Nicaraguans, they did not break with the export-oriented extractivist model, which was dominated by the big capital, nor did they significantly promote the active participation of the masses in the economic and political decision-making processes. The political institutions and the internal organization of the FSLN were not developed as tools that could have empowered the masses, an error which allowed for the FSLN degeneration during Ortega’s road back to power.

This understanding of the Nicaraguan revolution and its degeneration stresses the need for revolutionaries and socialist activists to encourage the broadest possible participation of the masses in the fight for their emancipation, as well as to help ensure their self-organization. A corollary to this idea is the need for revolutionaries to struggle against the bureaucratization of their organizations’ leadership – which begins with building organizations that respect internal democracy. This was strongly underestimated by the FSLN, which remained a political-military organization after it had seized power and waited until 1991 before it organized its first congress as a political organization. While the Sandinista leadership made the right choice when it recognized the victory of the Right in 1990, the subsequent steps taken by the FSLN leadership under Daniel Ortega were clearly meant for him to come back to power for power’s sake. The left-wing of the FSLN, which organized as critical currents during the 1990s, was too timid in its opposition to these moves.

Finally, the international Left needs to have a materialist analysis of social and political processes, and shall not cling to fantasized ideas of experiences of really existing socialism. The evolution of the FSLN and the policies led in Nicaragua since 2007 should be analyzed for what they are rather than on the basis of what Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo presumably stood for as FSLN activists during the 1970s and 1980s. In this sense, Ortega and Murillo’s deepening of the neoliberal policies pursued by their right-wing predecessors, as well as their total ban of abortion should be denounced by the international Left. Furthermore, the Left should strongly denounce the criminal repression currently organized by the regime against protesters and demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. When adopting such a stance, the Left should in no way compromise itself by supporting a right-wing, pro-imperialist opposition. On the contrary, this stance should be accompanied by an effort to link with and reinforce the critical Sandinistas and other members of the progressive opposition to Ortega and Murillo, in particular the youth who mobilized strongly since April 2018, the feminist movement, and the peasant and indigenous movement who opposed the project of transoceanic canal and other destructive projects linked with the export-led capitalist model.
américa central / caribe / imperialismo / guerra / comunicado de prensa Wednesday August 15, 2018 07:24 byFederación Anarquista Uruguaya

El 19 de julio de 1979 (43 años después del inicio de la Revolución Española contra el golpe de Estado de Franco) triunfaba en Nicaragua una revolución de claro contenido popular. Se ponía fin así a la dictadura de 46 años de la familia Somoza, dueños de Nicaragua y personeros de Estados Unidos. Desde 1855, con la invasión del “filibustero” Walker, Nicaragua ha sido un enclave norteamericano, una especie de semi-colonia, un país “libre” e “independiente” sólo formalmente, donde el control de Estados Unidos era total en todas las actividades nicaragüenses.

La gesta de Sandino con su “Ejército Rebelde”, cuyo principal objetivo era expulsar a los marines norteamericanos puso en jaque dicha presencia entre 1926 y 1933. El asesinato de Sandino a manos de Anastasio Somoza, en una verdadera emboscada, a traición, derrota al Ejército Rebelde y triunfa la reacción más asquerosa y vil al servicio del imperialismo norteamericano.

Sin embargo, el pueblo nicaragüense continuó resistiendo. Con pequeñas acciones, incluso asesinando a Somoza, pero sin poder evitar que se entronara en dinastía su familia. Los Somoza eran dueños de media Nicaragua, literalmente. El resto del país estaba en manos de una lánguida burguesía y de los intereses yanquis. La Iglesia, siempre fiel aliada a los Somoza y al status quo.

La Resistencia Popular se fue encauzando hacia pequeñas guerrillas, hasta que en 1961 se forma el Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, bajo el influjo de la Revolución Cubana, y con una perspectiva de desalojar a la dictadura de Somoza, independizar definitivamente al país y abrir un tránsito propio hacia el Socialismo. La incidencia del FSLN crecía a nivel popular: entre los estudiantes de la Universidad -donde fueron reclutados muchos de sus militantes- , organizando barriadas, a los campesinos y diversos sectores sociales.

Así se llega luego de un largo trecho de combates, donde el FSLN gana una inmensa legitimidad entre sectores del pueblo, a derrotar definitivamente a la dictadura. Se iniciaba un nuevo período en la vida del país, donde se instalaban cooperativas de campesinos, experiencias donde convivían la propiedad colectiva con la pequeña propiedad privada, se organizaban y fortalecían sindicatos y demás organizaciones populares…

La “contra”…

Pero Estados Unidos no aceptó la Revolución Sandinista. Lógicamente. Se alborotaba su “patio trasero”. Cundía un mal ejemplo, justo cuando América Central estaba en llamas con el auge de varias experiencias guerrilleras en ascenso, lo mismo que Colombia.

En 1981 asume Ronald Reagan la Presidencia de Estados Unidos, furibundo “anticomunista”. Dirige y organiza con su equipo de gobierno, la “contra” nicaragüense, es decir un ejército paramilitar, contraguerrillero, que hiciera las tareas de “guerra sucia” contra la Revolución Sandinista. Desde Honduras, histórica base en Centroamérica del imperialismo yanqui, las fuerzas de “la contra” invadían y atacaban Nicaragua, principalmente generando una guerra económica, arruinando cosechas, servicios públicos, pero también asesinando a hijos del pueblo para imponer el terror. Todo ello con el apoyo yanqui, que incluso quedó demostrado con el asunto “Irán -Contras”, por el cual EEUU le vendía armas a Irán (¿no está en el “eje del mal”?) para financiar a la “contra”. Una operación multimillonaria, ilegal, un negocio sucio para agredir al pueblo nicaragüense.

En esos años ’80 la Revolución Sandinista había hecho importantes progresos: la campaña de alfabetización -ejemplo en toda América Latina-, las cooperativas, la formación de las milicias para hacer frente a la “contra”. A su vez, el “gobierno provisorio” surgido de 1979, se va transformando en un gobierno donde pisa fuerte el FSLN, dejando algún grado de participación a sectores de la burguesía que formaban parte de la alianza para derrotar a Somoza. En 1984, en un hecho inédito, la Revolución realiza elecciones y sale electo Presidente Daniel Ortega, quien ya estaba integrando y era figura relevante del “gobierno revolucionario”.

En la lucha con la “contra” participaron y cayeron decenas de luchadores latinoamericanos, lo mismo que en el proceso revolucionario. La nicaragüense fue una revolución que concitó un gran apoyo y solidaridad latinoamericana. Compañeros de diversas tiendas políticas pelearon en los ’70 y ’80 en Nicaragua, muchos cayeron allí. Se defendía una revolución triunfante ante la amenaza y agresión del norte y de lo más rancio de la sociedad nicaragüense que intentaba volver al somocismo sin Somoza.

Pero los principales peligros estaban allí: una burguesía vivita y coleando, con sus medios de prensa, buena parte de sus propiedades intactas ya que no eran somocistas, pero buscaban un cambio de régimen, una democracia liberal aliada a EEUU, y también, el hecho de que el Sandinismo haya dejado vivos y en funcionamiento, mecanismos y dispositivos fundamentales propios del sistema capitalista: no sólo cierta propiedad privada. Estaba ahí entonces esa institución tan valiosa al sistema, las elecciones en el marco de la “democracia” burguesa. De ese modo se hipotecaba la Revolución. Entre otras cosas porque si el FSLN perdía las elecciones, la llamada revolución caía de un golpe. Un mecanismo, una red atrapante, de pleno dominio del sistema capitalista.

Y así fue, así ocurrió. En 1990, Violeta Chamorro gana las elecciones -con gran apoyo de EEUU- y pone fin al experimento revolucionario sandinista en curso. Se negoció el fin del conflicto armado con la “contra”, que en los hechos políticamente había triunfado. Se mantuvo parte del aparato militar sandinista en el Ejército de Nicaragua, el FSLN se transformó en partido político electoral y comenzó “la Piñata”, es decir, el asqueroso reparto de las propiedades (varias de ellas mansiones y empresas) de los ex somocistas que pasaron a manos de los líderes sandinistas. Algo de esto ya se venía dando en los años ’80, pero a partir de 1990 con el pretexto de que “se lo van a llevar otros” o “si no tenemos riqueza y poder nos van a matar”, la dirigencia sandinista se convirtió en una nueva burguesía y comenzó a pactar con los sectores que le fueron opositores y con “la contra”.

Varias fueron las elecciones en que el FSLN fue derrotado en los años ’90. Vimos como a inicios de los años 2000 el FSLN dejaba la bandera rojinegra y asumía el rosado como su color, y como Daniel Ortega se casaba por Iglesia con Rosario Murillo, siendo Monseñor Ovando y Bravo quien oficiara la ceremonia. Monseñor Ovando y Bravo, cardenal de Nicaragua, máxima expresión de la “contra” en los años ’80, pasaba ahora a ser un fiel aliado del actual Sandinismo.

La Nicaragua de Ortega

Daniel Ortega fue tejiendo alianzas con los ex miembros y líderes de la “Contra” y la Iglesia Católica, los sumó como “aliados coyunturales” para las elecciones de 2006, pero lo cierto es que han sido los sectores que han estado en la base del gobierno del matrimonio Ortega -Murillo desde hace 12 años.

No se puede negar: han ganado elecciones en forma consecutiva. Sin los clásicos fraudes tan comunes en América Latina hasta bien entrado el siglo XX. Pero esos triunfos electorales y el poder que concentra Ortega en sus manos, surgen de esas turbias alianzas con los sectores más reaccionarios de Nicaragua y de una fuerte alianza con el empresariado. Policlasismo puro y duro, “izquierda” y derecha entreveradas, la real política en extremo. Pero eso tiene sus consecuencias… “Cría cuervos y te arrancarán los ojos”, dice el refrán popular. Algo de eso hay.

Es innegable que se efectivizó algo de política reformista, que se tomaron medidas de fortalecimiento de proyectos cooperativos a nivel popular, que el gobierno cuenta con una base social de apoyo estimable, que se ha elevado en algo el nivel de vida, aunque Nicaragua sigue siendo el segundo país más pobre de América Latina. No podemos dejar de mencionar, aunque sea de paso, el papel de las maquilas, la instalación de centenares de fábricas de trasnacionales en zonas francas y donde la explotación y las condiciones de salubridad de los trabajadores es un episodio infame. Pero también es notoria la concentración de poder en el binomio Ortega -Murillo, que son ya parte activa del sistema capitalista, y que variadas figuras del FSLN histórico se han alejado de esa formación con posturas políticas diversas.

Pero los acontecimientos que se han desatado en los últimos meses han llamado poderosamente la atención sobre lo que se estaba incubando en Nicaragua. Ha estallado un verdadero volcán. Sin lugar a dudas, las victorias electorales del FSLN no podían esconder por mucho tiempo el descontento de sectores de la población que se iba arrastrando. Es más, estalla cuando el gobierno de Ortega afecta con una clara medida antipopular a las jubilaciones y las pensiones. Se desatan allí medidas de lucha de los estudiantes y de varios sectores populares.

Inmediatamente ocurren dos cosas: una feroz represión del aparato policial estatal y se suman a las movilizaciones los sectores de la burguesía. Rápidamente hay barricadas y fuertes enfrentamientos. Nada diferente a lo ocurrido en las constantes luchas del pueblo nicaragüense. Pero lo que ocurre ahora, más allá de toda la desinformación que llega en torno al tema, es que la derecha junto al espectro de penetración y acción imperial que va de organismos “humanitarios”, “democráticos” Comando Sur a agentes de la CIA sin más, se han montado a estas movilizaciones para generar la posibilidad de quitar a Ortega del gobierno.

De todas maneras a esta altura cabe preguntarse: si por más de una década de gobierno de Ortega no se dieron enfrentamientos importantes con la derecha y el imperio, si la política de Estados Unidos no hostigó y utilizó sus habituales técnicas contra este gobierno cuando sí lo hacía contra otros gobiernos “progresistas”. Porqué ahora. Porqué la ruptura de ese cierto romance con empresarios, Iglesia e imperio.

Hay factores geopolíticos estratégicos de poder del Imperio que están pesando en el puzle que implicaron el cambio de actitud. Tenemos ahí la construcción del canal interoceánico con capitales chinos, vinculado a su estrategia de expansión económico-política. También la estación de investigación electrónica rusa instalada en Managua.

Debemos ser precisos y separar las cosas: por un lado, es claro que EEUU pretende debilitar a todo gobierno latinoamericano que no se alinee a su política exterior. Hace tiempo que EEUU viene operando en Nicaragua en relación al gobierno de Ortega es sólo que ahora ya este gobierno no le es útil y hasta tiene líneas internacionales que no son de su agrado. Es lógico también que la burguesía y los sectores latifundistas del campo se movilicen contra cualquier tibia medida que favorezca en algo a los sectores populares. Tenemos claros ejemplos en nuestro país; recientes.

Ante el ataque de la derecha y EEUU, ¿hay que salir a defender este proceso? No. Él no tiene nada que ver con los de abajo. Por supuesto que el imperio y la derecha vienen en malón contra los intereses populares y por el quite de aquellas reformas tibias, que significaron apoyo a gobiernos “progresistas” y con ello la contención que el sistema necesitaba en tal coyuntura. Ya no tolera gobiernos redistributivos de “capitalismo con rostro humano”. Considera que la etapa de más peligro ya pasó. Quiere tal vez otro Ortega que haga más rápido los mandados del F.M.I., del imperio y la derecha en general. Que no trabaje tanto para sí mismo. No hay en esta disyuntiva ninguna causa popular en juego.

No caben aquí medias tintas ni hipocresías políticas. Tampoco esas “tácticas” de cubrir infamias y atrocidades porque se estime que ese gobierno tiene un lejano pasado de izquierda. Este gobierno se identifica totalmente con el capitalismo y su línea neoliberal. Ejerce dictadura brutal, tortura, asesina y desaparece gente del pueblo en lucha. Gente de esos barrios obreros y altamente empobrecidos que dicen ¡basta!. Militantes entregados a la causa de la Revolución Sandinista, que lucharon en todos los frentes y arriesgaron su vida por ella hoy se angustian por lo que ocurre y que es la negación total de aquello por lo que lucharon.

La lucha vinculada a los verdaderos intereses populares, de los de abajo, está en otro lado, en otro camino. El pueblo nicaragüense independiente aspira a una vida mejor, lucha contra todas las medidas e injusticias vengan de donde vengan, como todos los pueblos.

Por más que estén entreveradas las barajas en este conflicto, los anarquistas de FAU siempre hemos propulsado la construcción de Poder Popular por fuera y contra del Estado y todos los dispositivos sistémicos que lo sostienen, por fuera de las lógicas electorales burguesas, porque allí no se disputa poder, sino que allí se inserta y se transa con el poder real. Por estas vías ningún gobierno, ningún proceso social–político va a construir el Socialismo ni va a derribar al Capitalismo.

Por eso, la alternativa, la de los de abajo, es la lucha, es la construcción de un Pueblo Fuerte en un proceso hacia el auténtico Poder popular. Y no hay otra. Son momentos entreverados, confusos, donde igualmente surgen espacios para la acción anticapitalista consecuente. Con estrategia y tácticas que hundan sus manos en los procesos y coyunturas presentes, pero con una perspectiva social de cambio profundo por delante. Los pueblos han buscado y buscarán alternativas de cambio ante la cruel situación en que viven, pero cuando eligen, bajo la influencia de los conocidos de siempre, el camino de las urnas todo el futuro está muerto.

Con el pueblo de Nicaragua y su autodeterminación.

Por un proceso consecuente con el cambio de las relaciones sociales. Donde el pueblo vaya decidiendo su futuro en la pelea de todos los días.

¡Arriba los que luchan!

central america / caribbean / the left / non-anarchist press Thursday May 10, 2018 03:06 byTrevor Evans

In 1979 a popular uprising led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza-family dictatorship which had ruled Nicaragua since the 1930s, and in 1984 the Sandinistas and their presidential candidate, Daniel Ortega, decisively won the country’s first free elections in decades. The Sandinistas introduced a major programme of land redistribution and a significant expansion of public health care and education services. However, initial gains were undermined under the impact of an armed opposition (‘the contra’) organized and promoted by the U.S., a collapse of international raw material prices in the early 1980s, and Sandinista policy errors, including an over-ambitious programme of large-scale investments.

In 1990, a war weary population voted for a broad coalition led by Violetta Chamorro, the widow of a distinguished journalist murdered on Somoza’s orders. Chamorro’s government pursued a policy of national reconciliation but, in order to obtain much needed finance, was required to adopt exceptionally austere economic policies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Following a resumption of economic growth in the mid-1990s, elections in 1996 were won by a right-wing populist, Arnoldo Aleman, who was subsequently convicted to 10 years’ jail for corruption, and Aleman was followed in 2001 by his former vice-President, Enrique Bolaños, a fiercely anti-Sandinista business leader.

Following the Sandinista’s electoral defeat in 1990, many activists left the party as a result of dissatisfaction with Ortega’s leadership and the lack of internal party democracy. Some formed the small breakaway Movement for Sandinista Renovation (MRS), while others became involved in local development projects and in building an independent women’s movement. In 2006, however, the fractious liberal and conservative parties were unable to agree on a joint candidate for the presidential elections and this made it possible for Ortega, who had stood at every election since the 1980s, to win with a minority of the vote.

Despite a constitutional prohibition on consecutive terms in office, the electoral commission allowed Ortega to stand for the presidency again in 2011, and he was elected for a further term. The Sandinista dominated National Assembly subsequently agreed a constitutional change to allow consecutive terms, and in 2016 Ortega stood for the presidency yet again, this time with his wife, Rosario Murillo, as vice-presidential candidate. Shortly before the election, the main opposition candidates were disenfranchised, leaving Ortega and Murillo with a sure victory.


The Family-Party-State Nexus

Since resuming the presidency in 2007, Ortega has governed through a close alliance with Nicaragua’s principal business groups. COSEP, the main private business organization, had a highly conflictual relation with the Sandinista government in the 1980s but has enjoyed very close relations with the current government. The American Chamber of Commerce, which includes the major U.S. companies in the country, has also worked closely with the government, although after a heavily contested election in early 2018 the head of Cargill’s Nicaraguan subsidiary became president after campaigning for a more independent path. The government has also been able to count on the support of the leaders of the main unions, which are affiliated to the FSLN.

Ortega has tried to ensure that no political force emerges on the left and the breakaway MRS was unable to register for the elections in 2016. There are numerous right-wing parties, but they are small and in many cases little more than the personal fiefdoms of their leaders. Among the larger groups, the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC), which won the elections in 1996, has since the early 2000s provided political support for Ortega, initially under a ‘pact’ which allowed its leader, Aleman, to serve his jail sentence for corruption on his rural estate.

The other main right-wing grouping, the Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI), was the leading force in an electoral front which could have provided the most serious opposition to Ortega at the elections in 2016. However, this was effectively undermined a few months before the election when the country’s supreme court, which is dominated by Sandinista appointees, handed control of the party to a minority group. The party’s original candidates for the presidency and vice-presidency were prevented from running and its 28 representatives in the national assembly had to relinquish their seats. The PLI’s long-time leader – a banker – has since retired and former members of the party have established two new political organizations: Cuidadanos por la Libertad (CxL), which obtained legal recognition in May 2017, took part in the municipal elections later in the year; the Frente Amplio por la Democracia (FAD), by contrast, argues that current elections are a farce and it is concentrating on building a new movement from the base up.

At the general election in 2016, when the FSLN principal candidates, Daniel Ortega and Rosaria Murillo obtained 72% of the vote, the turnout was reportedly low as many people, including FSLN supporters, apparently considered the result to be a foregone conclusion. In the vote for the National Assembly, the FSLN obtained 70 out of 91 seats, with 14 seats going to Ortega’s tamed opposition, the PLC.

Ortega himself makes relatively few public appearances and there are unofficial reports that he is in poor health. Murillo, who was already playing an important role in coordinating the work of different government ministries, has come to play an increasing role in managing the day to day government of the country. Virtually all ministerial announcements are now made by Murillo, usually during a regular mid-day radio broadcast, and the mayors of the FSLN controlled municipalities are required to attend regular meetings with her in Managua. She has also build a strong base of support in the Sandinista youth movement, which has an important presence in the universities.

At the local elections in 2017, the FSLN won in 135 municipalities, while the PLC won in 11 and the new CxL in 6. However, as at the previous municipal elections in 2012, there were widespread allegations of irregularities and, in 2017, the extent of support for different parties was obscured because only figures for the share of the vote were published. In the most populated part of the country along the Pacific, the FSLN won strongly, but turnout was reportedly low; in central rural areas, where the contra had had a social base in the 1980s, the PLC and the CxL secured their best results; in the sparsely populated Caribbean area, there was also support for the local indigenous based party, but here the election was marred by violence between rival groups’ supporters.[1] Reportedly, there was also discontent among long-time members of the FSLN at Rosario Murilla’s introduction of a centralized procedure for selecting candidates which, it was alleged, favoured her younger supporters.[2]

The OAS and the USA
In response to the allegations of electoral irregularity, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, met with Ortega in February 2017. To the disappointment of Ortega’s critics, Almagro agreed to allow Ortega four years to rectify shortcomings in the country’s electoral system. Ortega is under strong international pressure to respond to the OAS but, having unexpectedly lost the elections in 1990, he appears intent on making the very minimum of concessions necessary to appease external critics so as to ensure that, at the elections due in 2021, either he or his designated successor will win.

Perhaps predictably the United States government and its ambassador in Nicaragua have been at the forefront of criticisms of Nicaragua’s onetime leftist president and his regime. The U.S. authorities have drawn attention to what they describe as ‘significant irregularities’ at the national and local elections in Nicaragua since 2011 and, in the aftermath of the national elections in 2016, members of the U.S. Congress from both main parties initiated the Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act, which would require U.S. representatives at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to vote against approving any loans for Nicaragua. This was passed by the House of Representatives in October 2017 and requires Senate approval to become law. Meanwhile, the U.S. Agency for International Aid, which had been providing some $10-million a year in development assistance, included a mere $200,000 for Nicaragua in its budget for 2017/18, and nothing at all for subsequent years.[3]

In a more pointed move, in December 2017 the U.S. deployed the Global Magnitsky Act to impose a ban on Robert Rivas, the president of Nicaragua’s electoral commission, from using banking services in the USA. Until then, the Act had only been used against Russian and Venezuelan government officials. Rivas had, inexplicably, accumulated numerous luxury properties in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Paris. He has been a close ally of Ortega and, although his functions have since been officially transferred to his deputy, he has been allowed to retain his title as head of the electoral commission.

Nicaragua’s police and army were re-founded after the Revolution in 1979 and for long enjoyed an unusually high reputation for their probity. However, over the last ten years the number of complaints, particularly about the police, has been rising.[4] Perhaps more seriously, there are also fears that the independence of the two institutions is being eroded. The police and the army both had established procedures whereby the top official would serve one term in office and then pass to retirement. In both institutions, however, the rules regarding retirement have been overridden, and subsequently changed by the National Assembly, and the current office-holders are serving their third consecutive terms. This, it is feared, has reduced their independence and gives at least an impression that they are beholden to Ortega.

The most important media in Nicaragua are television and radio, and these are largely in the hands of two groups which, between them, control 10 television channels. One group is owned by a Mexican businessman, Angel Gonzalez, whose channels are dominated by popular entertainment and avoid political controversy; the other group is controlled by the Ortega family, and transmits what has been described as a mixture of official propaganda, yellow journalism and mass entertainment. The one exception is channel 12, which is host to Nicaragua’s one critically informative current affairs programme.

Strong Economic Growth but Rising Inequality
Nicaragua, with a population of 6.2 million in 2017, has the second lowest per capita income in the Americas. Its economy has grown strongly in recent years, although output fell in 2009 as a result of the deep recession in the U.S. and other major markets. Between 2010 and 2017 economic growth averaged just under 5 per cent a year, the third highest in Latin America after Panama and the Dominican Republic.[5]

The economy remains dependent on primary commodity exports, the most important of which are coffee, beef, gold and sugar. In addition, there has been a significant growth of production in export processing zones since the 1990s, primarily involving textile products and, more recently, the assembly of electrical harnesses for cars produced in Mexico. There is, however, still a large sector of subsistence farmers particularly in the more mountainous areas in the north of the country, and in the towns there is a very large commercial sector, much of it based on informal labour.

Nicaragua’s export revenues increased strongly up to 2014, although since then growth has slowed due to weaker world prices. In 2017 exports of goods amounted to $4.1-billion but imports at $6.6-billion were considerably larger. The deficit has been covered in part by family remittances which have increased considerably in recent years. Because of the employment situation in Nicaragua many families have at least one member who has gone abroad to work, principally to the United States or neighbouring Costa Rica, and in 2017 remittances amounted to $1.4-billion.

Nicaragua has also received substantial foreign direct investment in recent years, attracted by low wage levels and the relative security compared with neighbouring Honduras and El Salvador. Net direct investment amounted to $816-million in 2017, with the inflows directed principally to manufacturing industry, telecommunications, commerce and energy. The largest source in 2016 was Panama (22%), followed by the United States (13%) and Mexico (12%).

Until recently, Nicaragua benefitted from oil provided on very favourable terms by Venezuela. This was organized through a company called Alba de Nicaragua SA, or Albanisa, which is 51% owned by Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, and 49% by Nicaragua’s state-owned petrol company, Petronic. Under the terms of the deal agreed with Venezuela, Nicaragua was supposed to pay half the cost of the imported oil; the other half was effectively a long-term low-interest credit which provided Albanisa and a web of subsidiaries with funds to invest in a wide range of projects in Nicaragua.[6] Between 2008 and 2014 Nicaragua is estimated to have benefited from some $3.5-billion in this way but, controversially, although a public debt, this major source of external finance was not registered in the government’s official figures.

As the economic situation in Venezuela deteriorated, the supply of oil declined and none was received in 2017. There were plans for Venezuela to build a major new refinery in the country but these have been abandoned. Nicaragua has since had to purchase oil on the international market and social expenditures financed with revenues from the Venezuelan oil have had to be reduced. At the same time, Nicaragua – strongly pressed by the International Monetary Fund – has begun to include the amounts owed to Venezuelan in the country’s official debt figures.

In 2013, Nicaragua’s parliament granted a Chinese investor, Wang Jing, a 100-year concession to build and run an inter-oceanic canal through Nicaragua, a mega project that would be able to accommodate even larger ships than the Panama Canal, and which was viewed as a means of fast-tracking the country’s economic development. The $50-billion project was strongly opposed by environmentalists and also gave rise to a significant opposition movement among peasants whose land would have been compulsorily purchased and whose demonstrations were harshly restricted by the police. Work on the canal has been delayed amidst reports that Wang made large losses when the Chinese stock market crashed in 2015-16. From being a centre-piece of the government’s development plans, the canal was not even mentioned by Ortega in his address at the start of the new presidential term in 2017, and it seems unlikely that it will ever be built.

In recent years there has been considerable investment in communications and infrastructure. This is particularly notable in the condition of many roads. The main routes are being widened and resurfaced while the network of all-weather roads in rural areas is being steadily expanded. There has also been a notable expansion in access to electricity, especially in rural areas. According to official figures, coverage increased from around 70% of households in 2010 to 94% in 2017. The state-owned distribution company was privatized in 2000, but sold again in 2014 to a company which is registered in Spain, but which is widely believed to be linked to the government.

The supply of water has remained in the public sector and here too there has been investment in expanding its reach. But while some 90 per cent of households now have access to drinking water in urban areas, the figure is little more than 30 per cent in rural areas. There is a programme for building low income housing, but housing construction has been declining since 2015. According to the Association of Housebuilders, around half of the new homes built in 2017 were for low income households, but this amounted to a mere 2,500 units. There has, however, been investment in public spaces in many towns, providing play grounds together with seating and widely-used free access to the internet.

Sustained economic growth has led to a rise in the number of people in work. The official figure for the rate of unemployment fell to a low of 3.5% for men and 3.8% for women in 2017, but this presents a rather misleading picture, since workers without a formal job have little option but to seek an income from some type of informal employment. Even according to official figures, informal employment accounted for 42 per cent of the workforce in 2017.

The number of people who are formally employed and enrolled in the social security system has increased, from 534,881 in 2010 to 914,196 in 2017. This provides workers with a pension on retirement, but membership growth has slowed, and coverage is very uneven. While some 75 per cent of workers employed in the supply of electricity and water are insured, the figure is only around 45 per cent for workers in manufacturing industry and under 10 per cent in agriculture. The social security system is, in any case, seriously under-funded and, as the IMF has repeatedly warned, it will face a crunch which will place a further financial demand on the central government in 2019.

The employment situation has contributed to poor peasants in central regions of the country pressing toward the Caribbean in search of land to farm, a process exacerbated by the growth of large scale investments in capitalist agriculture, which have displaced many small farmers. This migration of ladino farmers has led to serious confrontations, some resulting in fatalities, with members of indigenous groups who, under the Nicaraguan constitution, are guaranteed exclusive rights to farm the land in Nicaragua’s autonomous Caribbean regions.

The limited employment opportunities in Nicaragua explain why so many workers seek work in other countries. Many of these migrant workers are unskilled, but skilled workers, including university graduates, have also been obliged to look for work abroad, and it is estimated that some 20 per cent of the population lives abroad. The remittances which they have sent back to their families have played a decisive role in maintaining living standards in the country.

On returning to office in 2007, the Ortega government launched an anti-poverty programme entitled Zero Hunger. This provided the poorest households with some basic agricultural support and, crucially, corrugated zinc sheets which enabled them to waterproof the roofs of their shacks. However, as the financial resources from Venezuela have declined, the Zero Hunger programme has been wound down, and subsidized electricity prices for low income households and for pensioners, which were also financed with Venezuelan resources, are to be phased out between 2018 and 2022. According to independent annual surveys carried out between 2009 and 2015, the proportion of the population living in poverty registered a limited decline, from 44.7 to 39.0 per cent, and those in extreme poverty from 9.7 to 7.6 per cent, with the most significant declines registered in rural areas.[7]

After resuming the presidency in 2007, the Ortega government raised the official minimum wage significantly. However, for the great majority of workers, wage rises lagged behind inflation and it is only since 2010 that real wages have begun to register a rise. According to official figures, between 2010 and 2017 real wages for workers in formal employment increased by about 10 per cent when converted into dollars, or just over 1 per cent a year. By 2017, the average wage was equal to around $340 a month. In the financial sector and the mines, the figure was somewhat higher, at just over $500 a month, but in the manufacturing sector the average was equal to just $230, while the average for agricultural workers was a mere $130. For the government, low wage costs have clearly been an important part of their strategy for attracting foreign investment.

Nicaragua also has a prosperous commercial middle class and a very wealthy upper class. According to CEPAL figures, the top 10 per cent receives some 33 per cent of national income and, together with the next 10 per cent, almost 50 per cent of national income.[8] This group includes traditional land-owning families, many of which have also branched out into commerce or industry; it also includes newly rich traders who have profited from the boom in commerce. According to the CEPAL report, while inequality declined slightly in the period from 2002 to 2008, as in virtually the whole of Latin America, Nicaragua was the only country where inequality increased between 2008 and 2014 (more recent figures are not available for Nicaragua). According to an Oxfam study published in 2015, there were 210 multi-millionaires in Nicaragua, each with net assets of over $30-million.[9] Nicaragua’s wealthiest businessman, Carlos Pellas, is estimated to have accumulated a fortune of $2.4-billion, one of the largest in Central America, but some Sandinista leaders have also acquired wealth more recently, albeit on a lesser scale.

The Beginning of the End?
The Nicaraguan government faced a difficult economic outlook for 2018, with the threat a U.S. initiated limit on its access to international financial institutions, together with the need to adjust to the end of financial support from Venezuela. In the face of these challenges, growth projections for 2018 and 2019 have been reduced by both the IMF and the Nicaraguan central bank. In April 2018, Ortega was then confronted with the most serious political challenge to his rule since returning to office in 2007.

The government announced that, in order to address the Social Security System’s large deficit, pensions would be cut by 5 per cent and pension contributions would be increased for both workers and employers. A demonstration in Managua by pensioners against the reduction in their pensions was supported by students from the city’s public universities, but the student demonstrators were confronted by riot police and members of the Sandinista youth organization. Over the next three days the scale of the street confrontations increased, spreading to several other cities, and resulting in the death of over 40 people and many more injured.

After four days, Daniel Ortega appeared on television, flanked by his wife and the chiefs of the police and army, and he decried what he described as the manipulation of innocent students by political opponents with ulterior motives. But his failure to condemn the deaths led to yet further criticism, and in a second broadcast on the same day he announced the pension reforms would be cancelled and that the government would enter a dialogue with the country’s business organization on how to reform the pension system. The business organizations, which until then had enjoyed close relations with the government, said they would not enter negotiations until police violence against demonstrators was ended, and supported calls for a major peaceful demonstration the following day. It also insisted that any negotiations should include all sectors of Nicaraguan society.

On Monday, 23 April, tens of thousands joined a peaceful march in Managua and there were large demonstrations in many other cities. The authorities did not attempt to intervene and the demonstrations remained peaceful. The demands of the demonstrators had by now, however, gone beyond the issue of mere pension reform and broadened to include expressions of deep dissatisfaction with the Ortega family regime. In the absence of any serious political opposition, however, it was not clear what the alternative might be.

Endnotes
1. Elecciones municipales 2017. Nicaraguas, tres escenarios diferentes, Envio, December 2017.
2. Observadores del eclipse institucional, Envio, September 2017.
3. Preocupa deterioro de relación con EE.UU., La Prensa, 23 March 2018.
4. See Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH), Informe Annual 2016, 2017.
5. The source for figures, if not otherwise given, is Banco Central de Nicaragua, Anuario Estadístico 2017, April 2018, available from www.bcn.gov.ni.
6. For details, see the series of articles on confidencial.com.ni by Iván Olivares, ‘La ‘alcancía’ de Albanisa’ (9 April 2016), ‘Una ‘pulpería’ de negocios’ (11 April 2016), and ‘La deuda: de Caruna a Albanisa’ (13 April 2016), and Enrique Saenz, ALBANISA, Confidential, 27 September 2017.
7. Fideg, Encuesta de hogares para medir la pobreza en Nicaragua. Informe de resultados 2015.
8. CEPAL, Panorama Social de América Latina, 2017.
9. Oxfam, Desigualdad Extrema y Secuestro de la Democracia en América Latina y el Caribe, 2015.

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