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  Number 183 | Octubre 1996
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Nicaragua

FSLN-Liberal Alliance In a Technical Tie

Surveys inform, strategies are refined, the campaign advances, but issues are still undefined, and the people begin to deliberate. These will be crucial elections.

Nitlápan-Envío team

With two months to go before Nicaragua's election, a cid gallup poll done in late August showed that 34% of those polled would vote for Liberal Alliance presidential candidate Arnoldo Alemán and just under 30% for the FSLN's Daniel Ortega. Trailing as distant third was Conservative Party candidate Noel Vidaurre with 2.4%, followed by the UNO 96 Alliance's Alfredo César with 2.1%. The remaining 18 candidates pulled under 2% each, while about 25% of those polled are still undecided.

A poll done 45 days earlier by the same firm showed Alemán at 36% and Ortega at 26%. The FSLN began its climb after formally kicking off its campaign on July 19 while the Liberal Alliance has remained stagnant at best. Taking into account the roughly 2.5% margin of error in this poll, the two lead candidates were in what experts call a "technical tie" by the end of August.

"I Have My Own Agenda"

On August 13, days before the latest poll was done, several political leaders roundly declared that "Alemán lost the elections yesterday." On the afternoon of that possibly fateful day for Alemán, 21 of the 22 presidential hopefuls had signed what an important document called the "Commitment of Nicaragua to a Minimum National Agenda" in the presence of Cardinal obando and representatives of all four branches of state, the latter headed by Vice President Julia Mena.

Alemán did not even attend the formal event, later offering the following justifications for his decision not to sign: "I already have my own agenda," I'm not a lamb that travels in a flock," and, most damning of all, "that's a Sandinista document, since its creator is [former economic minister Alejandro] Martínez Cuenca, who destroyed this country's economy and should be brought to justice for it." As an added fillip, he argued that "no one should come dictating to any serious party what procedure it should follow in its government plan."

The Minimum Agenda (see text in the following article) is a general--and dramatic--assessment of the country's situation, for which equally general priorities and solutions are suggested. After discussing its points then endorsing it in the past few months, representatives of well over a hundred organizations of civil society--unions, producers' associations, religious and women's organizations, among many others--urged the politicians to "present concrete proposals to solve the problems laid out here." In other words, they pressed the politicians to draw up their own agendas, but taking this assessment into account. The politicians signing on August 12 did so as a sign that they would respond to these basic demands of society should they be elected. And, above all, they signed as a symbol of the minimum national consensus that Nicaragua needs desperately today to begin to resolve its crisis.

Alemán's conspicuous absence and his confrontational declarations isolated him from the rest of the political class and pitted him against all the social sectors that had been involved in drawing up the Minimum Agenda. Virtually no one lost the opportunity to criticize Alemán's attitude. The most vocal and visibly outraged critic was Vice President Mena who, together with Martínez Cuenca, currently head of a socioeconomic research organization called the International Foundation for Global Economic Development (FIDEG), and Monsignor Silvio Fonseca, Cardinal Obando y Bravo's representative, had coordinated the project; her comments were front page news for days. In contrast, the cardinal, whose commentary on current events has become commonplace, maintained a low profile on the issue.

Despite the heat, neither Alemán's campaign chief nor the media commentators who support him retreated an inch. They insistently deprecated the Minimum Agenda and congratulated the free decision of Alemán who, as sure winner, should have the luxury of standing apart from the "flock." Alemán himself reaffirmed his position three weeks later in a seminar in Managua sponsored by the Liberal International to support his candidacy. "The nation's maximum agenda," said Alemán, "is the one that we Liberals will sign. And that is no minimum agenda of frustrated parties and individuals who are again trying to impose incompetence and crimes on the nation in documents that reiterate the treasonous protocols of 1990."

Even before thest statements, the language used in Alemán's rallies and in his propaganda--aired all day long on Radio Corporación--had become both more aggressive and more defensive. Alemán's speeches have become a mix of challenging triumphalism and desperate warnings not to trust Sandinismo. Since his campaign did not begin with this tone, something new is surely afoot.

The Liberal Alliance's
Electoral Constituency

The Liberal Alliance's electoral constituency and especially Alemán's own base--that 34% showing up in the last poll and reaching as high as 40% in earlier ones--is built on three basic pillars.

Anti Sandinism. The most viscerally anti Sandinista forces have flocked to Alemán's side. They want to wipe out all traces of last decade's revolution: names, people, dates, organizations, institutions and laws--everything. They see Alemán as the only politician capable of fulfilling the "historic mission" of "putting the Sandinistas in their place," a task that, whether for reasons of historic lucidity, political realism or a spirit of reconciliation, the Chamorro government never took on.

Anti Chamorrism. Small and medium rural and urban producers, as well as middle class merchants, technicians and professionals who have been made poorer and side lined from opportunities by the Chamorro Lacayo economic policies also largely gravitate toward Alemán. He represents "change" to them: neither the scarcity of the 1980s nor the exclusion of today.

Anti Oligarchism. Thousands of truly poor and marginated people see in Alemán, in his direct and at times crude style, the image of a credible politician. To many of them, he is simply a "Liberal," for whom family tradition or the political culture surrounding them dictates that they should vote. This politician, "who may be a crook, but at least gets things done," guarantees heavy handed law and order, is feisty, hard working and always out there on the hustings, is attractive to them. They see him as representing change because he is the farthest thing from today's cold neoliberal technocrats.

Of these three pillars, the anti Sandinista one is the strongest and steadiest. Yet its very strength could undermine Alemán's appeal to the impoverished members of whatever social class in the other two categories. If these precariously situated individuals perceive that his victory could bring the danger of greater conflict, it could shatter their faith in the alternatives he offers.

The greatest consensus among Nicaraguans is not ideological. It's "bread but with peace," "a better life and no more war ever." That's why the FSLN's insistent message is that the war is "yesterday's news," which, along with the military draft, will never return. It's also why Alemán's Liberals just as insistently recall all the pain of the war and recruitment during the Sandinista years.

Is Alemán's Project Somocista?
Superstitions and Realities

When the numbers were drawn for the column that each party will occupy on the electoral ballots, the Liberal Alliance drew 21. This immediately triggered the deeply rooted superstitious nature of the grass roots, since the first Somoza had Sandino assassinated on February 21, 1934, Rigoberto López Pérez executed the same Somoza on September 21, 1956, in León and "la 21" was the name of the most feared Somocista jail, also in León. Just coincidences?

Alemán naturally denies any linkage or project in common with Somocismo, as well as any Somocista tendency within his ranks. The evidence, however, goes beyond either superstitions or even the fact that Somoza's old Nationalist Liberal Party (PLN), outlawed until recently, was and is a member of his Liberal Alliance. The speeches of Alemán's main spokespeople always contain a barely veiled nostalgia for the "positive" sides of Somocismo (law and order, employment, Nicaragua as the "grain basket of Central America," solid institutions). In private, this nostalgia gives way to a defined decision to rebuild that yesterday.

Although Alemán's electoral constituency comes from different places and for different reasons, his first priority is not to serve poor or small and medium national producers. It is to brusquely and definitively break up the "world" created with the social revolution of the 1980s, which is still alive despite all the ambiguities and realignments of recent years. With this rupture, privileged economic, political and even cultural and ideological spaces would be returned to those displaced from power by the revolution who were never given their place back during the Chamorro government. At least in this sense, the project is unquestionably Liberal Somocista.

Alemán's project is to whittle away the economic, political, legal, cultural and international spaces that Sandinismo still has as quickly as is feasible until they have been reduced to nothing. This goal does not distinguish between "piñatero" and non "piñatero" Sandinistas, between orthodox and renovating ones. It aims to eradicate all Sandinista grassroots organizations, unions, businesses, NGOs, media and influence in general.

Many candidates for mayor or National Assembly representative on the Liberal Alliance ticket once belonged to Somoza's PLN or are children or grandchildren of known leaders of local or national Somocista structures. The Somocista exile community in Miami has received Alemán over these years as their representative in Managua. Alemán also has economic ties and commitments to the most powerful and rigid sector of Florida's Cuban exiles--those who successfully promoted the Helms Burton Law. These Cubans, who are in turn closely linked to the Somocista exiles, also back the Liberal Alliance.

Nicaragua's large non Somocista capitalists look on Alemán with fear. He is not the candidate of Nicaragua's bourgeoisie, only of its Somocista fraction. He also seems not to be the candidate of the United States, since his plan to wipe out Sandinista influence represents a serious risk to overall stability, which is the only thing that interests Clinton in Nicaragua. The issue that remains to be seen is how traditional Nicaraguan capital and/or the United States will maneuver if Alemán wins the presidency.

Is "Chiguín" Coming Back?

With these clear signs of Somocista identity, the news flash that appeared in the Sandinista newspaper Barricada at the end of August was bound to be believable, if not necessarily true: Anastasio "Chiguín" Somoza Portocarrero had reportedly said on a French TV talk program called "Cristina's Show" that Arnoldo Alemán had offered him the opportunity to head Nicaragua's army if he won the elections.

The news acted like a detonator. In the confusing reports that followed, Alemán strongly denied the charge, but used the public spotlight to his advantage: "Here there are not just Somozas, but Ortegas, Borges and Lacayos, who have the same attitude."

On September 2, in the formal celebration of Army Day, General Joaquín Cuadra, current head of Nicaragua's army, responded in his speech to whatever seed of truth the news may have had: "I want to be very clear, so that no one feeds any false expectations, that no former member of the extinct National Guard, independent of the rank or post that such a person may have had, can join the Army of Nicaragua or have a military career. The law does not permit it and history reproves it.... It is very important that it be understood, without duplicity, that entry into [army] ranks cannot be determined by political preference or ideological affinity.... Simple nostalgia for times past, of whatever stripe they may have had, is a senselessness that perturbs the present, clouds the future and puts the nation's peace and stability at great risk."

Any project to restore Somocismo will find many serious obstacles: in the people of Nicaragua; in the system, which is now less presidentially weighted than it has been historically thanks to the constitutional reforms; in municipal autonomy; and also in the new Army of Nicaragua. Chiguín's news, whether true or false, helped remind any candidate who believes himself to be a winner that he will face some limits.

Could the Liberals Reach 45%?

There has been an attempt since 1995 to use Arnoldo Alemán's undisputed leadership to promote the "White and Blue Triangle" (Liberals, Conservatives and former members of the Nicaraguan Resistance, or "contras"), a kind of national anti Sandinista alliance. Alemán's Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) partly succeeded, since a fraction of the Conservatives that mainly represents rural votes and an even smaller fraction of the National Resistance Party (PRN) allied with Alemán, thus also allying his candidacy to Radio Corporación, where Fabio Gadea, head of the pro Alemán PRN fraction, is a director. For his efforts, Alemán rewarded Gadea with the first slot on the Liberal Alliance's slate of candidates for the high paying Central American Parliament posts.

The Liberal Alliance's political base cannot be expected to grow much more, and will never be a national alliance. Its electoral base can even be expected to shrink to the degree that the Alliance accentuates its Somocista component. The same holds true for emphasizing its anti Sandinista component, since non Sandinistas (not the same thing as anti Sandinistas) see portents of a confrontational and unstable future in this aggressiveness.

In their declarations, Alemán's Liberals are projecting excessive triumphalism. The leaders of the Alliance are set on winning the presidency in the first round, since they have already sewn up their own "minimum agenda": all the executive positions, right down to the last embassy post, have already been divvied up. A second round would involve reopening negotiations on this "agenda." Two months before the elections, the course of events allows one to envision a second presidential round in which Alemán would have to go up against a national alliance against the Somocismo that permeates his Liberal Alliance.

Juan Manuel Caldera

The FSLN was the last party to gear up its electoral campaign, formally kicking it off at the July 19 anniversary of the revolution. By then the Liberal Alliance was already well on the move, and the other parties were fruitlessly trying to present themselves to voters as the much needed and desired "center" between two the confrontational extremes, Liberals and Sandinistas.

The FSLN's electoral strategy has been to erase from its image any remnant of extremism and position itself in the center. It has not only done this very ably, but was even aided by the ballot number it drew: 12, smack in the center. Its evident success may explain Alemán's insistent attempt to pull his electoral base together and even increase it on the basis of anti Sandinista warnings. His problem is that they sound more like threats: "A monkey, even if dressed in silk, is still a monkey!" (Ortega wore white for the opening of his campaign on July 19). An even more Nica flavored Alemán barb is: "The chicken that eats eggs doesn't even leave the beak!" The Alliance's central message has shifted from Alemán as representing change to an FSLN that will never change.

But the FSLN's many signs that it is changing are increasing its electoral base among the non Sandinistas who first saw hope in Alemán. The party's designation of non Sandinista cattleman Juan Manuel Caldera as Ortega's vice presidential running mate was initially criticized by many Sandinistas as an extreme measure resulting from the inability to find a better ally. But reality is showing that this spontaneous non politician could end up being a centerpiece.

Caldera always introduces himself as a non Sandinista, but never as anti Sandinista. And he's credible. He is particularly focusing on small and medium rural producers, many of them former commando chiefs of the Resistance, and he does so as one who was confiscated as a result of the economy policy of the 1980s and excluded by the economic policy of the 1990s. His declarations always sound sincere. "When I see [the Sandinista government's Minister of Agriculture] Jaime Wheelock my blood rises like a pot of boiling beans and I feel like killing him," Caldera said in one press conference, "but I don't think we should throw more fuel on the fire."

Caldera traveled to the United States and gave these same unadulterated messages to members of Congress, politicians and policy makers in the international financial institutions. "And it had an impact," claim those who accompanied him on that tour, "because he seems genuine and above all because he seems like someone concerned not about the future of a party, but about the future of a nation."

"A Government of All"

Caldera insists that the FSLN has promised him the coordination of a "production Cabinet" from the vice presidency, which will include no less than seven ministries--Finances, Foreign Cooperation, Economy and Development, Agriculture and Livestock, Construction and Transport, Environment and Natural Resources, and Social Action--as well as coordination of the Central Bank, the National Development Bank and the Agrarian Reform Institute. He has reiterated that if the FSLN doesn't fulfill this promise, he will quit the government and leave the FSLN in the lurch. All the elements surrounding this new personality could reduce Alemán's electoral base in the countryside, particularly among medium and small producers.

The companion piece to this novel appointment is the designation of Alvaro Fiallos as the FSLN's campaign chief. Fiallos is a specialist--more technical than political--on issues of agricultural technology and agrarian reform, until recently dedicated to the complex task of massively titling rural properties. He served in the Sandinista government and later in the Chamorro government right up to his new appointment. On accepting his new job as FSLN campaign chief, he gave this reason: "The FSLN is the only party that can guarantee property stability in the countryside and throughout the country."

The FSLN has responded to the anti Sandinista Blue and White Triangle with what it is calling the "Triple Alliance" (FSLN, producers and the Resistance). Its access to the latter two comes not only through Caldera but through the leadership of the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) and through the reconciliation and democracy project that Daniel Ortega's own daughter and son in law have been working on with veterans from both sides through their Center for International Studies (CEI). The Blue and White Triangle and the Triple Alliance have numerous differences. The main one is the solution they will each apply to finally put closure to the thorny property issue.

In a formal campaign activity on September 18, some two thousand former Resistance members signed their alliance to the "government of all" offered by the FSLN. "Juan Manuel Caldera is our guarantee," said José Benito Bravo, formerly Comandante "Mack" of the Nicaraguan Resistance and now a farmer. Shortly before the signing, Bravo declared that the Resistance will have both a presence and decision making power in three of the seven ministries that Caldera will coordinate.

There are also other sectors and other commitments. On August 28, the FSLN signed similarly significant agreements with representatives of an unequal array of youth organizations, some very close, some less close and some not at all close to the Sandinista structures. The commitments are that there will never be another draft, that 50,000 productive jobs for youth will be created in the first year, that there will be a 25% quota of young people in the municipal and national government structures, and that young people will head the Vice Ministries of Education, Social Action and the Environment, as well as the Institute of Culture and of Women.

Daniel Ortega reached a general commitment with the Catholic Church and with the Protestant churches represented in CEPAD, CNPEN and CIEETS to totally respect religious freedom. He also agreed to a more specific one: to consult with both Cardinal Obando and the leaders of these Protestant groups on three appointments that the FSLN considers "sensitive": the ministers of education, defense and government.

One of the most telling symbols of the change in tone of the FSLN's campaign was Daniel Ortega's response to a journalist's question about whether the FSLN will continue using its old hymn, which speaks of "revolution" and, most controversially, "Yankee, enemy of humanity," in reference to the US government.

Ortega responded that this historic music is not used in the FSLN's electoral campaign. It is being replaced by the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with the lyrics and rhythm popularized some years ago in Spanish speaking countries. "This is the hymn that corresponds to the stage in which we are living," explained Ortega.

Mariano Fiallos: A Compass Needle

Another of the signs the FSLN issued to the nation merits special mention: Daniel Ortega's announcement on August 27 that, if elected, he will name former Supreme Electoral Council president Mariano Fiallos as foreign minister. Fiallos accepted, as he put it, "after reflecting on and analyzing Nicaragua's situation and my duties as a Nicaraguan citizen," through which he became convinced that "the FSLN is the only option that guarantees domestic stability."

Fiallos referred to his future task as chancellor as "defining an international policy that is distinct from the one the government had in the 1980s, in the sense that it will be a non confrontational policy, principally with the United States. This will be the first and foremost focal point."

In response, Arnoldo Alemán announced that his own choice to head that ministry is the crusty Conservative political analyst Emilio Alvarez Montalván. Going public with this decision forced Alvarez Montalván to resign his position as president of a new national observation group called Etíca y Transparencia, funded by USAID through its financial support to US party and other observation groups.

From the moment his potential appointment was announced, Fiallos began making contact with the ambassadors of various countries in Nicaragua and prepared to tour Central America and the United States. One of his objectives, again in his own words, is to "begin soliciting investment funds so we can put our plans to develop production into practice."

The decision to offer Fiallos this post should come as no surprise: in 1995 the FSLN even offered him the presidential candidacy. What is both surprising and illuminating is that he accepted the second offer. No one in Nicaragua would dare suggest that Mariano Fiallos is an "extremist" or that he has even a remote interest in confrontation. He has accumulated tremendous prestige throughout his life, which only grew during the tense months preceding his resignation from the Supreme Electoral Council, when lucidly and alone he prophesied the problems the new electoral law would bring down on both the Council and the country. This prestige has turned his acceptance of the FSLN's offer into a compass needle.

Fiallos has called the October elections a "crucial" choice between those dubbed "extremists" and those very likely to represent confrontation. Staking his own well deserved reputation on one side of that set of options sends out a serious message that he must have a very good reason to do so.

The "Center" and Its Definitions

All the other parties offering themselves to the electorate as the "center," distant from what they call "the two extremes," are up against the wall. The candidates of these parties, which include virtually all of the other 21, avoiding commenting on what they would do if there were a second round between Ortega and Alemán. The most difficult decision for a number of reasons falls to Sergio Ramírez and the Sandinistas in his Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).

But, even without defining themselves, these myriad "third" forces have now begun to make remarks that, if not favorable to the FSLN, are at least unfavorable to the Liberal Alliance. They all used the Minimum Agenda scandal to heap rejection on Alemán.

Among this array of parties, two Protestant ones are also running this time: the National Justice Party and the Nicaraguan Christian Road (CCN). In one national poll done in mid August, the CCN came in third, albeit a distant third, without even having done any publicity in the non religious media. Its presidential candidate is Guillermo Osorno, an Assembly of God pastor to whom his congregation attributes powers of prediction. Osorno says that "the FSLN is not the same as it was 10 years ago. It is more mature, more centered, but the danger if it comes to power is that its base still has many wounded hearts." He says of Alemán that "his heart is not prepared to govern, because he has in it the roots of bitterness toward the FSLN and if he comes to power there will be reprisals."

Alemán is not the only Liberal presidential candidate, and he gets no praise from the others. Ausberto Narváez, who replaced the disqualified Haroldo Montealegre as candidate of the Liberal Unity Party (PUL), says that Alemán's economic project isn't liberal and that once in power he would implement "protectionism for a small group of his followers." Virgilio Godoy, Violeta Chamorro's Vice President until he resigned to run for president on the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) ticket, warns that Alemán will not win many municipal or legislative seats for his alliance because he has chosen as candidates "people who do not enjoy grassroots popularity, or who are known Somocistas and have a history too compromised by the regime of the 1960s and 70s."

While third place candidate Noel Vidaurre insists in his campaign publicity that his Conservative National Party (PNC) has not allied with either Liberals or Sandinistas, he did say in one campaign event that "Nicaraguans cannot allow the return of Somocismo" and that "that system could return with the Liberal Alliance."

The People are Not Extremist

The electoral panorama is not shaping up as a contest between two extremes. If what the center parties are saying were true, one would have to conclude that the Nicaraguan people themselves are largely extremist and confrontational, perhaps almost suicidal, which is not the case. In the main, Nicaraguans want peace, not more conflict. But they are also mainly impoverished, long for a change and hope that the elections will bring some improvement into their bleak lives.

The Chamorro technocracy, as well as some extremely poor examples of Sandinista leadership, have pushed many to the "extreme" of depositing this hope for change in Alemán. Many who lack a clear international policy understanding fear that US aggression, war and the draft would return almost axiomatically with an FSLN victory. But these same people who recall and fear the war, also remember that even with it they had work and health care during the Ortega government and that their students were able to study. Today, these people see indications that the FSLN is willing to change.

The vast majority of Nicaraguans are discussing only these two options and their varied perceptions of each, but that doesn't mean that they are siding with extremes. Few have perceived any real leadership in the other candidates and their parties.

The "center" controls the National Assembly, but has very little clout on the street. Even in the National Assembly, the center parties have done relatively little to be proud of. They did, however, push through some important and positive changes in the Electoral Law last year that could give their candidates some spaces at the local and departmental levels. Since what matters in these elections is neither programs nor party loyalties, but rather individual charisma and leadership, the ability of the candidates to capture these spaces will depend on how the local and departmental voters perceive such elements in them. It will also depend a lot on whether voters opt for a crossover vote.

Will Voters Split Their Ticket?

The number of parties and alliances from which voters can choose has steadily grown over the past three elections: 7 in 1984, 10 in 1990 and 23 this year. And for the first time ever, voters across the country are now also faced with one or more candidates for municipal posts from what are called popular petition associations, a novelty actually introduced in 1990, but only for the autonomous government posts in the Atlantic Coast.

These non party candidates are gambling that apathy, distrust and even disgust with politics and politicians will favor their fresh faces and independent stances. But since they are not allowed to run for national office, voting for one of them necessarily means having to very carefully and thoughtfully mark each of the unprecedented six ballots (one for President and Vice President, one for national at large National Assembly candidates, another for departmental candidates to that legislative body, a fourth for municipal mayor, a fifth for municipal councilors, and a sixth for the Central American Parliament).

Up to now all but a small fraction of voters automatically marked the column of their preferred party on each ballot (two in 1984, and three in 1990 when municipal council elections were introduced but mayors were still not elected directly). According to current poll trends, voter preferences today cut wildly across party lines. If Alemán ends up elected, he could well find himself facing a National Assembly dominated by Sandinistas and centrists, either a Sandinista or independent mayor in Managua, and a large number of municipal governments around the country controlled by anti Alemán Councils. While such a scenario could lead to confrontation, it could also evolve into negotiation, force an understanding and act as an effective brake on authoritarianism.

The "third force" parties don't have any real shot at the presidency, but some of their leaders could end up in ministerial posts, particularly if there is a second round in which they cut a deal with one of the candidates. They also may end up well represented in the municipal governments and among the 70 out of 90 legislators who will now be elected by department rather than by region.

The answer to the question of whether voters will cross over or vote a straight party ticket is crucial. It will determine whether the country is more governable, more pluralist and more democratic--or less.

FSLN Renovation from Within

While the FSLN's climb in the polls is causing the Liberal Alliance to turn up its aggressive anti Sandinista tone and its triumphalism in an attempt to firm up its own support, this very aggressiveness could also backfire.

The FSLN's ups and downs in the electoral panorama, which at the moment suggest a possible FSLN presidential victory and at least the real likelihood of a second round, should generate reflection within the party, because the scent of victory has reawakened the complex contradictions within the party that are so hard to evaluate from outside. To contribute to the FSLN's reflection "from within," a group of Sandinistas who are important for their historic significance, their youth and/or the weight of their decisions met in Managua on August 31 to initiate a "Sandinista campaign" that aims to "recover the greatest and most beautiful thing that Sandinismo has had, our moral capital." The campaign will start by getting out the vote for the FSLN in the elections, and continue with a struggle for important changes within the party. This same group has called on all Sandinistas to close ranks against the Somocismo represented by the Liberal Alliance.

Its introductory document, "The Generation of the 70s," by "those of Pancasán," states the following:
"We want:
* The unity of Sandinismo and not its atomization.

* The reuniting of honest, capable and responsible Sandinistas, those who truly have a vocation for service and not for profit.

* A re encounter among ourselves and with the strength of our roots, the ideological values of our origins and our political identity.

* To influence, through our belligerent participation, the correction and rectification of errors committed, promoting the generational changeover, transforming the most honest militants and clean hands into new leaders, so that they can project themselves toward the new generations with the same strength and purity with which we received the example of innumerable heroes and martyrs.

* To contribute, through debate at the core of the Sandinista Front, to the preservation of the leftist identity that Carlos Fonseca laid out to us.

* To transform the structures of the Sandinista Front toward a healthy and truly democratic practice in both form and essence.

* To stop our emerging forces, attracted by capital and personal ambitions from charting other courses for our organization for which it was not conceived.

The Challenge to the FSLN and the Nation

The FSLN leadership needs to resolve its own contradictions. From below, many place the FSLN's major contradiction today right there: with well-off leaders in the FSLN structures who say they represent the impoverished grassroots Sandinistas. A lot of that grassroots base still believes in them while a lot of others have become disillusioned and demobilized by the lack of coherent conduction and the still-painful scandal of the "piñata" in which the top FSLN leaders--including Daniel Ortega--have a still-pending responsibility.

With less than two months before the elections, everything suggests that the FSLN could win a large number of municipal elections, will probably have the largest bench in the National Assembly and might even win the presidency. Its challenge is to prepare itself for such an eventuality by beginning to resolve this very essential contradiction with an ethic that generates honesty among the new governors and gives hope back to the base. This is the only way to renovate people's mobilization capacity and unite "such diverse energies."

The poll data, however, equally suggest that the Liberals could get enough municipalities, will have a sizable legislative bench--though never the majority--and might well win the presidency. If this turns out to be the case, the challenge is dramatic for all of Nicaraguans--except those who want to turn the clock back to the period before the revolution of 1979 interrupted their history.

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