|Central American University - UCA
Number 217 | Agosto 1999
First Impacts of a Devil’s Pact
The PLC-FSLN pact has no social agenda,
but that's not stopping it from going ahead; in fact its first impacts
are already being felt. A pact without people. A people without leaders.
Two political bosses without ideology. And many producers of ideology with nobody interested in embracing it. This is the sad vacuum into which Nicaragua has been sucked.
The time has come to sign, seal, sell and deliver the pact forged over the past year by the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and the FSLN. And delivering it could turn out to be the real test. Will the party faithful on both sides support it? Will it change the correlation of forces and, if so, in whose favor? Will it tie down the “unconditional” support of those whose support feeds on perks? And will it serve as a wheel greaser inside each party, slowing the increased factionalism that has been eroding both? It will be particularly important to the FSLN to use the pact's implementation as an internal negotiating tool, since its different historical tendencies run so deep that they still challenge Daniel Ortega's leadership and the political strategy of his brother, retired General Humberto Ortega.
What weighs more: Business deals or votes?After weeks of public pre-accord announcements and intense debates in the media, the negotiations seemed to go on hold in mid-July. There must still be a few wrinkles to iron out under the table. For example, some unmanipulable functionaries still to be fired and agreements still to be reached on who will replace them. Or certain property conflicts yet to be resolved—especially those related to worker-owned companies, which one FSLN faction wants to turn into “associative” properties so that Liberal or Sandinista business interests can eventually slip them into their own holdings portfolios through the magic of the omniscient market. Other points for discussion or agreement during this “lull” have so far been kept under wraps. These include government promises of “fiscal benevolence” toward Sandinsta entrepreneurs as well as permission for the Sandinista business clan to operate its companies. Among this clan's most conspicuous figures are Humberto Ortega and his covey of name-lending front men, and the landed Coronel Kautz brothers, both deputy agricultural ministers during the Sandinista government.
Nicaraguan Human Rights Center (CENIDH) director Vilma Núñez de Escorcia, who is widely considered to be one of the most ethical Sandinistas, never hesitates to speak out loudly, lucidly and responsibly against corruption and injustice. In her opposition to the pact, she has stressed Humberto Ortega's underlying interests and their fundamental relevance to the pact. A case in point is the reinstallation of Atlantic Airlines. After the tragic La Costeña crash in mid-July, which cost the lives of 16 people, Atlantic Airlines “miraculously” got government permission to resume its flights to the Atlantic Coast after several years during which the Civil Aeronautics Board had kept its planes grounded. Through the pact, the FSLN is assured of covering the whole spectrum of the bourgeoisie's different factions with its political and business relations. It could be that winning the next elections will turn out to be a secondary consideration compared to such hidden economic negotiations.
Deals about old, new or planned businesses are on the front burner. Relegated to the back ones are such vital social-economic themes as the threatened mass deportation of thousands of Nicaraguans from Costa Rica, the definition of a new minimum wage and the continuing lack of credits and technical assistance for small and medium producers, to mention but three of many major topics not included in the negotiations. FSLN leaders shamelessly admit that the pact lacks a social agenda but claim that such an agenda will only become possible if the FSLN wins the next elections.
Superintendent of banks: The first to goThe pact brings together the worst of Sandinismo and the worst of Liberalism and would put the control of all state institutions and autonomous entities under the control of these two parties. The first to feel the axe was Angel Navarro, superintendent of banks and other financial bodies. The Alemán government has had it in for him since last year, when he had a run-in with three other members of his institution's board; the ministers of economy and finances and the president of the Central Bank. At that time Navarro dubbed the three “the President's whippets” because they had blindly obeyed Alemán's dictates and set about undermining Navarro's authority.
The National Assembly is responsible for electing the banking superintendent as well as the comptroller general and Supreme Electoral Council magistrates. During the lull in the pact, the Superintendency board gave Navarro 72 hours to vacate his post, arguing that his period expired on July 20. Because the announcement and the deadline also conveniently fell during the Assembly's vacation period, the board stepped in and named Minister of Economy Noel Sacasa—one of the “whippets” and PLC candidate for the post—to fill it on an interim basis. Virtually taking the institution by assault, Sacasa assumed complete control, even refusing to permit the Office of Comptroller General to take an inventory of goods as a customary precautionary action.
This move was imposed by the presidential office with the complicity of the FSLN, which already had a seat on the board and will probably cede control of this important state oversight entity to the PLC. With Navarro out of the way it will provide the presidency with important inside information on banking transactions, business statements, etc. Knowledge is power. Controlling a banking superintendency provides a front-line instrument not only for monitoring the country's finances, but also for giving timely slaps to political or business adversaries, pressuring possible dissidents and sidling up to useful fence-sitters.
Second to go: A Supreme Court Justice In an exemplary act of punishment and political revanchism, the Liberal guillotine next started sliding down toward the neck of Supreme Court justice Francisco Rosales, a Ministry of Labor official during the Sandinista government and head of that ministry during the Chamorro government. In this case, the President's whole pack of executive, legislative and judicial whippets joined forces to nip at the heels of a magistrate who has made a consistent and significant attempt to remain independent. Rosales has had increasing run-ins with President Alemán due to his denunciations of government corruption—not sparing the Liberal-Sandinista pact—and questioning of some of the President's irresponsible declarations. For this—and presumably also for being the husband of the deputy comptroller general, who has spoken out even more strongly against corruption from her official position—Rosales seems to have been targeted as one of the pact's first victims.
With only a few months left of his term on the Supreme Court bench, he found himself the object of a bill presented by 10 Liberal legislators to annul his appointment on the grounds that he had not fulfilled the prerequisite of practicing law for a period of at least 10 years. They held their ground even though the 60-day period provided for rectifications of this nature expired years ago. The National Assembly's Justice Commission, responsible for analyzing the case, is split, and the Supreme Court president refused to comment beyond defending Rosales' right to file a counter-suit. Inside the Supreme Court, the justices are defending their posts, and the fear is that all will vote in line with those parties willing to back their pretensions. Neither the PLC justices nor those from the Social Christian Party are prepared to sacrifice the possibility of winning the court presidency by defending Rosales. The Sandinista votes will thus be determinant, and the FSLN will have no qualms about sacrificing this pawn since Rosales was expelled from its ranks back in its early days, when he was a member of its National Directorate.
Although Rosales' fate is hardly a key point on the pact's agenda, his departure will clear the way for new Supreme Court magistrates who are completely aligned to one of the two pacting parties, while at the same time sounding a clear warning to incumbent and potentially rebellious magistrates.
Third on the list: The Comptroller GeneralEstablishing a collegial Office of Comptroller General (CGR) is the device the pact contemplates to finally tie the hands of Comptroller General Agustín Jarquín—which were never terribly free in the first place—and neutralize the CGR's activity by politicizing it. This, in turn, will untie certain Liberal and Sandinista hands the better to dip into the state till.
A few of the pieces in the quilt of corruption that the comptroller's office has uncovered and is trying to prosecute are the scandalous “narcojet” case; the recent privatization of PETRONIC, Nicaragua's petroleum institute, to GLENCORE, skirting legal procedures; the purchase of passport preparation services from the Canadian Bank, even though it presented the costliest bid; and the hemorrhagic increase in the holdings of Arnoldo Alemán and his family. In its attempt to find solutions, the CGR has come up against the stone walls of caudillo politics, gang loyalties of the party faithful and the growing political-economic understanding between the FSLN and the PLC. Their pact now proposes to bury these and many other cases once and for all and to immunize against any further charges.
The Central American Organization of Auditing Institutions issued a resolution in July opposing the idea of a multiple-director comptroller's office, but its findings will have no effect on the proposed course of the steamrollering pact. Many international institutions, including the World Bank and the US Embassy in Managua, have also defended the work of the comptroller general, his office and his team, and have advocated the CGR's independence from any party and from the executive office.
They have pointed out that Transparency International places Nicaragua second from the bottom in Central America and sixth worst in Latin America in its “World Indices of the Perception of Corruption.” This index is based on the perceptions of journalists, political leaders, national citizens, foreigners, business investors and associations of professionals, producers and labor. Even if they have exaggerated Nicaragua's low rating, this may explain why so little foreign and national investment is entering the country.
All this international pressure has had little influence. Both Alemán from the outset of the pact and Ortega since June have explicitly referred to Jarquín as an “enemy” and are increasingly coinciding in their ill will toward him.
One case of suits and counter-suits involving Jarquín and his institution on one side and the presidency on the other was reopened in early August at Jarquín's initiative. It had been interrupted by the government's attempt to present a good image before the meeting with donor countries in Stockholm in May. This particular institutional crisis first came to light in March, when it emerged that the CGR had allegedly contracted TV journalist Danilo Lacayo under a fictitious name for a year and forged documents to back up this false identity. It was the same year in which the CGR was investigating many of the cases listed above, particularly that of Alemán's ballooning patrimony.
Attorney General Centeno's suit specifically charges Comptroller Jarquín and his deputy, Claudia Fixione (Justice Rosales' wife), with falsification of public documents, inappropriate use of names and, most damaging, association to commit a crime. With the suits back on the docket, the PLC renewed its $6,000-plus-a-day TV smear campaign against Jarquín, accusing him of criminal behavior and demanding he be sent to prison. Wearing his typical malicious grin, Alemán mirthfully declared that, once Jarquín was incarcerated, he would pardon him because he didn't want to turn the comptroller into a “hero.”
Unexpectedly, however, Jarquín and Fixione reacted to the continuous attacks by turning up at the Court of Appeals to renounce their immunity so they can face this complex judicial investigation, which Alemán hopes will end with the comptroller's dismissal. In doing so the pair declared that they were putting their faith in the courts for the good of their institution and to ensure that everything finally comes out into the open. Jaime Morales Carazo, Alemán's godfather and close personal adviser, who stands accused by the CGR alongside him, disrespectfully ridiculed their exemplary gesture as a “clownish act.” Nonetheless, it could set a precedent for all public officials who commit crimes and shield themselves behind their immunity. And if the case goes the way Jarquín and Fixione believe it should, it could also open doors for the comptroller's office, clearing the way for it to work with less harassment. It could even allow Agustín Jarquín to eventually run for President with a spotless record.
Fourth victim: The ConstitutionThe negotiation of a series of important reforms to Nicaragua's Constitution has been an essential component of the pact from the outset. Discussions immediately focused on various electoral themes in the Constitution: the inhibition of candidacies for a variety of reasons, the electoral calendar, terms in office for authorities, and, especially, elimination of the second round in the presidential elections. This last point is central to the FSLN, which insists that it can win the elections if it avoids the run-off second round, in which all other parties would gang up to stop it from winning. Assuring Alemán an automatic lifetime seat in the National Assembly when he leaves the presidency is another major point in the reform package.
Whether as a sign that the debate has run into difficulties or not, Alemán's discourse took a surprising new turn in July. He suggested that a Constituent National Assembly be pulled together to draft a whole new Constitution, and again renounced any plan to try for re-election—forbidden by the current Constitution. Instead, he announced, he would run as the PLC slate's number-one candidate for National Assembly representative in 2001, which is not prohibited by law. “That way,” he said unabashedly and with the same grin, “I can immediately and permanently start campaigning.”
Impetuous and drastic constitutional reforms have been considered a practice more appropriate to dictators. Is Alemán's plan to get himself re-elected by way of a Constituent Assembly? That's how Somoza did it in 1971. Even Emilio Alvarez Montalván, Conservative political pundit and Alemán's first foreign relations minister, worries that it is a possibility. “A Constituent [Assembly] can do anything,” he warns. “It's the republic's most powerful representative body and even has faculties to resolve alternatives for state organization. It's so powerful that experts say the only thing it can't do is change people's sex.”
President Alemán insisted to the media that a whole new Constitution needs to be drafted, one that would last fifty years. The PLC needs 56 votes—60% of the National Assembly representatives—to begin the process that would lead to a new Constitution. So far, it only has the 36 votes of its own bench plus 14 more from its parliamentary allies to back up such risky political temerity. The FSLN would cast the defining votes.
Almost parallel to Alemán's declarations, retired General Humberto Ortega, one of the architects of the pact, calculatingly chose no day other than July 19, the 20th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution, to demonstrate his convergence with Alemán. Hours before his brother Daniel walked through the celebrating crowd to the stage in the plaza, Humberto Ortega defended the pact to the most analytical sector of Sandinistas in a long, unannounced television appearance. “I believe that a Constituent Assembly in a framework of national consensus will be necessary at a certain point to totally reform the Constitution,” he said, giving his seal of approval to the need to cleanse the already-reformed 1987 Sandinista Constitution of what he called “exclusionary” elements. “I am of the opinion that the current Constitution contains a series of elements that were drawn up in another context and must be readjusted.”
It is obvious that the FSLN's business sectors have more points of convergence with their old rivals in the PLC every day. Alemán, whom the Ortega brothers have always presented as the most conspicuous torchbearer of Somocismo, is today sold as a pragmatic negotiator. Although this metamorphosis carries a high cost for the FSLN, the “points of convergence” make it profitable for the party's aristocracy.
Several Sandinista legislators also defended the idea of a Constituent Assembly with variations on a single argument: it would create a better balance between the different state branches, ensure a stronger parliamentary system, reduce the executive branch's excessive prerogatives... These sentiments, however laudable in theory, ring false in the current climate of a pact that seeks to institutionalize a two-party system made up of the FSLN and the PLC. The pact's overriding objective is simply to seal the exclusionary hegemony of these two authoritarian parties until such time as the correlation of forces changes again. For the moment such a change does not appear to be on the cards, and Alemán calculates that it won't happen for another fifty years.
Both the FSLN and the PLC have vouched for a Constituent Assembly on the grounds that the 50 constitutional reforms passed in 1995 were both more far-reaching and less representative. The main objective of those reforms was to curb the almost all-embracing power of the executive branch, prevent reelection for a second consecutive term and endow Nicaragua with more democratic institutions. Both the FSLN and the PLC—which Alemán was already controlling from his post as Managua's mayor—were unequivocally opposed at the time, because they shared the same authoritarian style and thus the same preference for a presidency with full discretionary powers.
The remaining political parties, the media and other social sectors have all warned that the FSLN and the PLC would be committing suicide if they chose the path of a Constituent Assembly. They argue that neither party would win the votes necessary to control the new parliament charged with drafting a new Constitution. But not even this concern seems to be deterring the two parties on their self-appointed mission.
A Constituent Assembly born out of the pact would unquestionably spark serious uncertainties. In fact the only certainty would be the repercussions on the foreign investment that is beginning to trickle into the country. But this factor doesn't seem to bother the two parties either. Judging by their declarations and their decisions, the FSLN leaders involved in the pact don't even appear to be losing any sleep over the fact that an important segment of the party opposes what they are doing. So far the PLC is not only clearly getting the most out of the pact, but is also reaping the bonus that the FSLN is fragmenting more and its membership is growing increasingly lethargic and demobilized.
Fifth to go down: The media itselfThe pact's agreements are cooked up in secret first and only later served up to the public. The Penal Code reform bill, presented in July by the National Assembly's Justice Commission and dubbed “judicial nonsense” by legal experts, is no exception. Until the bill suddenly turned up, there was no reason to suspect that the President was planning to “institutionalize censorship” other than his barely disguised desire to gag the journalists he so blithely insults during each of his press conferences.
Everything suggests that the government, with the FSLN's complicity, is preparing this new legislation, together with other agreements, to complicate, hinder or liquidate the critical voices that are almost unanimously questioning the FSLN-PLC pact in the mass media. According to some Liberal politicians who oppose the pact, the long lull in the public conversations is precisely for the top brass of the two parties to discuss such agreements. On top of the possible new dispositions for the Penal Code, it was also officially announced in August that the media would be charged taxes that they are now constitutionally exempt from to better guarantee freedom of expression.
The President also announced that national television channels whose signal does not cover the entire national territory would lose their operating permits. Currently, not one of the eight national channels broadcasts to the Atlantic Coast, and the most barely cover the Pacific Coast and a few northern zones. The investments needed to provide national coverage would run into the millions, and economic groups linked to Alemán are lining up to buy out any channels that would lose their licenses if the illegal presidential order is carried out.
The proposed Penal Code reforms also include the crime “against intimacy, the right to one's own image and the inviolability of the home,” and would punish the “discovery and disclosure of secrets” with a six-month to three-year prison sentence. While this may at first glance appear to be progressive legislation in favor of sexual and other freedoms, it needs to be viewed through the prism of Nicaraguan politics rather than that of universal human rights.
In the first place, journalists are concerned about the switch in punishment from fines to prison terms. Second, they observe that this legal shift leans toward resurrecting the famous “Black Code” implemented by Somoza; they recall the coercive and repressive methods used by the dictator's long-time right hand, Cornelio Hueck, who reformed the Penal Code and applied unappealable summary judgments to many journalists who criticized the regime.
As then, any public officials denounced through some reporting would be able to charge that the journalists violated their private communication or that they did not authorize the tapes and images submitted as evidence. Charges, for example, that someone has made land purchases at fire sale prices, as the President himself has boasted of doing, would become a crime, and the most daring journalists would be constantly facing charges of “injuries and libel.” With this axe hanging over their heads, charges of corruption would soon begin to disappear.
This rotten fruit of the pact should not come as any surprise. If there is one corner of power that Alemán's government does not yet control, it is the media. With the exception of the popular Radio Corporación, virtually no written, spoken or televised media that can claim much of an audience backs the President. The FSLN is in somewhat better shape, since it has the unconditional backing of Radio Ya, which boasts one of the highest radio ratings, while the most popular television program makes no secret of its pro-Sandinista leanings.
The vice-like grip being planned for the media, whether it comes through the Penal Code or any other legal or fiscal means, reflects the will of both parties to silence denunciations and critical voices in a political setting in which both lack the apparatus to produce and disseminate ideology. This is true despite the economic power of both leadership blocs and despite the stunning and even more dramatic fact that in its heyday the FSLN had the majority of Nicaragua's journalists and most illustrious intellectuals in its corner.
The Liberal Revolution: 106 years laterBoth parties to the pact celebrated significant anniversaries in July. For the Liberals, it was the 1893 revolution that brought Liberal General José Santos Zelaya to power and ushered in a strategy of modernization and nation-building. Zelaya was deposed only a decade later, largely thanks to the United States. The nation has yet to be built. For the Sandinistas, it was the 1979 revolution that brought the FSLN to power and unleashed a sea of dreams in Nicaragua and throughout the world. It too was deposed a decade later, and also largely thanks to the United States. Today the dreams are shattered. The two anniversaries were propitious moments for the two party bosses to promote their pact, with each seeking to show public opinion that they have the solid backing of their respective grassroots base.
The Liberals celebrated the 106th anniversary of their revolution on July 11 with at least four separate party conventions, an expression of the fragmentation of Liberalism and the minority each faction represents. The history of Nicaraguan Liberalism is plagued with fluctuating alliances, many of them inexplicable, such as the one between the National Liberal Party (PLN), Somoza's old party, and the anti-Somocista Independent Liberal Party (PLI) of former Vice President Virgilio Godoy. Even the recent factions that have arisen within the PLC celebrated separately. Perhaps this is the only way for two genres of Nicaraguan Liberalism to subsist in the same country: the measured, temperate Liberalism inherited from Máximo Jerez and the modernizing but dictatorial one of General Zelaya.
The different celebrations were rife with mutual accusations. PLC dissidents such as Eliseo Núñez claimed the real responsibility for building up the PLC from its tiny beginnings. Heading up his own convention of Liberal dissidents in Tipitapa, Núñez referred to Alemán's rhetoric as “hackneyed and inappropriate for a governor who should take account of the entire nation's views and listen to everyone.”
Sergio García Quintero, a Liberal representative to the Central American Parliament whose bid to be a delegate at the PLC convention was nipped in the bud by Alemán, called the gathering a “one-act farce.” According to him, public employees and businesspeople were forced, under the respective threat of firings or fiscal terrorism, to show up and duly applaud President Alemán's jokes. García Quintero added that 90% of the convention delegates were public employees who dared not speak out against the President's dictatorial policy, and compared Alemán's political methods with Hitler's.
In those same days it was revealed that state workers have already contributed nine million córdobas (about $750,000) to finance the PLC's propaganda activities for the next electoral campaign. The Liberal workers in ENITEL, the state telecommunications company, pledged to pay 100,000 córdobas in monthly contributions for this purpose. ENITEL has been on the privatization block for some time now, and, as with former privatizations, a general cutback of employees can be expected. Do workers feel that the knife might cut between those who tithe and those who do not?
Alemán defends the pactThe President's convention provided the perfect stage for the PLC caudillo to lash out at all his adversaries. With his usual total lack of tact, he smeared the media as “traffickers in news,” the small parties as “unscrupulous” and “prophets of doom” that use public resources “for their carnival-like hype,” the comptroller general as “a resentful man who criminally conspires with ghosts,” the critics of the pact as “hysterics tearing at their pharisaical robes,” the legislators of the small parties as “parasites” and the FSLN as “piñatero” and the “orchestrator of character-assassination campaigns.”
In a typical example of his populist bombast, Alemán claimed that, although electricity rates were going up, he was prepared to receive in his own office all users whose bills were erroneous and who could demonstrate that they did not consume more than 150 kilowatts a month. Even though macroeconomic projections—less so the realities—are his government's most publicized “success,” Alemán continues to provide evidence of his ignorance in this area. Before a perplexed press corps, he frequently confuses concepts such as inflation and sliding devaluation.
Despite his diatribes against the FSLN, however, Alemán also used the convention to defend the pact. Among other things, he argued that the agreement reached with the Sandinistas that a party would need 4% of the total vote in elections to maintain its legal status was to avoid taxing the people to finance unrepresentative political groups. He presented the pact as a “search for points of convergence” with the FSLN. Two of Alemán's handpicked potential successors, José Rizo Castellón and José Antonio Alvarado, respectively nationalized in Chile and the United States, are eagerly waiting for one of the constitutional reforms already agreed to by the FSLN to become law so they can make a bid for the presidency and thus assure the continuation of the Alemán line within Liberalism.
The Sandinista revolution: 20 years laterThe Sandinistas celebrated their own revolution on July 19 with at least two events, also driving home the divisions they have suffered. More than 500 police were in evidence to assure the safety of the crowds at the FSLN's celebration, although they did not deter the gang members who habitually prey on public acts, whether political or religious, to pick pockets and snatch purses. Many of them have hired themselves out as mercenaries of the party, particularly during the recent student and transport protests, and didn't want to miss the festivities.
Daniel Ortega appeared on the platform at the Plaza of the Republic, as the old Plaza of the Revolution has now been officially renamed, accompanied by his wife Rosario Murillo and all the children they have parented. It wasn't the triumphant Daniel of July 19, 1979, but a two-time electoral loser, with his moral credibility lacerated by both the “piñata” give-away of state goods after the 1990 defeat and by his stepdaughter's accusations of sexual abuse, to which he has not dared respond.
The event came only two days after the congress of the once powerful Sandinista Workers Confederation (CST), in which the rank-and-file denounced their leaders for corruption in the continued selling-off of worker-owned businesses, a concept negotiated between the FSLN leadership and the Chamorro government in 1991. A handful of union and party elite have personally profited from the assets of these valuable enterprises, capitalized with significant donations from unions in the industrialized world, particularly Sweden. Now, as the workers are forced to sell the holdings, or at least their shares in them, because they cannot pay the outstanding debts, this same elite is buying them up. It is one more link in a series of scandals that are revealing the FSLN as an empty shell increasingly bereft of Sandinismo and Sandinistas, in which fidelity to the myth of a few acronyms and surnames prevails over fidelity to a political cause and a moral commitment.
For all that, the FSLN's celebration was a success. Over fifty thousand people gathered in the plaza. Given the symbolic importance of the 20th anniversary, which is not just any old year after all, some opponents of the FSLN's new direction tried to find creative ways to register their opposition without boycotting the celebration. One idea had been to hold a vigil in the same plaza the previous night, and another was for opponents of the pact to turn their backs on Ortega when he mentioned it. Ortega, intentionally driving home the impression that those attending were loyal not just to the revolution but to him personally, walked a good distance through the thick of the crowd to the platform, albeit flanked by bodyguards.
Ortega sells the pactUsing a messianic and Manichean line of thought and a fossilized discourse in defense of the poor that is devoid of content, Daniel Ortega tried to sell the pact to the mass of people congregated in the plaza without further imbalancing his already eroded ideological ecosystem. He also showed that he was not afraid of any turned backs. “Those who are prepared to back the negotiations that the Frente Sandinista is following, raise your hands!” he challenged. And thousands of arms, though not all, went up, many waving red and black flags, to signal their approval. No backs turned. Was it fear that the gang members present might be on assignment? Or was no strong opposition present at the plaza that day? Or had the word not gotten out? Ortega also repeated one of his newer and more notably tautological slogans: “We are not and never will be pacters because we aren't traitors.” Like Alemán, he presented the pact as a search for convergence.
Long-time FSLN leader Bayardo Arce, who seems to have been officially selected as the pact's cynical spokesperson, is selling the deal with his own immodest style, giving evidence while at it of having mortgaged his ideological heritage. Glib of tongue as befits the communications professional that he is, Arce recognizes the political irony of the FSLN dialoguing with the party that comes closer to Somocismo than any other. But, in his view, this wrenching strategic jolt should not damage the FSLN's credibility due to what he calls the generational phenomenon. His calculation is simple: just as the new generations of voters in the 1996 elections had no idea what Somocismo was all about and the past meant nothing to them, those in 2001 will have been born in 1985, and for them Sandinismo is past history, without a lot of meaning. He therefore concludes that “we have to establish new communication codes with the people. I think there will be less and less anti-Sandinista and anti-Somocista polarization as time goes by, because they are two phenomena that the new generations haven't lived through, that mean nothing to them, and in the final analysis these people aren't going to vote for the past; they'll vote for the present and for the future.”
Arce describes Alemán as having the style of a popular leader, since he knows how to relate to the grassroots sectors and his government doesn't have the connotation that Somoza did. But that's not true. Apart from the significant difference of not controlling either the army or the police, Alemán's government not only approximates that of Somoza for its arbitrariness and authoritarianism, but outstrips it in levels of corruption.
Alternative demonstrationThe Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), together with some other dissident FSLN currents, chose the most radical alternative when it came to celebrating the revolutionary anniversary: they went so far as to hold a separate event on University Avenue, across from the Central American University. The first names on the call that went out were FSLN comandante and former National Directorate member Henry Ruiz, poet Ernesto Cardenal, singer-songwriter Carlos Mejía Godoy and current MRS president Dora María Téllez. The call expressed their desire not to lose “hope for a better tomorrow for our people and for a healthy future free of corruption in which all of us unite to take our country forward,” returning to Sandinismo “the generous full commitment that made possible the end of Somocismo” and uniting all Sandinistas “in a free and creative plurality to defend democracy and the future of peace and progress for which so many generously offered their lives.”
A split event was apparently not an idea that went down well, evidenced by the fact that fewer than a thousand people showed up. Most of them were recognized intellectuals and authors, while some were former ministers from the Sandinista government and NGO officials, but all seemed to belong to that middle-class sector that produces quality ideology yet has not managed to put together a leadership that attracts the Sandinista grassroots or appeals to the nation as a whole.
The central demand of this celebration was strategic: suspend the immunity—which translates into impunity—of President Alemán and his ministers and legislators, and of Daniel Ortega, so they can answer in the courts for the crimes they have committed. The speeches stressed that the pact only ensures more corruption and does not address the problems of the majority: the imminent deportation of tens of thousands of Nicaraguan wage earners from Costa Rica, the lack of decent living conditions in the indigenous communities on the Caribbean side of the country and the increased public service rates.
With praiseworthy optimism, recalling that Sandino began his struggles in the 1920s with only 30 sympathizers, they proclaimed their opposition to the pact for being a “two-headed dictatorship” and expressed their commitment to the creation of a third way that can successfully oppose this monster.
Why Ortega's leadership?While the FSLN continues harvesting the “success” of the recent violent students protests and transport strikes—causes that it manipulated to threaten new destabilization—it is ignoring the real social issues. How is it possible to maintain leadership credibility with the grass roots without a social agenda? How does the increasingly weakened Daniel Ortega do it? It cannot be ignored that he dominates the streets and fills the plazas, and not only because, like today's hit movies, Nicaraguan popular politics contains its fair share of sex and violence.
Some proffer the explanation that, like Alemán, Ortega is riding on the two-party tradition to which the Nicaraguan population is accustomed, for better or for worse. For a hundred years or more it was the Liberals and the Conservatives for whom the people had no end of disrespectful nicknames based on old pacts, sell-outs and other betrayals of the citizenry, but most sided up with one or the other for all that. Now it's the Sandinistas and the Liberals, and, at least come time to vote, most are doing the same. In this context, the pact could be seen as nothing more than the legal-institutional consolidation of a deep-rooted political culture.
Daniel Ortega, ethically on thin ground, with a FSLN shattering around him and in the middle of crafting a pact with the rival whose opposition helped further his own identity, can still bring out the masses. Even though centuries of massive Catholic processions have done little to forge better Christians, they do feed the phenomenon of fascination and longing for magic and miracles, and provide an emotional outlet. Political rallies are not altogether different. As in religion, there is always room in politics for myths and rites, to say nothing of the fact that, in politics, masses generate votes at the polls. It was demonstrated in 1990 and 1996, however, that the party that fills the plaza doesn't always fill the ballot box. Will it in 2001, with a country in crisis that is even more inclined toward magic instead of reflection and hard choices?
An aristocratic thesis and a more realistic oneSome attribute Ortega's success to the Latin American caudillo or political boss tradition and to the ignorance of the common people, both of which the FSLN ably manipulates in a conscious and sustained strategy. The National Directorate decided as early as 1979 that Ortega would be the face of the revolution, that no other leader would compete with or overshadow him. The party propaganda department took charge of building him an image and infusing him with charisma—a formidable challenge for both builders and bearer, since Ortega was initially a singularly drab personality and boring speaker. It took effort for the erudite and expansive Tomás Borge not to utterly obscure him when they shared the stage. This plan was complemented by Ortega's decision to appeal constantly to emotional devices in lieu of explaining problems and decisions to the people, expanding their reasoning skills by the by. Political loyalty was and is based on a faith in the leaders—especially this one—that revolves around myths and rites and not on an informed understanding of what is going on, transparency of information or political rationality.
However true this thesis may be, however, it is only a jumping-off place for explaining Ortega's current leadership. It is not only insufficient, but also contributes to an aristocratic reading of reality, a disparaging interpretation of the behavior of the grassroots sectors.
Another thesis holds that the present weighs more than the past, and that the important thing is not who Daniel Ortega is or was, what he did well or badly, but who his opponents are and what they are doing. Daniel Ortega's continuing hegemony inside the country is based on how discredited Alemán is, and inside the FSLN on how weak those who would compete with him are.
The alternative Sandinista currents, both within the party and those who have already left, aren't casting much of a shadow on Ortega, to be sure, as witness the alternative demonstration on July 19. One political analyst wisely observed that “unofficial Sandinismo has its main strength in the nongovernmental organizations and the media, but has not succeeded in developing ways to link itself to the political interests of those humble, ordinary grassroots people who make up the base of Sandinismo, and who react to issues by getting out there in the streets.” Given that, it can be predicted that Daniel Ortega will be around for a while, and that the only platforms for the FSLN's dissident left and its opposition to the pact will those pulpits and refuges of the middle classes, the NGOs and the media.
A third way?A “third way” such as the one mentioned by the Sandinista dissidents, which would have to embrace other political elements as well, is the only way to confront the break with institutionality being perpetrated through the Liberal-Sandinista pact. These dissidents are not alone in their opposition to the political status quo. Polls show that the citizenry is growing increasingly disillusioned with politics and politicians and rapidly withdrawing support from both pacting political bosses. For its part, Nicaraguan big business is increasingly denouncing government corruption and a number of its members have been slowly distancing themselves from the Alemán government while ably profiting from the weaknesses of the two rivals. Businessman William Báez, minister of social action during the Chamorro government and now president of the Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE), spoke out against the pact on the grounds that it is not just a political-institutional negotiation but a dangerously economic one. “As businesspeople we are worried about the economic angles of this pact,” he said, noting that these angles are basically the FSLN's own appropriation of various privatized businesses at a value of some $30 million, according to Báez's calculation, and discretionary laws the government will approve with Sandinista votes that favor “emerging groups under government protection,” some of which will be Liberal and some Sandinista.
But if these unallied business interests are good at denouncing what they see as unfair competition, they have not learned how to achieve any success among themselves and their sympathizers. Private enterprise lacks the cohesion that would allow it to articulate a joint proposal. It suffers from all the weaknesses it had in the late 1970s, when it tried to mold its opposition to Somoza into alternative leadership and lacked the vision and courage and unity to do so. It cannot get a grip on its fear that Sandinismo could return to power, lives hostage to the Liberal government's fiscal terrorism and caves in when individual perks are waved in front of its members. Lacking grandness of purpose, it remains paralyzed, settling for occasional denunciations, unable to articulate the opposition that agrees with it and gathers around it or to respect and join forces with the more progressive political opposition. Meanwhile, the pact rolls on, unimpeded by either force.
Although La Prensa is the voice of entrepreneurial discontent with the PLC administration, it retains tight links with the regime. One minister and several diplomats of the current government who also own stock in the newspaper influence the paper's line far more than does the satire of El Azote, its well-read Sunday humor supplement, which is entirely dedicated to tearing into both Daniel Ortega and his nemesis/alter ego, President Alemán.
Pact with no people, people with no leadersFor the moment, Nicaragua seems to be locked into a closed game. A pact without people and a people without leaders. Two pacting groups without ideology. And many producers of ideology without anyone who understands, embraces and assimilates it. Is the population now turning its back even on its own interests? Is it falling into abject disillusionment and that who gives a damn, I've got no stake in it attitude that is as deeply rooted in Nicaraguan culture as two-party caudillismo? Or, is it maybe just a question of time, like before?
With the unions and other labor and small producer movements weakened by the centralism of the last decade and the corruption of this one, grassroots sectors have few genuine local leaders who can rally their demands and marshal their support in opposing the direction the country is taking. There are some signs, however, that Sandinistas with their values intact are working quietly, independently and increasingly well in local frameworks all over the country, in organizations like the Nicaraguan Communal Movement and networks like Local Power. Recognizing that one gigantic failing of the last decade was that the grassroots sectors were not provided the tools and the accompaniment to take their destiny more into their own hands, these groups are trying to rectify that now. All over the country, dozens of small workshops take place somewhere every day on skills training, organizational methods and dozens of other related topics. There is a constant search for potential new local leaders who can learn how to plug their communities effectively into the macro-proposals that the numerous NGO coordinating bodies and policy designers come bearing.
It is way too early to see where all this is headed or even how well it is working, but there is reason for optimism if only because, for the first time, empowerment is consciously at the heart of much of the work, whether it goes by that name or not. And, at the end of the day, caudillismo and empowerment are fundamentally incompatible. The old will eventually have to give way to the new, though this, too, is a question of time.
Where Has Liberalism Come?
At the Constitutionalist Liberal Party convention on July 11, held to check the strength of the party's pulse and the unconditional loyalty of the party faithful, Lorenzo Guerrero Mora, one of the PLC's founders, did a rundown of the rebirth of Liberalism as pushed by his party. In 1990, he recalled, exactly nine years earlier, the PLC, having just acquired legal status as an independent party inside Nicaragua, attracted a total of 70 people to its celebration of the Liberal anniversary. The next year that number climbed to 500 and the following year to 12,000. By 1996, the year it won the presidential elections, the PLC had already organized 7,000 party management teams around the country. In that same interim, it had also maneuvered its own municipal councilors into the mayor's seat in 93 of the country's 145 municipalities, since mayors were not directly elected in 1990 but were internally chosen from among the elected councilors.
The PLC had begun two decades earlier as a movement within Somoza's National Liberal Party (PLN), an alternative space for Liberals who were not so close to the dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and had fewer advantages within his party. Ramiro Sacasa Guerrero, Somoza's own cousin, gave the PLC life, going so far as to propose a dialogue between the government and the opposition parties--including the FSLN. Prevented by Somoza from running in the presidential elections, Sacasa Guerrero chose to take his movement out of the PLN and hook up with the Democratic Liberation Union (UDEL), the coalition of center-right anti-Somocista parties that Pedro Joaquín Chamorro founded in the early 1970s.
The PLC did not acquire its identity as a party until 1983, which is when, in the view of Virgilio Godoy, who heads the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), a half-century-old Liberal split, the PLC also suffered "a mutation." Somocistas who had gone into exile because of the revolution and were without a party due to the PLN's collapse, began to gravitate toward the PLC, which thus slowly became a successor to Somoza's party and a lightning rod for Somocismo in Miami.
Still without a base, but with a perverse perseverance in the National Opposition Union (UNO), the electoral coalition of 14 parties opposing Sandinismo, the PLC did well for itself when the UNO defeated the FSLN in the 1990 elections. It had not only maneuvered many of its municipal candidates into winning slots on the UNO slates, but got a slice of the posts shared out among member parties of the coalition that was disproportionate to is electoral base if not to its contributions to the campaign coffers. The PLC's big move was to grab the Managua mayoral position for itself, correctly assessing that success in the capital would give it a leg up in the country as a whole.
By then, the PLC had changed many of its original leaders. Managua's new mayor was Arnoldo Alemán, whom many of the younger generation inside the country had never heard of. Today, three other visible PLC heads share the spotlight with Alemán and, as might be expected, they also share his line. One of those is Guerrero Mora himself, director of the Institute of Tourism; the second is José Rizo Castellón, president of the Nicaraguan Institute of Municipal Development, and the third is José Antonio Alvarado, originally minister of government and now minister of the mega-ministry of education, culture and sports. The latter two are being groomed as possible presidential candidates for 2001; what stands in the way of both of them, at least until the pact is finalized and implemented, is their dual nationality.
A Micro-party redesignedBy the time Alemán became Managua's new mayor in 1990, a small group had taken over the PLC. A micro-party redesigned. From the mayor's office it pulled itself up on the promise of eating Sandinistas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it also built a constituency based on vote-garnering projects that ranged from promptly filling in potholes to building the Managua traffic circle with its flashy fountain lit in multiple colors. It made many people see that the party with the solid red flag ("unstained" as its slogan chorused) got things done. And, sure enough, as Godoy granted with more cynicism than admiration, "a handful of people always gather around the person in power."
As the renovation movement in the Managua municipal government went on, Alemán teamed up with the Cuban and Somocista sectors in Miami who were financing his presidential campaign. But he simultaneously toned down the Sandinista-hating rhetoric that had marked his first years in the mayoral spotlight both to calm the international community's anxiety about more violence and to convince a group of independent technocrats that he had the good of the whole nation at heart. He had a real and urgent need for them to design an economic project would balance rural populism with structural adjustment.
The populist part would be located in the new agricultural ministry, which would offer credit and technical assistance and promises that Nicaragua would again become the "granary of Central America." The latter would give Nicaragua the green light for new loans and allow it into the debt-reduction initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC).
Alemán was carried to the presidency by the right mix of opportunism, electoral skillfulness and, above all, the support of that sector of the bourgeoisie most flagellated by the Sandinista government—quite the opposite of the bourgeoisie that knew how to coexist and even negotiate with it. If a "handful" of people flocked around Alemán as mayor, they became hordes once he was President. The party began to be looked upon like a grab bag filled with state posts. The "unconditional" loyalties to patronage multiplied and that able weaver of intrigues as mayor of Managua blossomed into a full-blown national caudillo.
Alemán's alliancesThe PLC succeeded in attracting old Somocistas, politically neutral technocrats, many angry Nicaraguans whose properties had been confiscated by the agrarian reform, and BANIC, one of the four strongest financial-business groups from the 1970s. This group, headed by the father of Eduardo Montealegre, Alemán's current foreign relations minister, liquidated its holdings in Nicaragua before Somoza was toppled and waited out the 1980s in exile, safeguarding its capital. Now, with the Alemán government providing the perfect opportunity to recover all that "lost time," it has reinstalled itself in power through him in the 1990s. This behavior was quite contrary to a sector of the equally-strong Pellas family group (including the Chamorro, Mántica and Lacayo families), which decided to coexist with Sandinismo and even make business investments to seal the bourgeois-Sandinista pact.
Alemán, incapable of building any genuine consensual alliances with either parties or social movements, invests all his sagacity in attracting individuals away from other parties, of whatever stripe, with political patronage. A closed-door deal cut with Liberals of other parties, for example, brought several of their more illustrious leaders into the Alemán fold: Jaime Bonilla, current minister of transport and infrastructure; Edgar Quintana, now president of ENEL, the state energy institute; and Wilfredo Navarro, the minister of labor. Alemán could pick any one of them for key candidacies in the next elections. This strategy of capturing the best and the brightest based on individual pacts rather than lasting alliances with their parties quickly frustrated the electoral alliance of four of the five other Liberal parties (PLC, PLIUN, PALI and the resurrected PLN) that got Alemán elected in 1996.
Why did Godoy's PLI not become the rightful heir to liberalism instead? In 1990, Violeta Chamorro was the UNO presidential candidate because she personally symbolized both the anti-Somocista and anti-Sandinista struggles, but she represented no party. The PLI was recognized as the main current in the UNO, with a significant base, which gave Godoy the spot as Chamorro's running mate. So why was the PLI unable to use its vice presidential post to parlay itself into the Liberal spotlight in the 1996 elections instead of the PLC? Was Godoy too honest? Too phlegmatic? Not politically astute enough? Not bombastically anti-Sandinista enough for the "handful" of people who enthroned Alemán? It may have been a combination of all four, since Godoy's anti-Sandinista sentiments run deep but still, and no one has ever been able to size him up. He is not the stuff of a complicated electoral alliance nor is he a puffy populist vote-getter. Perhaps even more importantly, he did not have the campaign funding to offset Alemán's financing from self-interested Miami sources.
In any case, the PLC's history has taught its leaders that a "micro-party," as they disparagingly dub a good number of their political adversaries, could easily be the germ of a powerful political movement, particularly if fertilized, as the PLC itself was, through electoral sleight of hand, negotiations, the purchase of allies and timely ideological about-faces.
Where Has the Revolution Gone?
Many wonder now, 20 years later, what became of that revolution that overthrew the Somocista dictatorship and offered the world a new utopia. What is left of the good it produced? The high points of the inventory, past and present, are these:
- democracy, at least electoral;
- an explosion of popular organizations, some of which are today strong and sound while others are riddled with corruption or bereft of members;
- confiscation of the Somoza family patrimony obtained through theft and abuse of power, though some of those properties have since been returned;
- the drastic reduction of illiteracy, though it is once again reaching worrying levels;
- an agrarian reform that significantly reduced the number of landed estates and benefited 120,000 peasant families, but concentration of land is returning, even into the hands of shameless Sandinista leaders;
- free health care and education, and guaranteed access to a minimum quota of basic foodstuffs at affordable prices. Today health care and education are no longer free, though they remain subsidized, and food is sold at market prices—all unaffordable to the more than 70% of the population living below the poverty line;
- last but hardly least, an army and a police force of a new stripe. Today, while they are fostering political autonomy and are no longer Sandinista institutions, they are far from Somocista ones.
All attempts to redistribute income more equitably were frustrated during the revolutionary decade, along with income itself, due to economic imbalances caused by the war and the Sandinistas' own economic policies. During this post-revolutionary decade it is being redistributed back to the wealthy as a result of structural adjustment measures and the greed of the dominant parties' political elite, in power or out. The mystique of generosity that originally made such fundamental changes possible has vanished.
The Sandinista revolution staked its claim not only on economic and social justice, but also on participatory democracy. Though the organizational structures were created, genuine bottom-up participation was curtailed by a failure to educate and inform, to listen and empower, and by a war that imposed the need for rapid, top-down decisions. What the revolution did produce was electoral democracy, which has not yet reached the stage of representative democracy because more attention is paid to getting elected than to representing the voting constituency. Genuine spaces for political participation have yet to be institutionalized along with accountability to the citizenry, control of public finances and administrative transparency. Today, even the electoral democracy that was won is in severe jeopardy due to the pact.
Repentant? Opportunist? Unreflecting?A British journalist in town to cover the anniversary asked Daniel Ortega what he would do differently if he could do it all again. Ortega's answer gave the measure of a man who, today still only in his 50s, was a top FSLN leader by the early 1970s, spent several years in a Somoza prison, led the country for a decade, and has had a major role in influencing its course since them. The wealth of reflections and lessons that vast and varied experience could produce is staggering.
Yet Ortega's only response was that to do things differently he would have to be a different man, because he only looks forward, never back. Was such a shallow answer triggered by a desire to get the journalist off his back or by a distasteful unfamiliarity with the terrain he was being asked to enter? In any case, it was a stunner, suggesting either an obstinate unwillingness or a fundamental inability to plumb the depths of the revolutionary experience and learn anything from it.
Some others, in contrast, have launched at least a superficial mea culpa. For example, many Sandinistas have recognized that the statist vision and political voluntarism of the 1980s undermined all norms of economic rationality. Is that recognition genuine repentance or fleeting opportunism? For his part, Tomás Borge, an FSLN founder and at 67 one of its oldest living members, refers to two other errors the FSLN committed: centralism and bureaucracy. He has declared that he expects the FSLN to return to power, and optimistically assumes it will not repeat such errors. "I think that the advent of a new Sandinista government is very probable and would mean the application of some dreams transformed into reality." Repentance or opportunism?
No one in the FSLN leadership structures, however, has yet publicly accepted that none of these errors, even coupled with the many more that have been or could be mentioned, explain all of the failures. Essential to any explanation is the fundamental corruption of ethics that evolved over the past decade and ended up in the ongoing piñata grab of this decade.
By failing to maintain their revolutionary example, the FSLN's upper echelons made it infinitely easier for the members of all parties with access to power and resources at any level to justify their own corruption. The resulting "good guys finish last" ethos is further facilitated by a lack of clear limits between the public, governmental, party and private spheres. This confusion is no accident and is often even justified by both the FSLN and the PLC; it is in fact the ideological matrix the two parties share, and that the pact aims to institutionalize and perpetuate.
Telling a different FSLN historyThe anniversary was not without versions of history that belie the facile explanation that the FSLN has been recently "kidnapped" by a tiny group that is sidelining and disqualifying—though curiously never expelling—those with the audacity to criticize Ortega's line. Those who cling to this conception find it easier than looking at the party's older, deeper and far more widespread problems of corruption, top-down leadership, intimidating methods, lack of democracy, abuse of power, personal ambition and misplaced goals.
During those days Sergio Ramírez presented his new book "Adiós muchachos," the memoirs of his participation in the FSLN, which, at the insistence of friends at Editorial Alfaguara, he wrote while a visiting professor at the University of Maryland. Some see the text as a settling of accounts that has come out at a very opportune political moment. The thesis running through it is that the defeat of Sandinismo was due not so much to harassment by US imperialism as to the revolution's undermining of its own ethical foundations. The book's most explosive revelation is that Henry Ruiz was originally to have headed the army, but that the possibility was aborted when Humberto Ortega put himself forward for the post, a circumstance that determined the preponderance of his brother Daniel and the determination to spend millions to cultivate his image. Thus a decision, a moment, would mark the history of the FSLN and Nicaragua forever.
Though many recent statements by FSLN elite show they are no longer interested in history, it was their greater or lesser participation in the armed struggle to overthrow Somoza that earned them their "rights" and on which they based—and still base to base—political and personal privileges. In declarations to the press around the 20th anniversary, Edén Pastora, the FSLN's legendary "Comandante Cero" who later headed a counterrevolutionary guerrilla movement based in Costa Rica, also dusted off memories, if not occasionally whole-cloth fabrications, of his early years in the FSLN, and in that struggle.
Pastora reached into the dark annals of his version of FSLN history to debunk many personalities with curious revelations centered in the anecdotal and the iconoclastic, traits very common to him. He spoke of Borge's jealous opposition to Carlos Fonseca's leadership, of Borge's false presentation of himself as the only surviving FSLN founder, of Fonseca's death as a result of pressures on him from Borge and Henry Ruiz to rejoin the guerrilla activities in the mountains, of self-concern that right from the outset caused the comandantes to grab the best Somocista houses and "the best bourgeois women," of the nil participation in military activities by several historic National Directorate members, supposedly including Jaime Wheelock, the two Ortegas and Henry Ruiz ("Modesto")...
Well before these declarations, Pastora was one of the first on the list of resentful and repentant (or opportunistic?) leaders who believe that the Ortega brothers got where they are by climbing on the backs of others, exploiting those people's diplomatic initiatives, political negotiations or audacity in combat. The list of historic combatants, politicians and leaders who now realize that they allowed their heroism, their intellect, their dreams of justice or their talent as ideologues to be hijacked—or themselves pawned it in exchange for ephemeral public posts—gets longer every day. But they are late converts to the truth, and history will not judge them kindly either if they prove unable to influence the future and plug into grassroots expectations and concerns. They need to dig beneath their resentment and reflect deeply on their own concepts of a vanguard party, on what sacrifice to healthy human relations they believe greater revolutionary goals merit, on what would be the most appropriate general relationship between means and ends, on who or what they believe to be the depository of revolutionary truth, on where the line should be drawn between tactical sacrifice and strategic gain...
It is a pretty good bet that neither Pastora nor the Ortega brothers have ever engaged in any such meaningful reflection. To do so would be to engage in what is often considered wishy-washy petty bourgeois behavior unbecoming the traditional masculine concept of a dedicated revolutionary, as Daniel Ortega's answer to the British journalist evidenced. The fact is that these and other questions of their ilk are extremely complex, and the answers lie somewhere on the dialectic plane, not in formulas. But to fail to ask them is to risk unconsciously repeating all the old errors, this time simply in a different power relationship.