Days of Smoke and Tears
There are so many crises and they are so interrelated. There are so many perplexities, so much skepticism, so much smoke and so many tears that perhaps we have now touched bottom and nothing remains but to begin the climb out of the abyss, to begin bit by bit, together, rebuilding all that has tumbled down.
MAY 1998 WILL NOT FADE UNREMEMBERED FROM RECENT NATIONAL HISTORY. THE month was filled with days of thick smoke, an asphyxiating atmosphere caused by the tragedy of dozens of forest fires burning out of control. It was also filled with days of tears, for the past and for the future, given the overwhelming realities society has been called upon to face.
These realities include the government's extreme weakness and the irreversible deterioration of the President's authority as a consequence of mounting scandals culminating in the king of scandals, the "narcojet." There is also the extreme weakness of the FSLN, the main opposition, amply demonstrated in its just-concluded congress, a political event utterly devoid of content. Then there is society's perplexity in the face of new testimony by Zoilamérica Narváez, detailing in over 40 pages the sexual abuse and abuse of power that she alleges to have suffered at the hands of FSLN leader Daniel Ortega for the past 20 years. And as a final fillip, the international community pledged to financially support Nicaragua's social development is getting increasingly irritated at the government's inconsistencies and at the demoralization that the political class' behavior is generating in society.
The Various Angles of an Undeclared Scandal In an historic first, the head of Nicaragua's executive branch appeared before the judicial branch on May 12. The issue was the narcojet scandal, uncovered in the last days of April. In a clever but judicially fragile image game, President Alemán testified as an "injured party," not a "witness," as he was summoned to do. He spent well over three hours in a closed-door session with Judge Martha Quezada, who has headed the hearings on the administrative irregularities committed in connection with the introduction of a Lear jet into Nicaragua in December 1997. The luxury model plane, stolen in Florida, came in as a "presidential plane," and was offered full facilities without even paying any taxes. When the plane was searched, four months after making extensive trips within and outside of Nicaragua, bearing high Nicaraguan government officials in some cases, cocaine particles were found throughout.
The first phase of this judicial process ended on May 14. Judge Quezada sentenced the seven people indicted as a result of the initial investigations to prison, but released them on their own recognizance pending appeal. The seven were found guilty of four crimes: drug trafficking, air piracy, falsification of documents and association to commit a criminal offense. With the exception of José Francisco Guasch, the pilot who flew the jet into Nicaragua, and Mario Rivas, the Civil Aeronautics director at the time of the incident, the other five individuals had secondary or even marginal responsibilities in the case. Guasch is currently a fugitive of justice being sought by INTERPOL.
The three commissions named by President Alemán in the first days of the scandal handed in their conclusions on May 25 in the form of recommendations. No other high official was removed from office and some of those on whom seemingly well-founded suspicion fell were defended behind closed doors, and even on various occasions in public by the President himself.
As a consequence of the scandal, the National Police had to rotate the posts of several of its officers on Alemán's orders. On June 4, Carlos Palacios, who had been removed by presidential order from his top-level post in the Anti-Narcotics Division and was one of those rotated, was warmly congratulated by DEA representative in Nicaragua Joe Petrauskas, who referred to his work over more than three years as "excellent."
The good news is that the unfolding of the scandal showed the existence of real institutional constraints on an untransparent government with such authoritarian inclinations as this one. The bad news is that it showed how many spaces for action such a government can use in a country like Nicaragua. Enough negligence, favoritism and complicity surrounding the government was proven—or surmised—that some judicial sanctions were applied, but there was also a relatively successful cover-up of those principally responsible. What President Alemán could not do was whitewash his own image; the shadow of this scandal will surely follow him all the rest of his administration.
Though many threads of the irregularities that accumulated around the plane must still be unsnarled, and many knots may never be loosed, the scandal can already be analyzed from various angles. One is the power of the media. For ethical, political or commercial reasons, the media gave the theme no quarter and were virtually unanimous in their harsh criticisms of the President. Alemán and his group have been orphaned from their own mass media and, in a political world that feeds on images, this has seriously weakened him.
Then there are the President's conflicts with the Army and Police, institutions that Alemán tried to blame for the "falling apart of the country's security." Both emphatically denied any responsibility, particularly the Army, since the small airport where the plane was kept had been made off limits to it. These institutions have won certain power, which they are determined to preserve and are defending, though not without some difficulty.
Other threads of analysis that could be followed include the firmness of Martha Quezada, the judge who heard the case. She is the same judge assigned to the sexual abuse case filed against Daniel Ortega by his adopted stepdaughter Zoilamérica Narváez. Yet another thread is the ambiguous findings of the three commissions named by President Alemán, which could not have been expected to do any better, since they were headed by individuals implicated in the scandal. And, finally, there was the embarrassing non-role of the National Assembly, which has not even met as a legislative body in the last month due to an internal crisis. Within this was the Sandinista bench's own paralysis in the face of the crisis.
What Happened? The US government, particularly its Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), appears to be the linchpin of any full understanding of the plot by which this mysterious stolen plane came to Nicaragua and of the flights it made during the four months it remained undiscovered. In turn, the linchpin of any understanding of the US position would appear to be the weighty US-Cuba controversy. In this hornets' nest all questions are valid, and none has yet been answered.
In the first days of the scandal, US Ambassador to Nicaragua Lino Gutiérrez categorically declared that "President Alemán has an unblemished record in the anti-drug fight." In mid-May, when the scandal was in full bloom, Alemán made a week-long business trip to the United States which he admitted involved "personal affairs." While there he met with General Barry McCaffrey, the top man of the US anti-drug policy. Alemán later declared that the US government "knows very well" what happened with the jet and had given him its "total" support.
On May 19, Oscar Jacobo Rodríguez, a highly-respected agent from the Anti-Drug Division of El Salvador's Civil National Police, was shot in the back in San Salvador. The murdered agent, a specialist in the use of a sophisticated ion scanner, is the one who had detected the abundant cocaine particles in the plane in Nicaragua a few days earlier. Even though that evidence weighed heavily in the judge's finding that the plane was linked to drug trafficking, neither the Salvadoran nor the Nicaraguan police linked the assassination with the jet case. After Rodríguez' death, a DEA chemist from the United States flew to Nicaragua at Alemán's initiative to run another test on the plane, but the judge hearing the case did not allow it.
A Missed Opportunity An entirely different but equally central analytical angle has to do with the political space that the narcojet crisis unexpectedly offered the opposition and civil society, even though hard reality closed down around that opportunity very quickly. The crisis that in those smoke-filled May days enveloped the Liberal government, and President Alemán in particular, created genuinely objective conditions for a drastic shift in the nation's political dynamic. It is not hard to imagine how many pieces could have been picked off the political chessboard had there been bold and sustained action by the parliamentary opposition and well-directed pressure from various social fronts. But there was only silence.
What role is the National Assembly playing today? Where is the legislative opposition? As for Nicaraguan society, is it just too demoralized and exhausted by the daily fight for survival? If we lived in a different situation than today, how well could the President and his government have covered up this scandal? Was no one prepared to respond or has society simply witnessed a new "gentlemen's" agreement among those on both sides who are involved in shady deals with identical economic interests?
President Alemán responded to the breaking scandal with legal inconsistencies, impetuous attacks on the media and pressured and hardly convincing decisions. Nonetheless, he emerged from it intact, just as he has from all previous crises, due to the political and ethical weakness of the FSLN and the rest of the opposition today, and to society's exhaustion and bewilderment.
A Congress With No Debate All these waves of crisis broke on Nicaragua's shores in the weeks prior to the FSLN's second ordinary congress, held on May 22-23. The first congress was in 1991, a year after the FSLN's electoral defeat, and an extraordinary congress was called in 1994, which culminated in the division of the party and the emergence of the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).
By the end of last year some FSLN sectors were beginning to express hopes for a "transformation" of the FSLN. For several years now, society has viewed it as paralyzed, and much too caught up with old leaders, procedures and postures that are challenged by reality.
The FSLN came to this congress weak and disorganized, even though, to use the terms of the most benevolent analysts, its future was at stake. One of the clearest signs of its disarray was the nearly total absence of debate—organized or otherwise—in the preparations for the event. The official estimate is that not even 10% of the approximately 430,000 people who registered as party militants in 1995 participated in any way or at any time in the few meetings even held to discuss the documents to be taken to the congress. It is also known that the thirteen National Directorate members, who concluded their mandate in this Congress, did not hold even one session to debate or reflect on any fundamental theme in the months prior to such an important meeting.
Sandinismo No Longer Fits in the FSLN Sandinismo is a valuable Nicaraguan heritage, whose roots extend deep and wide in the society. Past and present positive experiences, personal trajectories, convictions, solid principles and a stubborn memory keep this patrimony alive. It represents a strategic reserve for the reconstruction of Nicaragua. While Sandinismo still has a lot of things to say and do, its vigor is increasingly fragmenting and being sapped. It is estimated that 80% of those who consider themselves Sandinistas are totally outside the structures of the FSLN.
The FSLN structures, which never fully embraced all of Sandinismo in society even in the best of times, have been emptying out. A conviction is growing among those who were never part of them, those who abandoned them and those who never formally cut the ties but no longer participate, that certain tendencies have persisted in the structures themselves that make any positive transformation impossible. The minority that still believes in such possibilities of transformation or whose job is to make others believe in them are the ones who participated in the congress.
At a time when political parties all over the world are in crisis as an effect of the mutation of civilization we are all living through, the FSLN is still trying to make itself into a party. It's an enormous task. The structures of the FSLN have never functioned like those of a political party. In the 1960s and 70s they worked like a clandestine network, in the 1980s like a government with almost all-embracing powers, and after the electoral defeat of 1990 like a heterogenous bunch of economic power groups and political pressure groups caught up in internal fights. All these groupings need the symbol of Daniel Ortega to survive and appear cohesive.
The Left's "Luxury" in Nicaragua Even though the FSLN has been through so many dissimilar experiences in its nearly forty years of experience, it has maintained its discourse and some symbols intact as the contradictions burst all around it. In the weeks immediately before the congress, one of the least known but most in-depth contradictions debated by those still within the FSLN structures began to surface publicly. Just before the congress, sociologist Orlando Núñez described it to envío. We summarize his ideas below, directly quoting some of his most graphic expressions.
One can see in the FSLN's identity crisis the limitations corralling all Latin American political parties that want to continue being of the left and are gambling on revolutionary transformations for their countries. How does one make revolution in the framework of a market economy? How does one win elections to launch a project in favor of the poor if one must be rich just to participate in elections, to say nothing of winning them?
This identity crisis exists because the FSLN comes out of and still maintains many spaces: it was born with a socialist and revolutionary orientation, held real power for a decade and has kept an important presence in the army and police, the parliament and the written, spoken and visual media. It is an integral part of a socioeconomic structure transformed by the revolution, with thousands of new rural and urban property owners and a civil society that still nurtures in its consciousness respect and fondness for the revolutionary legacy.
This reality is a "luxury" that offers weighty objective conditions for successfully exerting pressure against the neoliberalism being imposed by the International Monetary Fund, against the oligarchy that still dominates the country's deepest culture and against the Alemán government. Such pressure is not to make another revolution, but to negotiate from strength and, at least, "to put a stop to the hecatomb, because in this situation, given the speed with which this government is razing the country, all that will remain of Nicaragua will be the burial ground of its natural resources and of its grassroots hopes."
Turn the FSLN Into a Business Given this challenge and this potential, Orlando Núñez sounded an alert about the project on which the FSLN is gambling today, and whose "greatest enthusiast" is Daniel Ortega himself. The idea is to turn the FSLN into a business that administers both the long-standing economic power of the Sandinista bourgeoisie—which never stopped being an ally of the traditional oligarchy—and the new economic power of the Sandinista leaders who have transformed themselves into landlords and business owners since 1990.
How is this project defended? It's simple: the decision to "sell" the FSLN to whoever wants it and can pay for it is because it is impossible to do anything in politics without money. This "sale" would consolidate the alliance between the political/business leaders who now control the FSLN structures and another group of business people who have been historically close to the upper levels of Sandinismo. The political project of this alliance/sale has nothing to do with the socialist utopia or with the struggle against imperialism, which today is embodied in the IMF's economic project. "In the 1960s and 70s we robbed banks to make the revolution," says Núñez, summarizing this "ideological evolution"; "in the 1980s we administered the banks that made the revolution and now we have come to think that only if we are bankers can we do anything." This new approach that the FSLN power structures want to impose does not suggest that the discourse for its base and for the rest of an increasingly skeptical society will be anything other than its eternal "defense of the poor."
In this context, the only objective of the congress ended up being to elect a national directorate that would act as the FSLN business management committee. The FSLN leaders thus went to the party's maximum political event voluntarily empty-handed. They took no option of governmental power, had no political content with which to infuse their project and in fact had not even designed a project of opposition to Alemán's liberalism. The only option that really exists is economic: to consolidate and expand the capital of specified power groups.
What sense would it make in such circumstances to win the elections in Nicaragua? Why even try if the rules of the game are limited to one: money is the only voice. "I am afraid," concluded Orlando Núñez, "that the Frente, which headed an authentic popular revolution, will end its days serving this business orientation and will do so with the single objective of making money."
Favorable Odds for Ortega This "orientation" dominated the silent tensions that ran through the whole congress. Since any and all debate of ideas was avoided, not even the "business proposal" was openly discussed. The congress was organized so that no fundamental theme would be talked about. This became very evident when some congressional delegates raised the issue of the FSLN's economic patrimony, requesting that information be provided about how much there was, and that an audit be done on the party's finances, followed by the setting of controls. The arguments that cut this idea off were brusque and sounded hollow: any business must be protected from public curiosity; if the FSLN were to provide open information the "enemy" would find out who its partners are, which would affect their business possibilities.
Those who were aware of the "business plan" and opposed it were a loose and undefined group, though they had a clear short-term objective: stop the election of certain candidates to the leadership of the FSLN. Those "certain" candidates were people already under Daniel Ortega's sway or who would be easy to put there.
Given all this, the only way positions were expressed was through the nomination of candidates, and the way forces were measured was through the voting on procedures and formalities. The latter included a debate about whether voting should be secret or by a show of hands, how many members the leadership body should have, etc. The most "real" of all these disputes, because it touched on generational, political and even ethical issues, was the contest between FSLN founder Tomás Borge and young pretender Victor Hugo Tinoco for the position of FSLN vice secretary general. After manipulations of all sorts, obvious to any minimally aware observer, Borge won out over Tinoco by only a couple dozen votes. Both, however, were among the only four members of the outgoing National Directorate to be reelected, the other two being Daniel Ortega and René Núñez.
Over 470 party militants, cadres and leaders participated, of whom 441 delegates stayed through the two days for the voting. Respecting the quotas of 30% women and 15% youth (under 30) established in the statutes, the following new members were elected to the 15-member directorate (up from the 13 set in the last congress): historic leaders Doris Tijerino and Gladys Báez; priest and close adviser to Daniel, Miguel D'Escoto; businessman Manuel Coronel Kautz; physician and trade union leader Gustavo Porras; cultural activist Emilia Torres; peasant leader Martha Heriberta Valle; and student and youth organization functionaries Vladimir Soto, María Esther Solís and Roberto Calderón.
In the measuring of strength, the pro-business positions defended in Daniel Ortega's unbending and maneuvering style experienced several small but significant setbacks: Daniel himself was not reelected by acclaim (only 420 voted for him), the voting was done in secret despite his opposition, the national directorate was not as large as he wanted, etc. For all that, however, the correlation of forces in the newly elected management body clearly favors the business plan and Ortega's leadership.
Borge's ill-planned and last-minute maneuvers to wrest the second position away from Tinoco—his answer in a TV news interview to why he should go up against younger blood was: "I'm still young, too; after all I just had a child!"—was typical of the old, anachronistic way of doing politics in the FSLN. So was the silence in which Daniel Ortega, as is his habit, took refuge during the entire Congress. It is a style that the FSLN cannot shake off, one based on underestimating and undervaluing people, and on games played under the table.
By the close of the congress, the sector that seems to still be putting its bets on transforming the FSLN into a revolutionary and democratic party with ethical principles had become convinced that this can only be done if the Sandinista social sectors fight hard for it. Only if they organize and reunify can they accomplish the feat of pulling out of the mounting rubble the potential embodied in the revolution's legacy. This is obviously a long-term project, one for the coming generations.
A Caudillos' Agreement Five top figures of the government and of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) that controls it were special invited guests of the FSLN at the inaugural act of the congress. They included the president of the Central Bank, Alemán's presidential adviser and the PLC's legislative bench head, among others. On the other hand, the FSLN did not invite a single leader of the Sandinista Renovation Movement, despite the publicly proclaimed objective of "unifying Sandinismo."
In his speech to close the congress, reelected Secretary General Daniel Ortega proposed a "national agreement" with the government as an FSLN objective. President Alemán immediately applauded it with great satisfaction. And thus we have the very questioned leader of an increasingly weakened opposition holding out his hand to the very questioned leader of an increasingly weakened government. To agree on what? What kind of pact is hidden within the unhappy ending of the congress and the murky closure of the narcojet scandal? How could a bilateral and publicly unstated accord between two spent caudillos be a "national" agreement?
Zoilamérica Speaks Out Again Barely 24 hours after the congress ended, Zoilamérica Narváez, Daniel Ortega's stepdaughter, put into society's hands a 40-page testimony detailing the ongoing sexual abuse and abuse of power she alleges to have suffered from Ortega since 1978. The complete testimony appeared over two consecutive days in El Nuevo Diario, was published in abbreviated form in other print media and copies were distributed among some institutions and organizations.
Zoilamérica had first made these charges on March 3, carefully measuring her words, in a subtly explicit letter and later in a press conference. Many have tried to reinterpret her unforgettable initial declarations according to their own interests, and no small number now find themselves unable to assimilate the full dimensions she has given them in her testimony. It is not easy reading, and is shattering to anyone who knows either or both of the protagonists or even simply the context in Nicaragua when the events she narrates took place.
Zoilamérica prepared this narrative of her personal experience as a prior step to the judicial proceedings she decided to file against Daniel Ortega after her first denunciation did not produce the reaction she needed for her own healing process. Since that denunciation, Ortega has shielded himself behind a mask-like face and a strange, apathetic-seeming personal silence, leaving the threats, counteraccusations and other defensive and offensive maneuvers to the party machinery and family members, most notably Zoilamérica's own mother, Rosario Murillo, and her full brother Rafael.
On May 27, Zoilamérica initiated a claim to recover her real surname—all her documents now carry the Ortega name since he officially adopted her in 1986. She also filed suit against him for a series of dishonest abuses, sexual violations and sexual abuse that began in 1978 and lasted until this year. The judge in the case is Martha Quezada, who had just been in the headlines in Nicaragua for hearing the narcojet case.
Ortega's legal team, reported to be the best criminal lawyers in the country, promptly presented Judge Quezada with a written denial of the charges. They also pointed out that, as a National Assembly representative, Ortega is protected by immunity and that, in any case, the statute of limitations has run out on all charges—had they been committed—except for those of sexual abuse. It falls to the judge to request the National Assembly to strip Ortega of his immunity since he has not voluntarily renounced it. Could a refusal by the Liberal bench to do so be part of the "caudillos' agreement"?
Because of its enormous complexity and lack of precedent given those implicated, this judicial process could create jurisprudence. On the other hand, given the serious inequality between accuser and accused could result in it ending as just one more unpunished case among the thousands committed annually against women and children in Nicaragua.
Two "Official" Versions Inside the FSLN and without, many—including Zoilamérica's mother—insisted that the issue was of a private family nature, and that this was where it had to be dealt with and resolved. It seemed not to occur to anyone that had such space existed within the family for that to happen over the past 18 years, it probably would never have become public.
At the same time, some FSLN structures have contradictorily turned this "private" and personal affair into a party issue. That option—which combines manipulation and private machinations with Daniel's silence and a brutal attempt to publicly discredit Zoilamérica and all who support her, most recently by claiming that she is mentally unbalanced—has caused the already eroded FSLN immense damage.
After the news broke on March 3, the FSLN structures promptly circulated two versions to wrest force from her charges. To rank-and-file militants who have no access to first-hand information and are accustomed and trained to receive "lines" without reflecting on them, the argument was offered that this was a "gross lie by the right and the enemies of the revolution to discredit the FSLN." The fact that Zoilamérica made her charge less than three months before the FSLN congress and that three North Americans were seen in her home the previous day were presented as ipso facto evidence that this was a CIA plot. Never mind that they were friends from the Mennonite college she had attended in the States.
For any whose concerns were not allayed by this, and who could do enough asking around in the small-town capital of Managua to learn that something had certainly gone on, variations on a more sophisticated version were put out: first, that it was unrequited love on her part since he only felt platonic caring for her; and, later, that they had once been a consenting couple and she was now acting out the spite of a woman scorned.
The initial charges opened the way to doubt, confusion and crude, obstinate denial within Nicaraguan society, all exacerbated by the rumors, conjecture and speculation. It was not a good climate for opening up a theme of such human, social and political import. What is being played out here is not just the intuitive reactions of any patriarchal society—the United States of a quarter century ago, for example—but also the particular twists of a deeply-rooted machista culture, coupled with a traumatized defense of people's revolutionary sacrifices within that society. Between the word of a woman and the word—or silence—of a man, any patriarchal society tends to choose and/or pardon the man. In a Latin culture, the word of a mother who protects her man at the expense of her daughter will also be chosen, not only by men who depend on that defense and know they must reward it, but also by the many mothers who for economic or other reasons made the same choice in similar circumstances. And finally, in Nicaragua's revolutionary culture, where Daniel is to many virtually the last untainted moral symbol of what their sacrifice of the last decade stood for, cognitive dissonance does not allow the possibility that he could be what Zoilamérica accuses him of being.
Zoilamérica's full testimony, dated May 22, responds to a need that incest victims who engage in therapy feel to reconstruct their personality, to externalize in whatever way they can what happened to them, to unburden their dark secret and shake off the guilt, the fear, the confusion, often the dependence on that same aggressor, to reinterpret their history and begin to live. In her testimony, Zoilamérica offers a multitude of concrete elements that undermine the simplistic accusation that it is a "calumny" and deeply challenge the version of a "consenting couple." While her reflections reveal a deeply damaged individual, they do not suggest a mentally unbalanced one, as even her mother is now claiming. On the contrary, the testimony suggests a person who is now conscious of that damage and has found the clarity and strength of will to face the costs of healing it.
The document is a summary chronology that begins in 1978, when Zoilamérica, not yet quite 11, first saw Daniel Ortega in a Sandinista safe house run by her mother in Costa Rica, and ends this year with what she says was a thought-through option to recover her life by making a public denunciation. A careful reading of the final paragraphs suggests that a newfound clarity and courage acquired through therapy unleashed a chain reaction that inexorably led to that decision. She writes that Daniel, prompted by her finding the strength to send him a copy of a book on incest, met with her in December 1997, reportedly explaining for the first time that his years in prison had produced severe disturbances in his sexual conduct and asking if she could forgive him. While she writes that her ability to face up to him directly did her "a lot of good," he stepped up the emotional and political harassment that same night, fearful that this no longer dependent child might go public. Concerned for her safety, her therapists advised her not to make a public charge, but to leave Nicaragua and seek further therapy in a healthier setting. Contrarily, this triggered a stubborn determination not to be cast out of her own country or denied political participation; in short, not to be a victim anymore. She spent all of February preparing herself for her decision to legally retake her real father's last name, which implied giving the true reasons for that quest.
A Mirror on Our Culture Zoilamérica writes that "each sentence, each paragraph, each page, each episode, each image, each recollection brought up from the deepest parts of my memory" represented a huge and painful effort. It was also painful for Nicaraguan society to assimilate. Macho culture has constructed a sexuality in Nicaragua that, in both its realities and its fantasies, has always had dark and complex sides. Only recently and in very limited circles has the open, free and joyful word broken out of that repressed and repressive human sexuality.
Incest and other forms of sexual abuse against both women and children is, as any medical professional in the country can attest, is commonplace. And with today's extreme poverty in Nicaragua, it is becoming an even more common expression of the life-sapping powerlessness that poverty produces. The same powerlessness also produces a kind of numb resignation to the interminable news stories of those abuse cases that are even reported—usually only because the child or woman has ended up in the hospital, or the morgue. The message is hard and the messengers weak and unprotected.
With her testimony, Zoilamérica has put a mirror up to Nicaraguan society so it may see itself. But personal and political survival instincts are causing the majority to close their eyes to the unquieting light that mirror casts, to deny the image it shows them, or to sully it to distort its reflections. And not just a few would like to shatter both the mirror and its holder.
Many who have read all or parts of the testimony, and the many more whose opinions are second hand, have expressed indignation at what they call the "pornography" of some of the passages. Virtually no one has focused, at least publicly, on the devastating psychological evolution of a child whose mother reportedly left her to this fate, even blaming her for it. In fact, it is an almost textbook case of both abuser and abused, and though it most probably contains some memories that have not yet been fully processed by her adult mind, and omits others for the same reason, it offers invaluable material for reflections on sexuality, gender, power, ethics, politics and humanity.
Independent of the wisdom or not of publishing such a full and detailed revelation at this particular moment, what Zoilamérica has offered Nicaraguan society is so dense that it will be a long, difficult and tortuous process if that society decides to open itself up to introspection. There is no assurance that it will make such an indispensible decision, and if it does, who, in this country with such limited experience in psychology, will be able to accompany the different sectors of society through the process?
A Truth About the Revolution Political culture has also been shaken by Zoilamérica's testimony. It exposes an essential message on which today's Sandinismo must reflect: those at the head of the revolution were not necessarily the same ones who made it.
Her testimony has also made clear what the political "project" rumored to be "hidden" behind her charges actually is. It is a very ambitious project: to question abuse of power and even of power itself when it is exercised in an absolute fashion and with a messianic perspective; to strip bare the double morality and the dichotomy between public life and private life to which we have become accustomed; to alert us to the destructive schizophrenia of the leader who is an avenger in the streets and unjust within the four walls of the house; to show abuse victims that it is possible to be survivors, to reclaim their own lives; to clamor for a minimum of ethics in politics; and, finally, to chisel into the consciousness of Nicaraguans and of the entire Latin American left that this case is emblematic, that there is an urgent need to bring out into the open what our arrogant machista cultures have impeded and will go on trying to impede—our building of a new society with new men and women.
In a claustrophobic and depressing scenario like today's, the political challenge and ethical test on which we are being asked to reflect is transcendental. On some level it is even hopeful. However frightening it may seem to think about looking deeply into that mirror, doing so could ultimately convert it into a window through which some of the smoke and some of the tears can be released.
International Community Annoyed If all this were not enough, May ended with evidence of the international community's spreading disgust with the government's failure so far to comply with the commitments it assumed in the donors' Consultative Group meeting in Geneva on April 1-2. The governmental institutions' arbitrariness, relative shamelessness and lack of both professionalism and seriousness—expressed graphically in the way the government handled the narcojet scandal—have accentuated this perception.
As one diplomat reportedly said to illustrate the contradictions that cooperation projects are encountering in this country, it is easier to bring a drug trafficking plane illegally into the country than to get a donated ambulance out of customs. Another is said to have complained that Nicaragua is where international cooperation runs up against the greatest number of government functionaries unable to engage in a professional dialogue.
The Alemán government took on a number of commitments in Geneva as conditions for the aid funds pledged in that meeting to begin to flow. They included coordinating meetings with the national agricultural sector, supervisors of social projects, national NGOs and the municipalities aimed at engaging in an in-depth debate that would result in the forging of consensus. Very specifically, the international community "asked" the government to "find a way to further strengthen the efforts underway in the area of Good Governance and, in particular, to promptly adopt a new Civil Service Law, establishing criteria of professionalism in the hiring of public employees, and to consolidate the Rule of Law."
Two months after these commitments were accepted, the government has complied with virtually none. And not a penny has come into the country. The international community is in emergency observation and the government in financial emergency. Where will this situation, this skein of unmanageable emergencies tying everyone's hands, end up? "Heading toward the cliff," said none less than Liberal legislator Eliseo Núñez, to whom Alemán entrusted the handling of the Liberal bench in the National Assembly. No one knows yet quite why, but Núñez has now begun to distance himself from the executive's orders, after complying unconditionally with them up to now.
In the past few weeks a fear has been growing that the country's horizon has nothing at the end of it but precisely that: a cliff. Where will the brakes come from to stop the country before it reaches the edge of this abyss? Who is there to rectify the course? So many myths are crumbling, so many leaders are being questioned, so many hopes are being extinguished, there is so much smoke and so many tears that maybe we are already at the bottom of it. If that's so, we have nowhere to go but up, but the climb will be extremely slow and will be the task of everyone.