Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 201 | Abril 1998



Who is Who: A Key to Understanding

Only by constant reference to a Who is Who on the Nicaraguan Economic Stage is it possible to decipher accurately the vagaries of the swampy scene of national politics.

Nitlápan-Envío team

THE GOVERNMENT OF ARNOLDO ALEMÁN HAS NOW FULLY DEFINED THE MACROECONOMIC framework for its administration. After a year of resistance first and then negotiations on the government's part, the International Monetary Fund finally approved a second Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF II) for Nicaragua on March 18. Two weeks later, the community of cooperating countries, meeting in Geneva on April 1-2, signaled their approval of the economic design expressed in the ESAF by promising Nicaragua $600 million per year as a relative "social cushion" over the three years in which the adjustment will be applied.

If the Game Is Now Defined; The Rules Are Still in Dispute

An intense economic game is being played out daily in both an open and covert form. Any number can play, as long as they are wealthy: the historically rich, those who made their bundle during the Sandinista government or the Chamorro government, those coming back from Miami either wealthy from before or with money made during their years in exile to take over economic spaces for themselves, and, last but hardly least, those looking to control old and new economic spaces from their privileged positions in the current government. All these players are participating with their transnational allies, and all are satisfied with the "two-speed society" that the neoliberal project is shaping.

Only with a Who's Who of the economic scene can one hope to decipher the mud bubbles that are surfacing from the depths of Nicaragua's current political bog.

Meanwhile, the rules of the game have not yet been defined. Reality has repeatedly shown that they are either unclear, unknown, in dispute, intentionally violated or applied at the discretion of whomever is best situated or has an inside track on information.

More Social Disorder

After the Chamorro government spent its last year and a half not living up to the structural adjustments it had promised and the Alemán government spent its first year procrastinating about the new ones, Nicaragua is back on the structural adjustment track in its crudest version. All analyses by economists, no matter their political leanings, agree that the pledges assumed by the Alemán government in the ESAF agreement regarding inflation control, annual Gross Domestic Product growth, increases in exports, etc., will be as impossible to fulfill as the Chamorro government's were.

ESAF II commits the government to cut social spending even further, lay off thousands more public employees and make monthly increases in public utility rates, which will invariably also mean increased prices for all products. The social consequences of these measures are predictable: poverty will rise even more and the social decomposition will become even more accentuated.

Despite the numerous promising experiences of productive and community organization that are today spreading all over the map of Nicaragua, Nicaraguan society has not yet managed to adjust its imbalances. It is decomposing faster than it is organizing; it is unraveling in slow motion despite decisions in some quarters to join forces and weave together the cloth of a new social contract. The newly signed ESAF, which divorces the economic project from the social one, could accentuate these tendencies.

Working "For the Cameras"

The most visible reactions of the leadership of the two main vote-getting political forces to the painful new structural adjustment are symptomatic. Rather than a constructively realistic discourse, the government launched a costly publicity campaign to present the ESAF as a safe and rapid route to national happiness. In this theater of simulation, the Minister of Health went to the extreme of acknowledging that social spending would be frozen as a requirement of the international financial agencies sponsoring the adjustment, but that this freeze would be geared "to benefit the disadvantaged."
The government presented the ESAF as "the key" to alleviate the weight of Nicaragua's foreign debt, reminding the population that 50% of Nicaragua's exports and 75% of the taxes the population pays go to service that debt. It added that for every dollar that the country invests in health or education, five go to pay on the debt. After signing the ESAF and getting the support from the Consultative Group, the government began renegotiations of its foreign debt on April 20 with the countries in the Club of Paris. Its objective is to reduce the service payments of over $70 million a year.

The ESAF II was signed without first being sent to the National Assembly for debate and approval, contravening the 1995 constitutional reforms, and generating severe criticism from the opposition benches. The FSLN based its absence from the Geneva meeting with the Consultative Group of donor countries following the signing of ESAF on this lack of national consensus. It publicly launched its confrontation with the ESAF II by calling on sympathizers around the country to march the streets of Managua on April 2 against the adjustment. In his speech that day, Daniel Ortega offered no constructive alternative, but reiterated that the only solution left is a popular and armed insurrection to bring down the government. The FSLN also used the occasion to make sure the ranks were closing around Ortega in his leadership crisis.

No one in government believes in the government's fabricated propaganda, and no one in the FSLN structures believes in the Frente's announced insurrection. But both leaderships are busy working "for the cameras" while behind the scenes they engage in the arduous battles required by the economic war.

Many Millions, Many Questions

The Consultative Group meeting in Geneva was made up of 100 delegates from the 40 countries comprising the international donor and cooperating community. They generously pledged Nicaragua a total of $1.8 billion, $600 million more than the government had requested for a series of social and infrastructure projects it presented in Geneva, to be developed especially in rural zones. The aid will be channeled not only to the public sector but also to private enterprise and to civil society—mainly NGOs and churches. With disbursements finally coming in again, the crisis stage of international cooperation has come to a close and a relatively new road has been opened.

The millions of dollars in pledges also open many new questions. The first is: to what extent will this money end up just further indebting the country? Half of the pledged cooperation is coming in as credits, with soft terms to be sure, but still credits that must be paid back.

Second question: are the country's institutions prepared to administer so much money efficiently, and will they be capable of doing so transparently? In the Geneva meeting the donor community praised the distinguished role the Comptroller General's office has been playing in favor of efficiency and clarity in public resource administration. The government was urged to provide this institution more resources so its auditing and control mission can be carried out even more effectively.

An ambitious rural modernization and development project will be one of the main recipients of the new international cooperation. The donor community recommended that the government guarantee professionalism and stability for the public officials in charge of managing and coordinating the projects benefited with the aid. It was a reminder of how displeased the donor community was with the new government's initial sweeping out of trained personnel in internationally financed projects.

Many suspicions hang over the rural projects, despite how well conceived they look on paper. One is that they could be used to strengthen social control and favor political clientelism. Another that they could be used to channel funds as if they were generous concessions from a populist government rather than tools to reinforce the rights acquired by citizens who contribute to the country with their production. And third that they could be used to guarantee the incumbent Constitutionalist Liberal Party the votes it needs in the municipal elections in 2000 and even more in the presidential elections the following year. The state-party confusion in the recent Atlantic coast elections, which confused no one, gives justified rise to such suspicions.

A Depressing Situation

The rural sector needs support urgently, but it needs it with criteria that are not politicized. The situation of the rural producers is dramatic. The public message sent by the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) to "the Nicaraguan people and the international community" at the time of the Geneva meeting warned of the danger that international aid could be used "to favor economic sectors close to the government" and offered data that it called "depressing": "Over a thousand cooperatives have been forced to sell part or all of their lands, which means more than a million manzanas [1 acre = 1.7 manzanas] sold at an average price of $60." At the same time, the message continued, "hundreds of veterans of the Nicaraguan Resistance and discharged army officers have sold the lands that were provided to them due to the total absence of an official policy for sustainable growth which prevented the possibility of insertion into the productive economic and social life of the country."
UNAG also criticized the government for soliciting a $50 million donation from international cooperation to resolve the property problem in the countryside, noting that it is "not an economic problem but one of political will." UNAG recalled that it has spent over a year requesting a simple meeting with the Agrarian Reform Institute minister "to lay out the agrarian problems and try to resolve them," with no result.

In its message, UNAG recognizes that without the generous help of agencies of bilateral cooperation and of the United Nations and without the support of nongovernmental organizations from the countries of the North, "economic survival, reconciliation and agreement-reaching in the countryside would not be possible." In Geneva, the donor community recommended that the government work in collaboration with Nicaraguan civil society, an active counterpart of many of these international NGOs.

UNAG was one of several Nicaraguan organizations participating in what was called the Proposal Lobbying Group, a "shadow meeting" organized by Swiss solidarity institutions and NGOs held in Geneva in the headquarters of the World Council of Churches on March 31-April 1. The other Nicaraguan civil society participants were CEPAD, the ecumenical Protestant development umbrella, and the Regional Coordinating Body of Social and Economic Research (CRIES). They proposed that 40% of the cooperation funds be earmarked for small and medium producers.

Efficiency and Transparency

While Liberal government functionaries were priding themselves on the backing they got from the donor and cooperation community in Geneva, Daniel Ortega was in the streets accusing international cooperation with unusual vehemence of being an "accomplice" of the Alemán government's anti-people policies.

With international backing either celebrated as a personal political victory or denounced as an accomplice of the adjustment for political reasons, neither side is discussing the ethical challenge that the economic support pledged in Geneva proposes for the entire nation and the population as a whole. The challenge that virtually no one mentions is whether the government and all national sectors will use these millions of dollars in resources efficiently and transparently or not.

Instead of simplistically patting itself on the back, the government should speed up approval of a Civil Service Law, which would assure job stability for the public officials responsible for implementing the projects financed with the money from international cooperation. The arbitrary firing of many officials in the first months to make room for less able but totally loyal Liberal politicians cost the government at least $80 million in cooperation that was never disbursed due to perplexity and annoyance at the government's strong-arm policies.

The Sandinista legislators have proposed some bills related to more appropriate social projection of the promised international funds: a job creation incentive bill, a bill to index the minimum wage to the dollar, a bill to create children's cafeterias in the public primary schools, a bill to create a materials bank and encourage self-constructed housing for the poor. In place of unfortunate criticisms of international cooperation, the FSLN leaders should figure out how to give their dispersed base a moral shot in the arm through more exemplary behavior on their own part and through systematic educational work with their cadres regarding civic virtues. The laws won't be worth anything without people to execute them well and honestly. And that is precisely what is lacking.

A Just and Unending Doctors' Strike

In the middle of the disorganization and demobilization of so many sectors and groups, the struggle of the over four thousand doctors who work in the public health system has stood out for its relevance. No sectoral struggle has been so organized, consistent, civic and justified—to say nothing of protracted—for many years as that of the Pro-Salary Doctors' Movement. Their fight for a substantial increase in their salaries, which have been virtually frozen at pitifully low levels for over seven years, has been accompanied by well-argued proposals, orderly demonstrations, various acts of civil resistance, continuous information to public opinion, and a strike that has lasted for weeks in all hospitals and health centers in the country and has so far enjoyed the understanding and support of almost all social sectors.

The movement has emphasized the crisis of the public health system, in which 44% of the Ministry of Health's roster of doctors earns the equivalent of under $200 monthly, and 22% of those earn less than $100; nurses earn the equivalent of $60 a month. The government only spends $14.56 per capita on health annually.

The unwavering determination demonstrated by the doctors' movement forced President Alemán, Vice President Bolaños and Minister of Health Lombardo Martínez to move from a sharp no accompanied by slurs against the doctors to acceptance of some sort of negotiation. In mid-April, after two months of conflict, the negotiating attempts left the doctors unsatisfied, however. At the beginning, the doctors were demanding a salary increase of a thousand percent. Following Holy Week, with six protest marches and four rounds of frustrated negotiations under their belt, they had lowered their demand to under 300%, but the government was only willing to concede them 30% and the promise of greater increases next year.

Throughout the strike, the government again missed no chance to work "for the cameras," investing in costly media campaigns to discredit the medical demands. Nor has there been any lack of the tragic realism which is the trademark of political life today and is not to be confused with the enchanting magical realism of so many Latin American writers. During Holy Week, a peak moment in the medical strike and the negotiations, Dr. Lombardo Martínez immodestly announced that he was traveling to Rome, among other things to "meditate" on the strike and do the "spiritual catharsis" that the difficulty of the crisis required of him. It was the health minister's second major absence during this crisis; the first was a working "vacation" to the Atlantic Coast resort community of Corn Island to campaign for Alemán's Constitutionalist Liberal Party in the autonomous regional elections. (It didn't win a single seat there.)
Only a few days before Martínez's latest announcement, Minister of Education Humberto Belli threw in his own quota of tragicomic realism, when he formally and solemnly gave a donation of ties of all colors and designs to public school directors for the badly paid teachers they have to shepherd. The stated objective was that with the use of these ties, "the national teaching profession will be dignified and will be given respect," despite the heat and their equally miserable salaries.

Those in public life are seeking to live on appearances, while modesty in the exercise of power has been lost. Perhaps the fierce war that the different economic groups are engaged in requires this dose of theatricality and brazenness.

Ostentatious Salary Extremes

One part of the current context that explains the medical strike is the ostentatious inequity in today's salary table for public functionaries. It is one of the most unequal in the entire continent. According to information appearing in the wire services on Central America during Holy Week, the salaries of all the region's functionaries are scandalously disproportionate to the standard of living of the populations in their respective countries. Of these, Nicaragua is the most scandalous case. The President of Nicaragua earns 30% more than the President of Spain, a country with a per-capita income 30 times greater than that of Nicaragua. Nicaragua's President, Vice President, ministers and other high officials also earn more than those of neighboring Costa Rica, which has four times more per-capita income than Nicaragua.

The minimum wage in Nicaragua is equivalent to $50, 150 times less than the maximum state salary. The health minister alone, argue the striking doctors, earns a salary equal to 140 doctors combined. Such flagrant inequality is one of the realities that has been driven home to the Nicaraguan population with increasing intensity, perhaps because this piece of information is so easy to grasp and because the governmental officials themselves often brag about their own salaries and status with a complete absence of tact.

If this is the most visible and draining immediate context, the deeper context that explains the medical strike is the institutional crisis of the health system, which has been accumulating serious deficiencies for some years now, as the population continued to grow steadily. The public health system is now being targeted for modernization and privatization projects which lack the counterweight of rationality required by the country we live in and lack the social sensitivity required by the impoverishment we are suffering.

The Revealing "Rice War"

At almost the same moment the medical protest exploded, society witnessed the first skirmishes in the "rice war," one chapter more in the war between economic groups in which virtually the entire political class is immersed.

In the first days of February, a boat carrying 6,000 tons of rice from the United States dropped anchor at the port of San Juan del Sur. The rice had been imported directly by the state grains company ENABAS. The Comptroller General's office immediately challenged the shipment because, in violation of the law, the purchase had been made without getting multiple bids. Who advised the Comptroller so quickly and effectively of this transaction?
ENABAS, caught in its misdeed, at first denied that it was the importer of the rice then claimed that it had not put the purchase out to bid because the national rice shortage was an emergency. The national producers denied that there was any lack of rice and spoke of unfair competition by the state. Meanwhile, the ship remained at anchor, prohibited by the Comptroller's order from off-loading the rice until the deal was cleared up. President Alemán himself held Comptroller Agustín Jarquín responsible for the hunger the population would suffer and accused him of seeking to catapult himself to the presidency through acts of this sort. What economic group was behind the rice that arrived at San Juan del Sur? All signs indicated that it was a "new" group that had "official approval."
ENABAS director José Marenco Cardenal, a relative of President Alemán, charged that a "rice cartel" existed in Nicaragua: three groups have controlled all rice imports for some years now. The "rice war" seems to have been triggered when one of these groups, competing with the one that presumably supplies ENABAS, blew the whistle on the rice shipment to the Comptroller. Finally, after growing tension and accusations, the ENABAS rice was bought by one of the private importing companies in the country.

Political Quarantine For a Weevil

Only a few days later another ship with another 6,000 tons of rice, also from the United States, arrived in Nicaragua, this time to the port of Corinto. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) immediately received orders to quarantine the rice and prevent its off-loading on the grounds that it may have arrived infected with a pest.

Among the importers of this rice was a relative of FSLN leader Bayardo Arce. In this case, it was easier to follow the thread to its source. The quarantine extemporaneously decreed by the MAG had all the signs of being a political quarantine in response to the previous ENABAS-Comptroller incident.

But the government didn't just want to get even; it wanted full-scale revenge. A first fumigation. Each day the rice remained unloaded, its owners lost thousands of dollars. The exporting counterpart of the shipment, a well known US company, issued a protest alleging the strict sanitary controls maintained in US territory. A second fumigation.

No less than the US ambassador in Nicaragua, Lino Gutiérrez, defended the purity of the rice. "If I were in Corinto, I would be eating this rice with no problem," he claimed. Despite such an authoritative voice and even the intervention of some US congresspeople in favor of free off-loading, a third fumigation.

Journalists tried to find out what menacing plague the rice was carrying and were finally told by the vice minister of agriculture that it was a kind of weevil so dangerous that it devoured not only rice but anything put in its path. "It even eats cardboard," the vice minister said, worried. President Alemán grandiloquently defended "national sovereignty in fito-sanitary issues."
The fumigations continued. The pressures from US political and business figures continued. The rival economic group continued losing money. With the "revenge" finally fulfilled, the vice minister of the MAG shamelessly appeared before the journalists to announce that the protracted retention of the rice was justified, since they had finally discovered a single weevil, just one, in the 6,000 tons of rice, which they had efficiently captured and eliminated. The rice was given the green light.

From Vietnam a Ship Has Come...Bearing Rice

These two battles didn't balance the books. Days later yet a third ship arrived, this time from the distant Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and this time carrying 13,000 tons of rice imports. In this third battle of the war, neither the Comptroller's office nor the US Embassy made a move. This time it was the national rice producers, affected by the free entry the government was giving to rice produced with subsidies in its country of origin and which was coming to trigger a drop in prices.

The national producers—backed by all business chambers of COSEP, the Supreme Council of Higher Enterprise—criticized the government for failing to respect the rules of the game. In return, the President criticized the national producers for not knowing how to be competitive, reminding them that the government's only rule is total market freedom. What group was the government defending with rice imports from Vietnam? The same new one that had made the earlier deal with ENABAS? Does the President himself belong to it? He insisted that his economic policy is anti-monopoly and that he is only defending the 4.5 million Nicaraguans who eat rice and want to buy it cheap.

This time the argument about a possible pest went to the other extreme: from governmental precaution in the face of a single weevil, the national producers insisted that the Vietnamese rice was carrying no fewer than 20 pests that could infest the national crop. These fictitious potential pests opened the door to a producers-government negotiation, which concluded after a week with a series of agreements to protect national production somewhat more—although it had never been completely vulnerable—and with the MAG's invitation that a delegation of national rice growers visit Vietnam to investigate its pests on the ground. At the same time, MAG Minister Mario de Franco made it clear that the pests were only an excuse for the national producers.

Rivals in Public, Partners in Private

The rice war, in which traditional and emerging capitalists and those with official backing participated, was top of the news in all the national media for a month and a half. Never before in other wars have so many clues flourished nor have so many novelistic episodes been acted out. But today this is happening in all economic spaces. From the used vehicle imports business to the construction of luxurious residences, not leaving out the devastating but super-profitable extraction of precious woods or the mythical "dry canal" project, all is crisscrossed with intrigues, hits below the belt and murky secrets. Will all this continue until each group can claim absolute control over all the hills it has taken?
The result of the country's weak institutionality, combined with the slogan for this turn of the century—"dignity passes but money remains"—which Nicaragua has so quickly assimilated, is a fierce and very unequal war. In it the government and each of the power groups on the battlefield use all instruments at their command to benefit their economic cronies and political faithful and scuttle their economic rivals and political opponents.

The new and increasingly firm alliances among rival political personalities is another twist in this war. Even though they never stop shouting their differences before the cameras, they are signing agreements and divvying up the pie at the negotiating table. The rivalries that appear on the public stage do not exist in the reality of the private economy. "Ideologies have died" in Nicaragua, due not to the effect of postmodern skepticism, but to the economic urgencies of the different economic groups to create, consolidate or quickly increase their original capital. A Who's Who that includes the continually shifting positions on the gameboard would prove this assertion.

Hobbles on Authoritarianism

President Alemán's project is going forward with arbitrariness, discretionality and obvious authoritarianism. His desire to weaken the other government institutions—which were strengthened by the 1995 constitutional reforms—is evident and worrying.

There are hobbles on the President which prevent him and his team from going as far and as fast as he would like. The actions of the Comptroller General's office are proof of this, since it intervenes daily to remind about laws, point out responsibilities and try to make the rules of the economic game somewhat more transparent and less unequal.

The National Police applied the most recent and relevant hobble when it openly challenged the creation of a political police force in the new bill on the organization of executive power. This police corps, called the Analysis Unit and directly dependent on the executive branch (the Ministry of Government), would be permitted to carry out intelligence tasks independent of the army and the police, the only armed bodies established in the Constitution. Its creation was contained within the Law of Organization, Competence and Procedures of the Executive Branch, passed with the votes of only 32 of the 93 legislators in the National Assembly after a superficial debate and pressures for approval. The approval of this new institution generated such controversy due to its obvious unconstitutionality, that President Alemán was forced to announced that he may veto it.

There is no shortage of authoritarian tendencies. There is also no shortage of clarity among the opposition forces about the danger that the return of an authoritarian presidency represents for the country.

A Widesweeping Political And Ethical Challenge

How can the current government's neo-Somocista project be effectively stopped? The country urgently needs a credible and solid opposition. This need makes the weakening of the FSLN after the events of March 3 even more lamentable.

The attitude assumed by the FSLN structures in response to the charges made by Zoilamérica Narváez against her adoptive father Daniel Ortega of sexual abuse and harassment starting when she was 11 have weakened an already weak FSLN even more. The party has so far failed the ethical test that the affair poses to both the party and society as a whole.

The accusation was not simply a painful anecdote and even less a private or family problem that made it onto the public stage through negligence. Nor can it be read as a "Nica version" of the sex scandals, charged with morbid marketing, through which US political sectors have sought to erode Bill Clinton's image.

The denunciation against Daniel Ortega made public on March 3 is a widesweeping political and ethical challenge, and the consequences of how society as a whole and especially the FSLN address it will be transcendental for the future of the party and for Nicaragua.

The Nicaragua solidarity network in the United States expressed this same perception in a letter addressed to the FSLN leadership. The Nicaragua Network groups together some 300 local committees, many of which have sister city relations with cities and towns in Nicaragua and have consistently sent economic aid to the neediest sectors of our country. In 1995, reportedly some $10 million. The Network has also helped collect funds for Nicaragua's elections, sending $50,000 for the FSLN's campaign in the 1996 general elections and additional funds to train women FSLN candidates in both the 1996 general elections and the 1998 coast elections.

The Network's letter to the FSLN says in part that "many people believe that the FSLN's survival depends on the willingness of the party leadership to act morally and responsibly in this case. We feel that the survival of our political solidarity with the FSLN also depends on that. If the leadership were to decide to ignore the allegations [by Zoilamérica], it would be difficult to continue projecting the Sandinista Front as a model for the left in both this country and other parts of the world, and it would be dishonest to continue speaking of the FSLN as a leader of the struggle for women's empowerment. For this reason, it would be almost impossible to continue collecting funds and material aid for the FSLN among our base."
Meanwhile, Zoilamérica Narváez announced on March 23 that she would take her stepfather to court, but was still studying how to formulate her accusation. She is forced by Nicaraguan law to show cause for wanting to recover her real father's last name and drop Ortega, but also justified her decision to engage in a legal hearing on the silence that he has maintained after her challenge that he have the stature to ask for forgiveness. She accused him of "shielding himself behind the party machinery" since her public accusation. To appear in court, Ortega must renounce his immunity as a National Assembly representative or have it removed by vote of the other legislators, the majority of whom are members of the Liberal Alliance. There is every indication that, contrary to what one might initially assume, this will not happen. President Alemán has reportedly oriented the Liberal bench not to take away Ortega's immunity.

Ortega's Reelection: Closing Ranks

The FSLN has tried to close the case when it had barely been opened, denying party militants the opportunity to reflect on this charge and its political implications, which transcend the case by pointing to the traditional double standard of male leaders. Indifferently shutting off any possibility of debate and supporting the attitude of silence, reaffirming Daniel Ortega's caudillista leadership without any chinks, the FSLN continued going its way as if nothing had happened.

It has given no new public arguments for assuming this option. In private, those who recognize the transcendence of the challenge posed by the accusation and even accept its truthfulness, justify the silence and the "business as usual" approach on the grounds of the difficulty of replacing Ortega at the head of the FSLN without irreparably affecting the party.

With the Congress coming up soon (May 22-24), there is talk of, among other things, three tendencies or groupings within the party: the business people, who are the ones with the money; the "sect," which controls the intermediate party leadership; and the "left," more dispersed than the other two and with less power, inclined to be the most belligerent and enthusiastic.

Each of these three groups, however, has publicly endorsed the reelection of Daniel Ortega as Secretary General of the FSLN, as if nothing had occurred. Not even Orlando Núñez, visible coordinator of "the left" and known supporter of the cause of women, who made such a suggestive reflection as the one published in these envío pages in view of Zoilamérica's charges, has spoken out against Ortega's reelection.

Who's Who in the FSLN

The ethical deficit that the FSLN leadership and structures has demonstrated in the face of this challenge and its failure to be consequential with principles that the FSLN claims to defend—women's historic demands, the defense of human rights—could be explained in various ways. At the very least, this ostrich attitude reveals how absent a culture of gender equity still is in Nicaragua and within Sandinismo, and is yet another expression of the nation's moral erosion.

But the commitments that the current FSLN leadership has already established in the economic war are also expressed in the FSLN's unwillingness to take on the ethical transformation to which Zoilamérica's accusation opened a door. These commitments stand in the way of a change of leadership, renovation of leaders or any other profound transformation.

The key to understanding what has occurred in this case is the same one that serves to interpret the current national reality, dominated by the war among various economic groups that are vying for all acquired and acquirable terrains. Who's who in the FSLN: that is the key. Who guarantees what to whom, who assures spaces, alliances, links, business deals? What FSLN is it that finds Liberalism in power to its convenience? When money dominates and dignity is told to take a back seat, the horizon of ethics gets extremely diffuse.

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