Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 142 | Mayo 1993



The Far Right: 10 Months on the Offensive

In the first three months of the year the situation has been one of increasing polarization. The politics of confrontation that the far right has promoted since 1992 has polarized the whole society.

Envío team

On April 2, the US government informed President Chamorro that the $54 million in economic aid approved for 1992 withheld since May of that year for political reasons by the Bush administration would be released to Nicaragua later in the month. At the same time, it announced that it would continue to support the Chamorro government economically in 1993, if her government takes more steps "to consolidate democracy." It insisted that "still more" must be done by the Nicaraguan government in terms of economic and political steps. It was implicitly understood that political steps include, among other things, the removal of General Humberto Ortega as army head, more changes in the army and police, Constitutional reforms and the return of even more confiscated properties.

The day prior, the government of Spain had authorized $90 million in credits to Nicaragua, on very flexible terms. That move appears to have been decisive in the decision to unfreeze the US aid. Thus the Chamorro government scored a significant political victory that the Nicaraguan far right had not anticipated. Does the release of US aid to Nicaragua mean the end of the far right's organized offensive?
In the first three months of 1993, Nicaragua became increasingly polarized. The policy of confrontation promoted since last year by the far right, headed by former National Assembly president Alfredo César, Vice President Virgilio Godoy and, although with some differences, Managua mayor Arnoldo Alemán, has polarized the entire society.

This far right offensive has an objective base from which to be launched. The many adverse effects of the government's economic plan, the problems linked to the unresolved property problem and the dissatisfaction generated in numerous sectors by government noncompliance with agreements it has signed all extensively discussed in previous issues of envío are the three pillars upon which the far right has been able to build a solid foundation for its onslaught.

In addition, however, there are also subjective conditions. They range from UNO's appraisal that the government has not fulfilled the coalition's original electoral program to the discussion among Sandinista political leaders as to what spaces are available to the FSLN since its electoral defeat and to what degree these should or should not be respected.

These and other objective and subjective elements have been effectively exploited by the Nicaraguan far right, particularly in relations with both the Bush and Clinton administrations, and even more so with its furthest right sectors, which have been actively pressuring the recently inaugurated US administration to define policies toward Nicaragua in a way favorable to its interests.

Without exception, all of Nicaragua's political sectors the government, UNO, the FSLN, former contras, recontras, recompas and revueltos assert, and believe, that the country needs stability and peace, that reconciliation among all Nicaraguans is urgently needed, and that only by giving guarantees to each and every national sector can it be assured that Nicaragua will enter a stage of economic recovery and, later, development.

Nevertheless, though in theory all agree, in practice, reconciliation, stability, peace and development mean something quite different to each political force. And each seeks to establish its version of these realities at the cost of the others'.

The Latest Round: Set Off by a Setback

A key political element, which served to detonate the intense activity undertaken by the far right in the past three months, is also an important factor to figure in to the objective reality of the economic and property crises: the right wing's loss of space and positions in the legislature early this year.

Since September 1992, the National Assembly presided over by Alfredo César since January 1991 had held sessions with only the far right legislators and with a quorum fabricated by César of additional representatives who were never elected, but who filled the seats for legislative sessions. César used the National Assembly to launch a sustained campaign of direct confrontation with the executive branch and with the Sandinistas. The 39 Sandinista legislators and no more than 10 from UNO who became known as the "center group" responded by boycotting the Assembly, based on what they termed an illegal legislative situation.

In the months following, UNO's far right became a minority, and suffered setbacks at both the appeals court level and in the Supreme Court. When the new Assembly leadership was elected in January 1993, the far right lost its seats and was thus unable to prolong this divisive and wearing situation for another two years. The far right boycotted the session, and the new leadership was made up only of legislators from UNO's center group and the FSLN.

This new Assembly majority served to spark the far right's next attack: the mobilization of all its forces, both in Nicaragua and the United States, against the Chamorro government. Activity was even more intense in the United States, and its goal was to increase US far right pressure to demand that the Clinton administration, still largely undefined, take a hard line in Nicaragua against both the government and the Sandinistas.

The propaganda campaign was massive. And while in Nicaragua the majority of the population are clear that the far represents a minority, internationally things are seen quite differently. In the US, the far right's perspective won support not only in government sectors but also from the US public, many of whom ended up believing that what took place in a legal and proper fashion in the Legislature was actually the arbitrary end of the only independent power remaining in the country and meant that the Sandinistas had retaken power in Nicaragua in spite of having lost the elections.

The US: A Space for César

The government's weakness, its inability to articulate policies and to open and safeguard spaces in the US, made the crisis even worse. For example, for almost three years the Chamorro government kept Ernesto Palazio a clear "César man" as Ambassador to the US. And he responded to the political interests of César and the far right. Ambassador Palazio never made any effort to present the position of the government he was ostensibly representing to US government circles or public opinion. He always gave César's version and opened spaces for others to do the same. Palazio was replaced only in January 1993, by Roberto Mayorga, who will presumably be more responsive to the position and needs of the central government.

A government that by the country's current Constitution could and should have a strong executive branch showed a great lack of ability to correctly orient its policies on its most important international relations front, the United States. That is a clear indicator of its weakness, incoherence and lack of lucid management characteristics that have not changed in three years and have magnified the most recent problems facing it.

When the Nicaraguan far right lost its most important institutional space with the change of National Assembly leadership, it was not sufficiently weakened or neutralized precisely because it kept its political space in the United States intact. This allowed it to go to the US and present its version that the Assembly loss fundamentally due to the far right's political weakness within Nicaragua was due to arbitrariness on the part of the executive branch combined with Sandinista totalitarianism, which united to forcibly close the last refuge of Nicaraguan democracy. Far right sectors, other interested parties in the US government even within the new Clinton administration and naive sectors of public opinion in the US took on this interpretation their own.

With this extremely important international space open and receptive, it was in the far right's interest to continue actions that would open and strengthen it even further. This explains the card Alfredo César dealt in February, when Comptroller Guillermo Putoy, a member of César's party, illegally and ostentatiously "fired" Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo, based on an arbitrary interpretation of several articles in the Comptroller Office's regulations.

Why did César play the last card he held inside a state institution in such an obviously desperate move? When the far right lost its majority in the National Assembly, Putoy was left with no backing and could have been legally removed at any moment. Thus the right wing would lose its last institutional space in any case. César decided to go down in a burst of glory, thus adding to the propaganda impact of the offensive.
He lost, because Putoy was immediately dismissed by President Chamorro and the National Assembly after his illegal and unjustified action. But he lost "with glory" because Putoy's action had political impact. For the Comptroller General entrusted with overseeing governmental ethics to characterize the government's key official, Antonio Lacayo, as unethical, and thus subject to removal, was simply one more message directed at the US right. César immediately presented Putoy's dismissal within the same propaganda scheme: another "victim" of the Chamorro FSLN co government. César does not want to lose his long investment in laying the groundwork for right wing support from the US government and public opinion, and he will potentially be able to conserve space already won. For many years, he effectively lobbied the Bush government and maintained friendships there, and some of those people still continue in their posts.

The far right, led by César, had a card in its favor with the freezing of US aid to Nicaragua. And even though the first $50 million of a total of $104 million were released at the end of last year, after Clinton's electoral victory, the remaining $54 million spurred on the Nicaraguan far right in its battle against the government.

The Ibarra Hand

The far right, naturally, now has to face the fact that Clinton's Democrats are not Bush's Republicans and that to persuade them, some of its arguments must change or be more forceful. At this crossroads, whether by luck or as another carefully prepared scheme, a new card appeared on the playing table: Antonio Ibarra, former Vice Minister of the Presidency, who was accused of fraud by the Nicaraguan government and fled to the US in mid 1992.

Ibarra, a man with a history that at a minimum can be called suspicious, is a member of Alfredo César's Social Democratic Party and was his confidant during César's years as a civilian leader of the contra forces. He was rapidly able to convert himself into Lacayo's right hand man, and was given a great deal of power and responsibility. When he fled Nicaragua and took refuge in the US, he signed a sworn declaration in Miami saying that he was being blackmailed by César and Putoy to make assertions against the executive branch particularly accusing Antonio Lacayo of having bribed UNO Assembly representatives with large sums of money to win them over to the "center" and thus change the balance of power in the legislature.

A year later, Ibarra surfaces in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with another sworn declaration, this time the polar opposite. He accuses the executive branch of corruption and Lacayo of having bribed UNO legislators. But there's even more: he fingers Lacayo as a linchpin in drug trafficking in Nicaragua. By "chance," he makes these declarations to a commission sent to Bolivia by Republican Senator Jesse Helms, the most vitriolic of anti Sandinistas in US Congress and César's staunchest ally in recent months.

Ibarra's accusations also implicated the Nicaraguan army, and as a whole, were clearly aimed at forcing the dismissal of both Lacayo and General Humberto Ortega. Yet they go even further, implicating in drug trafficking all the military officers who would naturally succeed Ortega as head of the armed forces: Major General Joaquín Cuadra, Colonels Osvaldo Lacayo and Javier Carrión, and Lt. Col. Ricardo Wheelock all key members of the Sandinista Army High Command. It was clearly a maneuver with political aims, and used the issue of drug trafficking since it is perhaps the most sensitive for both the US government and public. Clinton would thus have no alternative for dealing with a corrupt government of drug traffickers, described in detail by Ibarra in his 150 page declaration.

Armed Actions and the Embassy Takeover

Within Nicaragua, as part of the same offensive, the far right undertook a variety of activities that would have international repercussions. The most significant was UNO's February 28 demonstration celebrating its electoral victory without President Chamorro. The march was headed up by César, Godoy and Alemán, who demanded a "change at the helm" nothing other than the immediate dismissal of Lacayo and Ortega and the closing of the many spaces still open, by law, to the Sandinistas in civil society and the country's democratic institutions.

But it was not just a demonstration. The UNO parties are seeking to reactivate their political committees throughout the country, with the goal of having them ready to "take to the streets" or carry out other actions as needed. They have also sought to reconnect the so called "armed triangles" of the former contra forces, a kind of armed cell designed to undertake guerrilla activity and political military work in the countryside, especially in the zones closest to the main cities in the country's central mountainous region.

These "armed triangles" truly politicized armed groups are tied to far right government authorities: mayors from various municipalities, as well as local Ministry of Government delegates belonging to UNO parties and police officers who were formerly contras. The most notorious figure participating in the organization of these rearmed groups is National Assembly representative Humberto Castilla, who visits them in Matagalpa, Jinotega and Chontales and publicly provides them with political motivations for their armed actions. At the end of February, Senator Helms invited Castilla to Washington to be César's new spokesperson in the US. Castilla busily set about opening new lobbying spaces.

But the most significant armed actions taken by the far right in this organized offensive were not the assaults, robberies or murders perpetrated by these internal groups. Its stellar action was taken abroad, where the far right always seeks to compensate for its weakness within Nicaragua. This time it was the March takeover of the Nicaraguan Embassy in Costa Rica.
For 13 days, José Manuel Urbina Lara, a Nicaraguan turned Costa Rican two years ago, heading up a group of four calling themselves the Yolaina Commando, took the Nicaraguan Embassy in San José and held Ambassador Alfonso Robelo as well as 16 others prisoner. Urbina had deserted from Nicaraguan military service in 1984 and requested asylum in rather spectacular fashion on December 24 of that year in the Costa Rican Embassy in Managua. He had the open support of Costa Rica's Luis Alberto Monge government.

Once in Costa Rica, Urbina made ties with Edén Pastora's armed group ARDE and later with the Southern Opposition Block headed up by Alfredo César and Robelo. After the embassy takeover, Pastora called Urbina a "charlatan" and confirmed that he was "a César man."
Everything points to complicity between the attackers and embassy personnel. Radio Monumental in San José and Radio Corporación in Managua transmitted interviews with the two highest level embassy prisoners: the ambassador and the consul. Both diplomats unambiguously praised their kidnapper's patriotism and gentlemanliness, and stressed the importance that the government heed his demands, based on what they called "a generalized outcry" in Nicaragua.
From the outset, the embassy takeover appeared a poorly organized comedy, but it was well projected toward the US in terms of propaganda purposed and Costa Rican authorities, through commission or by omission, contributed to the show.

The stunt was clearly designed to serve the interests of the far right. Urbina's demands were virtually identical to those formulated by UNO politicians in Nicaragua and by anti Sandinista congressional representatives in the US. The central focus was the removal of General Ortega and Lacayo, to which was added as if to stamp the action with César's seal the reinstatement of Putoy in his post as Comptroller. His demands also included the prosecution of head of military intelligence Lenín Cerna whom Nicaraguan newspaper La Prensa accused of heading up the so called Punitive Forces of the Left just days before and the payment of $5 million to Cardinal Obando y Bravo to be administered on behalf of war orphans and widows and another $1 million to the Yolaina Commando itself.

The government, in response to the takeover, once again displayed its lack of political experience and now characteristic irresponsibility. It submitted to negotiating with the attackers, thus removing the Costa Rican government from its responsibility in resolving the situation, and ended up giving the kidnappers $250,000 directly and agreeing to seek no less than $6 million from international organizations for "social works" that would be administered by the Cardinal. It appears that at least half of the ransom paid to Urbina was paid by Ambassador Robelo himself. The Cardinal will also administer, according to the agreement, the social investments already stipulated in the 1993 national budget.
In this negotiation, therefore, the government, though it denies so, reached political agreements with the attackers. And although, following its usual pattern, it will likely not comply with the agreements, this was a demonstration of total political irresponsibility. While the embassy takeover was thus resolved, this unhappy finale weakened the Chamorro administration even further by giving a political endorsement to the attackers and a new shine to their political demands.

In Nicaragua, radio stations such as Radio Corporación and Radio Noticias, among others, openly cheered the embassy takeover and called for new and bigger actions of this kind. But apart from all the radio and written propaganda with which the far right accompanied and applauded the takeover, only one concrete support action took place: a supposed armed commando took over Radio Mundial to read a recorded communiqué backing the attackers. The three members of this group were immediately detained by the police and then immediately and arbitrarily freed by the government, which disregarded all legal procedures in doing so.

All this contributed to reaffirming precisely what the government wants to avoid: an international image of increasing weakness, overcome by pressures to which it easily cedes the image of being permanently blackmailed. That image, presented both inside and outside Nicaragua, is the blueprint with which the US far right is working, counting on the effective support of the Nicaraguan ultra right headed up by César: using pressure and blackmail to its fullest extent to obtain the greatest possible political concessions from the Chamorro government.

The $54 million still blocked by the US government, until the April 2 announcement of its release, gave great force to this pressure. For the Nicaraguan far right and especially for César, that disputed aid became an essential tool for recovering positions and gaining greater space inside Nicaragua. Since it is a reality that the government needs those funds, that it is vulnerable to pressure and blackmail and that, at the present time, it is clearly weak, it is not misguided to think the government might be willing to succumb, one way or another, to the political concessions that have been demanded in exchange for the money.

Lacayo's Trip to Washington

The goal of Lacayo's 12 day visit to Washington in March was to personally impart the government's version of what is happening in Nicaragua. He was preceded by the right wing offensive which tried to guarantee that a different version would prevail. The commission that compiled a report on Nicaragua for President Clinton prior to Lacayo's visit had only the far right's version and expressed interest in hearing Lacayo's for comparison. Given this scenario, there was intense pressure on Lacayo in Washington, and he made the need for the aid's release too obvious.

In one of the sessions Lacayo held with congressional representatives, two Republican Senators tied to Helms Smith and Livingston suggested forming a "Truth Commission" for Nicaragua with the Truth Commission in El Salvador still hot news to clarify the country's internal situation. With little political perspicacity or perspective, Lacayo accepted the idea immediately. He later met with top level leaders from the United Nations and Organization of American States (OAS) to initiate the process by which a group of personalities would come to Nicaragua to study the situation.

For now, there are more rumors than concrete information about the role these people or this commission will play. Lacayo himself has not been clear about the extent of agreements made on this subject. What is true is that accepting this international commission which will come to Nicaragua to verify, observe or judge, it is not clear which will only further complicate the already complicated Nicaraguan political panorama. And far from resolving internal confrontations, which international commissions never do, it will aggravate tensions and further polarize the country.
UNO political leaders with César at the head applauded the initiative and stated that this proposal had been developed by them together with Helms as the only solution to the crisis. They clearly did this in order to continue their political battle in Nicaragua, but now with the concrete support of international figures.

There are at least two negative elements to highlight in the precipitous acceptance of this initiative. First, the Minister of the Presidency has clearly opened the door to intervention. The possibility that Nicaragua's internal problems will be elucidated through open or tacit intervention by the US naturally represented on the commission or other countries or organizations cannot be seen as positive. It has been speculated that it will be the commission's role to judge the current government's legitimacy, the political and societal spaces that correspond to Sandinistas, the validity of national institutions such as the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, etc. The 1984 and 1990 elections, which legitimized the country's political institutionality and the representativeness of the electoral percentages corresponding to each national political force, cannot be submitted to international arbitration.

Second, a commission of this kind at such a critical moment, far from promoting dialogue and convergence among Nicaraguans, will allow the far right to regroup with new aggressiveness while it prepares ways to use this commission to further its own interests. UNO's political coordinator, Wilfredo Navarro, a member of Virgilio Godoy's PLI party, stated that UNO was already aware of the formation of this commission because Senator Helms had consulted them. He added that they were now waiting to see who its members would be, in order to prevent the integration of pro Sandinista elements, which exist, says Navarro, in the UN, OAS and US Congress.

Accepting this so called Truth Commission does nothing more than open a new channel by which the far right can question the current government's legitimacy, as part of the same offensive launched since last April with César's visits to Washington requesting a halt to US assistance. It is also a channel by which to question the legitimacy of Sandinismo, a much older, cherished goal. It can thus be foreseen that the government's latest faux pas will result in even greater confrontation, tension and polarization in the coming months.

There is an objective conclusion to this current reality. For 10 years, Nicaragua suffered a war planned, promoted and financed by the United States, but with Nicaraguan fighters more specifically, Nicaraguan peasants, who, as the majority of both contra and Sandinista army ranks, confronted and killed each other. The elections were a majority and massive "No" vote to the war. This "No" to war gave impetus to the new government's disarmament and army reduction policies. Disarmament by both sides has taken place, and in spite of such a bloody confrontation, the vast majority of those demobilized accepted the reconciliation policy promoted by the new government and definitively backed by the FSLN.

Today, those who were head to head in harsh conflict just a few years ago those who pulled the triggers, risked their lives and died are those who have achieved authentic reconciliation. They are the ones who want peace, not confrontation, who have come to work the land together or in cooperatives and who are defending themselves from politicized rearmed groups. They are the ones asking for land and credit to produce. For them, real reconciliation has begun, and among them the majority there is real concern for this country. Those who are promoting confrontation and polarization are the leaders of the far right who risked absolutely nothing in the war. The Césars, Ferreys and Castillas never set foot on a war front but lived off the war and today live off polarization, and are now seeking US support for this.

The Sandinistas' Contribution

Since the 1990 elections, the FSLN has not had a majority in the legislature. UNO did have the majority but began to lose it in September 1992, when César started maneuvering from the legislature to attack the Executive's legitimacy. Now neither the FSLN nor UNO has the majority. And the National Assembly is no longer a forum for confrontation with the executive branch or with the Sandinistas. After FSLN and center group legislators united to elect new National Assembly leadership, the Sandinista bloc announced that it was developing and would introduce for debate a package of legislation it considered beneficial to the majority of Nicaraguans. They include the removal of military service from the Constitution; reforms to the Civil Code such that evictions cannot be carried out until confirmed by an appeals court; exoneration of payment for public services and events for retirees; suspension of agrarian trials when the defendant holds an agrarian reform title; and a law against speculation and usury with procedural norms for taking action against money lenders.

In addition to giving a positive and more popular dynamic to the National Assembly's work, the FSLN chose two National Directorate members, Henry Ruiz and Víctor Tirado, to work with regional structures particularly with agricultural producers in the Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) to seek a response to the violence created by rearmed groups in the north, particularly Matagalpa and Jinotega.

These two leaders have been working for a month now, seeking to make ties with former contras, rearmed or not, to better understand and attempt to respond appropriately to their economic and social needs. On March 13, Ruiz and Tirado met with some 100 former contra leaders, national and international non governmental organizations including the UN and several European ambassadors with the goal of addressing the socioeconomic conditions of Nicaraguan peasants, particularly those affected by the war. They studied the possibility of organizing a program, financed by this network of organizations, that would respond to the many postponed problems.

A similar meeting is planned with Sandinista peasant leaders cooperative members or individual producers affected by rearmed groups and even with rearmed Sandinistas, known as recompas. While these are still only initial attempts to seek solely palliative solutions, they indicate that, for the FSLN, the problem of rearmed groups is more socioeconomic than political and ideological.

The Sandinista Assembly

Another of the FSLN's contributions was a Sandinista Assembly meeting to discuss not only internal party problems but also the complex national situation. The Assembly met in ordinary session on March 27 and 28. Its agenda included a report on the party's Patrimony and Budget, the party's Ethics Commission report, the National Directorate's report on activities undertaken in 1992 and in the first months of this year and the FSLN plan regarding the current crisis. FSLN members and the country's political circles had great expectations for the meeting, which had been postponed for months, and its results seem to have satisfied at least some of those expectations.

In the meeting, according to information disclosed by the Assembly itself, there was a frank discussion of problems, as well as a spirit of criticism and self criticism of errors and improprieties committed by FSLN members that are eroding the organization. Those included opportunism, lack of solidarity among Sandinistas and improper use of work methods and styles to address internal problems.
Members were apparently satisfied with the report on the party's patrimony one of the topics that has caused the greatest ongoing division among the party base as well as the Ethics Commission report, closely tied to the former. Nevertheless, "There's a long road ahead and a lot that some leaders still have to learn," said one Assembly member.

FSLN Treasurer Henry Ruiz disclosed to the Assembly, although this information has not been made public to the party membership at large, all the information and controls he held on the party's patrimony as well as the way in which the FSLN's budget is developed. The Ethics Commission reported on the cases that had been presented to it. During the meeting, a support committee for the Treasurer was formed, which will allow for greater planning in the administration of party patrimony and budget, especially sensitive areas.

Discussions within the Assembly stressed ways in which to strengthen the FSLN's unity and political and organic coherence, recommending to its members that, in the same spirit in which the Assembly discussed everyone's problems, specific problems should be discussed in each base group.

Members insisted that the FSLN's actions be oriented above all toward the popular majority, that it play the role of promoting national consensus and confront the country's problems head on, not wearing itself down in sterile debate but gaining strength from working directly with the people, to solve their problems.
To this end, the Sandinista Assembly's permanent commissions on the economy, organizing, rural affairs and the Atlantic Coast were reorganized, and two new ones were added: health/education and media. It was also decided that National Directorate members distribute themselves by territory to support the departmental committees' work with the grassroots as well as the work of the different organized sectors. Finally, it was agreed that another Assembly meeting will be held in mid April to discuss a proposal regarding the national economy developed by the FSLN Directorate, titled "For a National Solution to the Crisis."
The Assembly also approved a general declaration on national political issues. The key element of that is a recognition that far right activity is undermining constitutional legitimacy, generating instability and social chaos and promoting polarization and behavior fueled by revenge, which could unleash a new armed confrontation in Nicaragua. It also highlighted the need to seek consensus among all Nicaraguans to overcome the current crisis and expressed the FSLN's will to take the initiative in this area and work toward a national understanding with all political and productive sectors businesspeople, workers and politicians. The Assembly thus gave its unconditional backing to the government's recent summons to an immediate National Dialogue, whose goal, according to Sandinistas, should be to abort a new war and find solutions to the serious economic and social crisis debilitating Nicaragua.
The FSLN condemned terrorism in all its forms, as well as the persecution unleashed in rural areas against cooperatives, former army members and Sandinista activists and throughout the country against state officials and public servants teachers, union leaders and workers simply for being Sandinistas.

The Assembly rejected the economic stabilization and structural adjustment programs imposed by the government, citing the devastating increase in unemployment and deterioration in the population's living standards. It fully and unequivocally condemned any pretension of using economic aid to intervene in Nicaragua's internal affairs, characterizing as criminal behavior, contrary to the country's stability, the activities of those who promoted the cut off of US aid to Nicaragua. The FSLN called on the US government to act according to the norms of international justice and to take steps to initiate and develop new relations based on mutual respect with Nicaragua and its people.

The Sandinista Assembly emphasized that the FSLN promotes stability, peace and democracy and thus respects the government that was constitutionally elected in 1990, thereby rejecting the idea that the FSLN is participating in any kind of co government. It declared that the number of votes that the FSLN received give it the full right to participation in the legislative, judicial and electoral branches, as well as in any kind of local institutions.

The FSLN called on the peasantry, irrespective of political stripes, to fight for peasant unity in defense of land rights and legalization and for access to credit, emphasizing that it should avoid manipulation by opportunistic sectors of the far right, who are interested in reviving armed conflict in Nicaragua.

The Assembly agreed to promote the development of the emerging economic bloc comprised by Nicaragua's new proprietors peasants organized in UNAG; the federation of cooperatives; ex members of the contra forces, the army and police who have received land; those benefitting from the Sandinista agrarian reform; those who manage small industries; and workers benefitting from recently privatized state properties. In order to strengthen this bloc, the FSLN announced that it will design and implement policies that give coherence to all these economic forces.

After the Assembly ended, Sandinista leaders mobilized to different forums and territories to explain its results, seeking to motivate the party base. In the opinion of one Assembly member, who takes a strong stance regarding the proposal that Sandinismo take a firmer position on ethical issues, "progress" was made at the weekend meeting. "We didn't go as far as we wanted," he said, "but we didn't regress or stagnate either."

The Need for Real Stability

Even with the release of US aid and the political endorsement implied by renewed funding from the International Monetary Fund, the country still faces a critical situation. If Nicaragua does not soon achieve a certain degree of political and economic stability, the horizon is dark even tragic. The government's current economic plan should change enough to establish that minimal stability. It is not enough to stop with monetary stability; the government needs to stimulate production through credits, low interest rates and technical assistance for producers, especially small and medium producers and cooperatives.

The resolution, once and for all, of the rural and urban property problem is another essential condition for that minimal stability. Resolution of the rural property conflict is the more urgent if there is to be an improvement in rural production and employment. The army and police should also give appropriate attention to rearmed groups, taking measures that lead to an authentic resolution of the problems that brought about rearmament in the first place. These measures should not include military repression, but rather a change in the economic treatment these ex combatants have received. Current polarization should be correctly understood as the fruit of a handful of politicians' endeavors. And still more serious than political polarization is the disastrous economic situation, which affects all groups. Reducing the space for and importance of these politicians and opening economic spaces for the majority is the only way to depolarize the country.

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