Governing From Below
Speech by President Daniel Ortega Saavedra, February 27,1990
Nonaligned Plaza, Managua*
*Original English translation courtesy of Barricada International
This morning, all Sandinista militants met here in the Olof Palme Convention Center to hold the first “De Cara al Pueblo” since the February 25 elections.
We talked for many hours, while you were gathering here, overflowing the Omar Torrijos and Non-Aligned Plazas. We talked about what the Sandinista National Liberation Front was, what it now is and what it will continue to be.
We recalled the years of our formation and growth, under the hardest conditions of clandestinity, prison, torture and death. We recalled that it was not material possessions that made the Sandinista Front; it was not gold or riches or material goods that made the revolution. It was the people’s ethics and Sandinista consciousness that made the revolution.
As you have said, we do not want the National Guard and we will not have it. We do not want war and we will not have war because this is the will of the Sandinista Front and of the people.
On February 25, the Sandinistas and all Nicaraguan people offered a great lesson in democracy. We Sandinistas are proud to be the basis, the foundation, the main pillar of democracy in Nicaragua, because democracy in Nicaragua cannot be understood without “Sandinismo” or “Sandinismo” without democracy.
The big victor, the big winner of these elections is the Sandinista Front, which brought democracy to Nicaragua. Without the Sandinista Front, the Nicaraguan people would never have dreamed of elections such as those that occurred on February 25, 1990.
To this valiant, heroic, selfless and altruistic people, I want to declare this afternoon from this plaza that we are absolutely committed to support all actions that serve the interests of the people. But we have decided and are firmly resolved that, with the strength of the people, we will steadfastly oppose and resist all actions contrary to the will of the people.
Security and stability in Nicaragua, the development of democracy in Nicaragua, are fundamental gains of the revolution and must be respected.
We are absolutely resolved to contribute to peace and stability, but only if the people are free from threat, if they are respected, if there is no revenge. The people are strong enough to confront and defeat those who are motivated by vengeance.
I will read the Sandinista Front’s declaration of today, February 27, the anniversary of the murder of a group of young people in San José de Las Mulas by the contras. “For these dead, our dead, we pledge to defend our victory.”
Communiqué of the Secretariat of the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front The Sandinista National Liberation Front informs the Nicaraguan people that today the National Directorate called together all cadre and revolutionary leaders from various positions within the FSLN, the government, armed forces, trade unions, mass organizations and professional associations in a plenary session to discuss and analyze the results of the elections of February 25, 1990.
The following are the conclusions of this meeting:
1. Since the triumph of the revolution, the Sandinista National Liberation Front has placed the possibility of a free democratic choice in the hands of the Nicaraguan people for the first time in their history. These free, fair and honest elections are an achievement of the revolution.
2. The FSLN, as the party of the revolution and the largest, most solid and best organized party in the country, now holds the responsibility for safeguarding and guaranteeing the revolutionary process and its social, political and economic achievements and transformations. The change of government in no way means the end of the revolution.
3. The FSLN will give no ground in the fight to protect agrarian reform and urban housing rights, and will ensure that there will be no cuts in the social benefits provided by the revolution, especially those for the mothers of Heroes and Martyrs and the war orphans and disabled.
4. The FSLN demands the immediate dismantling and disarming of the counterrevolutionaries and the freedom those kidnapped [by the contras] so as to bring about an orderly and peaceful transfer of government.
5. Within the established framework off the Constitution, the FSLN will defend the integrity and professionalism of, the Sandinista Popular Army and the Interior Ministry. It will also defend the irreversibility of the revolution's essential achievements, such as nationalization of the banks, foreign trade, natural resources and the Area of People’s Property [state property].
6. The FSLN will remain alert and vigilant to prevent any loss of the guarantees established in our Constitution, among which are the right to trade union organization, the right to strike, the right to demonstrate and freedom of the press. It will also defend the job security of public officials and employees, according to the Civil Service Law.
Signed by the Secretariat of the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, Managua, February 27,1990.
In the name of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, I want to recognize the massive popular participation in these elections. I want to thank the 40% of Nicaraguans who gave their vote to the strongest and biggest party in this country, the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
We Sandinista militants are also certain that the majority of those who voted for the UNO did not do so because they are counterrevolutionaries. You must take into account the following: the people do not sell out. People make mistakes, but they also know how to correct them and I’m sure that they will soon discover the truth. Consider this: the Sandinista Front told the people that everything will better, and the opposition told the people that everything will be better.
A substantial part of the people, a huge number of people, 40% had no doubts and gave their vote to the Sandinista Front. So what happened? There is another important sector of the population, which we have to respect, who are not extremists—because there are extremist, unscrupulous people who have bad positions—but the majority of these people are neither unscrupulous nor extremist, nor do they dislike the revolution. These people thought and believed that the situation might improve with the opposition.
But what government has truly defended the people, the Sandinista government or the incoming government? We are accustomed to confronting difficult moments, to living in difficult situations. The situation in which we are now living cannot compare to the situation of the Sandinista Front before the triumph of the revolution.
I reminded our compañeros in today’s Assembly that on November 7, 1976, 1 was in a safe house, a humble shack in a neighborhood of Managua with Eduardo Contreras, and Carlos Fonseca was in the mountains. We were trying to gather all the Sandinista leaders persecuted by the [National] Guard and informers. We wanted to meet to unify because we were having internal problems and differences, and we had to unite to fight the Guard.
I reminded them that on November 7 and 8, in clandestinity here in Managua and in different locations in Nicaragua, the few Sandinista militants, because we were just a few dozen, were overcome by the news of the death of Carlos Fonseca and Eduardo Contreras.
Before the triumph of the revolution, journalists used to ask me how I imagined a Sandinista Front government would be, how we were going to govern. I told them, “Look, we are going to triumph.”
We were sure that we would win. But we were also sure that we weren’t going to see the triumph. We were sure we were going to die in the struggle. We never imagined we would make it to see the triumph.
We were not born at the top, we were born at the bottom and we’re used to fighting from below. We’re use to struggling, to fighting from below. We’re used to struggling and fighting in the face of our executioners and torturers. We’re used to struggling and fighting from prisons. So, now that people’s power, revolutionary power exists in this country, we have much better conditions in the short term to return to governing this country from above.
I tell you that the day will come when we return to governing from above because the Sandinista National Liberation Front, with the Nicaraguan people, will continue governing from below. We will continue governing from below.
We will continue governing from below, insisting on respect for our rights. They want to govern? Well they have their chance to govern and we are handing over the burden to them. It is a heavy burden, and we’ll see how they do.
They wanted the Front to be the opposition? Well, we are the opposition! We are the opposition and we will defend this democracy so that the people can exercise full rights to be in opposition—not an extreme or capricious opposition, but an opposition against anything that is contrary to the people’ interests, because we will not permit this to happen.
We will vote from below and we, brothers and sisters, do not lack faith. All those who voted for UNO will soon join us and vote for the Front from below.
All the people, the people who voted for the Sandinista Front and the people who voted for UNO, will never vote for anything contrary to the people’s interests. So, from below, we will have 99.9% of the votes.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front has a constructive position and a steadfast, conscious, patriotic attitude. Now the ball is in their court. So, brother and sister Sandinistas, brother and sister Nicaraguans, as Sandinista militants we commit ourselves to continue defending this free Nicaragua, this Nicaragua liberated since July 19, 1979.
There will be some cowards who, like Judas, betray us during times like these, but the people will never betray us because the people cannot betray themselves.
Brothers and sisters, let us continue the battle for democracy, let us continue the battle for national dignity, let us continue the battle for Nicaragua. We’ll go back to the neighborhoods, well go to the factories, we’ll go to towns and villages. We’ll continue with the “De Cara al Pueblo” because the Sandinista Front was born in the people, lives in the people and will never cease to be of the people.
Long live the Sandinista National Liberation Front! Long live the heroic people of Nicaragua! Long live our heroes and martyrs! Long live Carlos Fonseca! Long live German Pomares! Long live Camilo Ortega! Long live free Nicaragua, free Nicaragua, free Nicaragua!
Bothers and sisters, together with Sandino, with Carlos [Fonseca], with our heroes and martyrs we will govern from below, we will govern from below, we will govern from below. We will defend from below, we will defend from below. For Nicaragua from below.
Today when Carlos Mejía (Godoy) was speaking, he concluded, and we said with Carlos Mejía, “Don’t give up now, my compañero, don’t begin to waiver. Your country needs your courage and your bravery. Don’t give up now, my compañero, don’t begin to waiver. Your country needs your courage and your bravery.”
Patria Libre o Morir! Long live Sandino!