Antonio Lacayo. Takes the Stand
The following are extracts of an interview with Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo on the state television program “Democracia en Marcha,” July 20, I990. The interview, conducted by Danilo Lacayo, head of the presidential press office, addresses criticisms of the Chamorro government, and Lacayo in particular, by UNO's right wing. Translated and edited by envío.
Q. Many people are saying that the government has made a pact with the FSLN. What have you really been discussing with the Sandinistas?
A. There's no pact as such. We've had many conversations since the elections, mandated by then President-elect Violeta de Chamorro, who named a three-person transition team to talk to its counterpart, named by the government that lost the elections. The idea was to create a climate of understanding in the 60-day transition period to accomplish the transfer of power.
These talks began on February 27, 48 hours after the vote, in the presence of foreign election observers. Those present included President Carter and observers from the United Nations and the Organization of American States. I participated on behalf of the new government, together with Luís Sánchez Sancho and Carlos Hurtado, now Minister of Government. General Humberto Ortega, General Joaquín Cuadra and Comandante Wheelock, then minister of MIDINRA [Ministry of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Reform], represented the outgoing government.
That initiated a series of talks in which the new government could assess the main fears and concerns of the Sandinista government, which lost an election it never thought it could lose and would thus have to hand over power. I think all Nicaraguans realize that the election results were a huge surprise for them, because they thought they had the support of the majority of the people. Given the international commitments they had made, they accepted the results, but were suddenly faced with a completely new situation, one with enormous questions that became the subject of ongoing conversations between the two teams. The major product of these talks was called the Transition Protocol, signed in March, and it set the foundation for a transfer of power acceptable to both the incoming and outgoing governments. We discussed issues ranging from the future of the armed forces to housing and lands that had been misappropriated in the agrarian reform. This allowed us to know their positions and them to know the new government’s proposals, all of which permitted us to reach a transition accord.
Without this, it would have been hard to carry out the transfer of government on April 25, or move the Chamorro government's national reconciliation policy forward. These basic accords are what people are calling a secret, even pernicious pact because pacts in Nicaragua in the past have had a negative connotation. There's no pact, just a clearly detailed understanding set out in the transition document, which was made public at the time.
The transition, however, goes beyond April 25. National reconciliation obliges the government to have communication with the various sectors of the nation, and obviously one of the most important is the current opposition, the Sandinista Front. Thus these conversations continued, so that this minimum understanding can continue and the problems of this new stage can be overcome through negotiation.
Q. On the same subject, people have begun to make comments about public officials, creating certain images. In your case, after being a private businessman, many now see you intervening in what is called politics. They say “Antonio Lacayo is negotiating with the Sandinistas because he has or has had economic interests with the Sandinista Front.” We’d like to hear what you have to say about such comments.
A. I've heard them and continue hearing them almost daily. They have their origins in the situation of GRACSA, a factory the state took control of in I982, followed finally by a physical takeover in 84. [See “The Two Faces of UNO,” July I990 envío for details] I’ve never had what amounted to a negotiation with the Sandinista government apart from that, so there's no other basis for these speculations. I think that people who refer to this as under-the-table negotiations are being very unfair since the other option was simply to abandon the country, and we Nicaraguans who stayed know that such an attitude wasn't right. People seem to believe that there must have been something shady behind the way the case was solved, but sometimes success has its costs, in this case people's criticism.
Q. You’re also accused of having too much control of the economy through CORNAP [National Production Corporations], which is under a vice-ministry of the presidency. The criticism is that, for your own benefit, you want to be the new superminister, with tentacles in all the businesses. Id like you to explain this situation clearly.
A. The situation of the public sector corporations, the old APP, is very simple. In the previous government these corporations were distributed in three or four ministries, among them MIDINRA, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Construction and Transport and the Ministry of Tourism. They were small fiefdoms that satisfied pretensions to power that we all know existed in the previous government, and were managed not so much in the national interest as in the interest of that particular ministry. This government is faced with returning what was unjustly confiscated. Some of these corporations and enterprises will also pass to the private or mixed sector because Nicaragua needs investment. The President felt it would be best to concentrate them all under her leadership, so she could sell the companies to investors who come wanting to invest their capital, bring technology and help reconstruct this country, without having any minister anxiously trying to retain the corporation, because they indeed do imply some power. We want the return of unjustly confiscated properties and their privatization to those who bring fresh investments to continue without challenge. We know that perhaps some other political sectors in the country will oppose it, but that's a problem outside of the government.
Q. There’s also talk of your personal economic and family situation. Everybody says that Antonio Lacayo runs the country, that doña Violeta consults Antonio Lacayo. Even some sectors within UNO itself have their own reasons to present it this way. To what point is this true?
A. Those who have their doubts should ask doña Violeta, not me. In Guatemala, during the presidential summit, a journalist asked her this question and she answered broadly: “I am the one in charge here.” The idea, however, originated with the campaign, when doña Violeta was nominated as presidential candidate by some UNO parties while others had other candidates. They finally reached agreement in a vote in which doña Violeta got the majority. The ticket constituted around September 7 or 8, then UNO had to elect a campaign chief and doña Violeta proposed my name. I told her I'd be delighted to help her and from that point on abandoned all my personal activities, dedicating myself to doing all possible so that her campaign would triumph. Few people are as close to her as I am, so the triumph of her campaign was of great interest to me, not only as a Nicaraguan.
Q. Why did Violeta de Chamorro’s triumph interest you so much?
A. I always believed the war in Nicaragua would only end if there were free elections, a point on which I believe the old government agrees. But I also believed that only doña Violeta could win, because she could unify people around her. Furthermore, once in power, only she could push a national reconciliation project, which is fundamental if this country is to go forward.
Some perhaps didn't share the national reconciliation project, or perhaps at that moment saw no possibility that doña Violeta could win. They only believed that UNO could win 30% or 40% of the vote and thus of the National Assembly seats. But doña Violeta was determined to win. Some people also believed that even if she won the Sandinistas wouldn't hand over the presidency. But from the moment I took on the campaign, I was obliged to assure her success. That made some people begin to say that Antonio Lacayo was in charge. The candidate can't alienate people, the candidate has to win support. So the one who ends up taking all the heat is normally the campaign chief, who has to impose a particular agenda and program.
With the triumph on February 25, doña Violeta asked me to help her in the government, which was not in my own plans. But I accepted with the same philosophy as during the campaign: to help carry forward the program she was committed to, which was for the rule of law, open and frank reconciliation, understanding among all sectors in Nicaragua—all of which is now encountering a lot of resistance. That's the program offered to the people, and we'll defend it come what may. This sometimes forces me to impose certain attitudes, which people interpret as my going over even doña Violeta's head, which is far from the case.
Q. It’s frequently said that the government is deviating from the UNO program. It’s even said that we only speak of reconciliation, love and the people, but should take stronger positions. I recall listening to the radio during the strike, all the pressure on us—some giving disinformation, others calling for insurrection, and some saying that doña Violeta should call for intervention, that she should be firmer. All this makes some people think that the President isn’t going to fulfill the UNO programs. They say: “The people didn’t vote for what's happening now.” That question is still in the air: Is the government going to fulfill the UNO program? Is it complying with the UNO program now?
A. Chapter one of the UNO program says that this government's fundamental objective is to establish the rule of law; it doesn't say dictatorship, it says “a rule of law for the full exercise of democracy and application of social justice in which all sectors of the nation have expression and participation.” Second, it speaks of “reaching agreement on a national commitment between the government and all sectors of society, directed toward forging reconciliation, building democracy and peace and surmounting the country’s national crisis.” Third, it says that “the principal objective of this national commitment will be the formation of a civilian, republican, democratic and representative government of national salvation, based on national unity and oriented toward serving the country and the common good over party interests.”
This is very difficult because our society has been polarized by virtually 10 years of war, with the Nicaraguan family divided into two bands: those favoring Sandinismo and those favoring a change. Expressed for those 10 years through armed struggle, it was hard because it left death, destruction, mutilation, poverty and misery, and all those who suffered on one side or the other have a certain attitude of revenge, of getting even. What is known as revanchismo, added to Latin American machismo, is a bombshell. Nonetheless, this government is committed not to make anyone pay; it's a broad national commitment where all sectors of the nation will participate.
I feel that the government is advancing in this direction. How? Simply by enforcing dialogue, not intervention or some big stick, as the method for solving any crisis. By turning to such methods we'd be violating point four, which says “Independence from the hegemonic interests of the world powers.” In an intervention here we'd be washed up, we'd be violating the spirit of democracy, of tolerance, of peace based on the rule of law. The fact that it's difficult, however, doesn't mean that we're not achieving it. When doña Violeta took office, there were around 18-19,000 armed fighters; today these boys have turned in their weapons. Some live in Managua; some top leaders were in the President's house three days ago, in a work session directly with me, looking at the development poles, at a nursery we want to set up near Santo Tomás. We're advancing in their problems.
Q. And the war disabled who still haven’t been returned [from Honduras]?
A. They're coming, even though we still don't know where they’ll be housed. The country has unquestionably progressed toward that peace. The two strikes have been resolved through dialogue, without bullets and billyclubs, which some sectors perhaps wanted. But what would that kind of solution have brought us? Simply a return to the past, and just yesterday we were celebrating 11 years of the defeat of a dictatorship. It would be really regrettable to turn back to systems we hoped had been overcome forever.
Q. Obviously in Somoza’s time these problems didn't occur, much less with the previous government. So what happened? Even some political leaders have criticized the government’s attitude, and you personally, as “milk toast,” not firm enough, an opinion started by some media to incite violence. Then it began to be said that the government isn’t really governing, that there’s a power vacuum. What do you say about this?
A. This question of power is interesting. If we understand power as the action of a government oriented toward the citizenry in a certain direction then I don't think there's any vacuum of power. There have been advances; we've completed three months, and within less than 15 days we had a strike, but our government resolved it without a single death, without any beatings, with no jailings, and life returned to normal. Two months later we not only found ourselves in another strike of major proportions, above all in the public sector, but also with a sort of mob action, a sort of popular insurrection in some neighborhoods, in the main streets of Managua, in which many people went out into the streets armed, putting the rest of the citizenry in this country in tremendous danger. There began to be killings, not between the government and the citizenry, but between citizens. There began to be outbreaks of what could have been the beginning of a civil war. We just came out of a war here, and I think the last thing we want is another.
The war we just left was mainly in the mountain s and what was taking shape here last Monday was a war in the capital itself, similar to what has prevailed in Lebanon, with its consequences of destruction, blood and the pain that we all know those poor people are living through, Yet some politicians began to express the opinion that this had to be resolved by sending the army into the streets and doing what some other countries do—grab people, throw them in prison, even if possible eliminate them.
Those methods are very easy for hotheads to recommend, but the person who has to decide to do it has to think long and hard because it could end up not only spilling the blood of Nicaraguan citizens, but even escalating tensions, given that the problem was not between the government and some sector of the population. The people we saw at the barricadas represented one sector of the citizenry and those we saw around [Radio] Corporación represented another and they were willing to kill. The deaths in those days weren't the product of government action, but of citizens who began to shoot at each other. If the government had thrown more fuel on the fire in such a situation, I don't know where we'd be right now. And I don't know where some of those politicians who were recommending that kind of solution would be, because violence normally engenders more violence.
Nonetheless, what the government did, as always, was recur to dialogue. The problem was resolved in short order and life returned to normal, although obviously with huge costs for the country. The material costs can be recovered with work; the lives that were lost cannot. I sense that there are people who've become desperate and want a magic solution, which exists nowhere except in the minds of some people who were here during the Somocista years, because they're demanding Somocista solutions to the problems, i.e., send out the Guard, throw everybody who takes the lead into prison and finish with the problem. These solutions aren't appropriate for a rule of law. I'm not saying that force doesn't exist in a rule of law, but it has to be used as the last recourse when all other alternatives have been exhausted. Here the government's duty was to exhaust these other alternatives, and thank God, by using one of them, which was dialogue, the problem was resolved.
Q. This has brought about frictions between Dr. Virgilio Godoy, doña Violeta and you. Obviously these commentaries are exploited by extreme sectors on both the left and the right, but the majority of people who voted for doña Violeta on February 25 are in the center, and they’re hearing that there’s a divided government. Exactly when did this friction between Dr. Godoy, you and doña Violeta begin?
I don't think it's correct to mix doña Violeta up in this. On Dr. Godoy's part, yes, there's some uneasiness, which he's even made public in some media. What's behind it is very simple. Doña Violeta presides over this government, and all of us who work in the government owe loyalty to her, to her government program and to the Constitution. There are people who have never believed in national reconciliation and, as I said, prefer more drastic solutions; there are people—among them Dr. Godoy—who for some reason believe that reconciliation isn't feasible or desirable.
The government is like a river that takes its course; whoever wants to work in it has to take that same course, which is the government plan that doña Violeta refers to every time she speaks to the nation. It's a message of understanding, of peaceful solution to our problems, of harmony, of reconciliation; she even spoke of it often in the campaign—of erasing old debts, reaching out among brothers. It's difficult, but that is this government's challenge; history will remember this government as the one that ended this great tension and hate among Nicaraguans and permitted democracy to be firmly established and the foundations of solid economic development to be initiated. To think of democracy and economic development here without a minimum understanding among us is utopian. What country can progress if people are killing each other? What democracy can exist if people only want to solve their problems by throwing rocks? At a minimum we have to achieve this understanding so that this country can begin to blossom.
But there are people who disagree, and to the extent that they do they don't fit in the government. Dr. Godoy has excluded himself, and this is why there now appears to be division. The truth is that there's no division. The government is going in one direction—all of the ministers, vice ministers, autonomous directors share these dreams; we're in complete agreement that Nicaragua's only way out is through this reconciliation program. Those who don't share that view can't be in the government and those who do share it have no reason to be outside. In essence, it's a problem of loyalty. Loyalty to whom? To doña Violeta, who constitutionally heads this government and is committed to a program that clearly emphasizes reconciliation and understanding.
Q. When some extreme left sectors in the FSLN went on strike and people asked them, they said, “Well, we resolved this strike but were going to call another in a month or 15 days.” Is it possible that our national reconciliation discourse is unilateral? Coincidentally, I was at the wake of a friend’s mother last night, and some people said to me, “Only you speak of love; ex-President Ortega’s speech today, July 19, was very violent.” Will the Sandinistas agree to this democratic vote for national reconciliation?
A. That's up to the Sandinista leaders to decide. I personally feel that some Sandinistas have not correctly evaluated the democratic opening after April 25. They give the impression that they weren't prepared for democracy, or for this Western style of democracy, just plain democracy. I say they weren't prepared because using barricades to resolve a supposedly boss-labor strike isn't appropriate to a democratic environment. Strikes per se, yes, workers have the right to strike; it's even in the Constitution...
Q. But only now, because before they were prohibited, right?
A. We're not going to prohibit them for that reason, because if we start acting the way they did before we're not resolving anything. Our commitment to this government program and this Constitution is sacred. Even if they accuse us of being milk toast, of being cowards or fools, I think that after a few years, when Nicaraguans realize the benefits of a democratic system, of tolerance, of the progress that democracy and stability brings, they’re going to say, “Hey, you were right.” Because this is going to happen. Only a little while ago some people didn't remotely believe that you could think about elections here; then, once the space for elections was opened, they didn't remotely believe they could win; then, having won, they didn't believe the FSLN would hand over power. These are the same people who today don't believe that democracy has any future here, who because of some feeling, perhaps inherited, want to return to dictatorship. It's perhaps a weakness of Nicaraguans, or of some Nicaraguans, to feel more comfortable if there's an undisputed dictatorial or totalitarian power controlling the situation, and it distresses them to feel that this democracy thing is so fragile.
And it's true, it is fragile, but I definitely feel that just as all those other steps actually happened, the FSLN is also going to begin to understand little by little that this rule of law and this democracy is going to benefit them as a party and as citizens of this country too. Because a state like this doesn't discriminate against people for their beliefs, their logic or the party to which they belong: This is the first time we've had this in Nicaragua. Here the radios say what they want, whether truth or lies, and no one's muzzling them. Journalists say what they want; people who want to demonstrate do so with total freedom, knowing that the state won't throw them in jail or even beat them up, or kill them. It's a big advantage for a party to know that it can win sympathizers by presenting its ideas. The FSLN has an open field to win all the sympathizers it wants because no one's blocking the dissemination of its ideas or meddling in its party activities.
So, to get back to your question, I think that the expansion of democracy has been a bit too big for some. But as time passes they'll be evaluating it and seeing that it's a good thing for them. If there are going to be more strikes, it's a right workers have, but I think it'll be hard to repeat this phenomenon of the barricades. Even the Sandinistas saw the danger of putting people in this situation. To repeat, the killings were between radical Sandinista and non-Sandinista bands, which for some reason tried to resolve their problems with guns and, really, looking at the problems, this doesn't suit anybody, and the Sandinistas themselves know it. I think that when children play with a dangerous toy, an electric toy, say, and get a shock, they respect it more. Strikes will continue, but I think that if dialogue is used they'll be resolved before turning into such large problems.
Q. Nicaragua’s fundamental problem, obviously, is economic. Yet, with each strike we lose millions of córdobas. The FSLN is interrupting UNO's economic program. [Vice Minister of the Presidency] Antonio Ibarra appeared here on an earlier program and asked the FSLN and the FNT [National Workers' Front] to give us a chance. For ten years they asked the people to serve, and now this democratic government, freely elected by the people, is also asking for a little sacrifice. This strike cost $24 million and each one is going to be another fortune and economic paralysis. Producers, workers, peasants, housewives, all of us suffer an additional burden, and with a worsening economic problem foreign investment won’t come to the country. Do you believe the Sandinistas can come to comprehend this problem, to realize that they have to give democracy a chance?
A. I think there are Sandinistas and Sandinistas, just like there are doctors who cure very well and others who kill. To believe that all Sandinistas are cut from the same cloth is utopian. This leads me to believe that these strikes, which have occurred with lots of force and in a short time, are precisely the product of the new freedom in Nicaragua. As time passes, the workers themselves will realize that using this mechanism to resolve whatever problem presents itself only harms them. Someone said that this strike cost the government $24 million; it didn't cost the government. If the government doesn't have any money, it doesn't produce. It’s fed by the taxes it gets from the people and with them pays the costs of government. The government doesn't have millions of córdobas or dollars; not anywhere. It lives off taxes. So who paid those $24 million? The people themselves, the very worker who went on strike, that's who paid, and so did the one who didn't go on strike.
I think that, to the degree that the measures of the economic plan are set back, these same workers are going to realize that it's preferable to resolve their problems in their union with the factory administrator or the ministry representative, through dialogue; and if dialogue closes, insist that it be opened again or exercise some intermediate pressure before reaching the point of calling one of these strikes that end up costing the country, everybody, the cost of production that was lost those days.
This right to strike that we Nicaraguans won is being used as a new toy right now. Many workers are enthused with this previously prohibited mechanism. But as time passes—because when all's said and done I believe Nicaraguans are intelligent, workers are intelligent, Sandinistas themselves are intelligent—they're going to realize that these mechanisms lose popularity with the people, with the workers themselves, who are harmed by strikes. And they lose sympathy with the international community—which is very enthusiastic about this national reconciliation project—every time there's one of these strikes, particularly one with a political element, which is seen abroad as though the Sandinistas still aren't prepared for national reconciliation. It affects their international image. So I think they're going to start seeing this with more maturity, and it'll be harder to have situations as violent as there were the other day.
Q. Has the economic recovery plan been sabotaged? Many people hear news on the radio ridiculing the government; they see the streets all torn up, which reminds them of the strike; and they start saying, "Where are we going?” Is there still a chance for the economic plan?
A. To believe that the economic plan has failed because the country has suffered a couple of strikes is pretty ridiculous. The plan hasn't been imposed from above; it's fully a product of the elections themselves. In other words, here Nicaraguans can take up any activities they want, with no problems. Here people who plant a crop can sell it to whomever they want at the price they want; investors can invest in the economic branch they want, with no pressure from any side. That's the economic plan—that democracy and freedom, product of the election—that the government gives to any individual, any Nicaraguan, whether worker, medium or large producer, to make the decisions they please. And no one's going to stop it unless another government comes to substitute the current one.
There are no ministries here imposing a particular conduct, imposing artificial exchange rates or subsidizing some people and jeopardizing others. Here the government has been closing the gap between the different exchange rates so that gasoline costs everybody equally, a dollar costs everybody equally, everybody. Now nobody can buy a subsidized dollar. Three months ago, some privileged people could go to the exchange houses and buy a dollar at 50,000 córdobas while in the streets it cost the non-privileged 120,000. Now there are no privileges in any sense. The dollar's worth 420,000 córdobas for Christians, Sandinistas and non-Sandinistas, for large and small. This base now allows people to begin making decisions. The cattle rancher knows that today his cattle cost what they're really worth, and it's three times what it was three or four months ago. This rancher now knows where he is and is beginning to improve his ranch; the same with the small, medium and big commercial trader. That basis of the economic plan is undebatable.
Some benefits of the economic plan have been set back with these strikes, which is logical. It seems to me that the fundamental thing is getting out of this inflation, out of the awful unemployment we have, out of the structural problems left after ten years in which the country, instead of being aimed at production, was directed toward resolving a problem of war. Let's not forget here what it means, or meant, to be in a war. This is now overcome. It's ridiculous that some people who didn't even participate in the war now go around banging the drums, wanting to return to military solutions.
I think the country now has the foundation to begin an economic recovery, which won't happen overnight. What farmer doesn't know that you have to bury the corn or bean seed or whatever, and that for a few days you don't see anything? You get the impression that the seed got lost. But there, after some days, it germinates and after a few months, there's fruit. The economic plan is the same; they're new ideas, new procedures, new ways of running the economy. You have to plant this seed, then wait awhile. To come the next day and say, “Where's the fruit?” is a little infantile. The farmers understand us perfectly; you have to be patient. The economic program is already bearing some fruit, after leveling the exchange rates, which was fundamental. The inflation we're going to have this month of July, despite the strike, will be substantially less than in June, and June's was less than in May, which means we're getting closer. I think things will be even better in August, but we're not going to resolve the huge problem the government took on just like that.
Q. What countries are really going to support us? Will they continue now that we’ve had a strike? The morning the accord with the FNT was signed, many people who voted for doña Violeta felt disillusioned because they didn’t think she’d be able to go forward, that she was taking wishy-washy positions and countries wouldn’t give us any help. It’s important for people to know if these governments will still give us the aid that they offered.
A. The first part of your question is interesting, particularly for the following reason: Nicaragua isn't going to go forward with the aid of one powerful country. It's clear that we'll only progress to the degree that the international community as a whole supports us, including countries that were helping the previous government. It's feasible for Nicaragua to get enough aid to begin assuring that this economic takeoff has a firm foundation and doesn't fall back down. In this sense the government has, in principle, gotten very important and interesting support from new countries that weren't helping Nicaragua before, such as Japan, which has now expressed its desire to help, or the United States, West Germany and England. This, added to the support of countries that were helping the previous government, such as the Soviet Union, the Nordic and European countries, is what could solve Nicaragua's crisis.
It's important to point out, however, that many of these countries, particularly the Nordic and European ones and the socialist countries themselves, particularly the Soviet Union, have continued precisely because of the government program that was designed and because of the way the government transition took place. They saw a maturity in this government capable of carrying forward a national reconciliation program, a program of understanding among Nicaraguans, which is the only thing that permits democratic development. If they see the government abandoning this commitment to democracy, they'll withdraw their support and Nicaragua may find itself only supported by a few countries, insufficient to finance our economic takeoff. It's vitally important to understand that if we want this takeoff it must be based on carrying out this democratic project. No European country wants to finance an authoritarian regime.
Our project has this big advantage, in that it has captured the sympathy and attention of the European countries. Thus we see Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark here, together with Italy and Spain. Very important countries like the Soviet Union are adding to the help that the United States, Japan and the European Community as a whole are giving. Latin American countries such as Venezuela, which is again playing a very important role in providing oil, and Mexico, which is willing to do so, can help give Nicaragua sufficient foundation for the takeoff of this program. It’s important that the government not deviate from its program; it can't succumb to radical pressures from Sandinista groups that want to change course or to pressures from other radical groups that also want the government to change course. This government's obligation is to stay in the center, faithful to the commitment it acquired and to building this democratic process, even if slowly, but step by firm step. This is what Europe wants and it's what is allowing the aid to be reconfirmed. To the extent that it comes, our economy can take off.
But one thing should be clarified. People believe this aid already arrived and is just sitting happily in the Central Bank. That's not true. These are offers of aid, which still have to materialize through many initiatives that are mainly the job of the Foreign Ministry, the Vice Minister of Foreign Cooperation. This is a lot of work, and each strike backs us up considerably. To the degree that this happens, the economic process gets backed up. But we're going to continue pursuing this aid, and it'll continue to materialize; little by little, we'll see greater signs of progress in some areas and the seed of the economic plan will begin to grow. I think that as we see this growth, more and more Nicaraguans will share the optimism that fills those of us who know the plan well.
Q. In four days, on July 25, doña Violeta's government will have been in power three months. What’s your vision, your perspective on these three months of government?
A. I think they've been three very profitable months, because if nothing had happened, if the government hadn't been put to the test and was sailing in calm waters, we would have wondered if this boat could stand a tempest; we Nicaraguan passengers on this voyage would be uneasy about what would happen on the days the waters got rough. In these three months, we've had rough waters; in fact, many Nicaraguans have despaired at the size of the storm. But the government stood up to it, and without the need to kill anybody, crack heads or jail Nicaraguans, as was the style of other governments to overcome a crisis like the one we faced.
So, in my opinion, the two strikes and the mob action, added to the terrible economic crisis this country assumed on April 25, which hadn't moved for virtually two months, a currency completely distorted by the real exchange rate on the street; problems in the ministries, where many things disappeared; 18,000 armed contra combatants coming into the country from Honduras, many of them thinking militarily. That crisis isn't easy, they are really turbulent waters. Furthermore, there were people who didn't give the government three months from any point of view, independent of the crisis. Yet the government's here, we're talking agreeably and Nicaraguans are calmly listening to us in their houses, possibly with a drink in their hand, without anyone beating them or pushing them one way or another. The government has already shown the Nicaraguan people it can overcome all the difficulties that come its way.
Regarding the military decisions the government was making, some people said that if General Ortega stayed in the army the contras wouldn't disarm and US aid wouldn't come; they predicted black horizons. The government got the Resistance to understand that the best thing for them was to disarm and they disarmed; and it got Congress to approve the aid despite that. It got past the two strikes; it leveled the official and parallel exchange rates; it got the agricultural cycle moving, with even more acreage than last year in almost all crops. It even rented the first confiscated ranches to people who are going to reclaim them, under what is known as Decree I0-90, both in the Pacific and in Matagalpa; it isn't all we would have liked, but there were advances in that direction. And today the government is respected by the international community and by all Nicaraguans- even by the FNT itself, which led the last strike and, together with the Sandinista Front, took to the barricades. In a communiqué last Wednesday or Thursday, the FNT recognized the “constitutional government of Nicaragua.” Nobody's in doubt about that, not even the FSLN.
This is the reality, and for me these are the proofs that the government has had. Perhaps other governments would have already turned back, but the little boat turned out not to be so fragile. I think that the daily difficulties are what truly strengthen a person in life, and a government as well. I'd be worried as minister of the presidency if we'd had three months in office without any problem. I feel very good knowing that these problems have been overcome and that the Nicaraguan people have seen and felt it, that they're seeing how the government has been solving its problems without turning to the old methods. I'm still optimistic; I see a very positive future. I feel that when we celebrate the first year of government we're going to look back at these things and laugh at the dangers we passed through. I think Nicaraguans will value a democratic government in its true dimension little by little.
In this regard, I also feel one must be very fair: This government is based fundamentally on the opportunity the previous government opened for democracy. We must be clear in this. There are people who don't want to recognize anything, but there wouldn't be a democratic government here if it weren't in part for the previous government’s desire to permit this election process. Somoza didn't allow it ever. It's important that we recognize that.
I think what’s lacking is a little bit of tolerance. This country doesn't belong to anybody, but to everybody. No Nicaraguan, not the President or the minister of the presidency or anybody, can say this country is mine but not yours. You can't destroy anybody here. There's a place for the Sandinistas, the contras, for those who were abroad or who were inside—even for the Somocistas, as long as they function within the Constitution. Whoever comes here against that Constitution, whether Sandinista or UNO or the government, has to pay the consequences. I think that people are going to come to value that in its true scope. Democracy has been in Nicaraguans' hearts for years—the desire to abolish these signs of dictatorship, of authoritarian power. We're barely beginning to see it and it's making people nervous, because we're not used to it. But as time passes, people will see that this benefit brings infinite goodness and permits economic improvement. We're going to become so enthusiastic with democracy that I don't doubt for a minute that when this government ends after six years Nicaragua will be much more democratic than the rest of Central America and possibly even the rest of Latin America. We're going to compare the goodness of a democratic government with the dangers that war or a dictatorship bring. I think that will be this government's best historic contribution to the country.