After Esquipulas II and Sapoá: What Happens Next?
Two events occurred in the first week of August that, without exaggeration, can be termed historical. They are easily as important as were Esquipulas II and Sapoá.
One was a dialogue between the Nicaraguan government and the 21 political parties in Managua on August 3, and the other was a meeting of the five Central American presidents in Tela, Honduras, on August 5 to 7. The accords coming out of both, which caught the rightwing forces in Nicaragua, the rest of Central America and the United States off guard, advanced the peace process more in four days than had been accomplished in the previous six months.
AmbitionsOn January 20, 1989, President George Bush inherited the contra war designed and implemented by the Reagan government over the course of eight years. It was a problematic inheritance. Since 1985, the armed counterrevolution had been in a strategic decline from which it has never been able to recover. So many years of military spending and political cost forced Bush to seriously reconsider how to respond to this legacy from the man he had accompanied as vice president.
Three paths were open to Bush: trash the contras and supplant them with US troops (direct intervention), continue using the contras (low intensity warfare) or negotiate with the Sandinistas (negotiated political solution). Political realism dictated that the third route would be the most advantageous for the administration, but it was not the one chosen. Once more ideology prevailed over pragmatism.
After two months of relative silence, it had become clear that Bush had decided not to renounce his inheritance. He chose to maintain the contras in their Honduran camps with plenty of "humanitarian" aid, preserving the possibility of continuing military actions after the elections. Although the Bipartisan Accord of March 24, 1989, gave the appearance of opening the door to a political solution, the ambiguity of the compromise text clearly implied the possibility of continuing the now famous low-intensity war. Meanwhile, he would play "dirty politics" in the elections themselves. One way or another, the Bush Administration intended to pursue its hardly secret ambition: bring down the Sandinistas and put an end to the Nicaraguan revolution.
Evidence of his choice mounted over the months. Bush rejected bilateral dialogue with Nicaragua, even though requested with Cardinal Obando's mediation, got millions of dollars approved to support Nicaragua’s ultra-right parties and pressured Congress to condemn the electoral and media laws approved by Nicaragua's National Assembly* and give the CIA a green light for covert actions in the electoral process—the former approved and the latter still pending. To all of this must be added the presence of more than 3,000 contras in Nicaraguan territory carrying out military actions, terrorist attacks against civilians, economic sabotage and political propaganda against the elections (see "In Brief" for summary of contra actions in July).
*This month the United Nations made public its report on the Electoral and Media laws. They evaluate the laws as "correct and adjusted to the norms of democracy" and that "in terms of legislative standards for western democracies, Nicaragua’s electoral legislation has no strange or peculiar elements."
By the eve of the two meetings in early August, then, everything indicated that the US option was to prolong the conflict—politically by supporting the ultra-right parties, and militarily by mobilizing a section of the contras within Nicaragua and keeping the larger group on reserve in Honduras.
Nicaragua's ambitionsIn open conflict with this, the Nicaraguan option has been to promote an end to the intervention phase and find a political solution that would permit it to continue developing its revolutionary project. The best way to do that is through free and honest elections, which the FSLN feels confident of winning.
To promote both the image and the reality of a pluralistic and honest electoral process, the government is relying on a large number of independent observers. It has already invited the United Nations and the Organization of American States, whose delegations will witness the process from its initial phases until election day.*
*The invitation to the UN and the OAS was agreed to at the Costa del Sol summit meeting in February. This month the government and the opposition also agreed to invite the Center for Democracy, made up of Democrats and Republicans and headed by Allen Weinstein. The Center will send 20 observers. The UN will have 20 permanent observers beginning in August, will send 20 more in December and 120 more for election day. The OAS will have 18 permanent observers beginning in August and hopes to send 200 more between now and the elections.
The domestic and international legitimation of a clean and clear FSLN electoral victory would deepen the contradictions of Bush's attempts to balance the ultra-right Republicans and the liberal Democrats. It would also increase the possibilities of a negotiated settlement between the United States and Nicaragua.
In our July analysis, we noted that the Nicaraguan government, if prevented from carrying out elections because of the acute economic crisis and the US political aggression, would be faced with two options. The more radical option would imply establishing a war economy, and therefore closing political spaces with a State of Emergency. The other option would be to make the current system stricter, dealing severely with those producers who boycott the economic concertation and promote US strategy. There would be an action-reaction process that, by applying current laws, would end by forcing the ultra-right parties to follow a destabilizing strategy out of the political arena.
At the end of July, everything indicated that the government had chosen to avoid both crisis options for the cleanest possible elections at all cost. That determination, in turn, led to the Managua National Dialogue and the accords in Tela, Honduras. While the other two options cannot yet be discarded, the Managua and Tela accords strengthened, perhaps decisively, the option to hold the elections, thus bankrupting the Reagan legacy.
The tenth anniversary: Rebuilding relationshipsWith its hope reawakened in a revolution that has had to postpone its dreams of a faster and more profound social transformation, Managua readied itself for the celebration. Being the tenth anniversary made it particularly special, as did the fact that it was coming at a complex political moment. More than 300,000 people went to the lakeside plaza, singing songs from the insurrection and reaffirming their support for the revolution. In the midst of the economic crisis, and so soon after the June devaluation, the size of the crowd (one quarter of Managua) and its clear enthusiasm was an indisputable political victory.
The celebration in Managua was preceded by intense preparation in which the FSLN de facto began its electoral campaign. The Sandinistas took advantage of the anniversary to rebuild their relationship with the popular sectors, those hardest hit by the economic crisis. This rebuilding took two forms: house-to-house visits and support for concrete solutions to problems.
FSLN activists visited almost 100,000 Managua families in their homes, asking for and taking careful note of the criticisms people had of the revolution, its structures and its leaders. They also listened to their proposed solutions and demands.
Meetings of high-level revolutionary leaders with various productive and other segments of the population increased as well, and have continued after the anniversary. The objective is to find ways of offering at least partial solutions to their most urgent socioeconomic demands. The economic logic of the concertation plan, up to now applied across the board, began to be administered with political flexibility. Without abandoning the plan's logic, the new flexibility permitted more benefit to those who up to now have had to tighten their belts the most and have been least helped by the concertation. Although these adjustments may delay the strategic economic reactivation aspect of the plan, they will help alleviate the politically destabilizing potential of the crisis during the campaign period.
There were meetings with transport drivers to offer them, among other things, better credit and a reduction in taxes for buying vehicles. Meetings with small and medium coffee growers worked out mechanisms to facilitate the purchase of vehicles for the latter and to pay the former the money still owed them more rapidly. Cattle farmers in Region V, too, were guaranteed better access to vehicles. The government also gave land and property titles to many people in Managua and other cities whose ownership had never been legalized. With others, outstanding debts on their homes were forgiven.
While the government was offering all these material benefits, it also gave moral recognition—medals and diplomas in public meetings—to all those "who with their actions made it possible to celebrate the tenth anniversary."
For austerity reasons, there was no formal mobilization from the regions. Only two delegations, from Masaya and León, came from outside Managua, and they walked in the night before. Most of the people at the celebration were from Managua, which has felt the economic crisis most bitterly.
It was a sunny day in the midst of rainy days. Ortega's speech was moderate and conciliatory in the midst of an unsure political situation. The heart of his message was that one must be willing to negotiate in order to carry out elections in peace. The President made a three-pronged call for dialogue. First, even though the Tela meeting did not yet have a date, he called on the Central American Presidents to demand together—“not ask, but rather demand”—that the US government "respect the Central American Presidents' accords, and that if we want to get rid of the contras, you let us get rid of them and not continue pressuring...."
Second, he called for dialogue with the political parties, to assure pluralism in the elections. The President asked the parties to take a "responsible position" and urged them to take advantage of the "opportunity to participate consistently in the electoral process."
Finally, for yet another time Ortega called on the United States to dialogue: "It won't affect the United States if they dialogue with Nicaragua. How could it affect them? The gesture would actually help them. So what are they waiting for?"
A lot was riding on the results from these three dialogues, not the least of which could be a lessening of intensity in the US-Nicaragua conflict. Only two weeks later, the dialogue with the parties and with the Central American Presidents concluded with such positive results that one began to look toward those "better days" proclaimed in the songs sung for the tenth anniversary. Only the United States remained mute.
Dialogue with the parties:From 9:30 am on Thursday, August 3, to 8 am on Friday, August 4, representatives from the 21 political parties—including the FSLN itself—met in Managua with President Daniel Ortega to work out regulatory laws for the elections (see Election Watch, this issue). Agreement did not come easily given the current political situation and the heterogeneity and fragmentation of the parties.
23 hours of debate
Those divisions, though many, are crucial in interpreting the dialogue, and are best understood when divided in three blocs:
The far right bloc. It has espoused the US policy line for the last ten years. Closely associated with the business association COSEP, the older parties in it abstained from the 1984 elections as the Democratic Coordinadora. Today they have joined with other parties of contradictory ideologies, making a fragile alliance known as UNO (National Opposition Union).
The far left bloc. It is made up of three small parties: Popular Action Movement, the Revolutionary Workers' Party and the Revolutionary Unity Movement. The last two were not legalized in the 1984 election, and the three are not a formal electoral alliance. This bloc calls on the FSLN to radicalize its policies.
The center bloc. Also not a formal alliance, it includes parties from three important political currents: the PCD (Conservatives) of Clemente Guido, which won second place in 1984; the PLIUN (Liberals), a split from the PLI, which won third place; and the PSC (Social Christians) of Erick Ramírez, which abstained in 1984 as a member of the Coordinadora.
None of the three blocs have yet formalized an alliance with programs or electoral candidates, thus making dialogue more difficult. The contradictions within each of the three blocs are most apparent in the UNO. On July 26 12 twelve parties of the UNO met behind closed doors to discuss a six-point agenda, a meeting their de facto spokesperson, La Prensa, called "crucial." They planned to discuss how to legitimize UNO as an alliance, the criteria for choosing candidates and the conformation of a government plan. Although it was "crucial" for the 12 parties to be unified for the National Dialogue, they could not agree on any of the points and scheduled another meeting for late August, close to the date when presidential candidates must be announced.
Unfounded assumptions of a "Sandinista show" To better understand the unexpected positive results of the dialogue, it helps to look at the assumptions of the different blocs. La Prensa predicted and the far-right parties expected a "Sandinista show" empty of content. "The major part of the program," La Prensa confidently asserted in its July 29 edition, "will be taken up by the speeches of Ortega and [Supreme Electoral Council president Mariano] Fiallos; that is, the opposition parties that go will do so more to listen than to demand. Then there will be a few minutes for the opposition's claims, which will certainly be ignored. It has all been prepared as one more propaganda event, the maximum that Ortega has dreamt up on the electoral issue." On its editorial page of July 27, La Prensa added that "the Sandinistas are trying to distract the Central American Presidents' attention and force them to focus only on what interests the Sandinistas: demobilization of the Nicaraguan Resistance." Given this prejudgment, the far right parties went to the dialogue with a strategy intended to unveil the “show.”
The centrist parties, interested in participating in the elections and not boycotting them, wanted to deepen the discussion about the electoral regulations. They hope the laws will give them maximum electoral guarantees.
The far left parties wanted to use the dialogue as a forum to challenge what they consider FSLN "concessions," denounce the far Right, condemn imperialism, defend the revolution and point out what they consider anti-popular aspects of the economic concertation.
The FSLN, the governing party, in fact went to the dialogue willing to be flexible with all the regulations of the electoral and media laws, as well as the military service law, with the goal of guaranteeing the electoral process. It went planning to negotiate, no matter how difficult that would be. The government did not put on the "show" that the far right expected. Rather it invited the UN, the OAS and the Center for Democracy to witness the meeting. By broadcasting the 23 hours of debate on The Voice of Nicaragua, as well as on short wave, the government also invited the whole country and listeners abroad to be witness.
In his short, incisive introductory remarks, the President said that they would not leave the meeting without achieving consensus and accords to guarantee conditions for the elections. Indeed, without leaving the Olof Palme, the politicians lunched, dined and had breakfast the following day until the accords for electoral regulations were signed. And more important, they met until all the parties signed two crucial calls: one to the Central American Presidents to approve a demobilization plan for the contras, and the other to "governments with interests in the region" not to interfere in Nicaragua’s elections. (Although there was no consensus to name the United States and the CIA, the reference was clear.)
Why did the far Right sign?The most surprising part of the National Dialogue accords is that they were obtained. The far right strategy has explicitly been to refuse any agreements with the government in order to delegitimize and boycott elections they know they will lose. Why did UNO sign the accord? Various factors appear to have converged:
* The lack of internal unity. The alliance has been more publicized than politically consolidated.
* The earlier, mistaken, analysis they themselves had made about the development of the dialogue and the political will of the FSLN and other political parties (UNO consciously considers itself the "only opposition" and thus never takes the other eight parties into consideration).
* The presence of qualified witnesses, as well as the whole country, forced them to argue their positions, thus revealing the incoherence of many of them. They were also forced to argue with other opposition opinions, leading them into a real pragmatic, not ideological, debate, in which their simplistic formulas had no place. Since no common criteria exist beneath those formulas, the UNO parties were put at a disadvantage.
Nonetheless, UNO's signing surprised everyone. UNO itself, which had confidently sent five representatives to "attend the show," received an extensive document from them that, in its sum, legitimized the elections.
UNO's press statement on August 5 reflects the tendency to continue moving toward extremist positions. Although forced to accept the commitments taken on by its five delegates, they emphasized their remaining demands, among them a private television station and the restructuring of the Supreme Electoral Council, which has already been functioning for two months. The call for demobilization of the contras appears to have affected them most. "It is clear," says UNO in its press release, "that demobilization of the Resistance cannot be an isolated measure, but rather has to be accompanied simultaneously by the drastic cutting back of the Sandinista army and a demilitarization of state institutions and party organizations. Only then will there be authentic democracy."
This was a logical reaction, especially considering that less than a month ago a UNO delegation had signed a joint agreement with the contras in which the latter agreed to "negotiate their demobilization" if the Nicaraguan government "satisfied the UNO demands." Implicitly, the reference was to the kind of demands put forward in the recent “Blue and White Plan” which, if accepted, would result in the dismantling of the revolution with no vote. Assuring a vicious circle that would terminate in a boycott (demobilization only with the revolution's suicide), UNO, in that joint agreement, undersigned the contras' survival as "guarantors of democracy in Nicaragua."
A balance sheet on the National Dialogue:First, the ability to achieve results demonstrates the political maturity of the FSLN and many Nicaraguan parties, which may be the best tool to end the Bush Administration's military option. The Right climbed on the bandwagon because in 23 hours they were unable to come up with a common position to maintain their boycotting strategy.
What can we say about this historic dialogue?
Second, the FSLN won because its option of carrying out elections to end the war without changing the current political and economic model succeeded. The center bloc won because a climate of peace—demobilization of the contras and the absence of covert CIA actions that would help UNO—favors it. The parties in it hope that with a clean election they can gain more political power than they currently have. The Left won as well, given the chance to clearly delineate their positions.
Third, it can be said that the far Right did not win, because the United States did not win. The results of the dialogue significantly frustrate the US strategy.
The results of the National Dialogue were not what the United States wanted. The agreement did not result from a change in US policy or from any autonomy of the far Right from that policy. It resulted from a series of factors that led the contradictory UNO alliance to sign accords that go against the basic strategy in place since Reagan left power.
The Managua accords of this August 1989 resemble those of Sapoá in March 1988, when the counterrevolution lost its center and, divided and surprised, signed an accord that went against its own political interests. A political surprise of such magnitude had to find an immediate echo in the summit at Tela, Honduras.
Is dialogue with the Presidents the end of the counterrevolution?If it was difficult to reach agreement between the Nicaraguan government and the political parties, it was no less difficult to achieve an accord that would advance the peace process at the fifth Central American Presidents' summit. This meeting—after almost three months of postponements—was to take place in Tela, Honduras, on the second anniversary of Esquipulas II.
The Presidents who met at Esquipulas V were not the same as two years ago. With elections approaching in Costa Rica, Arias appeared weakened by an increasingly complex economic crisis and by stains on his Nobel Peace Prize resulting from evidence that he reached the presidency through a campaign financed by international drug traffickers. Cerezo was also at the lowest point of his popularity both domestically and internationally, boxed in by the ultra-right forces in Guatemala and by growing demands of various social sectors. The traditional dependence of the Honduran government on US aid has increased over the last two years, given its sharpening economic crisis. Finally, Duarte had been replaced by the rightwing Cristiani in El Salvador. For the first time ARENA, the party of the death squads, appeared in the Esquipulas scenario.
Cristiani's presence was an important change; it could have been predicted that his demands would create problems. And they did. Since the last preparatory meeting of the foreign ministers, the Salvadoran government had been pushing its "symmetry theory"—an old tool of the Reagan Administration—trying to make the FMLN appear as a carbon copy of the contras in order to apply the same formula to both armed groups. The symmetry theory ignores the profound differences in their origin, their logistical bases, their social base and their goals.
The other obstacle to successful negotiations was that, leading up to the summit, the Central American governments, especially Oscar Arias, continued to criticize Nicaragua and to demand "democratization." On July 31, according to La Prensa, Arias called the upcoming National Dialogue "another of Ortega's games," claiming that "the proposed conditions [for the dialogue] do not show a willingness to generate important agreements." Arias thus joined the Nicaraguan rightwing in only expecting a "show."
With the Central American governments vulnerable to US pressures and Cristiani and Arias waving their banners of symmetry and democratization, easy results could not be expected from the presidential summit.
Then, on August 3 and 4 the two banners began to droop. The agreement signed in Managua took the air out of Arias' "democratization" argument. At the same time, in 20 hours of tense meetings in Guatemala, the five foreign ministers prepared the agenda and decided—against the Salvadoran foreign minister’s wishes—that symmetry would not be on the summit agenda.
The first point on that agenda was the contra demobilization plan, which had been approved in principle at Esquipulas IV in February and concretely outlined in a first draft by the foreign ministers in May. To be implemented, it was still awaiting the final draft and presidential signatures. It was a delicate issue because the US government had decided with the Bipartisan Accord to keep the contras alive through February 1990. If Bush did not want to disown Reagan's legacy, the Central American Presidents did not feel they should override that decision.
US drives point homeThe US government sent a letter to its four Central American allies proposing a slogan to be defended at Tela: "Democratization before Demobilization." But the agreements from the National Dialogue in Managua expressing a national consensus on democratization and establishing a legal framework for the elections left the slogan without content. If they had already agreed about democratization, the time had then come for demobilization.
The United States then began to pressure the Central Americans in other ways. Only four hours after the signing of the National Dialogue agreement, Bush received a personal visit from Enrique Bermúdez and other contra military leaders to give them just one message: "We will continue supporting you." To make sure that the Central Americans understood the message, the US government publicized the picture of the meeting widely, especially in the Central American media. Bush—in the middle of the hostage crisis in Lebanon—also called the Presidents as well as pressuring in other ways. For example, $70 million of a $139 million loan to Honduras was frozen.
The summit The summit began on the afternoon of August 5, and lasted until the afternoon of the 7th. the US continued pressuring throughout the two days. Secretary of State James Baker spoke to Arias on the phone for an hour, pushing to prevent contra demobilizations.
Not all the pressures in the meeting were inspired by the US. Tensions were especially high between Honduras and Nicaragua because of the Nicaraguan case against Honduras in the International Court of Justice. Honduras benefited from a 1960 World Court ruling ceding it territory from Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast. It wants to retain that good standing with the court given its current case demanding more water rights in the Gulf of Fonseca. Unlike the powerful United States, Honduras cannot afford to accept the court's jurisdiction one day and thumb its nose at it the next. Despite all these pressures, the theme of democracy in Nicaragua was not even mentioned for the first time in the five summit meetings of the Esquipulas peace process. The Managua agreement had gone a long way.
With respect to El Salvador, Cristiani was left isolated, clamoring for symmetry. Not one President supported his petition. Although the ARENA government received recognition for democratic values it does not have, the FMLN succeeded in having a call for "constructive dialogue" between the government and the FMLN to bring an end to the war included in the contra demobilization document. The Salvadoran revolutionaries have been demanding this dialogue for years; that demand now has the support of the Central American Presidents as well as international recognition.
Since ARENA's strategy is neither to dialogue nor negotiate with the FMLN, the Esquipulas V accords not only broaden the path toward a negotiated political solution, but could also limit the influence of the far right sector within ARENA in the short term. This sector wants to end the war through "total war" and institutionalizing a system that closes the doors to political opposition.
By representing a new and important blow to US hegemony in the region, the Tela accords are historic. The fact that Honduras and Costa Rica are entering an electoral period meant that the two Presidents were more interested in improving their public image than they had been previously. Signing significant accords could help them. This was Cerezo's strategy as well, even without elections in sight. An improved image would increase his maneuvering power at home.
At a deeper level, the leadership in Honduras, in which the military exercises total hegemony, has been witness to the contras' military debacle for years. The military has now apparently concluded that separating itself from the contras does not necessarily imply losing the US aid that has freely flowed into the country in the form of credit, military supplies, trainings, etc. On the contrary, it is gambling that it can benefit more directly by being a better and more stable wall against "Sandinista communism" than the contras themselves. By offering itself to the United Sates as the guarantor of regional stability they hope to assure both a high level of military assistance and sufficient economic aid to maintain social order in the country. It is a more realistic, more strategic and more favorable plan than the war that Reagan imposed on them. "With the military option closed, the US will have to understand that we are the best option to prevent Sandinista expansion," a Honduran military leader told a journalist at the summit.
When Arias was still a candidate for President, he espoused the same policy. Costa Rica can argue for a significant flow of dollars following the logic that the United States could not afford to permit Costa Rica to become unstable for economic reasons as long as its neighbor is revolutionary Nicaragua. The Honduran military has adopted that logic, and this too influenced the signing at Tela.
The results of "Esquipulas V" have made the specter of war recede and have thrown US policy into a flap. None of the carefully detailed aspects of the demobilization plan leave room for arbitrary interpretation. Contra demobilization—which should be completed by early December—will be aided by an International Support and Verification Commission (CIAV) made up of the OAS and the UN that is to be formed by the first week of September. Honduras, too, is obliged to fulfill its part. Esquipulas V thus marks the end of the contra project. The contras, who have not been a serious military threat since 1985, will now pass from being a political problem to becoming a police problem, since some will probably continue as roving bands in isolated zones of Nicaragua.
On his return to Nicaragua a few hours after the signing, President Daniel Ortega jubilantly announced the results. "We are on the threshold of peace," he said. Based on the new situation,he once again called on the United States for bilateral dialogue. This dialogue, which would be the most decisive step toward peace, continues today to be the most difficult to achieve.
Dialogue with the United States:On many occasions, Nicaragua called for bilateral talks with the Reagan government, but received as reply only war and silence. When Bush took over the presidency, the first request that Nicaragua made was through the mediation of Cardinal Obando. Bush foreclosed the option by setting preconditions to the talks from which even Obando recoiled.
Will the Democrats take the floor?
On July 19, President Ortega repeated the call to the United States. On his return to Managua, with two new aces in his hand, Ortega repeated his call once more.
There are many barriers to having the dialogue before the Nicaraguan elections. Nonetheless, and much as in 1987 after the Esquipulas II accords, which were also a disconcerting surprise for the US administration, there may be a renewal of the indirect dialogue, in which the liberal Democrats play the role in favor of negotiation and normalization of relations between the two countries. The fact that there is less unity in the Bush administration on the subject of Nicaragua then there was in Reagan's could encourage this tendency.
In 1987, it was Democrat Jim Wright, Speaker of the House, who carried forward the dialogue between the Nicaraguan government, the Democrats and—through he Democrats—the Republicans. The results advanced the peace process. But that dialogue was buried as much by Democrats as by Republicans when they signed the Bipartisan Accord and brought peace to a Congress severely polarized over Nicaragua. Now, without violating the ambiguous and elastic margins of this accord, the Democrats could find in Tela the way to work toward a change in policy toward Nicaragua, leaving behind the war option: the accord specifies that "humanitarian aid" may be used for repatriation and relocation of the contras.
Even before the Tela summit, there were symptoms that Congressional Democrats were taking action. Eighty-three congresspeople wrote to Secretary of State James Baker denouncing in detail contra actions from April 13 to June 18, despite the freezing of military aid. They demand an investigation, and if the information is verified, will demand that even the humanitarian aid to the contras be suspended.
Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd was very active in this initiative. In July, he traveled throughout Central America to hear the opinions of various social sectors, and more recently sent personal representatives to Tela. He also wrote to Baker protesting the pressure put on Azcona by freezing $70 million in aid.
The possibility of reopening the indirect three-way dialogue is still very tentative. But the two great advances in early August could initiate its development. To avoid exaggerated optimism, one must not forget that if Bush does not want to fight with Congress, neither does Congress want to fight with Bush. But it is not an exaggeration to claim that, in terms of the contra war, the Bush government today is more isolated than ever. The demobilization plan is too concrete and specific to be easily blocked or reinterpreted to benefit the reactionary interests in the US government. The efforts he will surely make to break the isolation, even if they achieve some immediate results, will do little to slow the closing of the military option.
When considering the most pragmatic position that the United States could take on, it is necessary to evaluate the possible influence of the Soviet position on Nicaragua. Soviet policy today favors negotiated political solutions. Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, commenting on the Tela accords, reaffirmed Soviet support for Nicaragua and clarified that they decided to stop sending arms in consultation with Nicaragua. The USSR opinion, as delineated by Shevardnadze, is as follows:
"The five Central American Presidents have clearly demonstrated their understanding of their region's problems, identifying them with wisdom, audacity and realism. They have found a meeting of interests and a way to resolve their mutual problems ... In my opinion, the Tela accords permit the possibility of fully approaching the solution to a problem with the cessation of military supplies to the region. In this case, it is fundamental that the Soviet Union and the United States promise to stop these supplies. I want to remind you that, given a relaxing of the tense military and political situation in Central America, and after consulting with the Nicaraguan leadership, the Soviet Union ended its commitment to sell arms some time ago. We have taken note of the five Presidents' trust in the OAS and UN collaboration and our position will be one of support for the UN's participation in the Tela accords.... Without exaggerating, I can say that the Nicaraguan government has strictly complied with its commitments to democratization from the Guatemala and El Salvador accords. They have the political will and a strong interest in restoring peace.... We would hope that Washington, too, could demonstrate such commitment and renounce force, using political and diplomatic actions instead. The normalization of relations between the United States and Nicaragua would have positive effects. The first step would be the opening of direct dialogue between the two countries. We are addressing this in our contacts with representatives of the US administration...."
Given the possible difficulties in a dialogue with the United States, the accords with the political parties and those with the region's presidents have at least pushed back the war, advanced peace and smoothed the road to the elections. Managua and Tela are two sides of the same coin. Both documents have effectively neutralized the two groups most opposed to the electoral process and to peace: the United States and the ultraright internal opposition inside Nicaragua.
As we mentioned at the beginning, Nicaragua and the United States each have three options. Of those, the only two that converge area search for peace through bilateral negotiations and a fair and open electoral process inside Nicaragua. While Nicaragua has already taken that option willingly, the US is being slowly backed into it. It remains to be seen how long Bush intends to keep playing the bully on the block after everybody else has gone home.