Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 125 | Diciembre 1991



Immovable Object Meets Irresistible Force

Envío team

In a political variant of the old song recalled in the title, pressing immediate issues crossed paths with structural limitations in October to throw Nicaragua into crisis once again.

The post-election political scenario, administered from above by the executive branch of the government and from below by Sandinismo, is neither revolutionary enough to satisfy the Left nor counterrevolutionary enough to appease the Right. Frustrated by this lack of definition, both are squeezing the already limited space open to the executive branch.

The extreme Right's frustration is increasingly provocative and dangerous, thus forcing the government to deal with it more directly. Popular demands, in turn, have taken on a desperate tinge, expressed in growing social decomposition and a disrespect for authority that has already extended beyond the government to include the army and the police. If this were not enough to keep the government off balance, it is also under pressure from national and international capital, and, finally, from public revelations of illegal dealings by UNO politicians, both during the electoral campaign and now. The latter has unleashed new power struggles within the UNO ruling elite.


Many see the government's economic policy and the social insensitivity it implies as incompatible with authentic democracy, but the business interests represented in such bodies as COSEP, the private business association, see no contradiction whatever. Praising the government's pro-business policies, COSEP president Ramiro Gurdián urged it to continue with its policy because "entrepreneurs like to make money, and to that end whatever jeopardizes proprietorship, such as supernumeraries, should be eliminated."

One growing complication with Nicaragua's new "democracy" is that UNO government officials like to make money too. Ever since the change of government, the Sandinista media have revealed episode after episode of corruption, illegal negotiations and abuses of power by government members. The accusations, particularly numerous in recent weeks, cannot be shrugged off as "Sandinista propaganda," however, since many of them are accompanied by detailed documentation and originate from Western countries, church authorities, private entrepreneurs hurt by what they call "unfair competition" and even La Prensa. These irregularities are the product of struggles within the government for control of the resources entering the country, a source of both economic and political power.

National Comptroller Guillermo Putoy (also a leader of National Assembly president Alfredo César's Social Democratic Party) told a National Assembly commission that he is investigating over 60 state enterprises whose officials have been accused of "serious abuses." He added that no government official has yet made the declaration of personal holdings required by law and issued an ultimatum that they do so forthwith. Putoy said his institution needs a $3 million budget to carry out its functions since the number of charges exceeds its current investigative capacity.

In September and October, the following shady deals came to light:

- Top officials of ministries and state enterprises are reported to be receiving extremely high salaries, paid in dollars through secret payrolls. This supposedly has "legal justification" in AID financing to reverse the "brain drain."

- Bidding for the manufacture of license plates and printing of new passports and postage stamps was barely publicized and the awards were given to firms whose owners or representatives are linked to high government officials.

- Bidding for the sale of the most profitable state enterprises was similarly "semi-clandestine" or declared without competition to benefit certain economic groups close to the government. Other capitalist consortiums with less effective connections backed these accusations with their own complaints.

- Italian media reported that the Rome police had intercepted National Assembly representatives from Vice President Godoy's Independent Liberal Party and César's Social Democratic Party, together with the governor of the South Atlantic Autonomous Region, also a member of César's party, just as they were about to sign a supposed $2 billion long-term, interest-free loan to the national and regional governments from an international swindler known to the financial world. All he asked was a 19% finders fee—up front.

- Vans of contraband ranging from chicken to watches to Coca Cola were discovered in a customs warehouse. The bounty was for family members and friends of high-level Managua officials, including Cabinet members.

- It is commonly rumored that the political fight between César and Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo has an economic counterpart in a fight between their respective financial groups over purchase of a state fishing enterprise in the Atlantic Coast with significant earnings potential.

- A series of irregularities in the state airline Aeronica came to light, ranging from exoneration of charges for passengers recommended by the management and Cabinet members all the way to free freight for the merchandise imports of new Managua stores owned by influential government authorities or their friends. Providing no supporting evidence, the editor of La Prensa even accused Antonio Lacayo of profiting from Aeronica. La Prensa's major stockholder is President Chamorro, and her daughter Cristiana, Lacayo's wife, is the current director; the editor, however, adheres to the extremist line reflected in the paper. Cristiana retaliated by censoring the article and using the newspaper to try to restore her husband's image by offering proof of other abuses in Aeronica. (It is speculated that this case may be an effort to ruin the airline financially to justify and cheapen its later privatization, and that the struggle for its control, which would bring significant earnings and power, is again between the Lacayo and César groups.)

- In the recently created Producers' Bank, five of the nine board members are public officials and its stockholders include Nicaraguan ministers, vice ministers and ambassadors, as well as individuals with a pipeline to government activities, among them several who are quite close to Lacayo.

- The unions in the state grain agency ENABAS accused its director of buying grains at high prices (including rice rejected as unsanitary by the Haitian government), ignoring established procedures and specialists' recommendations. ENABAS accountants also presented evidence of binding contracts that the director signed with foreign supply companies in which government authorities have interests.

The list is long and an ongoing topic of conversation. Even the Church and the Managua diplomatic corps are among those commenting on the shocking and continuous blurring of lines between public and private interests, a blurring in which the new politicians continue looking mainly after their old private business interests and, from their new public posts, open profitable new ones. Taking the moral high ground, Lacayo announced that " heads will roll" of any officials proven to have committed acts of corruption.

A Legitimacy Crisis

The electoral majority and accompanying legitimacy won by President Chamorro in the elections had two sources. One was her constant campaign pledge to bring peace, a projection that her advisers have tried to maintain in her public presentations by avoiding issues of daily politicking. The other was the recognition in Nicaragua and the rest of the world that the electoral process was clean and aboveboard.

The FSLN leadership, however, had to convince party members and sympathizers that the new government merited their recognition and respect. It argued that the revolution organized the elections, which the UNO freely won, and that Antonio Lacayo had firmly expressed his commitment to the Constitution and the March 1990 Transition Protocol, which presupposed respect for the popular organizations and interests promoted by Sandinismo.

For some months now, the executive branch's unwillingness or inability to comply with its political commitments have been undermining the FSLN's willingness and ability to continue respecting its legitimacy. The contradiction between the government's two faces—economic authoritarianism and democratic formalism—has become more evident by the day. And the growing differences among the armed forces, the FSLN and even the popular movements with respect to the policy and nature of the government can no longer be hidden. Open criticisms of the army for its lack of a clear response to the ”recontras” and of the police for constant and excessive use of force toward workers can be found in all Sandinista media, from the most radical to the most moderate.

In this convulsive context, the October 21 edition of Newsweek threw fuel on the fire of the government's legitimacy crisis by confirming that the CIA had channeled funds to the campaign of some UNO politicians; the finger pointed mainly to Alfredo César, who headed the "civilian" contra coalition in Costa Rica called Southern Opposition Bloc before the elections. The news was not the fact of the money itself—taken for granted in Nicaragua since the campaign—but in the confirmation by US sources of César's adherence to CIA orientations.

César does not deny having received the funds, but insists that he did not violate the Electoral Law since the money was used for repatriation expenses and not for the President's campaign. In a later press conference demanded by the UNO parties, he responded to a question about why the story might have been published now by suggesting that the FSLN has "friends" in Newsweek. This caused numerous smiles among the foreign correspondents present.

While César's was the only name mentioned in the article, the main political blow fell on the President and Antonio Lacayo, then her campaign chief. Lacayo vehemently denies having received "even a cent" of the $600,000 that the CIA forwarded to contras exiled in Miami to return to Nicaragua and organize UNO's electoral campaign.

Media close to UNO as well as some of the coalition's own politicians publicly surmised who had received the money and where it ended up. This unleashed a series of accusations and counter-accusations, once again revealing the nature of this political coalition. In fact, the US Congress' General Accounting Office reported that serious "irregularities" had also been committed with legal funds for election activity assigned by Congress to supposedly nonpartisan bodies; some of these funds were used for campaign expenses that violated Nicaragua's Electoral Law. César's name also showed up in this scandal, alongside several other top government officials. The FSLN demanded that the Supreme Electoral Council carry out an urgent investigation, and Daniel Ortega said that if the Newsweek revelations proved accurate, the elections would have to be considered fraudulent.

Fiscal Health vs. People's Health

An internal World Bank document, revealed by Sandinista media at the beginning of October, insists that the privatization process be pushed forward as rapidly as possible. It also urges the government to rigorously control state spending and restrict investment as much as possible (even though new foreign loans are expected by the end of the year). Put another way, the World Bank recommends increasing unemployment and reducing social service spending even more drastically than they have been in the past 18 months. The unemployment rate, according to the Ministry of Labor's own data, is already 58% of the economically active population. That translates in human terms to nearly 800,000 Nicaraguans unemployed or, at best, underemployed in the deteriorated informal economy.

Other data corroborated the leaks about new budget cuts demanded by the World Bank. It is expected, for example, that the cholera epidemic advancing through the region will enter Nicaragua very soon; recent outbreaks of the dreaded disease in Honduran communities less than 50 miles from the border led Nicaragua's Ministry of Health to decree a state of maximum alert in the country. The health minister declared that $6 million would be needed to effectively combat the impending epidemic but that such funds are unavailable.

Another dramatic index is the growing number of deaths due to the public hospitals' resigned indifference or anguished inability to treat seriously ill patients. The hospitals lack sufficient personnel or even basic medicines and equipment such as syringes, sutures, gauze and anesthesia. Such patients return home to die if they still have the strength and the means; if not, they die on gurneys in the hospital corridors. Ministry of Health officials deny none of this, but say there is nothing they can do given the drastic budget cuts.

The World Bank report, in contrast, callously argues that the problem is Nicaragua's "policy of not charging for services and medications, which has led to over-utilization and excessive demand on both equipment and medications." It insists that the Ministry of Health's "large increase in ordinary expenses must be analyzed and a system of user charges should be implemented in the hospitals." It is not at all evident what increase the report refers to, much less where it is being spent.

In its recommendations, the World Bank also proposes what amounts to a weakening of higher education—always a bastion of Sandinista activism—by giving priority to primary and preschool education "without increasing the general disbursement level." It recommends "designing user costs" so as to "recover" the expenses in other areas, and "increasing class size since that way fewer teachers and schools will be needed."

The dramatic poverty of most Nicaraguans simply does not figure in the international bankers' calculations. Nor has it caused government technocrats to lose any sleep; they are following the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the US Agency for International Development (AID) recommendations to the letter—at least as far as Sandinismo permits.

Around the same time this report was made public, the government announced that the health and education budgets will not increase in 1992, despite expected new foreign assistance. The neoliberal economic philosophy is that "financial health," by extirpating the "disease" of inflation, is far more important than "nonproductive" social spending, which naturally includes that dedicated to people's health.

The government's social insensitivity has spread the protest to sectors that can hardly be labeled Sandinista. From his pulpit, for example, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo laments the "starvation wages," unemployment and growing symptoms of social unraveling such as rape, child abuse, armed robbery, murders and rural and urban crime. He has urged, as has the FSLN, that health and public education budgets be increased for 1991.

The Union Movement

These signs of social discontent are multiplying in all sectors, and becoming increasingly acute. One among many issues causing it is the still undefined property issue. In early October, the FSLN and the extreme Right succeeded in neutralizing each other's proposals. Under threat of a presidential veto, Assembly president Alfredo César was forced to withdraw his bill on confiscations; the FSLN, in turn, had to agree to join a new tripartite commission (UNO-government-FSLN), in which the property stipulations in the Concertation Accords of August would inevitably be rolled back.

But, as before, the government did not emerge the undisputed winner in this new round of the property fight. The seeming new understanding between Lacayo and César, each of whom was maneuvering to mute the criticisms directed at him, discomfited both the Sandinistas and the rightwingers in the UNO bench of the Assembly. César was scourged for abandoning his bill and thus ultraright's interests, and Lacayo for turning his back on the concertation and thus on Sandinista interests. Although the creation of the tripartite commission led top levels of the government to believe a "solution" was just around the corner, it is not really so simple. UNO political party chiefs warn that they will allow no alteration of the property bill to change their basic objective of reversing the "Sandinista piñata," while the social movements warn that the Concertation Accords cannot be tampered with either.

In the countryside and urban neighborhoods, events have not waited for the politicians. A number of big landlords—including some affected due to their close ties to the Somoza family and others already legally compensated—continue insisting, sometimes violently, that peasants and urban settlers return their old properties. They are encouraged in their use of force by the indulgence of the government—and at times of the police itself—even when the law does not permit the property's return.

A new round of labor upheaval is also approaching, centered on worker demands that the minimum wage be revised, unionists jailed by the police be freed, arbitrary firings end and the concertation agreement be complied with by giving workers stock in the privatized state enterprises according to their seniority.

According to the workers, the government is sidestepping the tribunals and the Concertation Accords and is only thinking about how to return properties to their original, legitimately expropriated owners—Somocistas included—or to friends and family members of the governing group.

Labor leaders emphasize the dramatic deterioration of wages, pointing out that while the basic monthly market basket costs 735 córdobas, the government is only offering a minimum wage of 150 córdobas ($30) in the countryside and 234 ($47) in the city. With that, workers can only cover 30% of the basket's products and services. Since the economic adjustment plan was initiated in March, the cost of a meal has risen 100% and electricity, education and health services rates have also soared, while food and transportation subsidies for workers in the state production and administration centers are being eliminated.

According to the Managua representative of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, 70% of the population is living in poverty; the deterioration of living standards is inescapable. A national research institute, the International Foundation for Global Economic Development (FIDEG), released a survey done in Managua indicating that food consumption has dropped nearly 31 %, while 27% of the residents in the greater urban area find it impossible to pay their water and light bills; at least one member of all homes surveyed has lost his or her job.

The current wave of violence thus reflects desperation far more than it does ideological positions. Scores of poor families have occupied vacant expanses in the center of the city to build shacks of cardboard and tin, indifferent to whether the lots belong to capitalists, other communities or even the army, as was the case with one recent settlement. Thousands of former Sandinista soldiers are finding common cause with peasants, poor city folk and former contras in their shared marginalization. Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, among them contras, recontras, compas and recompas (in other words, disarmed and rearmed contras and Sandinista soldiers known during the war as compas, short for compañeros just as contras is short for counterrevolutionaries) are tired of waiting for the government to make good on its promises of over a year ago for agricultural plots, urban lots, credit and jobs. What they are demanding, in a word, is justice.

National Police vs. Municipal Police

In such a complex new setting, the post-election debate about the most effective forms of struggle is resurfacing. Should it be limited to civil-parliamentary negotiation? Should it include civil disobedience? Given the country's fragile economy, are work stoppages and strikes counterproductive or necessary? And if the government keeps on turning the police against the demonstrators, as it is doing with increasing confidence, how should the demonstrators respond?

Reality and the rhythm of events are offering their own answers. In mid-October, for example, the police were instructed to break up a demonstration of workers from the E. Chamorro soap factory in Granada, who were protesting the illegal firing of a group of Sandinista workers. In the clash, the police used unprecedented levels of violence. They threw dozens of tear gas canisters, beat demonstrators with billy clubs, kicked those who were down, detained seven and were ordered to take in two local FSLN leaders. Everything indicates that the factory's owners demanded the police intervention to prevent the formation of a new, Sandinista-affiliated union.

That episode led to another unprecedented event: the FSLN committee in Granada denounced the local police chief, an old FSLN militant, for putting himself at the service of authorities only concerned with protecting the Chamorro family interests. The committee called on the National Police "to behave as the Constitution of the Republic establishes." FSLN General Secretary Daniel Ortega publicly reminded the police force as a whole that its role "is to protect order and combat crime and that it cannot be utilized as an instrument at the service of Somocistas, the rich and the exploiters."

The workers had their own response; they occupied the factory, swearing that they would either come out dead or following a fair negotiation with management over their demands that the fired union leaders and workers be reinstated. For an entire week, workers throughout Granada and Communal Movement members in its neighborhoods supported that position by taking over the streets, burning tires and holding "vigils" in front of the factory owners' houses. The FSLN sent National Directorate member Sergio Ramírez to try to persuade the owners to negotiate an agreement.

The FSLN's role in the conflict, still unresolved as this issue of envío goes to press, does not mean a break with the police, whose top command is still composed of Sandinista militants. It is rather a way of countering the government's insistent pressure on the police to respond to the equally insistent social pressure. While this has had some immediate effect, the real problem remains: if the police is the government's legal instrument to impose order and the government is the defender (or even victim) of an economic policy whose viability depends on repression to control discontent, then the relation between police and government and/or between police and the FSLN can only get more complicated.

This has led both the government and the FSLN to threaten to create their own respective paramilitary forces. At the beginning of October, Minister of Government Carlos Hurtado made the surprising announcement that he was authorizing the formation of municipal police, which rightwing mayors, led by Managua's Arnoldo Alemán, had been demanding for some time. Vice Minister of Government José Pallais says that Nicaragua needs 12,000 police to guarantee public order, but the central government can only pay for 6,000; according to the project announced by Hurtado, the municipal police budget would by provided by each mayor. While he insisted that the new armed groups would be subordinated to the National Police, no one failed to grasp that the mayors would recruit ex-contras and even former Somocista National Guardsmen or, at a minimum, proven anti-Sandinistas.

Alemán's proposal had been to create a corps of municipal inspectors, totally subordinated to him, but the Sandinistas argued that this would be unconstitutional. The Constitution states that there cannot be more armed bodies in the national territory than those already established by law: the Sandinista Popular Army and the Sandinista Police (now called National Police). The Supreme Court of Justice agreed to study a charge of unconstitutionality filed by Monica Baltodano, Managua council member from the Sandinista bench.

Independent of the legal debate around this proposal, Sandinistas and their families see the creation of a new armed body financially dependent on and loyal to openly and viscerally anti-Sandinista mayors as a direct threat to their security. Even more serious was that the executive branch, or at least the Ministry of Government, seemed to be consenting to this confrontation. It is highly suspicious that while this ministry has undertaken to assure civilian disarmament in the countryside, which mainly affects Sandinista cooperatives, it is willing to authorize the creation of new armed groups whose size will only be limited by each mayor's financial ability to contract recruits. In Managua, this could mean a considerable force, since Mayor Alemán administers considerable resources through both the multiple taxes he has imposed and his known connections with wealthy Cuban and Nicaraguan exiles in Miami.

Daniel Ortega vehemently denounced the intention, particularly that of the Ministry of Government, calling it "one of Minister Carlos Hurtado's usual cunning and crooked acts." He went so far as to accuse Hurtado, César's second in the Southern Opposition Bloc, of being directed by the CIA.

Speaking to dozens of international solidarity delegates meeting in Managua in mid-October to learn about the country's current situation and adjust their strategies, Ortega reiterated the FSLN's new call to the people to organize armed militias in the event that the municipal police are created and are "made up of Somocistas and ex-contras." The FSLN general secretary insisted that the FSLN is not seeking to overthrow or destabilize the government, but that it defends the principle of Nicaraguans' right to civic and even armed rebellion. The Sandinista newspaper Barricada echoed Ortega's warning in the following terms: "Somocista repression pushed the people to raise their organizational level to reserve battalions to defend their lives and belongings. And the neo-Somocismo now being implemented—the government continues consenting to it—will be the only thing responsible for the people once again seeking adequate organizational forms to defend their rights."

Lacayo and Hurtado appear to have backed off from Hurtado's original announcement, given the Sandinistas' strong protests and the belligerency of the union movement, which redoubled its demands for salary increases. Both reiterated that any municipal police would be under orders of the National Police.

Mayor Alemán, however, has maintained his position that his "corps of inspectors" would respond solely to him, declaring that he already has 250 handpicked men ready—from a planned payroll of 500—and that they will be trained in Ministry of Government installations. His party, the Liberal Constitutionalists, petitioned the National Assembly to withdraw Daniel Ortega's immunity as an Assembly representative so he can be tried for inciting violence by announcing that "the Sandinistas will organize 10 militia members for every paramilitary [municipal police] member." For the same reason, the National Conservative Party requested that the National Council of Political Parties withdraw the FSLN's legal status.

This new rightwing offensive did not end there. At the end of October, 34 of the 53 UNO National Assembly representatives set in motion a legislative process to reform 43 of the Constitution's 202 articles. The reforms fundamentally seek to weaken the powers of the army and the executive branch and strengthen those of the legislative, so that in Nicaragua, as they explain it, there will be "a parliamentary system and not a presidentialist one."

Social Protest vs. The Armed Forces

The government's growing inclination to use armed force to deal with urban labor demonstrations has no counterpart in the countryside. There the army is ignoring even the common criminal activity often disguised by the political mask of the so-called recontras.

This indulgence on the part of both the government and the army command reached its peak when an army patrol in Region V (Boaco and Chontales), under orders not to attack, was captured by a recontra contingent and relieved of its weapons.

The government has remained steadfast: the rearmed groups will be neutralized through negotiation and the disarming of the civilian population. To date, the army has agreed that the violence in the countryside is mainly due to social and economic problems and that the solution must be found through negotiation. For this reason it has generally not responded to recontra provocations in the towns of the north and Region V with pursuit, much less any concerted effort to wipe out the armed groups. Ironically, big rightwing landowners in those regions are beginning to ask for a harder line against the recontras and even Bishop Pablo Vega, expelled from Nicaragua by the Sandinista government in 1986, called on the population to show more respect for the state's armed institution.

Although the extreme Right harbors suspicions that the army's passivity is part of a strategy to still the voices calling for its radical reduction in size, or even elimination, Sandinistas in these conflictive zones see things very differently. They angrily argue that their lives are endangered by the impunity with which the recontra groups and their sympathizers operate. At the end of October, ENABAS union members in Estelí charged that, while recontra attacks against ENABAS installations there had not been repelled, authorities ordered the police to intervene with army support when workers occupied the plant demanding that it be audited. A few days later, a group of 80 recompas took over a stretch of the Pan-American Highway near the plant to support the ENABAS workers; they declared that they would be on the lookout for any repressive actions against the workers by the army and police. Shortly thereafter Ministry of Government authorities entered into negotiations with the union's leaders. This is only one of many complex examples of violence and counter-violence taking place, particularly in the interior of the country.

A key actor in these conflicts is CIAV, the Organization of American States' verification commission, mandated to oversee the demobilized contras' physical and economic "security." CIAV exercises its mandate with full immunity and privileges, which means former contra groups can move through different rural zones under its protection. As the recontra groups have multiplied and increased their coordination, CIAV has also become their protector and mediator with the government; in assuming this role, it has turned a blind eye to the common crimes committed by some of these groups with no political motive whatever.

CIAV also offers "protection" to government delegations that have traveled into the mountains to negotiate with the recontras. It argues that its mandate is strictly limited to those in the Resistance, as the contra organization formally calls itself, but that the government has requested its help in establishing contacts with the new insurgents—who are not ex-contras in all cases. The government recently decided to prolong CIAV's presence in Nicaragua until June 1992.

Given the increased violence in the countryside, the FSLN general secretary has requested that the government redefine CIAV's mandate, so that it can help promote authentic peace in Nicaragua. Ortega specifically suggested that it expand its role to offering protection to all social groups in the conflict zones, not just the former contras.

Towards the end of October, the army announced that it had been given executive authority to act militarily against the recontra bands operating in Region V. Antonio Lacayo publicly defended the army's constitutional role and emphatically stated that challenging its authority would amount to challenging the government itself. Nonetheless, there had only been a few sporadic skirmishes by the end of the month. Movements of both the army and the recontras have mainly been aimed at making their respective strength felt in the different zones, while the government continues emphasizing the route of negotiations.

Sandinista sectors in the countryside label this attitude "complacency," since it leaves them with no protection from the recontras. It is essentially this vacuum that has led peasants, many of them former soldiers, to form armed recompa units to respond to recontra intimidation. In Regions I (Estelí, Nueva Segovia and Madriz) and V, 200 Sandinistas have formed what they call a "Recompa Column" to fill in for the scanty army and police presence in zones where recontras have forced many peasants to flee their homes for fear of being killed.

The first combat between recontras and recompas in the mountains of Jinotega, near Wiwilí, occurred on October 31, leaving five recontras and one recompa dead. Neither the army nor the police participated at any point in this confrontation. The recontra group was led by "Indomable," the most intransigent opponent of any negotiation with the government.

The majority of recontra groups accuse the government of breaking its promises of land and other assistance. In addition, they are demanding physical security, citing the fact that the Sandinista cooperatives are still armed. The cooperatives, in turn, refuse to respond to government demands for disarmament, arguing that their lands are coveted by the ex-contras. A vicious circle is thus created in which new recontra and recompa groups continue to appear, each alleging threats from the other.

The reality is even more complex in certain rural zones. In zones in the south of the country, recontra bands with little contact between them don red and black bandannas and, passing themselves off as Sandinistas, help themselves to people's cattle, food and clothing. And while in some cases cooperative members, ex-contras, former members of the army or landless peasants have clashed over land, there are encouraging examples in others of cooperatives made up of former soldiers who have given part of their land to demobilized contra members who feel betrayed by the government.

Fallout for the FSLN

Disillusionment and frustration, in sum, can be felt in every corner of Nicaragua. It is growing by the day as the fiscal commitments demanded by the international bankers and assumed by the government clash with its electoral promises of economic improvement, to say nothing of its more recent commitments in the concertation agreements. None of what has happened and continues to happen contributes to confidence in the UNO administration. The government's legitimacy crisis, in both its executive and legislative branches, can no longer be masked. But this crisis also concretely affects the FSLN, since it is the main opposition party, and, as such, is committed to negotiate its positions in parliamentary and other legal forms of struggle.

The current deterioration profoundly questions the viability of the "moderate" positions within the FSLN, which are argued on the grounds of the executive branch's supposed willingness to comply with its social and political commitments. Willingness and official promises, however, have little value in the face of a clearly anti-popular economic policy imposed by international lenders and AID, the open corruption affecting all official spheres and the collapse or privatization of basic services, all of which means unprecedented impoverishment for the population.

On October 31, all nine members of the FSLN National Directorate met with a government delegation for the first time. Government representatives included the ministers of the presidency, labor, finances, economy and government, as well as army head General Humberto Ortega, national police chief René Vivas and the director of CORNAP, the centralized management body for all state productive holdings. This first session, a marathon seven hours of debate, reflects the complexity and seriousness of the national crisis.

In this crisis, questions also arise about the role of Nicaragua's Constitution in response to institutional corruption or the authoritarian economic policy currently being imposed on the population. Generalized poverty, with all the social repercussions discussed above, is incompatible with genuine democracy, the philosophical underpinning of the Constitution. It is even incompatible with the UNO government's democratic facade. The social interests of the vast majority are simply not included in this virtual economic dictatorship. Lacayo recently said defiantly that the government itself was solely responsible for its economic policy. While he may have meant to imply that it was not imposed by the international lending institutions, he was certainly not off the mark with regard to any effective input into economic decisions from the affected populace.

The FSLN and the social movements have no choice but to continue insisting that political aspects predominate over economic ones, social justice over market forces, people over capital and the nation and democracy over the interests of international bankers and Nicaragua's entrepreneurs in governors' clothes.

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