Greetings from Nicaragua! Many thanks to those of you who have sent us news of the work you are doing on Central American issues, and copies of your bulletins, newsletters and publications. Certainly this encourages us and helps us know better your informational needs.
On September 9, the Nicaraguan government declared an economic and social state of emergency in order to confront the grave crisis affecting the country. This month’s envío centers on Nicaragua’s economic situation while also including news of recent happenings in the church. We begin with excerpts from a talk given by Xabier Gorostiaga S. J. on Nicaragua’s overall economic program. Xabier Gorostiaga is one of Nicaragua’s most respected economists and works in the Ministry of Planning. We also include an outline of the new September economic measures resulting from the social and economic state of emergency, along with a brief reflection on these. In addition, Xabier Gorostiaga recently gave a talk in response to these new measures. Excerpts are included as a supplement to his earlier speech.
During this last month, debate in the church has focused on the character and role of the “popular church” and the Christian Base Communities. The article includes both excerpts from the newspapers expressing the polemic and a document by the Christian Base Communities, defining their work, their mission and participation in the Church and society.
Both the phenomenon of the “popular Church” and the new economic measures demand further study. There are three economic measures in particular that could raise a number of questions: 1) the suspension of the right to strike as a guarantee, 2) the prohibition of the diffusion of false information that tends to provoke alterations in prices, salaries, provisions, currency, and 3) the prohibition of inciting foreign governments or credit institutions to withhold or to suspend aid to Nicaragua or to cause damage to the national economy. The first of these is treated briefly by Xabier Gorostiaga. In future envíos, we will include a more in-depth study of the labor movement in Nicaragua, its reaction to the strike prohibitions, its gains in the last two years, the challenges that still lie ahead and the stance that various unions have taken both towards the revolution and towards the Sandinista Workers Central. With respect to the latter two measures, the question arises as to how they will be applied. This question can best be answered as the law begins to be implemented. For now, we can say that the measures respond to clear economic threats to Nicaragua in this time of crisis.
The Communications Media Department of the Nicaraguan Government ordered the temporary closing of La Prensa on September 29 and October 1, for 48 hours each time. La Prensa has been closed five times since July, 1981. The latest two closings were in response to the printing of an interview with a factory owner whose factory had been confiscated and who made a series of grave and unsubstantiated accusations against public functionaries and the government. Both the interview and a follow-up article violated the first three articles of the decree governing communications media. In future envíos, we will include both this law and the history of the relationship between La Prensa and the government since the victory.
As this envío goes to print, the U.S. and Honduran military forces (now including many ex-somocista national guard) are carrying out a joint military training operation called Halcón Vista. This operation, involving several hundred U.S. Marines, is taking place off the Honduran Atlantic Coast and involves land, sea and air operations. While military training operations are not new in the area, neither an operation of this extent nor landing maneuvers have occurred in the Central American region in the last decade. Sources in Honduras state that the operation will include both a simulation of the invasion of a country x and the simulation of the stopping of the flow of arms into Honduras. Clearly in this moment, any U.S. military action in Central America or the Caribbean increases tension in the whole area. While the official U.S. position is that Halcón Vista is merely routine military training, the statements of some U.S. officials contradict this. On October 6, Samuel Dickenson, special envoy of Reagan to Honduras and member of the U.S. Inter-American Defense Council, gave a press conference where he stated that Halcón Vista is a way of assuring the Central American countries that the U.S. will aid them if they suffer attacks from Cuba or Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is now undertaking a diplomatic mission in response to the grave situation that exists in Central America and in an effort to be a positive contributing force to a negotiated peace settlement in El Salvador. Comandante Daniel Ortega and a high level delegation stopped in Mexico to meet with President López Portillo before heading to New York where Ortega spoke before the U.N. General Assembly. The other two Junta members have also carried out diplomatic missions in these last few days. Sergio Ramírez visited Venezuelan and Panamanian officials while Rafael Cordova Rivas visited with Honduran President Policarpo Paz García on October 6.
In August, Thomas Enders, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, visited Nicaragua to meet with Government and Sandinista leaders. In Nicaragua, his visit was seen as a positive step in that it opened communication channels with the Reagan administration. Enders presented the U.S. positions regarding Nicaragua which included insistence that Nicaragua halt all moral and political support to El Salvador, as well as the supposed arms flow. Nicaragua answered that its moral and political support to El Salvador is not a matter of discussion. The U.S. has still not issued its supposedly forthcoming second “White Paper” on arms flow to El Salvador. The first White Paper has been discredited by most Latin American observers, as well as by at least one of the Paper’s authors. Both Enders and the Nicaraguan leaders agreed on the need for better relations between Nicaragua and the United States and agreed to continue talks at a later date. Yet Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry spokespersons state that “Halcón Vista” goes against the whole spirit of the Enders visit.
In his U.N. speech, on October 7, Comandante Daniel Ortega attributed the current crisis in Central America to the existing injustice, economic exploitation and the policies of the U.S. in the region. He denounced the “Halcón Vista” maneuvers as the latest in the long history of U.S. aggression against Nicaragua. Ortega said that Central America demands changes, and the revolutionaries are bringing those changes about. He added that the Salvadoran people’s just war of liberation demands a consistent response, one which cannot be based upon elections held on rivers of blood, or the actions of paramilitary bands, or more and more U.S. intervention.
Ortega then announced the presence of FDR President Guillermo Ungo among the Nicaragua delegation and proceeded to read a peace proposal from the FDR-FMLN of El Salvador.
The Nicaraguan government has called for a state of alert in response to the “Halcón Vista” operations. Reaction here in Managua to the alert seems to be one of firm support for the government and willing participation in the activities that the alert entails.
The Institute Staff