Analysis of the Political Situation in Nicaragua from February 10 to March 10
The revolutionary process is suffering tremendous internal and external pressures and is making efforts to respond in the internal politico-economic arena as well as in the international arena.
Beginning with this bulletin, we plan to replace the introductory letter with a brief monthly analysis of developing events. This month’s events can generally be seen as falling into one of two categories: those that oppose or try to destroy the process of the revolution, or those that support and promote it. This same methodology could be used to analyze the last two years in Nicaragua, but it becomes increasingly relevant as attacks against the Nicaraguan process intensify.
In this last month two principal lines of development characterized the Nicaraguan situation in the political, economic, military, cultural and international realm:
1- Both internal and external pressures and aggressions on the Nicaraguan process that also determine its development;
2- Efforts to respond to those pressures and aggressions, both in the politico-economic and in the international areas.
1. PRESSURES SUFFERED BY THE NICARAGUAN PROCESS.
a. External pressuresOn February 13, the Nicaraguan press published excerpts from an editorial by columnist William Safire of the New York Times calling for a military blockade against Cuba and Nicaragua which, according to him, “would represent an enormous burden for the communists’ transportation of arms and would make it necessary to implement a costly airlift”.
The following day, the Washington Post quoted “reliable sources” as saying that the Reagan administration had approved a plan of military actions in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Cuba. The story also said the CIA had proposed a budget request for $19 million which would be used in efforts to foment opposition to the Nicaraguan government.
On February 16, President Reagan transformed the routine protocol procedures for accrediting the new Nicaraguan Ambassador into another opportunity to berate the Nicaraguan government. Reagan accused Nicaragua of “constant intervention in the affairs of El Salvador” and of “an alarming military buildup”. A few days later, on February 24, President Reagan attacked Nicaragua once again in his speech at the Organization of American States. On this occasion, Reagan offered slight increases in economic aid to the region while, at the same time, raising the threat of invoking the TIAR (Interamerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance) as a mechanism of military intervention. He also reiterated charges against Nicaragua saying that Nicaragua “is serving as a base for military operations” in the region. The Reagan administration has never been able to present credible proof to back up its charges that Nicaragua is aiding the Salvadoran guerrillas. This was vividly demonstrated the first week in March when Alexander Haig claimed that a Nicaraguan soldier had been captured in El Salvador, proving conclusively the U.S. charges. When asked to present proof of this, the following day he said that unfortunately the captured person had escaped. This “Sandinista soldier” turned out to be a Nicaraguan medical student on his way to Mexico, where he is studying.
On February 27, Guatemala was officially incorporated into the Central American Democratic Community, an alliance that was recently formed in the area, with encouragement from the U.S., among Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. Analysts consider that this Community, uniting dictatorial regimes with Costa Rica and excluding countries such as Panama, Nicaragua and Belize, constitutes a further step in the implementation of Reagan’s policies in the region. It also could serve as a political point of departure for a more direct intervention in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
On March 2, the Nicaraguan press published an article involving Secretary of State, Alexander Haig. In a press conference, Haig presented a photo which was supposedly of the burning of Miskitu people by Sandinistas on the Atlantic Coast. This photo had appeared days before in Le Figaro of France. Haig criticized the North American press for not using this type of document when it frequently published cruelties and massacres committed by the Salvadoran government.
The following day, the French press denounced that the photographs presented by Le Figaro were of cadavers being burned by the Red Cross during the Somoza era. These bodies were of Nicaraguans who had been killed by the National Guard. Faced with this, Department spokesperson Dean Fisher had to admit publicly the error. However he used the opportunity to issue new attacks against Nicaragua.
Days later, Dean Fisher confirmed that the North American government was planning to invest $21 million in the construction of military air bases in Columbia and Honduras, which would be used for the “training, rescue and assistance to the North American forces in the region”.
b. Internal PressuresOn February 18, the Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference, comprised of Nicaragua’s seven bishops, published a communiqué regarding the relocation of indigenous communities in the Atlantic Coast. A number of national and international organizations and religious responded to this communiqué, saying that they had visited the Coast in recent days and considered that many of the accusations in the communique were unfounded and showed a lack of knowledge of the facts. A few days later, the Government Junta published a reply, explaining the decisions which the government had taken on the Coast. In this communiqué the government also requested that the Vatican send a commission with whom the government could discuss the future of relations between the government and the hierarchy. This is explained further in the article on the Coast included in this bulletin.
On February 19, Nicaraguan Security announced that a counterrevolutionary plot had been uncovered. This plot intended to sabotage an electric plant in Chinandega, blow up several bridges and assassinate various persons. Nineteen persons were implicated and arrested in connection with this plot, some of whom have publicly admitted their participation. Their trials are pending.
On February 20, the day before the scheduled arrival of Mexican President López Portillo, a bomb exploded as baggage was being unloaded at the Managua airport. The bomb had been placed in luggage arriving from Honduras. Four airport workers died in the explosion. This terrorist act seems to have had two objectives: to intimidate President López Portillo in the hope of preventing his arrival in Managua and to create a climate of instability and fear among the population, just prior to the massive welcoming demonstration planned for the following day. Neither of these objectives was achieved.
c. Pressures coming from the exterior but promoted by Nicaraguans In mid-February, Steadman Fagoth was invited to the United States by the American Security Council, a right-wing private organization that has close ties to the Reagan administration, in order to give a series of talks. Fagoth denounced the “massacre of Miskitu by Sandinistas in Honduras”, a claim which had been previously rejected by the Honduran Minister of the Interior.
On February 18, José Esteban González of the Nicaraguan Social Christian Party participated in a meeting of the Social Christian International in Rome. There he repeated accusations concerning the massacre of Miskitu. González has lived outside Nicaragua for one year and during this time has been campaigning against the Nicaraguan government, issuing a series of denunciations. In January, González was implicated in the plot to blow up the cement plant and oil refinery. He was charged with being the contact person for Somocista groups in the exterior who were involved in this plot. In addition, proof has been made public that participants in the Chinandega plot were tied to persons in the Somocista camps, located in the department of Los Paraisos, Honduras.
On February 22, members of the Sandinista army repelled another incursion into Nicaraguan territory by Somocista ex-National Guards in Honduras. Three ex-Guardia were killed in this encounter in the Río Suyatar zone.
2. NICARAGUAN EFFORTS TO RESPOND TO THESE PRESSURESThe guiding principle of national unity was demonstrated in Nicaragua in a variety of ways during this last month. A series of measures attempted to consolidate the mixed economy, political pluralism, and non-alignment in the international sphere.
On February 6, the government announced a plan of incentives for exportation, benefiting a number of agricultural and industrial producers. This measure was very well received by large sectors of the Nicaraguan business community.
On February 14, three COSEP business leaders were freed under financial bond. They had been sentenced four months ago for violating the economic and social emergency law.
On February 18, the Nicaraguan press published a new working document concerning political parties, formulated by a special commission of the Council of State. This presented a series of modifications to the original bill regulating political parties, which was introduced in the Council of State last December by the FSLN representative. Since December, a special commission of the Council of State has been synthesizing input to the bill from all the political forces of the country and presenting their conclusions. The modifications are considerable and seem more pluralistic. The Council will resume debate on the measure when they reconvene in May. (See December bulletin on the Law as originally proposed).
Also on February 18, the meeting of COPPPAL, Permanent Conference of Latin American Parties, was convened in Managua. COPPPAL is the most important organization of its kind in Latin America. The fact that this organization chose to meet in Managua, combined with the final document that it produced, demonstrates strong solidarity toward the Nicaraguan process. This comes at a moment in which pressures against Nicaragua are increasing.
In the COPPPAL meeting, the FSLN presented its peace proposal. This contained five principal points for a peaceful solution to the Central American crisis. This document coincided with the peace proposal presented by José López Portillo on February 21 in Managua upon receiving the August C. Sandino decoration. López Portillo implored the U.S. government not to intervene in Central America and urged the formation of channels of discussion and dialogue between those countries involved in the grave tensions in the region. To this date the U.S. government has given no official response to this proposal. A large public mobilization took place in the Plaza of the Revolution in honor of López Portillo.
Immediately following the COPPAL meeting, a Nicaraguan mission traveled to the U.S. to present the FSLN document to the OAS and the United States.
FINAL NOTEThe reconstruction process continues in spite of pressures to destabilize this process and the effort that Nicaragua must dedicate in responding to these pressures. In early February, a massive polio vaccination campaign began. More than 7400 health brigadistas carried out the campaign. In Managua, 88% of the children received the vaccination.
On March 1, primary and secondary classes began throughout the country. This year more than one million Nicaraguans are participating in educational programs. Enrollment has more than doubled since the Somoza years. More than 2000 educational centers have been created during the last two years. Primary school enrollment has gone from 9000 to 35,000 in the last two years. The number of libraries has increased from 51 to 220. Illiteracy has been reduced from 50% to 11%. The number of adults enrolled in educational programs has increased from 10,000 to 200,000.
In the rural area, the cotton harvest is underway and 70% of the crop has been harvested. In Managua, a seminar is underway for local judges. In the last few weeks, Nicaragua’s most important trade union federation, the Sandinista Workers Central, has held a series of meetings in order to consolidate its structures and develop its professional organizers.
Thus, although the problems and difficulties continue and even increase, so do the achievements and efforts at advancing the revolutionary process.