Analysis of the Nicaraguan Situation - The Central American Region
ANALYSIS OF THE NICARAGUAN SITUATION FROM MARCH 5 TO APRIL 5, 1982
The Central American countries have been closely inter-related throughout their history; yet this inter-relationship has acquired even greater dimensions in the last month. The Reagan administration has insisted on viewing the Central American crisis as part of the East-West conflict, characterizing the El Salvadoran situation as a product of Soviet intervention and accusing Nicaragua of being a logistical support base for this intervention and for the El Salvadoran guerrillas.
Although the Reagan administration has not been able to substantiate these accusations, it continues to act on the assumption that they are true and that therefore by destabilizing the Nicaraguan process it can suffocate the El Salvadoran insurgency. The increased intensity of the popular rebellion in El Salvador and the electoral process programmed for March 28 have established a definite time-frame for the political situation.
EL SALVADORThe March 28 elections formed part of a plan elaborated by the United States to legitimize, in “democratic” form, the Salvadoran government (Christian Democrats) and its repressive mechanisms. The Junta could then appeal for international support to destroy the popular forces.
Just prior to the elections, there existed a certain equilibrium between government forces and the FMLN forces. The relation of 4 to 1 in favor of the government forces was not enough to modify the stalemate predicated for 1982, if the present factors do not change qualitatively.
The fact that Duarte did not win the absolute majority needed to assure his presidency sharpens the contradictions within the dominant sector. On the one side, there are the Christian Democrats, while on the other, the rest of the ultra-right-wing is present with Major D’Aubuisson as the presidential alternative. This contradiction extends to the El Salvadoran army.
Negotiations among the right-wing sectors are now underway. The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador is playing an active role. The Reagan administration is now promoting the formation of a government uniting all the reactionary forces, without eliminating the Christian Democrats. The extreme right-wing sectors are not highly disposed to negotiate with the Christian Democrats for various reasons: a) the Christian Democrats are more open to international pressures, b) they have carried out some limited reforms (although these have been accompanied by violent repression); and c) historical differences exist between them.
While the elections have failed to give legitimacy to the Duarte regime, the political situation in El Salvador has become more complicated and it has become increasingly difficult for the administration to achieve its objectives. The FMLN and the Salvadoran people continue their military actions, yet both the FMLN and the FDR have expressed their willingness to negotiate for a political solution.
GUATEMALAThe March 8 elections in Guatemala hoped to replace the negative image of Dictator Romeo Lucas in an attempt to improve the overall appearance of the Guatemalan government so that it could once again begin to receive international aid. Guatemala plays a key role in the U.S.strategy in the region, not only because of its newly exploited oil reserves, but also because it has the highest American investment rate of the Central American countries.
The electoral fraud which brought about the victory of the official candidate General Guevara, sharpened the tensions within the Guatemalan reactionary sector. Fifteen days later the military overthrew Lucas. For the Guatemalan people, nothing has changed. The new military leaders share the same ideology as those they replaced.
The rapid and public acceptance of the coup by the Salvadoran right wing raises a number of questions. It could be interpreted that the El Salvadoran right wing sees the coup in Guatemala as possibly giving validity to a future coup by the right wing in El Salvador if D’Aubuisson does not win. The Guatemala coup once again demonstrates that the U.S. policy of improving the image of dictators through the democratic route of elections has enormous limitations and increases the possibility that this situation will repeat itself in El Salvador if agreements between the right wing sectors do not materialize.
Events in the last month in Guatemala and El Salvador have complicated U.S. policy options and the costs of their interference have increased considerably.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SITUATION IN CENTRAL AMERICA AND IN NICARAGUASome of the consequences of the current regional situation are:
1- The Central American Democratic Community, an instrument of U.S. Policy in the area, is not sufficiently strong at this point to attack Nicaragua. Also, the internal government problems in both Guatemala and El Salvador lessen the importance of this alliance at this moment.
2- The most feasible way to destabilize Nicaragua right now is by provocations along the Nicaragua–Honduran border, which could lead to a military conflict between the two countries. The government of Honduras won relatively fair elections in comparison to El Salvador and Guatemala and has a better internal and international image. Yet within the Honduran dominant sector there also appear to be clear contradictions. Although Army General Alvarez makes bellicose and provocative declarations about Nicaragua, the Foreign Minister Paz Barnica, while in Mexico, stated that his country will not tolerate any destabilizing activity against Nicaragua.
3- Among the South American dictatorships, Argentina has been the most likely candidate to help carry out U.S. policy in Central America. Yet this possibility is now weakened by the fact that Argentina needs to look for international support in its conflict with England over the Malvinas Islands. This conflict could cause Argentina to distance itself somewhat from Washington since Washington has requested that Argentina return the Malvinas Islands. Thus, the conflict between Argentina and England favors Nicaragua at this time.
4- The counter-revolutionary bands continue to operate along the Honduran border. The question is whether they will intervene in Nicaragua with the complete backing of Honduras and in coordination with Washington or whether they will intervene on their own. This second possibility would be a lesser danger to Nicaragua, but it would serve to destabilize the country economically. The Somocista bands do not pose an alternative power base either politically or militarily. Their effectiveness depends on the place they occupy within the strategy of destabilization of the Reagan Administration.
5- Even though recent events in Guatemala and El Salvador have complicated the situation for the Reagan administration, the possibility of a direct U.S. intervention in Nicaragua still exists. The political price tag for such a maneuver would be devastating, as both national and international opinion is against intervention. Yet, as policy alternatives in Central America become more limited, the Reagan administration could decide to intervene directly, as the only possible way to control the situation. The Nicaraguan government remains alert while it maintains and strengthens all the organizational and defense structures so as not to be taken by surprise.
NICARAGUA IN THE UNITED NATIONS: A POLITICAL VICTORYOn March 19, the Nicaraguan government junta requested a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to denounce the aggressions of the United States against Nicaragua. In the letter requesting the emergency session of the Security Council, three distinct types of aggressive actions were delineated: the verbal aggressions in the official pronouncements of the Reagan administration, the support to military or paramilitary forces preparing to invade Nicaragua, and the green light given for covert activity against Nicaragua.
On March 25, Comandante Daniel Ortega spoke before the United Nations Security Council. He presented both the threats and the aggressions to which Nicaragua has been victim, he reiterated the peace proposal of both the FSLN and Mexico, and expressed Nicaragua’s disposition to initiate immediate negotiations with the U.S. government.
Discussion of the situation continued until April 2, when Panama presented a resolution co-sponsored by Guyana. This resolution reaffirmed the sovereign status of all countries and the policy of non-intervention, principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations. Of the 15 member countries in the Security Council, 12 voted in favor of the resolution while Zaire and England abstained. The United States vetoed the resolution. Their statement said that no threats exist against Nicaragua and that the OAS was actually the more appropriate organization for the denunciations. The U.S. had continually tried to bring the discussion to the OAS, counting on their ability to control that regional organization.
On April 2, the Nicaraguan government junta stated that the U.S. veto only confirmed their concerns and that Nicaragua reserved the right to state their position to the U.N. General Assembly.
Despite the U.S. veto, Nicaragua’s presentation in the U.N. signified a clear political victory on an international level, not only because the Security Council discussed the Nicaraguan situation for more than a week, but also because Nicaragua received the support of the vast majority of the member countries, among these France, China and the Soviet Union. Nicaragua is now prepared to present its denunciations at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the non-aligned countries.
Some international news agencies have speculated that Nicaragua brought its problem to the United Nations for two reasons:
a) To present in a diplomatic fashion their variance with the U.S. with respect to El Salvador, and b) to create propaganda against the United States just before the elections in El Salvador.
In light of the aggressions suffered by Nicaragua, it seems clear that the principal interest of Nicaragua was to present these aggressions and to contribute to peace in the region, rather than to generate conflicts.
2- The Actual Internal Situation
a) The National Emergency: Government Response to the Threats. Although this theme is treated in a separate article in this envío, it is included here as part of the general situation of the country.
b) The Popular Organizations. In this past month, the popular organizations have increased their understanding of the gravity of the current situation. An increase has been noted in the mobilization of the popular organizations, which was intensified on the March 28 election day in El Salvador.
On March 18, Comandante Humberto Ortega, Defense Minister, gave a speech in which he explained the Civil Defense Program. In the event of a military emergency, the Sandinista Block Committees would receive instructions regarding civil defense from the Sandinista Popular Army.
Three pamphlets, written in a popular style, have come out in the newspapers. The titles of these are: “What is Civil Defense?” “What to do in the case of an air attack”, and “What to do after an air attack”. More of these are planned.
Included in this discussion of the popular organizations are the popular political parties, the majority of which are integrated into the Revolutionary Patriotic Front (FPR). These include the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN), the Liberal Independent Party (PLI) and the Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC).
In comparison with previous months, March has been an active month for the FPR. On March 10th, leaders of the FPR made public statements calling for a consolidation of the military and civil defense of the country. On March 11th, the FPR published a statement in papers directed to: “The Peoples and Governments of the World, the People of Nicaragua and the Political, Union and Business Organizations of the Opposition”. The statement included general proposals addressed to all, and it called on the opposition organizations to denounce the aggressions against Nicaragua.
Toward the end of March, the FPR publicly expressed their harsh criticism of the statement issued by the Democratic Coordinating Committee “Ramiro Sacasa”.
In response to the situation in the country, the Nicaraguan Communist Party, the Nicaraguan Socialist Party and the Movement for Popular Action jointly published a flyer, distributed in great quantities, calling for a strengthening of the militia and the defense of the revolution.
In the rural areas, as well, at this time, both a consolidation of structures and the attendant multiplication of daily work were evident.
The general results of the reorganization seem good, but it would be unfair not to recognize the additional burden this has placed on the popular organizations and the consequent fatigue of the members. As the greater part of the energies and potential of the country are principally directed to defense, this leaves fewer resources to accomplish the ever permanent task of reconstruction.
c) The Opposition
In this past month, it is interesting to note distinct and, even at times, contradictory statements from the various sectors of the opposition. On March 11th, the Democratic Coordinating Committee “Ramiro Sacasa” (a nucleus of the opposition which includes various political parties, some independent unions, and some business groups) publicly expressed their dissatisfaction that the discussion of the draft of the Law of Political Parties had been suspended. The government had announced this suspension a few days earlier due to the current crisis situation in the country, yet had also stated that discussion would resume in May during the ordinary sessions of the Council of State.
A few days later during a meeting of INDE, an organization belonging to the Superior Council of Private Enterprise, they placed the blame for the political and economic crisis of the country at the feet of the government. This would appear to clash with the well-known fact that the private sector still controls about 60% of the Nicaraguan economy.
After the State of National Emergency was declared, Alfonso Robelo, president of the Democratic Nicaragua Movement (MDN) and of the Democratic Coordinating Committee, as well as an influential member of COSEP, stated: “If I had been in the Government Junta, I would have done the same thing.” This statement surprised some of the local political media, who were even more surprised a short time later by the statement of the MDN which recognized the need to bolster the defense of the country.
A political analyst, watching all this, might have thought that it meant a realignment of some sectors of the opposition, especially after reading some of the articles which appeared at this time in the U.S. press. These spoke of a global CIA plan to destabilize Nicaragua as well as the disbursal of huge sums of money to the Nicaraguan opposition sectors.
But the positive statements in support of the State of National Emergency were quickly overshadowed by a statement published by the Democratic Coordinating Committee “Ramiro Sacasa”. In our judgment, this represents the most significant and important statement by the opposition this last month.
The communiqué contains various sections. In the first part, there is a forced synthesis of the FSLN and Mexico’s peace proposals with the proposal of Secretary of State Alexander Haig. These proposals were so diverse that they certainly don’t lend themselves to a neat synthesis. The second part had four points which the Coordinating Committee offered in the form of a peace proposal. Two of these points refer to the role that the OAS should play with respect to peace in the region. In this sense, the proposal of the Coordinating Committee fully coincides with the Reagan administration’s proposal.
The other two points of the Coordinating Committee’s proposal refer to the Popular Sandinista Army. They propose a reduction of forces so that by 1984, Nicaragua has only a police force and that this then be restructured as a “nationalistic and professional” force. The proposal of the Coordinating Committee has met with wide-spread rejection in Nicaragua.