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Central American University - UCA  
  Number 14 | Agosto 1982



News And Analysis Update On Nicaragua

Envío team

In the last “Envío” we did not include an article analyzing the major events of the month. Thus this month’s article will cover the period from June 10 to August 10, 1982. The purpose of the article is both to provide a synthesis of the major events and to place those events in an analytical context.

During the past two months, the number and intensity of armed attacks against Nicaragua has increased dramatically. The attacks and the infiltration of large numbers of armed groups from Honduras constitute what Nicaragua leaders have called a “silent invasion”. In order to treat the subject adequately, we are devoting the second article in the “Envío” to an analysis of the silent invasion.

The present article is divided into the following sections:

1- Internal Developments.
2- July 19, 1982: Third Anniversary of the Triumph of the Revolution.
3- Regional Analysis.
4- International Relations.



-- On June 15, Nicaragua paid $36 million to private international banks, thereby fulfilling its commitments under the debt-renegotiation agreement.

-- The Ministry of Agrarian Reform (MIDINRA) announced that 321,295 manzanas (1 manzana = 1.7 acres) of land had been expropriated in the past year under the agrarian reform law. 88,207 manzanas have been turned over to cooperatives and individuals, benefiting 6503 families in all.

-- As of July 30, MIDINRA announced that cotton had been planted on 102,000 manzanas out of a projected 135,000 manzanas. Of the total land area, approximately 25% is government owned and 75% is in private hands.

-- On June 30, Comandante Henry Ruiz, Minster of Planning, outlined the seriousness of Nicaragua’s economic situation. He said that the increase in gross national product for 1982 would be around 1% instead of the previously projected 4.7%. The manufacturing sector has been hardest hit by the lack of foreign exchange because it relies on imported raw materials. As a result, increased unemployment can be expected in this sector. The priority of defense and the damages of the floods have made the economic problems more critical than before. Still, Ruiz said, the government will try to maintain social programs for the benefit of the poor majority and will cut back imports of non-essential items.

-- On July 26, Sergio Ramírez, member of the Government Junta of National Reconstruction, announced a plan to regulate gasoline consumption in order to reduce consumption by an estimated 30%.

The plan, which took effect on August 1, restricts gas use to five gallons a week for private motorists and varying amounts for other types of vehicles.

The plan is designed primarily to affect private motorists. Public transportation should not be overly affected, although it will experience greater use. The rationing is the most dramatic action taken so far to implement the government’s austerity policies by reducing non-essential consumption. It is also intended to minimize the impact on the poorest sectors of society.

-- Nicaragua presently purchases oil from Mexico and Venezuela on concessional terms. Seventy percent of the cost is paid at the prevailing international price, while the remaining thirty percent is converted into a five-year, 4% interest loan. The plan, which includes all of the Central American countries and several Caribbean countries, was extended by Mexico and Venezuela for another year on August 5. Despite these concessions, Nicaragua pays $200 million per year for oil imports, which is approximately 42% of the expected foreign exchange earnings for 1982.


-- On both June 15 and July 15, the State of Emergency was extended for an additional thirty days. The justifications given on both occasions were the continuing attacks against Nicaragua and the actions taken by Nicaraguan exiles to undermine political and economic support for the revolution.

-- Despite the extension of the State of Emergency, censorship was relaxed in June, with the termination of the government’s radio news program. Seven radio news programs have now returned to the air, of which two are privately owned, and one of those unsympathetic to the revolution. All are aired without prior censorship. Censorship on the print media remains in effect.

-- On July 26, Sergio Ramírez announced that the State of Emergency would be extended for a six month period. The announcement was made two days after the massacre of fifteen Nicaraguans in the town of San Francisco del Norte. The extension reflects the government’s assessment of the long-term nature of the attacks that Nicaragua is experiencing. FSLN leaders have emphasized recently that the country must be prepared for an extended struggle against the counterrevolution, and the extension is intended to impress that fact upon the Nicaraguan people.

-- The Council of State has been in session during this period. The major project undertaken has been a proposed law to reform judicial proceedings. On July 29, the president of the Supreme Court, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the Interior all expressed differing views on the proposed law in an open debate. The Interior Ministry expressed a need for more time to investigate accusations against detainees while the Courts wish to streamline proceedings.

-- Members of the opposition parties have been participating in the sessions, as have the opposition trade unions. The MDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement), whose leadership is all in self-imposed exile, and the members of the private sector represented by COSEP (Superior Council of Private Enterprise) have not attended the sessions of the Council of State.

-- Despite the voluntary departure of a number of the opposition party leaders, most notably Alfonso Robelo, opposition parties continue to function within the country. Most are united in the Ramiro Sacasa Democratic Coordinating Committee. On June 18, the General Secretary of CUS denied allegations made by Robelo that it was impossible to carry out peaceful activities within Nicaragua. He said that the State of Emergency had had very little practical effect on labor activities, but added that he hoped that restrictions on strikes due to the state of economic emergency would eventually be lifted. On June 20, Adán Fletes of the PSC called on international donors to continue their aid to Nicaragua. On July 20, the Secretary General of the PCD stated that his party “will continue its peaceful struggle, within the revolution, because we believe that the revolution can benefit the majority”.

-- On June 24, it was announced in Nicaragua that the Reagan Administration had approved a $5.1 million grant to the private sector and the Catholic Church hierarchy in what, by its own admission, was an overtly political gesture. (See International Relations).

-- In late June, a split within the Popular Social Christian Party came to a head with the expulsion from the party of its former president and ex-Vice Minister of Labor, Edgard Macías, and five others. In the June issue of the magazine Soberanía, an article accused Macías of having received funds from the CIA. The article gave no proof for the allegation and Macías initiated legal proceedings against the magazine. The magazine’s editor stood by the article and claimed that he could produce proof in court. The matter was dropped, however, when Macías left the country after seeking diplomatic protection in the Venezuelan Embassy. Nicaraguan officials stated that Macías had no need to seek diplomatic protection since there were no charges against him, and he was free to leave the country if he so chose.
-- On July 26, the Patriotic Revolutionary Front (made up of the FSLN, the Popular Social Christian Party, the Socialist Party and the Liberal Independent Party) sponsored a demonstration to commemorate the deaths of fifteen civilian militia members massacred in San Francisco del Norte by counterrevolutionary bands. Msgr. José Arias Caldera and a representative of the Committee of Mothers of the Martyrs ad-dressed the crowd of 50,000 in a very moving ceremony.


-- On June 29, Bishop Julian Barni S., O.F.M. was named the Bishop of Leon and Father Carlos Santi B., O.F.M. was named Bishop of Matagalpa. On July 31, the consecration of the new Bishop took place in Matagalpa, presided over by the Apostolic Nuncio and attended by high church and government leaders.

-- In July, Msgr. José Arias Caldera was moved from his parish of Santa Rosa in Managua to another parish in a middle-class neighborhood. The Archbishop’s office said that the relocation was routine (Msgr. Arias had been in his parish for eight years). It provoked a strong reaction from the community which was decidedly opposed to the move. Some members of the parish occupied the church in Santa Rosa to express their dissatisfaction. When Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Vivas arrived unexpectedly at the church to remove the Blessed Sacrament, he was confronted by the parishioners and a scuffle ensued. The incident was treated at length in Managua’s daily papers, although accounts of the event differed. Msgr. Arias has expressed throughout this period his disposition to obey his Church superiors and his identification with the poor of his parish. The Archbishop placed Santa Rosa Church under interdict (meaning no religious services may be held there) and excommunicated all who were involved in the incident with Mons. Bosco Vivas. The significance of these actions and a prompt solution to the problem are being studied.

-- Over the past month attention has been drawn to the activities of reactionary religious groups working in Nicaragua. Tomás Borge, Minister of the Interior, charged that many of these groups are actively trying to undermine the revolutionary process by encouraging their members not to work in the health campaigns and not to participate in the mass organizations or in the militias. In some cases, these religious groups have been directly tied to armed activity against the revolution.

Very little hard information exists about these religious groups, of which some are denominations and others could more accurately be termed sects. It is not clear, however, how to distinguish between a sect and a denomination, nor how many sects there are, whom they represent, where they receive funding, what ties they have to reactionary groups in the United State, etc. For that reason, on August 2, Borge told CEPAD leaders that he would present a proposal to the Council of State that would require all organizations to register with the government.


-- On June 18, the Sandinista Workers Confederation announced a pilot project to promote worker management in eight factories in the state-owned sector (APP). The plan will involve workers more fully in management decisions and the formation of production plans.

-- On June 23, Amnesty International made public a memorandum to the Nicaraguan government expressing concern over the sentence given to 3174 ex-National Guardsmen and the arrest of 180 Miskito Indians in January on the Atlantic Coast. The Nicaraguan government responded to Amnesty’s concerns citing the Clemency Law (Ley de Gracia) which gives the National Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights the authority to review the sentences and recommend reductions where appropriate. The government also said that some of the Miskitos arrested had already been released and that the cases of the others were under review.

-- On July 23, Tomás Borge turned over property titles for housing to 400 families in the Miskito resettlement area of Tasba Pri. Borge, speaking partially in Miskito, discussed the problems of the Atlantic Coast, but reiterated the government’s commitment to try to improve conditions for the Miskitos.

-- On August 3, Lea Guido, the Minister of Health, expressed profound concern over recent problems in the Nicaraguan Red Cross, which arose from recent revelations that a number of ex-National Guardsmen were working for the Red Cross. This resulted in a serious conflict between the workers and the management of the Red Cross and threatened to disrupt the important medical attention which the Red Cross provides. Guido’s letter asked the International Red Cross League to help resolve the matter.

-- Work is underway in 28 poor neighborhoods of Managua to improve water and sanitation systems under a World Bank loan to Nicaragua.


The anniversary celebration was held in the historic city of Masaya as a tribute to the heroic and combative spirit of the people of Masaya and Monimbó. The choice of location also reflected the desire to decentralize activities away from Managua. Most towns organized their own events, beginning on July 17, the day that Somoza left the country, and continuing through the 19th.

A series of events led up to the 19th of July. A handicrafts festival was held in Masaya, there was an exhibition of inventions and innovations, as well as several ceremonies in which land titles were presented to peasants and cooperatives. One event which sparked tremendous interest was the release of the first full-length feature film, “Alsino y el Condor”, made by INCINE, the Nicaraguan Film Institute.

Of great significance for international relations was the presence of Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins. Herrera Campins’ speech expressed continued Venezuelan support for the Nicaraguan revolution, but stated clearly and repeatedly that there should not be “deviations” in the revolutionary process. He also addressed the question of Latin American unity after the Falklands war and the need to rethink hemispheric relations. Herrera Campins’ support for Nicaragua is, in part at least, due to this rethinking by Venezuela of inter-American relations.

Daniel Ortega, speaking for the government and the FSLN, enumerated many of the achievements of the revolution: greater levels of organization, trade union activity, agrarian reform, growth of cooperatives, health care, education, etc. Despite the progress that has been made, however, he said that “the path is long with many obstacles to overcome”.

The major announcement in Ortega’s speech was that of a plan to decentralize administrative functions which will divide the Pacific side of the country into six regions and the Atlantic Coast area into three zones. Each region or zone will have a coordinator appointed by the Government Junta to oversee government activities in the area and decentralize administrative functions.

Ortega’s speech also addressed the political and increasingly military crisis of Central America. “We have said that we are undergoing a bloody and silent invasion and that all of Central America is on the brink of war”. Ortega accused the Reagan administration of being responsible for the crisis due to its aggressive policies and said that it is this U.S. policy which makes Nicaragua anti-imperialist. He added that “our principal weapon is simply our courageous, staunch and organized people defending their right to sovereignty”.


Events in the Central American region affecting Nicaragua have revolved around three distinct but interrelated issues:

1- The impact of the Falklands conflict on hemispheric relations and U.S. policy towards the region.
2- The increasing polarization between the Central American countries and Nicaragua as a result of a consolidation of U.S. policy in Central America.
3- The diplomatic initiatives to defuse the growing tension and maintain dialogue.

Looking at events over the past two months, it seems clear that the fallout from the Falklands conflict for the United States will be limited and short term, and that both military and political tensions in Central America are now greater than ever. There is perhaps less aggressive rhetoric emanating from the White House and the State Department these days, but concrete events in the region demonstrate a greater degree of regional conflict and political polarization.

The Falklands, Hemispheric Unity and U.S. Policy

-- The initial impact of the Falklands conflict diverted U.S. attention away from the region towards the South Atlantic. This inattention has now all but disappeared as the U.S. attempts to repair the damage done to its Latin American relations. U.S. sales of sensitive nuclear facilities to Argentina and F-16 aircraft to Venezuela underscore the economic relations between the U.S. and Latin America which will undoubtedly affect any future political relations.

-- Perhaps the biggest benefit to Nicaragua has been the shift in Venezuelan policy demonstrated by the presence of Herrera Campins at the anniversary celebration. Venezuela has been the U.S.’s main Latin American ally in support of its Central American policy and was largely responsible for organizing Latin American opposition to the Franco-Mexican initiative on El Salvador. A more independent policy by Venezuela can have important benefits in countering U.S. attempts to isolate Nicaragua economically and politically. Just how independent of Washington Venezuela will be remains to be seen.

-- Argentine advisors are still present in Central America and are advising anti-Sandinista groups in Honduras who are attacking Nicaragua.

-- Nicaragua is also placing priority on strengthening both economic and political relations with several South American nations, particularly Brazil and Peru, along with Venezuela. A number of economic agreements with Brazil have been signed, including one to give Brazil oil exploration rights off Nicaragua’s shores.

Military and Political Developments and U.S. Policy

During the past two months, there has been a marked increase in coordination and agreements reached between the Central American countries, excluding Nicaragua, and between these countries and the United States. This consolidation of U.S. policy towards the region has led to increasing tension and polarization. On July 12, before leaving for France, Daniel Ortega stated, “The situation is now more serious than ever… We are practically at the door of a regional confrontation due to the aggressive policies of the United States”. The main characteristics of this confrontation are the following:

Military Aspects

-- Beginning June 22, 3000 Honduran troops entered El Salvador’s Morazán province to reinforce the newly U.S.– trained Salvadoran battalion which was “bogged down” in fighting with the guerrillas. This represented the first large-scale intervention of foreign troops into El Salvador and a dangerous step in widening the military conflict.

-- From late June to early August, the United States increased military aid to Honduras and carried out joint military maneuvers with Honduran troops.

-- On August 2, Nicaraguan newspapers reported that Honduran troops had been placed on full alert and that Honduran troops transported to the border area would remain there indefinitely after the joint maneuvers ended.

-- In the week of July 26, the fourth group of Costa Rica security forces left for the Panama Canal Zone to receive anti-guerrilla training. Costa Rica will also be receiving Israeli assistance for its police force.

-- To the above must be added the attacks made directly on Nicaragua (reported in the following article), which have killed 300 people so far this year.

Political Aspects

-- On June 16, Salvadoran President Alvaro Magaña met with Honduran President Roberto Suazo Córdova in Tegucigalpa and later Magaña met with General Efraim Ríos Montt in Guatemala.

-- On June 20, Costa Rican President Alberto Monge arrived in Washington for an official visit. Costa Rica’s severe economic crisis makes it vulnerable to outside pressures, and Monge was specifically seeking U.S. aid. The U.S. has stated that Costa Rica should also beef up its security forces.

-- On July 7, the Central American Democratic Community (CDC) met in San Salvador with the official participation of Guatemala for the first time.

-- On July 13, Honduran President Suazo Córdova and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces General Gustavo Alvarez arrived in Washington for a two day official visit to seek economic and security assistance.

-- On July 28, the National Guard in Panama protested the use of Panamanian territory as the launching site of the C-130 transport planes used in the joint U.S.-Honduran maneuvers, saying that such use of the territory was not directly related to the defense of the Canal and was thus a violation of the Carter-Torrijos Treaty.

-- Prior to the CDC meeting, Salvadoran President Alvaro Magaña traveled to Panama in an attempt to convince Panamanian President Aristides Royo to join the Democratic Community. Royo refused saying that the CDC is not democratic and it is intended as “a dagger aimed at Nicaragua”.

-- On July 30, Panamanian President Royo resigned, and Vice President Ricardo de la Espriella took over the presidency. While the official reason given for Royo’s resignation was poor health, other reports have said that the real reason was Royo’s independent foreign policy and his intention to organize a meeting of foreign ministers including Cuba and excluding the United States.

-- On August 2, Costa Rican Foreign Minister Fernando Volio met with his Honduran counterpart, Edgardo Paz Barnica in Tegucigalpa. After the meeting, Volio stated that the Río Treaty of Mutual Assistance could be an effective instrument “in the case of an eventual armed aggression against our countries”. The statement was significant because the Río Treaty had been greatly discredited after the United States’ refusal to consider its use during the Malvinas conflict.

Diplomatic Initiatives

-- On July 7, the heads of the Nicaraguan and Honduran Navies met in the Nicaraguan Port of Corinto to discuss territorial water disputes.

-- In a speech on July 26, Sergio Ramírez stated that Nicaraguan will not be provoked into responding to armed attacks, as a response might be used to justify a full-scale intervention against Nicaraguan. A July 29 article in the Washington Post quoted Defense Minister Humberto Ortega as saying that Nicaraguan is seeking to purchase 8-15 “interceptor” planes from France or the Soviet Union to defend against armed attacks.

-- On July 29, Nicaragua proposed a meeting between the heads of state of Nicaragua and Honduras. On August 5, Carlos Nuñez, the President of the Council of State, invited the president of the Honduran Parliament to meet.

-- In a letter dated July 30 to U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz, Foreign Minister Miguel D’Escoto protested the United States’ “interventionist position” which is leading towards “an unnecessary war between Honduras and Nicaragua with unforeseeable consequences”. D’Escoto strongly protested the U.S.–Honduran maneuvers and called, once again, for negotiations within the framework of the Mexican proposal.

-- On August 3, the Nicaraguan government issued a statement on relations with Costa Rica and comments made by President Monge August 1. The statement said that Monge’s verbal attacks on Nicaragua were an attempt to make Nicaragua the scapegoat for Costa Rica’s own internal economic problems. The statement reiterated the need for dialogue an peaceful solutions.


In the sphere of international relations, the events of the past two months fall within the framework of Nicaragua’s policies of non-alignment and support for the struggles of other oppressed groups. In addition, Nicaragua’s foreign policy has been forced to respond to United States efforts to destabilize the revolution and also, more recently, to the efforts by Nicaraguan exiles to cut off economic and political support.

A chronological listing of major events follows:

-- On June 10, Minister of Culture Ernesto Cardenal visited Brazil and Argentina on a good-will mission.

-- On June 17, Miguel D’Escoto addressed the U.N. Special Session on Disarmament in New York. The Nicaraguan ambassador to the U.S., Francisco Fiallos, was called back to Managua for consultation after an unencouraging U.S. response to Nicaragua’s proposals for negotiations.

-- On July 12, Comandante Daniel Ortega led a high level delegation to France on an official invitation from French President Mitterand. Ortega met with the French President and with Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson as well as being a special guest to the Bastille Day ceremony in Paris.

President Mitterand reiterated French support for the Nicaraguan revolution and stated that its “originality and non-alignment are its greatest strengths”. Foreign Minister Cheysson said that the “worst error we could make would be to follow the policy adopted by the United States” of trying to isolate Nicaragua. Ortega received promises from the French that they will deliver the $15 million worth of military equipment agreed to last year but held up due to U.S. protest, and France also agreed to provide $15 million in economic aid for a paper plant and cocoa cooperatives. Most important, France promised energetically to pursue its policy towards Central America of promoting dialogue.

-- The Nicaraguan delegation headed by Daniel Ortega visited Spain on July 13 and met with King Juan Carlos and President Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo. Ortega asked for Spain’s participation in negotiated settlements to the conflict in Central America and the proposal was well received by Spanish leaders.

-- On July 16, Greece announced that it will open an Embassy in Managua.

-- On July 17, Miguel D’Escoto attended the special meeting in Cyprus of the nonaligned nations to discuss the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and he was selected as one of eight foreign ministers to visit Beirut.

-- On August 2, Edmundo Jarquín the director of Nicaragua’s International Reconstruction Fund, announced that the $5.1 million donation to the private sector and the Catholic Church hierarchy by the U.S. agency for International Development (AID) would not be authorized. Jarquín’s statement described the extent of U.S. economic aggressions against Nicaragua and the overtly political nature of the $5.1 million grant.

-- On August 5, Nicaragua broke relations with Israel to express its grave concern over Israeli bombardment of West Beirut.

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