|Central American University - UCA
Number 17 | Noviembre 1982
From Constant Aggression To Military Emergency
1- AGGRESSION, A GROWING TENDENCY Nicaraguan Update from October 5 to November 5
As this article was being written, on November 4 the Nicaraguan Government declared a State of Military Emergency in an area of northern Nicaragua that constitutes almost one third of the total national territory. The area affected includes parts of the departments of Chinandega, Estelí, Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Jinotega and Zelaya. In addition, the National Emergency, which was declared for the first time in March of this year, was extended until May 30, 1983.
Both of these measures were taken at time in which military attacks on the northern border have increased, not only in number but also in intensity (with greater coordination among the distinct counterrevolutionary groups, better armaments, etc.). The current situation is also characterized by Honduras’ unwillingness to establish a dialogue with Nicaragua, as has been proposed by México and Venezuela. Thus, these measures were taken in a climate of extreme tension which has no visible end in sight. The difficult situation does not just exist in the imagination of the Nicaraguans.
Conclusive proof of that appeared in the impressive article which appeared in the November 8 issue of the United States weekly magazine, Newsweek, which was quickly published in its entirety in Nicaragua. The article gives detailed accounts of the actions of the Reagan Administration to harass, destabilize and ultimately destroy the Nicaraguan government. The article describes in detail the responsibility of U.S. functionaries, such as the U.S. Ambassador, John Dmitri Negroponte, in the promotion of that policy. These facts, brought out by Newsweek and corroborated immediately by the French newspaper Le Matin, have an intrinsic value, especially since these publications can hardly be accused of being pro-Sandinista.
2- THE CLIMATE THAT EXISTS IN NICARAGUA: Some concrete examples.
a- Examples of military aggression
October 7: The deaths of seven counterrevolutionaries in different actions in the border area of Nicaragua was announced.
October 7: Another air space violation was denounced. A helicopter coming from Honduras penetrated as far as 8 kilometers, between san Francisco and Cerro de Jesús.
October 7: A uniformed group from Honduras attacked a Nicaraguan border patron in the area of El Espino and Niguilse.
October 7: Two members of a unit who had planned military actions of harassment in Bluefields were presented to the press corps here. The head of the band, Castro Williams, was implicated in the Red Christmas conspiracy of last December.
October 8: The public was informed that the body of a campesino who had been kidnapped on October 3 had been found in Sonzapote. Responsibility was attributed to groups coming from Honduras.
October 8: The Ministry of Defense issued information regarding the death of two counterrevolutionaries in Zelaya Norte. At the same time, the public was shown military equipment that had been recovered, including an AR-15 gun (a lighter version of the M-16), made in the U.S. and used in Vietnam. It is worth noting that this type of weapon was found in three different and widely separated areas.
October 8: The Nicaraguan Department of Foreign Relations sent the 5th protest note in 15 days to Honduras denouncing a new air incursion in the area of Palo Verde and an attack on the border post at San Francisco. Both incidents began in Honduran territory.
October 12: A counterrevolutionary attack against the village of San Pedro del Potrero Grande was repelled by the milicias and the Civil Defense group that functions in the area.
October 14: A group of 30 counterrevolutionaries of the FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) killed two persons and wounded two others in the villages of Las Estancias and Casas Viejas.
October 16: The border posts of La Esperanza and El Gavilán were attacked with high powered mortars.
October 19: A note of protest, was sent to the Honduran authorities regarding the kidnapping of the campesino Macario Gutiérrez in Palo Grande and of Nazario Gutierrez in Falcón.
October 26: Six campesinos were kidnapped in the Valley of Latón, in the Department of Nueva Segovia.
October 28: A band coming from Honduras assassinated seven campesinos in the area of La Fragua. Six of them belonged to the Blandón family, and the bodies were found mutilated and showing signs of torture.
This massacre brought a strong condemnation from the Christian Communities of northern Nicaragua (the text of which is included).
All were active in community work and two were Delegates of the Word. (This is a church function held by lay persons in areas where the priest arrives only irregularly due to the large areas he has to cover). Christians committed to the process of the revolution in Nicaragua are coming under increasingly systematic attack by counterrevolutionary groups. While these attacks on committed Christians are occurring throughout Latin America, in other countries Christians are persecuted by the dictatorial regimes; in Nicaragua they are attacked by anti-government groups.
On November 3, Comandantes Lenín Cerna (head of State Security) and Julio Ramos (head of Army Intelligence) gave a press conference where they presented numerous proofs of recent aggressions, including the testimony of a young campesino, kidnapped by anti-Sandinistas in June of this year, who managed to escape after several months of being held in a camp in Honduras.
In their report, the comandantes mentioned some data regarding counterrevolutionary activity which occurred between August and October of this year:
On October 26, the Foreign Ministry presented a book called Nicaragua Denounces to the diplomatic corps accredited in Nicaragua. The book lists 429 aggressions suffered by Nicaragua in less than three years. Through a simple comparison of the maps included in the book (which are included in this article), the increase and intensification of the attacks in the last year can be easily seen.
b- Examples of economic pressuresOn October 26, Standard Fruit Company, a subsidiary of Castle and Cook announced without warning the suspension of all their activities in Nicaragua. This company in 1980 had signed a contract with the Nicaraguan government, in which they committed themselves to marketing the banana production for the next five years.
This unilateral decision will directly affect 4,000 Nicaraguan workers and could mean an annual loss for the government of $24,000.000. The explanations of Standard relate the decision to problems in the international market and low profitability of their Nicaraguan operation. These explanations are not entirely satisfactory. It is true that Nicaragua does not have the same importance to this multinational as does Costa Rica or Honduras (countries with large banana production). However, in Nicaragua the State runs the major risk in banana production while Standard is left principally with marketing activities, involving far less economic risk. This would indicate that the decision of Standard Fruit is more political than economic.
A similar situation can be found in financial activity. There is an almost total boycott by international private banks, principally U.S. banks. Nicaragua is one of the few countries that is currently meeting its foreign debt obligations. Between January and September of this year, it paid more the $190 million, at the cost of tremendous domestic sacrifice. Nevertheless, thus far this year Nicaragua has received almost no help from private banks. Here also, political decisions assume a role that surpasses purely economic considerations.
The aggressions respond to a global policy which is seeking in an integral way and by whatever means necessary (economic, political, military) to reverse this process. This policy, apparently irreversible, increases in intensity month after month, creating an atmosphere of tense preoccupation that adversely affects the reconstruction of the country.
Although many factors have had an impact upon the situation in Nicaragua this month there is one factor that seems most important for Nicaraguan domestic politics: the fostering of national unity on two different levels. One, at a grass roots level, is reflected in the letter of Comandante Arce to the leaders of the Sandinista Block Committees. This is included in this Envío as a separate article.
3- CONSOLIDATION OF NATIONAL UNITY AS AN ANSWER TO AGGRESSION
The other is demonstrated by the continuation of talks (with their inevitable ups and downs) between the Revolutionary Patriotic Front (FRP) and the “Ramiro Sacasa Democratic Coordinating Committee” of the opposition. These are the two principal coalitions of the Nicaraguan political superstructure.
In reference to these talks, on October 22 the FPR, which includes the FSLN, presented a document to the Government Junta in which they proposed, even within the framework of the National Emergency, “to work single-mindedly for the perfection of the Nicaraguan political model, destined to continue being an example for Latin America”. They also proposed: 1) discussion of a bill for an Electoral Law; 2) elaboration of a bill for a Foreign Investment Law; 3) resumption of the debate in the Council of State over the proposed Law of Political Parties. This debate was suspended last March when the State of Emergency was decreed; 4) enactment of a Communication Media Law. The proposal also requested that all political parties participate in this project, in spite of the State of Emergency.
The president of the Council of State, Comandante Carlos Núñez, spoke of the need to work on these proposals immediately. On October 23, the President of the Social Christian Party, Adán Fletes (of the opposition Coordinating Committee) said, “We believe that the action of the FPR (referring to the cited proposals) was unilateral, but we consider it a positive step”. He also asked that those proposals be debated in a wider forum than the Council of State. (On October 15, the Coordinating Committee had sent a letter to the FSLN giving as preconditions for continuing the dialogue, “lifting the State of Emergency and ending the restrictions on the communications media”.
There has been no public reaction by the Coordinating Committee since the extension of the Emergency. But there are two distinct aspects that should be considered. One is the continuous threat of foreign intervention under which Nicaragua is living. This makes for an overwhelmingly difficult situation that does not allow reversals of defense measures. The other aspect is the work to consolidate the Nicaraguan political model, in which the opposition has been invited to participate. Out of their understanding of these different aspects, a healthy participatory attitude could emerge. If, on the other hand, an attempt is made to deny the actual “pre-war” state that exists, there is a risk that the dialogue begun in September will be aborted and national unity at a superstructural level will be weakened.
What will the repercussions of the U.N. victory be in the precarious situation that exists in the country? What is the real significance of this victory? These are some of the questions that arise when observing the somber panorama of systematic pressures.
4- THE VICTORY IN THE UNITED NATIONS
The victory which gives Nicaragua a seat on the United Nations Security Council beginning in January of 1983 should be examined from various perspectives.
For Nicaragua and for its people (who spontaneously celebrated en masse when news of the victory became known), it means the ability to continue promoting, now with even greater force, a policy of regional peace. In this regard, all of the leaders of the Revolution have made public statements.
It is also a resounding proof that in spite of the campaigns to discredit Nicaragua which have been launched abroad, the majority of nations see an exemplary process in Nicaragua. In the case of many Third World countries who supported Nicaragua in the United Nations, the vote also represents an identification with similar problems and a respect for the Sandinista Revolution’s search for creative and original solutions.
The U.S. supported the candidature of the Dominican Republic for the Security Council seat with all its diplomatic resources.
Therefore, the Nicaraguan victory was a resounding defeat for the U.S. That does not mean that the Reagan Administration accepts the results as a decisive defeat for their interventionist plans against Nicaragua. It would be a mistake to think that the United States will change its policies toward Nicaragua because of the results of something that happened in the United Nations.
The victory in the United Nations demonstrates international recognition of Nicaragua’s policy of non-alignment and helps its efforts for regional peace and its non-interventionist positions. It reduces potential international support with which the United States could proceed with an intervention. But it does not provide an absolute guarantee that Nicaragua will no be attacked. The support of 104 nations who voted for Nicaragua is confined to the diplomatic arena, where mutual respect for sovereignty is an unalterable premise. However in the practical implementation of U.S. policy toward Central America (the area of absolute hegemony that the Reagan Administration cannot face losing), another language is spoken and military force toward weaker countries systematically replaces diplomatic steps.
The principal lines that define the foreign policy of the U.S. have continued to be consolidated this month. The hawkish characteristic of the demands and the position of non-dialogue (and, as a consequence, of non-pacification) have remained constant. Some examples of this are:
5- UNITED STATES POLICY: BLIND OR PRESUMPTUOUS?
a- The rejection of the Mexican-Venezuelan proposal for a dialogue between Nicaragua and Honduras.
b- The public rejection of the proposal for dialogue presented by the FMLN-FDR of El Salvador, which tries to resolve the crisis of that country.
c- The defense of Israel at whatever cost, in the face of international condemnation for the genocide in Lebanon. The U.S. threatened to resign from the U.N. if the Arab proposal to expel Israel from that international forum were passed. The U.S. not only plays the role of defending Israel but it also applies pressure on the Arab countries in order to weaken their position.
The slight modification of U.S. policy with respect to the Falklands (voting, in the beginning of November, in favor of a U.N. resolution introduced by Argentina to reopen the discussion with Great Britain) seems more related to an accommodation that it had to make to Latin America, than to a new Latin American policy.
In addition, the replacement of Haig by Schultz has meant, within the framework of the same unchanging hawkish logic, a reactivation of the historic and well-known policy of “gendarmes”. Haig personified an aggressive U.S. foreign policy that has little concern for its costs. Now, Schultz is trying to see that the U.S. maintain a lower profile and that its best allies in each area promote the U.S. policies.
The visitors who have arrived at the White House in the last months would seem to confirm this hypothesis:
September 23- Visit of President Marcos of the Philippines.
October 13 - Visit of the President of Indonesia.
October 16 - Visit of Yitzhak Shamir (Israeli Foreign
October 19 - Visit of Amin Gemayel (president of Lebanon)
October 19 - Visit of King Hassan of Morroco, heading a
delegation of Arab nations
November 4 - Visit of President Monge of Costa Rica.
The reactivation of the policy of gendarmes in Central America includes the inter-relation of gendarmes of different areas. Specifically, we refer to the renewed relations of Israel both with Costa Rica and with Honduras, in addition to the already well-known and long-standing relations with Guatemala.
The rejection of the proposals for negotiations of the FMLN-FDR and of Mexico-Venezuela, the defense of Israel in spite of the cost in public opinion that this signifies, and the reactivation of the policy of gendarmes have been manifestations of the hawkish policies of the Reagan Administration since the arrival of Schultz.
6- AN EXPLOSIVE CENTRAL AMERICA: SOME IMPORTANT REGIONAL ASPECTS AND THEIR INFLUENCE ON NICARAGUA.
a- Certain changes, significant because of their repercussions, tended to modify the panorama of the Central American region during October. One important element was the launching of a new military offensive by the FMLN (October 10) and the proposal for dialogue by the FMLN-FDR within the framework of the same offensive (October 26).
To date, the offensive has meant the formation of the “Arc of Liberty”, a strip of 70 kilometers under FMLN control where a series of towns occupied by the rebel forces are located. At the date of this analysis, it has the following significance:
1- The offensive shows a decisive advance in the level of cooperation and unity of the guerrilla forces, both in area and in time. It is a qualitative and quantitative improvement over the other three offensives (of January, 1981; June-July, 1981; and March-April, 1982).
2- The Salvadoran military has thus far been unable to respond effectively to the offensive; they seem to be overwhelmed by the guerrilla action. On October 25, Colonel García had to publicly admit a defensive strategy without the possibility of a response in the critical zone.
3- The offensive has sharpened even more the contradictions among power groups in El Salvador (for example, the contradictions between García and D’Aubuisson), and even among U.S. functionaries. Ambassador Deane Hinton indicated to the London Times a possibility of dialogue between his government and the guerrillas, a position immediately corrected by the White House.
4- And what appears most significant, the offensive and the proposal for dialogue launched by the FMLN-FDR give the Salvadoran revolutionary movement an effective integration between military and political action. This integration suffered a severe blow in the beginning months of 1980 (the massacre at the funeral of Monsignor Romero is a good example). From then on, the principal action of the grassroots movements passed to military confrontations. The offensive and the proposal for a dialogue come from a position of strength because of the military successes gained up to this moment. It signifies the recovery of capacity for combining the armed struggle and the political struggle of the mass organizations.
Although up to the moment, in the development of the offensive, “power” is not at stake (the final victory), a decisive advance is being made in the accumulation of grassroots strength by the revolutionary movement. A Salvadoran leader said in Managua on November 2, “It is not a final step, but it is a fundamental step. The victory of the people is now seen more than ever as only a matter of time”.
On October 10, Monsignor Rivera y Damas of San Salvador supported the FMLN-FDR dialogue as a means to resolve the crisis. At the same time he called on Nicaragua and Honduras to dialogue in order to resolve their problems.
The new situation created in El Salvador is more and more difficult for the Reagan administration to control. This could bring the U.S. government to take previously unthought-of actions. Comandante Villalobos of the FMLN denounced that the U.S. was considering allowing the Salvadoran military to use saturation bombing with napalm in order to demolish the controlled zones.
There has also been talk of more intervention by Honduran troops, mobilized along the El Salvador border, in order to reinforce the anti-insurgency action. Saturation bombing and/or utilization of napalm would be an obvious escalation of the conflict and would signify a rapid move toward a Vietnamization of the region.
b- Honduras continues reinforcing its military strength with the total support of the United States. Increasing tensions on the Honduran-Nicaraguan border, aggravated by the support of the Honduran military to the Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries camped in Honduras, is the other problematic focal point of the region.
The negative attitude of the Honduran government regarding a dialogue with Nicaragua has continued in the last month as well. On October 13, Suazo Córdova rejected the Mexico-Venezuela proposal, suggesting instead the discussion of the problem in the Pro-peace Forum (which was created at the instigation of the Reagan administration and which is unilateral).
The future joint “Halcon Vista” maneuvers, with United States and Honduran troops, sharply increases the contradictions. Although it now seems that the maneuvers have been postponed from December to January, the mere fact of their being scheduled aggravates the tension that already exists.
Within this framework, the October 28 pastoral letter by the Honduran bishops and the statement by the bishop of San Pedro Sula calling for a dialogue are important. They could lead to a dialogue between religious from both countries that would be a first step toward a dialogue between governments
Significantly, Moshe Dayan, ambassador of Israel in Honduras, announced his country’s continues military support to Honduras at the same time that Honduras affirmed that it supported Israel in the Middle East.
In Guatemala, strong internal divisions within the military show a government (Ríos Montt) weakened by the unscrupulous application of its policy of “Guns and Beans”. Ríos Montt prolonged the State of Siege at the same time that there were persistent rumors of an intended coup by a rightist coalition. Various high ranking officers were arrested.
Toward the end of the month, the Guatemalan Committee of Patriotic Unity denounced in México that the government had set up sixty strategic villages. In the last eight months, 185 attacks by military forces were registered in distinct civilian localities. There were 9,000 deaths; close to one million Guatemalan campesinos live as “internal refugees”.
The denunciation of what would have been the massacre of 5,000 campesinos in San Martin de Jilotepeque, quickly mobilized various international groups (principally journalistic) and brought observers to the scene. Their pressure stopped the original plan of Ríos Montt. The Amnesty International report of systematic human rights violations in Guatemala served to unmask the Reagan report of some months ago, which reported that there had been a significant improvement. Amnesty documented that between March and June there were at least 70 massacres by the government which resulted in more than 2,000 deaths.
In Costa Rica, the banana workers’ strike has been in progress for nearly 50 days, and violence has erupted. On October 15, leaders of the CUT (Unitary Confederation of Workers) denounced that three workers had been wounded by the police. On October 22, 42 Costa Rican deputies asked President Monge to intervene so that a just solution to the problem could be achieved.
Two other items are important for our analysis: the consolidation of the Costa Rican military apparatus and the trip of President Monge to Washington, November 4-6.
Costa Rica has decided to double the number of guards on the border with Nicaragua. In addition, a U.S. loan of $ 2 million for military provisions and $150,000 (triple the previous amount designated) for military training was confirmed.
A new organism for military centralization, the National Directorate of Policy Intelligence, has been created. Nine countries, among them the U.S., Taiwan, Argentina, Israel, South Korea and Japan, are collaborating in the preparation of new Costa Rican military units. Israel also will function as an intermediary between Costa Rica and U.S. banking institutions to see that Costa Rica receives the benefit of soft credits.
El Salvador and Guatemala present the Reagan administration with almost insoluble problems. The explosive situation in El Salvador shows a clear advance by the guerrilla forces. The Guatemalan dictatorship of Ríos Montt represses and massacres the civilian population without being able to stop the grass roots organizations. These problems complicate U.S. interventionist plans toward Nicaragua. At the same time, the Administration, faced with a situation that is getting out of control, could promote desperate and costly policies in the region that would increase the regionalization of the war. Costa Rica and Honduras, for their part, continue consolidating their positions as springboards for intervention against Nicaragua and as tentacles of isolation and political and military blockade against Nicaragua.
a- United States: The congressional elections, although they strengthen internal opposition against Reagan, do not significantly change the political situation, especially toward Central America. It is a positive but not a determinant factor for Nicaragua.
7- SOME INTERNATIONAL ITEMS THAT HAVE REPERCUSSIONS IN THE NICARAGUAN SITUATION
The domestic social-political crisis in the U.S. will continue and will increase in the coming months. Data such as the budget deficit at the end of October of $100 billion or the 10.01% level of unemployment (10 million workers) will somewhat weaken the ability of the Republican government to act, even toward Central America.
A letter sent at the beginning of October by 107 U.S. congresspersons, among them 18 Republicans, asked the Reagan Administration to make a positive response to the Mexican-Venezuelan proposal. This indicates a current of opinion that favors non-intervention.
Former President Carter’s criticism of Reagan for not having prevented the Israeli invasion of Lebanon expresses the prevalent Democratic opposition to Reagan Administration aggressiveness. The opposition favors Nicaragua.
b- Latin America: The victory of Siles Suazo in Bolivia is one of the most important events of the month. The immediate resumption of diplomatic relations with Nicaragua, as well as the COPPAL meeting (in which Sergio Ramírez participated and of which Comandante Tomás Borge is Vice-President) favor an alliance with Nicaragua. The Bolivian President called on Latin American countries to search together for forms of financing the foreign debt. This creates possibilities for a “financial front” which is needed by all the Latin American countries, including Nicaragua.
The foreign debt problem is tremendous throughout the continent. Brazil, Argentina and México have, among them, $200 billion in foreign debts (representing 1/5 of the total world foreign debt).
In the Brasilia Forum, 14 Latin American countries voted against the U.S. proposal to create a Continental Air Defense System. This defeat is indicative of the prevalent Latin America sentiment in the aftermath of the Falklands conflict.
The problem of the Falklands has not been resolved at an international political level, in spite of the U.S. accommodation move in the last U.N. General Assembly (voting for the Argentine proposal). That is shown by the severe criticism of the United States by Argentine Ambassador Quijano in the OAS meeting on October 20. It also explains the call by Colombia for a meeting of Latin American presidents in the first months of 1982 to review the inter-American system.
Important political leaders of the majority party in Venezuela have agreed to continue promoting the Mexican-Venezuelan proposal. This is a positive development for Nicaragua, as are the declarations of the Panamanian President asking for dialogue. The competition of the Dominican Republic for the U.N. Security Council seat was evaluated in Managua as “honest” and “dignified”. In spite of its defeat, the Dominican Republic continues having an open attitude toward Nicaragua.
Latin America, as a whole, has its own dynamic. At present it is defined by conflictiveness and a certain lack of control by the Reagan Administration. Thus the Reagan trip in December will try to regain the control, which diminished after the Falklands conflict, and which is undermined by internal conflicts in the majority of the countries. We think that this general characteristic of Latin America favors the network of Nicaraguan alliances at the moment and it reinforces anti-interventionist feelings.
c- Europe. The electoral victory of the PSOE in Spanish favors the Social-Democratic countries (France, Greece, Sweden, Austria), which are friends of Nicaragua. This victory (and the Social-Democratic “pentagon”) are counterbalanced by the strengthening of West Germany as a promoter of Reagan policies, for example, with regard to NATO.
The Socialist International meeting in Basle, Switzerland, where an observer of the FSLN participated, was significant for its declarations and for its results. In addition to supporting the FMLN-FDR proposal and condemning repression in Guatemala, the Socialist International condemned aggressive plans against Nicaragua, hailed the proposal by the Revolutionary Patriotic Front for the enactment of various laws to strengthen democratic institutions, and accepted Nicaragua’s suggestion that the Socialist International send a commission to make an on-site study of the situation.
In the first two weeks of October, the Dutch leader, Pieter Dankert, President of the European Parliament, made statements in the press underlining the value of the Mexican-Venezuelan proposal for dialogue. These reactions to the proposals for negotiation show some political independence with respect to the U.S. in practical and concrete resolutions of world problems.
Europe also had its own dynamic this month: elections in Spain, the trip of the Pope to that country, the workers’ demonstrations in Germany criticizing Kohl’s economic programs and his decision to reinforce the proposal of NATO for the installation of U.S. missiles, the electoral advance of the Greek Social-Democrats, and some points of disagreement between the U.S. and Europe. These points seem not to favor Reagan in his search for strong allies on that continent for interventionist adventures in Central America. In all of this, the positions of the Socialist International stand out, categorically favoring a pacific and political solution to the problems in the area.
Translated from original in Spanish