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  Number 304 | Noviembre 2006
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Nicaragua

A Characterization of FSLN Voters And a Few Forecasts

Can we characterize the voters who gave Daniel Ortega back the presidency? Can the “political soul” of today’s Sandinista voter be described? Is there a classification for the hordes of extras in this Triumphal March? Let’s try, beginning the exploration from the pen of Rubén Darío.

José Luis Rocha

The FSLN’s uproarious rejoicing began before the first vote was counted. Comes the parade now with one accord / Marching comes the army and the clear, bright bugling begins! as RubénDarío wrote over a century ago. A contingency of well-trained electoral officials had sent in their vote count tallies. Arriving with the victory, the golden condors come! The ballot boxes were only beginning to be delivered to Managua’s National Stadium, where the Supreme Electoral Council had set up its computer center for entering the results when trucks, buses, a mobile sound system, an exultant retinue of fans and pyrotechnics joined together in a jubilant throng. Fireworks stored and a party postponed for almost 17 years. With gold and steel amassing the moving paladins... Up to bat again after being thrown out with three strikes, Daniel Ortega triumphed in the elections and will be installed in the presidential offices he has coveted with uninterrupted obsession. The aureate sounds / The advent witnessing / Of glory claimed and won.

Who forged this triumph?

Each member of the FSLN’s upper echelons will mumble about what part he or she played in pulling off this triumph. Conceiving himself as the predestined one of the jet-black eyes, Daniel Ortega will assume that his magnetic person-ality, messianic karma and electrifying words are what induced the needy to honor him with their vote, and not that publicity image, which would delight a mass psychologyist, that he’s maintained for almost three decades. Honor to him carrying the captured standard through the air! Rosario Murillo, the predestined one’s wife, will say that the key to the triumph was the psychedelic mix of white, black, red & black and strawberry pink magic that made Managua a gigantic Pollock painting... And the most beautiful of those / Turn in their warmest smiles to the fiercest warriors. Lenín Cerna, in charge of the intimidating Electoral Commandos, will know that his work in the shadows was invaluable to producing an opportune cohort of the manipulated, absorbed and neutralized.

Dionisio Marenco will puff out his chest for his dull mayoral administration of Managua. The student “leader” and now legislator Jasser Martínez will say that his mercenaries camouflaged as university students won the decisive battles. The hero at the head of his own fiery band. Vice President-elect Jaime Morales Carazo will hold that only he could give credibility to the reconciliation discourse. Were these the keys to victory? Or was it the Olympian feat of FSLN founder Tomás Borge, who at 76 years old swam across Managua’s putrid Tiscapa crater lake in 35 minutes and lived to tell about it? Ovations in the standards that in solemn glory pass/ Carried by the athletes with heroic hands of praise. Or was it sociologist Orlando Núñez’s ideological support by publishing Oligarchy in Nicaragua, a book written in an hour in the middle of the campaign? Or would it be the cardinal’s blessing? Or the FSLN’s criminal opposition to therapeutic abortion? Or could it indeed be owed to the intervention of Divine Providence, whose plans are more inscrutable than the ballot boxes? The fact is that its triumph was based on the simple and straightforward “divide and conquer” strategy.

Little numbers speak

The political scientists, pollsters and political analysts, overabundant species in electoral periods, will scratch their heads raw asking for whom the Güegüense tipped the balance, or why it didn’t show itself. In reality, the FSLN triumph wasn’t at all worthy of fireworks. Its 930,862 votes this year represent only 25.4% of all registered voters (2,421.067, some 70% of whom voted). Between the 2001 elections, when the FSLN won over 30.5% of all registered voters, and this year’s, the electoral roll increased by 667,913, or 22.3%, but the FSLN’s 15,445-vote increase in those same five years is only a 1.69% growth.

The FSLN would have needed to capture 188,510 more votes just to keep pace with the growth in registered voters, but not even the 154,224 votes siphoned off by the MRS would have done the trick. The Liberal family, divided this year despite the intrigues, extortion and ominous messages of the empire’s heralds to reunite them, gathered a joint majority of votes, a combined total of 426,754 more than the FSLN. In 1996 the Liberals beat the FSLN by 134,463 votes and in 2001 by 301,446. Liberalism continues to get a greater and greater advantage over the FSLN.

The qualities of a non-monolithic vote

Daniel Ortega won’t govern only with the majority of the population against him—or at least not in favor of him. Even those who “favor” him also do so in different ways. Various qualities within the vote for the FSLN suppose different degrees of conditionality, readiness to sacrifice for the party, sympathy, confidence and concession to the benefit of the doubt.

The rainbow of voters for Ortega ranges from those who give him a blank check to those who are curious to see the experiment: how the Sandinistas will behave when governing in peace and in this present moment. The distinct qualities of the votes remain camouflaged by numbers presenting an aggregate of options in a political universe that, only by a perverse simplification that threatens good politics, arrived at perplexing choices such as “Ortega or not Ortega.” The problem of focusing on total numbers in a ballot box is that the political biographies of the individual voters become anonymous and we get an aggregate that seems like a compact, monolithic, uniform group. The ballot box is a kiln in which diverse opinions and motivations are fused into a falsely unanimous slap on the back.

There are a variety of lucid, opportunistic, blind, self-sacrificing, stubborn, faithful, venal and even accidental extras in the FSLN’s triumphal march. It’s important to know who they are because they’ll react in different ways when faced with the measures that the Ortega-Murillo government will take and because they can take different roads in the next elections. They are the seeds of a reconfiguration of the distribution of votes. There are no pure voters. Many voters have a variety of motivations of different weights all mixed together, expressed in imaginings of what is and should be.

The unconditional support of the faithful

The nucleus of the sure vote is the noisy and visible group of always faithful, those who give their support without condition. These are the ones who were transformed into a band of “new rich” entrepreneurs and who made the revolution into a new form of piracy, culminating in the pact with the PLC. Blind to the FSLN’s outrages, these voters issued a blank check that they will never cancel.

The opulent segment of this group has its gullet open waiting for a substantial mouthful: ministries and vice ministries, directorships, coordinator positions, chancelor-ships, embassy and consulate posts, advisory and consultancy contracts. They long for the state udder that a long line of technocrats has already milked so much as to have left only a few drops. They think, “Enough already with Alemán’s friends, Bolaños’ nieces and cousins, friends of Noel Ramírez’s acquaintance’s cousin. Now it’s our turn.” The more grass-roots segment waits for some lesser positions of power that let them take a breather from unemployment or miserable salaries. If necessary, if the adversaries become a little unruly, with pleasure they’ll form a remake of the “divine mobs.”

The eternally grateful, those who received lucrative and easy posts or insignificant crumbs from the FSLN during the eighties are an important number in this group of faithful. They were infected with the virus of the faithful by small and large privileges. They include the former Sandinista Army lieutenant who two months ago went to Cuba to be seen for unsupportable sciatica because Tomás Borge spoke with the right person who in the eighties went to study statistics in the now-extinct Soviet Union. These benefi-ciaries generate an ancestral vote: the daughter of the scholarship recipient, the grandson of the decorated former captain, the niece of the secretary of Comandante Arce’s assistant. All are grateful for the light showers of splendor that the state/party spilled on its kin, and therefore on their family history. Over half of those who voted for the FSLN were too young to know about agrarian reform, military service, coffee brigades, or literacy crusades. But the long shadow of the eighties falls in one direction or another, whether by glorified or gloomy legend, by way of the ancestral vote.

This group also contains many foot soldiers of what was known as the Patriotic Military Service—the draft in more common parlance. The FSLN, which gained strength and prestige as an organization at their cost, and its leaders, who were the revolution’s principal beneficiaries, are in debt to these soldiers for being cannon fodder, the mass that filled out the demonstrations and the arms that held the weapons many leaders never learned to handle. The soldiers themselves—both men and women, because women also fought or supported the logistics of those battles—want to recover two vital elements that the course of history tore out by the roots, without compassion and without asking their permission: their status as defenders of the revolution and the meaning of their youth. Only a new twist of history, another turn of the screw can return the feeling trampled by the “invisible hand” of the ideological market and free their sacrifices from having been in vain.

Despite its diversity, this group has one key element in common: the desire for a return to the past, the nostalgia for a lost identity. But while the FSLN’s return, which it sees as synonymous with the return of the revolution, is enough for them, only certain features will be taken as genuine signs of the return of the revolution for the next group we’ll look at. An FSLN in power is only one necessary condition; it’s not the whole nine yards.

The lifelong revolutionaries:
In the primitive or modernized version

This second group is swelled by those who establish a link between political biography and national history: their personal project is linked to a political project. Those who have a vision which in other contexts has been termed prophetic find a home here. They work for the return of a primitive time of justice, rights for the oppressed, defense of orphans and widows, as the biblical Isaiah proclaims, and the eighties come the closest to that idyllic time.

These particular extras in the Triumphal March hope that children won’t have to beg, that illiteracy will again be reduced, that there will be distribution or even redistribution of the land, health brigades... that it will rain coffee in the countryside. A Mercedes Sosa song refers to being 17 again, after living a century. These people want to recreate a revolution almost 17 years after the FSLN’s electoral defeat and after enduring what they have felt as a century of neoliberalism, privatizations, impoverishment, unemploy-ment, malnutrition and the ostentatious luxury of some.

These enthusiasts sometimes forget the traumatic episodes of the eighties, or interpret them in a sotereological light, or simply minimize them. That selective amnesia isn’t so serious, because the circumstances have changed. The problem is that the circumstances have changed even more than they think, and the leaders of that utopia now have other projects in mind and many properties in hand. In this group, forgetting the past won’t necessarily turn into tolerance of the future deviations from their vision. There’s no blank check here.

In this group there’s a distinction between the modernized revolutionaries and the primitive ones. The up-to-date ones want a remake of the revolution to the cut and the beat of today, incorporating the new causes: indigenous minorities, sexual and reproductive rights, sustainable environmental management… The primitive ones aspire to a fax of the original, a faithful retracing of certain lines of the eighties’ socialist experiment: confiscations, writing off of bank debts, subsidies by the jugful, a gigantic state apparatus, war on Yankee imperialism, the “AFA” packet (rice, beans and sugar) as a salary complement, displays of power in the form of periodic marches, nationalization of transnational businesses… These are the ones who dream of always swimming in the same river, even if they have to swim downstream or let themselves be taken by the current.

The updated revolutionaries have had more difficulty than the original ones in digesting the story that the pact with the PLC was a brilliant temporary strategy to reinstate the revolution. Many of them thus leaned toward the MRS Alliance, with Sandino’s hat emblazoned on its orange flag. This was where the MRS could have gathered more supporters with Sandinista roots, but its influence over them was poor, in part because of the difficult balance the MRS had to maintain to convince non-Sandinista votes and in part because it made no gesture at the end of the campaign to create a few degrees of separation from the politically convenient but electorally inopportune nod the US government had bestowed on Herty Lewites, the original MRS presidential candidate, days before his death.

The new leftist brood

More than half of the FSLN voters are so young that they didn’t live during either the National Literacy Crusade or the Patriotic Military Service, the two massive and emblematic youth mobilizations of the eighties, although of very different values in popular opinion.

If the electoral roll has similar proportions to the registered population in the 2005 census, then 22% of registered voters were born in 1985 or later, the oldest of whom were just five when Violeta Chamorro beat the FSLN. Another 53% were no older than six during the 1980 Literacy Crusade and the oldest of them voted for the first time in 1990 at age 16, escaping military service by a hair. These neophyte voters only know the current Sandinista movement and the old one by some references found in the flow of family experiences.

No party can be sustained if it doesn’t get many votes from this electoral sector. The FSLN nailed it, in part because of the ancestral vote and in part because leftist youth see this party married into a current of political forces that now seem to be booming in Latin America: Castro and Chávez raising the flags of anti-imperialism; Lula defending workers’ rights; Evo Morales heading the fight for indigenous peoples; and Bachelet extending the welfare state.

Many young people with leftist dreams, schooled in different outlines and formulas, and others simply hungry for change and for jobs, voted for Daniel Ortega, some crossing over to vote for the MRS legislative slates. When comparing the votes for President to those for the National Assembly representatives in the Supreme Electoral Council’s nebulous and not very trustworthy number-crunching machine, the FSLN lost around 40,000 voters and the MRS won 50,000. Many of these young people are found there, wondering if Daniel Ortega was really the best candidate, or just the one whose sole victory was against US Ambassador Trivelli’s abusive meddling, the one who led the only political force capable of defeating Eduardo Montealegre, the favored candidate not only of Washington but also of the bankers who are bleeding the country. These youth perceive Montealegre as the extreme opposite of their stereotypes of what a popular politician should be. This walking ad for Brooks Bros. button-down shirts surely didn’t earn a single vote from this group when he tried to show what a regular joe he was by donning a pair of wusy jeans and rubbing up against obese elderly Creole women in a clumsy imitation of the Palo de Mayo dance during the election campaign on the Caribbean coast.

This group wants a more just Nicaragua and one that will open doors for them. Will Daniel Ortega give them this? The personal vision of those voters will taken them down different political paths, according to the opportunities that open for them in the state/party, private business or the already stretched NGOs. This new generation has produced political weirdoes like Jasser Martínez, whose worst qualities are a parody of himself. One-upping the coffeehouse revolutionaries, Martínez inaugurated the youth trend of “casino revolutionaries”—agitator by day, gambler by night. Luckily, while Martínez represents a certain group, he isn’t representative of his generation and the majority of the young leftist brood won’t be lured down these potentially lucrative but tortuous paths.

Trial and error

Another group, whose size is also impossible to measure, is made up of those who decided to try an experiment and give the FSLN the opportunity to govern in peace, thus granting the irremediably reiterative Daniel Ortega’s most reiterated request in the closing days of the campaign. Let’s give it a shot, they convinced themselves; something is bound to come of it through trial and error. They, too, dream of a change, have had enough of neoliberalism, feel we’re in bad shape and that more of the same could leave us even worse off. They don’t buy the fear-mongering stories widely spread by the Nicaraguan Right and by Washington and are notably skeptical of the idea of miraculous change, but the possibility of any improvement at all appeals to them. Some have received more or less vague offers of employment. Others only want the experiment, without being very sure what to do with this instrument of power the democratic system has put in their hands. In a society with little awareness of what a political act involves, votes are often the result of less than fully reasoned decisions.

And the rest...

Many other kinds of people also voted for the FSLN. Some have a foot in one or more of the above camps, and others should be described with very different parameters. Like all typologies, this one results in an unfair, abusive average. The political scientist Evelina Dagnino speaks of three major Latin American political projects: the neoliberal one, the authoritarian one and the participatory one. The FSLN won votes from those who identify themselves—although perhaps not consciously—with all three. Some people with entirely different projects, such as the apocalyptic one of some evangelical groups, also voted for it. But even given the injustice of typologies and the mixture of projects, two conclusions can be drawn from these reflections. The first is that not all the extras filling out this triumphal march are part of the faithful entourage. The second is that their diversity will lead to various reactions depending on the direction the new Sandinista administration takes.

What can we expect?

There is an inevitable level of uncertainty about both the policies the new FSLN government will want to adopt and those that the circumstances will force it to. Will it achieve good relations with the United States? Will it launch a massive literacy campaign? Will it reestablish a development bank to support small producers? Will it edge out the micro-financiers? Will it renegotiate the payment on the domestic debt? Will it increase social spending by increasing the foreign debt? Although some unknowns would require a crystal ball since the FSLN can’t determine all the opportunities and conditions, there’s plenty of room for plausible predictions. You can tell the boat by the cut of its jib.

We can forecast that the FSLN will make some effort to expand social investment. It needs at least the appearance of a social policy, and this can be a good thing. We don’t know whether this social policy will be limited to Rosario Murillo handing out food, soccer balls and rose-colored banners in a reincarnation of Evita Perón. We don’t know whether there will be substantial investments in education and health, or where the money would come from. Cuba? Venezuela? We do know where it won’t come from, however. It won’t come from a reduction in the mega-salaries that the FSLN’s top leaders have been longing for. And it won’t come from a tax reform that makes the big evaders or the foreign maquila owners pay, since the Sandinistas want to maintain the best of relations with them.

The poorest may well come out ahead in some areas, however. The question is, at what price? Documentation for Nicaraguan emigrants might be streamlined and made less costly, for example. But might this be done because it’s a way to slow-cook a fraud for the next elections? Certainly, some FSLN activists manage—better than those in any other party—to grasp social needs and barter them into political opportunities.

There will also be more social investment because this ensures the realization of a true Somocismo without Somoza. The FSLN leaders not only still have the properties that belonged to Somoza and the Somocistas but have also copied many of their methods and styles, so a certain level of social investment sits well with them, as it did with Somoza. Given that a positive reappraisal of Somoza is now in fashion—in part understandable, since inequality wasn’t as extreme under his government as it is now—Daniel Ortega, in a bizarre kind of brotherly love with el Chigüín, the son of the Somoza dynasty’s last dictator, whose helicopter he used in the election campaign, will no doubt imitate the father by making populist social investments, albeit now skewed and moderated by the IMF.

A string of contradictions

The biggest administrative problems the FSLN will face are the inescapable contradictions involved in having so many mouths to feed. The faithful are expecting a lot as a reward for their perseverance through thick and thin, and there are many of them. In addition, there’s a huge cohort of converts or re-converts who had distanced themselves from the FSLN and Daniel but who since November 5 find him enormously skilled, brilliant and with an unparalleled opportunity to transform the country. Just as there were July 19 Sandinistas—that is, those who joined the party the day of its victory—there will now be November 5 Danielistas.

At the head of these cheerful extras are several economists who held high posts during the eighties and spent recent years defining and distancing themselves from the Sandinista government’s failures, but who are now ready and willing to join the reinstalled king. Sociologists, agronomists, lawyers, professors… there are legions of them, and they’re hungry. As we approach inauguration day, January 10, 2007, the number of converts will likely increase. Many posts with luxurious salaries are available, but like any other party, the FSLN has followers invited onto the stand and followers in the crowd. And the latter are the ones whose votes are decisive. They are a great mass of dreamers who want paved streets, property titles, free education, free or cheap medicine… But “there aren’t enough beds for so many people,” as Nicaraguans say. The FSLN can’t both pay a lot of mega-salaries and meet the needs of the vast majority, who may end up saying “Let’s bring them down, they’re dangerous at the top.” This is the first contradiction: mega-rewards don’t go well with the mega-hopes of so many people.

The second contradiction has to do with the management of fiscal spending. If the FSLN wants to govern for a long time—and there’s no doubt that it won’t let go of the presidential bone easily—it can’t just shunt this problem off onto future governments by issuing bonds or contracting onerous loans. Furthermore, it has to behave well with the IMF and show prompt signs of credibility, keeping the officials who have been the IMF’s eyes and ears in their posts. Where will it turn? It can’t pester the Pellas group and other businesspeople with tasteless demands about undeclared taxes and unwarranted exonerations. And it has surely learned the hard lesson of the eighties—that you can’t just crank out córdobas unsupported by hard currency without ending up with five-digit hyperinflation

Perhaps a little money can be dedicated to social investment by creating a fund from the savings if Chávez provides more cheap oil. Is Ortega expecting something more from Chávez? If so, will it be enough to stretch out the thin blanket to cover more people? What’s not possible is to stay on good terms with the IMF, which controls the purse strings of all international governmental aid, be a friend of the Pellas group, not bother the bankers with tax demands or a revision of the public debt and, at the same time, make social investments.

Converted, co-opted, bought or muzzled?

Some friendships are incompatible with others and some positions are incompatible with certain friendships. It’s not possible to be a big landowner and satisfy those thirsting for land reform. It’s not possible to have friends seeking debt relief and be a banker or a friend of bankers. It’s not possible to promote both maquilas and workers’ rights. Will the Sandinista-affiliated unions and other social organizations end up operating as retaining walls for the government again? And it’s also not possible to present oneself as a fighter for the environment, indigenous rights and local governments if you’re also part of the mafias involved in illegal, uncontrolled logging.

All those who want a return to the revolution, whether in a primitive or updated version, will be disappointed or insufficiently satisfied, as will all those who want social reforms. And those who voted simply to try out a change will be aghast when they see the continuity of neoliberalism and its successive reforms designed to create new redistributions of power. The million dollar question is how the FSLN will be able to please so many disperse interests with various degrees of agreement between their personal and political projects and the party’s promises.

The mask of reconciliation will fall and the selective punishments will begin: carrots for the vacillators, sticks for the irreverent, lead for the rebels. The first sign of this coercion will be an attempt to expand power over the media, a key piece in the effort to produce or induce “consensus” and maintain and increase the mass of voters that brought them to power.

Will the MRS members be converted, co-opted or muzzled? The coming period will serve as a test to measure the integrity of that party’s leaders. The strategy of undermining a party by buying off its leaders is nothing new. We should remember that Arnoldo Alemán used it with unprecedented success, converting his tiny PLC into a large party by siphoning off the leaders of parties with a long and prestigious history, such as Wilfredo Navarro and others in the PLI who turned their back on that party’s honest leader, Virgilio Godoy, because he couldn’t match the opportunities to fill their pockets.

This strategy makes sense as long as the electorate remains constrained to two diametrically opposed choices: PLC or FSLN, Sandinismo or anti-Sandinismo… But to the extent that this political scenario is reconfigured—by a widely appealing neoliberalism and a center-left bench with few votes but a strong media presence—the coordinates will change, the system will become more complex and while people may be co-opted, the results will not be the same. We don’t know how the new electorate will react. We don’t know whether, by seeking to maintain power, the FSLN will engender its nemesis: a pluralistic, anti-pact coalition.

Caudillismo yesterday,
Danielismo today, corruption forever?

Average Nicaraguans, with a life expectancy of nearly 70 years, will be able to participate in almost eleven presidential elections over the course of their life. If they first voted in 1979, they’ve already spent half their voting life faced with the persistent presence of Daniel Ortega as one of the main options in the limited spectrum of choices. As disciplined Sandinistas they will have voted for Daniel or as fierce opponents of Danielismo, they will have voted against him, but they never will have failed to take him into account. According to the population’s age demographics, nearly 30% of voters have been in this sad situation.

Given the longevity of politicians, we Nicaraguans spend most of our electorally active lives faced with dry, repetitive choices. They’re part of a long tradition. The career of the Conservative caudillo Emiliano Chamorro and the Liberal Somoza family’s periods in power were long. Daniel Ortega’s “strongman” career has lasted 27 years and doesn’t seem to be losing momentum. That of Arnoldo Alemán has only lasted some 16 years so far, but unless it’s cut short by an outside hand, it could be revived at any moment, allowing him to take another shot at the presidency as Alan García has successfully done in Peru and as Alberto Fujimori proposes to do in the same country. Moral failings and proven corruption do not seem to have been obstacles. Latin America’s electoral amnesia cleans, polishes and shines political resumés that would be unacceptable in some other parts of the world.

Daniel Ortega is convinced that he’s indispensable and those who thrive in his shadow habitually reinforce this conviction. In Stories of Mr. Keuner, Bertold Brecht writes that Keuner felt a vivid curiosity when introduced to a manager who had been performing his job for many years and was indispensable. “And why is he indispensable?” asked Keuner, annoyed. They told him that the office wouldn’t function without him. “How can he be a good manager if the office doesn’t function without him?” said Keuner. “He’s had time enough already to organize it so that it can operate without him. To what does he really devote himself? I’ll tell you: extortion!”

Who was wrong?

The victory of a party that insists on keeping the same leader at the cost of internal democracy doesn’t appear very promising for the democracy of the nation. Daniel Ortega imposed himself by depriving the FSLN of other leaders. Voting for a party that doesn’t believe in democracy isn’t a good investment in democracy. But as in any other market, the one who sells the most in the election market isn’t the one who offers the most useful, environmentally sound and healthy products, but rather the one who knows how to—and has the money to—publicize it the best and the most persistently. The most effective publicity is that which touches sensitive psychological chords: panic over the Sandinistas, revolutionary utopia, fidelity to a leader or an apparatus… It doesn’t matter if they’re only illusions, as long as they’re convincing ones.

Were the 930,862 people who voted for the FSLN wrong? Do they express the general will? There are many intermediate points between Vox populi, vox Dei and Winston Churchill’s famous line, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” At one extreme is pure populism, which venerates everything that comes from the people. At the other extreme is an elitism that disdains the people and sees them as brutish and incapable of electing. I prefer the position of Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio, who said that the stagnation in educating the citizenry so that, invested with the power to elect its rulers, it will select the wisest, most honest and illustrious, is not so much a false promise as the effect of an illusion derived from an excessively optimistic conception of man as a political animal. Man, Bobbio concluded, “pursues his own interest in the economic market just as in the political market.”

Where the Victory March ends and reality begins

Rousseau said that the only sovereign is the people, who want the best but don’t always know what is best for them. But if the people are wrong and don’t know what’s best for them, we analysts are wrong too. Horacio said that Homer, the Greek poet now known to but a few moth-eaten scholars, also slept. In comparison with Homer’s brief siestas, we analysts sleep 24 hours a day.

To know what sense this FSLN victory has for the future of Nicaragua, we need a long-term perspective. And the long term is being built in Sikilta, with what’s happening to the indigenous peoples and their demands; it’s playing out in the cheese shops in Matiguás, where the marketing channels and opportunities for milk producers are being reconfigured; it’s being transformed in Pearl Lagoon, where all the private and collective investments, including those in transportation, housing, credit, and roads, are thanks to drug trafficking; it’s being shaped in homes where an unequal distribution of domestic labor persists and the telegraphic language of a man’s fist is the main means of communication…

It is being built, to a large extent—although not totally—in places where this state, whose power the FSLN now wields, means little more than the red cap of the Liberals or the rosy-pink banner of the FSLN during elections. What does the state mean in Bartola, a community on the banks of a San Juan River tributary that has no electricity or clean water or health center and where the teacher is a young woman who has only recently learned to read herself and teaches all six primary grades on the days she’s not planting beans?

José Luis Rocha is a researcher for the Jesuit Service for Central American Migrants and a member of the envío editorial council.

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