Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 62 | Agosto 1986



Town Hall Forums: Another Step toward a Constitution

Envío team

"My children shed their blood for the liberation of Nicaragua, and when they fell in battle there was a gaping hole inside me and the fire in my heart went out," said Gloria Margarita Martínez Largaespada in a women's forum held in Managua to discuss the Constitution. "Why are we now asking permission for them to be venerated? Brothers and sisters, that point shouldn’t even be up for discussion!" These powerful words not only made for one of the most emotional moments in the consultation about Nicaragua's Constitution, but also showed the context and framework in which it is coming to birth.

The new Nicaragua emerged in the midst of a struggle for freedom. That struggle cost the life and blood of thousands of men and women. The very basis of the Constitution is made up of this history and the principles and aspirations that motivated those who died and so many others who fought and continue to fight.

Many people throughout the world interpreted the Nicaraguan elections of November 4, l984, as a concession squeezed out of the Sandinista government by the urging of international public opinion for a "democratization process." Those who had their minds made up beforehand could not be shaken from their prejudice by either the first-hand reports of observers or by careful studies of what Nicaragua's first free elections meant to this country's people.

Even less credence is given to the fact that Nicaragua is now taking the next step in giving institutional form to its revolutionary process: with broad and direct popular participation, it is writing a new Constitution.

From May l8 to June 30, Nicaragua experienced a new form of people's participation in what were called cabildos abiertos.* This phase of the process leading to the approval of a new Constitution involved massive consultation of the population. In the cabildos, all sectors of the population would have a chance to express their opinions about the first draft of the Constitution, which had been prepared by a Special Commission of 22 legislators selected from the seven political parties represented in the National Assembly.
The cabildo abierto, a kind of "town hall forum," was part of the Central American indigenous peoples’ political tradition, later partially incorporated by the Spanish Crown into the colonial form of government. It is written that the decision to seek independence from Spain was taken in such forums.

The cabildos abiertos were so successful, both in turnout and in the quality of participation, that they exceeded the revolutionary government's expectations and challenged the preconceptions of some opposition parties. All of the people’s direct input has now been tabulated and many of the points are being incorporated into the second draft, which will be debated in the Assembly's plenary sessions.

The voice of the people has now been openly expressed and is a necessary point of reference for the representatives of the political parties. People have raised important questions that must be taken into account and have given their responses to many political issues contained in the first draft of the Constitution.

Three obstacles overcome

It is important to begin by looking at the overall context in which the forums took place in order to appreciate what they mean as an expression of genuine participatory democracy and political pluralism in Nicaragua today. Three aspects stand out.

First, the economic drain caused by the war has undeniably brought about an increase in poverty; consequently, Nicaraguan’s are feeling tired and experiencing a kind of social malaise. The FSLN, the majority party in the Assembly, could easily have concluded that the forums would be an occasion for open attack on the current economy and thus for an increase in people's feeling that things aren’t going well. Despite its potential political cost, the government took up the challenge, thus showing the high value it places on people's direct participation. This was a new affirmation of the revolution's active commitment to the principle of democracy.

Second, the fundamentally religious Nicaraguan people, accustomed for years—even under Somoza—to struggles about religion between the Conservatives and the anti-clerical Liberals, could be expected to enter into such an ideological debate in the forums. It was not hard to imagine how these potentially heated arguments could be manipulated from outside the country. Charges by Reagan officials or the US media of suppressed freedom of expression or even of "religious persecution," finding their way back into the country, could have given rise to a paralyzing skepticism among the various sectors invited to participate in the forums. Nevertheless, in loyalty to the principle of political and ideological pluralism, the Assembly was not swayed by these warnings; rather, it put its trust once again in people themselves, who are the base and support of the revolution.

Third, the forums were held at the same time that important discussions were taking place in the US Congress about military and economic aid to the counterrevolutionaries. This could have led some people to think that, in the midst of such a bold military and terrorist threat from the US, when the very existence of the entire country was at stake, it would be superfluous to think about a Constitution. Nevertheless, it was decided not to cancel any of the steps that had been planned.

By holding the cabildos abiertos, Nicaragua was taking a risk for a future of freedom and democracy. In this, the people, even more than the Assembly, came out the winners by their full and diversified participation.

Demystifying the Constitution

"The first draft is ready. Now the people have the floor," stated Comandante Carlos Núñez, President of the National Assembly and of the Special Constitutional Commission, as he made public the first draft of the Constitution on February 21. Núñez urged the Assembly members to give top priority to the task of organizing the forums—as a "means by which the various sectors of the country will be able to give direct expression to their opinions on the first draft of the Constitution."

From the start the forums were conceived as "popular assemblies," and it was clear that the National Assembly itself would give direction to the process. Before writing the draft, the 22 members of the Special Commission had listened to the positions of the political parties—those represented in the Assembly and those not—and had heard from the leadership of Nicaragua's various organizations; they had also studied the Constitutions of 19 countries, including Argentina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Spain, France, England, Sweden, the Soviet Union, the United States, Venezuela, etc.

The idea was not a "referendum" in which people would vote up or down on the draft or any of its 221 articles, but rather that these public sessions would allow people to discuss and reject, modify, ratify or add directly to what was proposed in the first draft. The discussion itself would be a political education experience as well as "one more proof of the call to peace" that inspires the people.

The Assembly takes its orientation and direction from the Basic Statute, which in 1985 gave the Assembly the mandate to write the Constitution within a period of two years. The Statute did not specify whether the process should involve a consultation or referendum but rather left the Assembly free to choose its own way to comply with the mandate. After listening to the leaders of the 16 organizations that gave input into the first draft, the Assembly’s seven parties agreed with the idea of the forums. The representatives were united around this decision by one objective in particular: to demystify the Constitution. This was of primary importance especially in Latin America, where Constitutions are understood only by legal experts and thus are seen as partaking of the sacred—therefore untouchable as far as ordinary people are concerned.

As the news about the upcoming forums got around and preparations were made, the parties began to adopt different postures regarding them. The Democratic Conservative Party (PCD) argued that the people had elected members of the different parties to represent them in the National Assembly’s drafting of the Constitution and therefore didn’t need to be consulted. The overt message seemed to be that people weren’t capable of participating directly in the process, but the underlying fear was more likely that people would propose more radical changes in the Constitution than the PCD wanted. Divided internally, the PCD ended up not taking part in the forums.

The Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC) also questioned the idea of consultation, on the expressed grounds that the opinions in the forums shouldn’t put conditions on the future discussions in the Assembly. The PPSC proposed, as a way of rounding out people's participation, a final referendum in which people would approve or reject the Constitution.

The Liberals (PLI) pulled out of the process in October, arguing that due to the state of emergency there wasn’t enough freedom to discuss the Constitution with their constituencies. The Socialists (PSN) joined them but returned in December; the laws didn’t in fact interfere with broad participation and experience proved their prejudices wrong. A splinter group of Conservatives also joined in this claim. They argued that it was no time to think of a new Constitution but rather to dissolve the National Assembly and call for new elections—a position in line with the Reagan administration. The Communist and Marxist-Leninist parties accepted the forums and kept their deeper opinions to themselves during the preparatory phase.

On March 11, the National Consultation Commission was officially constituted under the presidency of Juan Tijerino. It was given the task of "working out, approving and carrying out all the plans, agreements, and tasks relative to the National Consultation on the Constitution."

Calling on all sectors of the people

People had ongoing opportunities to learn the meaning and importance of a Constitution. (Throughout its l40 years as a republic—1838-1979—Nicaragua had l2 different Constitutions, not to mention another forum that never made it to the point of being promulgated.)

The forums, too, were meant to go beyond their historical predecessors. The cabildo of the Spanish colonial days consisted of the Spanish governing circles and "leading residents of the locality." Although Nicaraguans lacked experience of democracy thanks to the long years under the Somoza dynasty, their participation in the forums would enable them to reaffirm the spirit and creativity shown at the time of the insurrection. At that time, they gave history a new turn in their search for rights that went beyond the demands of the French Revolution.

Some 150,000 copies of the Constitution’s first draft were printed and translated into the languages of the Coast, giving the different organizations the chance to study and discuss the articles in time to prepare their input into the process. The draft was discussed in all high schools and elementary school civics classes, and the women's organization, AMNLAE, held hundreds of assemblies with its grassroots committees to discuss the meaning of the Constitution. The different parties also made direct contact with their activists to encourage participation by their base.

The various mass media played their part in the political education and in the convocation of the people. Even La Prensa took part in this preparatory phase, in its own fashion. In an article titled "The Constitution as Utopia," a Venezuelan writer, Arturo Uslar Pietri, warned of the danger of a new idealist Constitution with no basis in the social reality—something that has happened often in many Latin American countries. With this caveat, the article called for broad participation by people to bring home to the legislators their real situation and aspirations.

The Christian groups counted on the support of the weekly paper, El Tayacan, which used effective communications methods to help people understand the meaning of the forums, how to take part in them, basic questions that could be raised about each article and specific contributions that Christians wanted to express to the Consultation Commission.

Logistical considerations

Around mid-March the announcement was made that the first forum would be held on March 21. With no official notice, that date was postponed to April 14, which also passed without anything happening.

Consultation Commission head Juan Tijerino recognized these delays as an error and explained: "First, several political parties recommended the delays since they were demanding a better organization of the preliminary phase. Second, the Commission needed to consider the request of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN), the People's Action Movement (Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nicaragua (PC de N), who were demanding that the Commission be more flexible in assigning the number of seats for each party on the presiding committees for the forums. "Third," Tijerino explained, "there were serious financial limitations, which caused delays in publishing and translating the first draft in the languages of the Atlantic Coast region. Finally, the Commission was intent on achieving a maximum level of popular participation within the context of the brutal imperialist aggression Nicaragua is suffering."

In order to improve the organization level of the forums, training workshops were held in April for the technical teams that would help the Commission in its work. Law students responded positively to the Commission's request for their help.

Some funds had been budgeted for obvious costs like publicity, transportation, etc. In addition, financial and material aid was requested and obtained from Finland, Hungary, Holland, Poland, West Germany, Norway, Bulgaria, East Germany, Yugoslavia and Sweden. This came in the form of microbuses, typewriters, paper, pens, dictaphones, cassettes, tape recorders, cameras, etc. The army was asked to help provide security for the forums throughout the country, particularly in zones where there was greater counterrevolutionary infiltration and attacks.

On May l3 the official call went out to begin the forums: the first was to be held on May 18, the birthday of Sandino. The agenda and procedural rules were made known, and the roles of the forum president and secretary were defined. Representatives of the parties involved in the Assembly would be present in the forums, but would not be able to pressure or direct the people's participation. The Assembly members divided up the task of attending the forums.

A detailed schedule for the different regions and special zones was established: each forum would be for a particular sector of the population, such as journalists and cultural workers; professional and technical people; women; agricultural, industrial and health workers; the commercial sector, youth and teachers; the army; the Ministry of the Interior; ethnic groups; small producers; Christians; city dwellers, etc. On May 23, for example, professional and technical people had their meetings in Jalapa, León, Managua, Granada and Jinotega. The women of Nicaragua turned out in large numbers for theirs in Ocotal, Waslala, León, Managua and Granada. On May 24, young people and teachers had their turn in Estelí, León, Managua, Matagalpa, Granada, Boaco. One forum in the southern part of the Atlantic Coast was programmed to coincide with a Bluefields meeting of representatives from the outlying communities to discuss the new autonomy project.

From the Pacific to the Atlantic

Of the 75 planned forums, 2 were cancelled for security reasons in view of the possible danger of contra attacks. In the 73 were held, 2,500 people spoke and another 1,800 turned in written comments.

At least 100,000 people attended the forums, in many cases representing thousands and thousands of other Nicaraguans in similar walks of life. It should be kept in mind that Nicaragua has only three million people, most of whom are children and adolescents. The presence of 100,000 people, representing those old enough to be officially citizens, is a fact that speaks for itself. Those who did not attend the forums could pick up the gist of the debates on special radio and TV programs.

Even those who by their own decision abstained from the 1984 elections and from these forums felt called upon to give their opinions. Their input and criticisms were duly published in La Prensa. Dr. Albert Blaustein, an American legal scholar interviewed in La Prensa, expressed a position reflecting that of the newspaper itself: "If the cabildos really consist of people's reflections, excellent. But that is the question. If they serve to ratify something already decided or worked out beforehand, that would be terrible." What is interesting about this article is that it appeared on June 12, after the end of the series of forums, and thus demonstrates the best La Prensa could do to discredit them. Dr. Blaustein added a word about the purpose of their: "The cabildos are to control what goes into a Constitution, not to turn over absolute powers to those in power."

To control what would become the Constitution and consequently those who would govern the country was precisely the aim of the wide range of people who took part in the forums—from the miners of Rosita to the shopkeepers of Masaya.

Every effort was made to avoid turning the forums into an FSLN campaign. Even though the PCD and the PLI had officially pulled out of the consultation process, a good number of their party members participated individually. Opposition party representatives kept a close eye on the proceedings, demanding that pluralism be upheld by all.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that pro-FSLN people predominated among the participants. Anyone aware of Nicaragua’s political reality will recognize this as a reconfirmation of the FSLN's victory in the 1984 elections, which were the genesis of the National Assembly. The opposition is notably in the minority, and this was clear in the forums.

As the Protestant Commission for the Promotion of Social Responsibility was calling upon all pastors and members of the Protestant churches to take part in the forums, people became anxious to know whether the Catholic hierarchy would also take part. The silence was broken on June 9. In the name of the Nicaraguan Bishops' Conference, the secretary of that body, Bishop Bosco Vivas Robelo, issued a "Pastoral Contribution" on the Constitution that was published in La Prensa. Several topics that traditionally get the attention of ecclesiastical authorities—e.g., abortion, religious instruction, private education, the family unit—had set off polemics in the forums; however, instead of being confrontational, the bishops' statement was a series of pontifical and conciliar texts. Basically the statement lent further legitimacy to the constitutional process.

There were journalists and foreign observers at all forums. A delegation of six Guatemalan legislators, headed up by Rodolfo Maldonado Ruiz, president of the Guatemalan Congress’Foreign Relations Commission, attended the first one in Managua. "This is really a new experience, at least in the whole Central American region," Maldonado noted, "in that there’s free expression not only of pro-government positions but also of important criticisms."

People from all political, economic and social spheres as well as from all geographical locations took part in one way or another in the forums. The majority appeared delighted to be able to give input into the making of the Constitution. As one peasant said: "This is the first Constitution that we, who could never before speak out, are putting together."

The Commission and its support staff used countless hours of tape recordings, including applause, laughs, and even some moments of silence to fill more than 100 notebooks in which all opinions expressed are systematically noted down.

The transcripts and notes of the sessions convey a sense not only of the importance of the events but also of the excitement in the air. The women's and peasants' forums were especially high-energy sessions. The one for journalists and cultural workers was noteworthy not only in that it was the first, but also in that it would thus have a multiplier effect. The forum for the army had the distinction of being the one where people spoke most vehemently about the aggression and about the closeness of death. The forum for Christians—Catholic and Protestant—is remembered for the sharp divergence of opinions expressed. The forums for peasants and farm workers were especially important since the agrarian reform is the cornerstone of Nicaraguan social change. Those in the Atlantic Coast, not surprisingly, focused on assuring that the new language of autonomy would be incorporated into the text of the Constitution. (The actual statute on autonomy, once approved by the National Assembly, will itself have Constitutional rank.)

The cost of these forums was not just the millions of córdobas spent, but the price Nicaragua is paying day after day for its self-determination and national dignity: the lives of its own people. Peasants of Las Azucenas near the Costa Rican border had to wait more than an hour on June 3 for the beginning of their forum, since other peasants were still on their way from San Miguelito. But there was no use waiting: on the Acoyapa-San Miguelito road, those who were going to bring them to the forum had been ambushed by the contras. Gabino Reyes, Narciso Lopez and Julia Amador became three more civilian victims of the "freedom fighters"—this time, the democratic struggle of the Nicaraguan people in times and places of war had occasioned the killings.

The main issues of discussion

The National Consultation Commission decided to arrange all the input under three main headings: Preamble, Dogmatic Section (Rights and Guarantees) and Organic Section (Organization of the State). The comments and criticisms had to do mainly with the first two sections. Less numerous but no less important were the observations concerning the organizational elements of the government structure to be dealt with in the Constitution. Topics of this discussion included executive powers, whether the President and Vice-President could be re-elected, whether the National Assembly would have the main role in working out and approving the national budget, and how prominent a role the Assembly would have in naming the members of the Supreme Electoral Council and the Supreme Court.

The purpose of the preamble is to capture the spirit of this whole experience. The preamble has certain "fundamental principles," all of which were topics of discussion: the veneration of Heroes and Martyrs, the people as the force on which all power is based, democracy, political pluralism, mixed economy, non-alignment, anti-imperialism, Latin Americanism, anti-interventionism, national defense, national independence.

How is each point to be understood? Is this an exhaustive listing of fundamental principles or are some missing? Should some be left out?

Since the participants in each forum were from a specific group or social sector, the consultation organizers had thought that those taking part in each forum would deal only with those articles of the proposed Constitution that had to do with their own area of concern. Although that turned out to be true in general, every forum saw some consideration of the whole package of 22l articles as well.

Many observations had to do with correcting certain words and expressions, which indicated that the first draft had been pored over very carefully and suggested that the Assembly's debate will be long and painstaking. There’s room for debate even among those who, like the mothers of heroes, demand with no shadow of doubt that the memory of their dead be given a place of honor in the very beginning of the Constitution: they would only have different opinions as to whether the heroes should receive "veneration," "gratitude," "admiration" or "respect."

Should the FSLN’s role as the vanguard of the revolution be noted in the preamble? This was expressly requested in some of the forums. One participant said that "the red and black flag has such special significance that it shouldn’t be left out of the Constitution." Another demand was that the FSLN anthem be designated as a special symbol by the Constitution. Many Christians said that the preamble should note the participation of Christians in the revolutionary process.

A variety of groups including storeowners, women, journalists and workers wanted the preamble to include the names of Sandino, Fonseca and Rigoberto López Perez. The ethnic groups of the Atlantic Coast proposed other names.

Should the preamble invoke the name of God? This was one of the most hotly discussed issues, beginning with the first forum (the one for journalists and cultural workers). Clemente Francisco Guido of the PPSC, the son of former Democratic Conservative Party presidential candidate Clemente Guido, said: "If the name of Sandino cannot be missing from the Constitution, then much less can it omit the name of God whom Sandino invoked before fighting."

Because of their Christian identity and because of the faith shared by the majority of Nicaraguans, a variety of people want God’s name to be mentioned in the Constitution. One member of the armed forces put it this way: "The preamble should include the name of God as creator of the universe and in recognition of Christians’ role in the struggle." A worker suggested that the Constitution should say: "Nicaragua and its people hold God and our Heroes and Martyrs in veneration." Others argues that God should not be mentioned in the Constitution, given the lay character that the modern state should have and the ideological pluralism that exists in Nicaragua.

The weekly El Tayacan offered this reflection: "Many of us want God to participate in a sense in our Constitution, but the main thing is not that the name of God be invoked or pronounced. All through history, many people have taken God’s name in vain. And Jesus taught us that not everyone who invokes the name of God is a just person, but rather that the just person is the one who lives and dies for justice even without invoking the name of God.

"Finding inspiration in that important biblical teaching, we propose that the name of God be present in the Constitution in the same way that God's presence was revealed in Nicaragua: in the struggle, pain and hope of the people, who died in the struggle to break their chains and who continue today to give their life and blood to build a new nation. In Nicaragua, we are showing the world that it’s possible to believe in God and at the same time be a true revolutionary, without experiencing any contradiction between the two deeply held values.”

One shopkeeper proposed that "the Constitution be Marxist-Leninist." In the notebook where this was recorded, the note taker observed that it was a "novel" bit of input—the adjective "Marxist-Leninist" doesn’t appear in any article of the draft Constitution. Still, those writing for La Prensa, the opposition parties not involved in the Assembly, some people involved in large-scale production and certainly Reagan are convinced that Nicaragua is already communist and is being forcibly taken deeper into communism and "those foreign ideologies." What was clear in the forums was the wide range of perspectives—from revolutionary to reactionary—on such issues as land reform, the mixed economy, cooperatives, people's participation in power, expropriation, etc.

People involved in agroindustrial production expressed a wide range of opinions among themselves. The numbers following each statement indicate the number of people who expressed that particular point of view: "Land that’s being worked efficiently shouldn’t be affected by the land reform" (1); "land should be given to those who use it efficiently" (36); "land redistribution should continue, with the land going to those who make it produce" (11); "the process of giving people title to land is meant to contribute to production to benefit the majority" (6).

A leader of the faction of the Conservative Party that’s not in the Assembly wrote the following comment in La Prensa as his contribution to the process from outside: "To try to put economic equality into practice in society is absurdly pretentious and goes against human nature itself. There will always be economic differences among people because this inequality comes from individual factors such as intelligence, ability, the virtue of saving, love and dedication to work, etc."

Health workers, with their special awareness of the causes and social structures that give rise to inequality, hunger and misery insisted that every Nicaraguan have real access to a nutritionally adequate diet that would also meet basic hygiene standards in terms of preparation and serving. Some people from Special Zone I (northern Caribbean zone) demanded that the right to free education be fully affirmed so that transportation, clothing and student subsidies would be covered. Some also demanded that the state have greater power in the area of education: "The state, as the entity responsible for education, is obliged to examine academic plans and programs and to wipe the slate clean of those values that in the past allowed an unjust social system to be handed down from one generation to the next."

In the women's forum, the issue of equality had a different meaning from what La Prensa's writers understood by it. The women began with the issue of equality between men and women and within the family and made various demands: that the Constitution state that men should also take care of household duties; that women no longer be sexual objects even in the eyes of their own husbands; that punishment be meted out when women are hit or beaten; that the woman be recognized as the head of the family when the man has abandoned the home, with all the rights that go with it; that irresponsible fathers not be allowed to leave the country unless they have made definite arrangements for child support; that divorce not, as it is now, be granted on different grounds, i.e., because "the husband is living permanently with another woman" or "the wife has committed adultery"; that the land reform put the title in the couple’s name, not just the man’s; that women looking for work not be required to prove that they’re not pregnant; that pimps be punished rather than prostitutes, since it’s the man who exploits the woman and reduces her to unequal status.

The definition of family itself was also challenged in most of the women's forums. The first draft stated that a family consists of any man and women who come together in matrimony or common law marriage and have children. The women argued that the reality in Nicaragua is that the majority of families are made up of single mothers or of grandparents or other relatives with children. After a full days' debate, the definition of family now stands: "Any Nicaraguans have the right to come together and form a family."

In order to safeguard the right to both life and freedom in bringing a family into existence and raising children, should abortion be punished or legalized? This was one of the most intensely discussed points, especially in the women's forums.

Other high-tension issues included religious education in the schools; whether a family is constituted only by matrimony or also by a de facto union; whether the expression patria potestad (legal power of the parent) is still valid or is simply an archaic curiosity; whether the Neighborhood Defense Committees should be partisan or not; whether freedom of expression should be maintained with or without censorship; etc.

There was also discussion about whether Managua's mayor should be appointed by the President or elected by direct vote, about autonomy for the Atlantic Coast and how far this concept would go, about whether the armed forces should be called "Sandinista" or not, about the possibility of a bi-cameral legislature, and even about giving permanent institutional form to the cabildos abiertos. Many of the issues discussed are not really questions appropriate to a Constitution but rather matters that could be implemented by law later on. It is estimated that more than 20 laws of various kinds will have to be revised or brought up to date after the Constitution is promulgated.

It is impossible to describe in a few paragraphs the full range and at times the heat of the discussions. What stands out immediately, however, is that one would have to be without ears in order to deny the broad pluralism and full freedom of expression evident in the forums. Indeed, these principles affirmed in the Constitution’s first draft have proved to be very real in practice.

We don’t know how the vast number of suggestions and criticisms are all going to be taken up, debated and perhaps incorporated into the final text of the Constitution. Thus, our general conclusion is a bit preliminary, but we can say that the experience of the cabildos abiertos has been another chapter in the history of participatory democracy as it’s developing in Nicaragua’s revolutionary process. It has been an experience of learning the language and concepts of politics.

This was true not only for the people who had the main role in the process, but also for the legislators themselves who will now continue the work as they take up their active role in the representative democracy that is also part of Nicaragua's political life. Natán Sevilla, an FSLN representative in the Assembly, described the dialectic of learners also playing a teaching role: "The people have shown us alternatives that never would have occurred to us in the Assembly. I had never thought that an 11-year-old could tell us what the Constitution should say on the topic of the mixed economy. We had thought of the forums as a great campaign to help people understand the constitutional issues, but now we see them differently. They’ve been a practical school to help the representatives learn how to legislate according to the people's interests.

The forums were one more step toward the self-determination and consolidation of the new Nicaragua. At the opening of the first forum, National Assembly President Carlos Núñez laid out not a proposal but rather a whole program that Nicaragua wants to carry out:

"During these days we’re talking about writing the Constitution, which is our Magna Carta, our Fundamental Law, the Law of Laws. We’re doing this because, after the aggressors are defeated, as will have to happen once and for all, we Nicaraguans will have to devote ourselves completely to our land, our tools of work, our families, our newspapers, poetry, music, reporting, painting, sports—i.e., to the full use and enjoyment of our freedom. We’re moving toward the bright sun of freedom, toward the society of free men and women that was Sandino's dream.

"Thus the Constitution is our commitment to the future, it’s what we’ve won and what we’re still going to win, it’s the law and the path, the door and the goal—it’s what we’re striving for in our determination to solidify our society’s achievements and changes. It’s the goal of our efforts to give solid institutional form to the revolution."

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