Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 39 | Septiembre 1984



Nicaraguan Political Parties and Movements (Part II)

Envío team

Nicaragua’s political parties have been active in varying degrees since the Sandinista victory of July 1979, but, the country’s revolutionary changes have overshadowed party activity as such. Very little systematic information thus exists on the evolution of the different parties. Part II of this article is an attempt to offer the reader an insight into Nicaragua’s political trends since 1979. Given the overwhelming amount of unorganized material, we had to be selective, recognizing that selection implies interpretation.

Quotations are frequent in this article. The selection of these quotes, as well as of events and brief analytical points, was made in an effort to clarify the reader’s understanding of Nicaragua’s present electoral process.

PHASE ONE: JULY 1979 to APRIL 1980—

From the revolutionary victory to Alfonso Robelo’s resignation

The revolutionary government’s basic objective was to normalize the country, while beginning reconstruction and the formation of a new state, with a new army, new administrative structures, new departmental and local authorities, etc. The influence the FSLN had achieved during the long struggle and the insurrection was apparent everywhere. “FSLN houses” opened all over the country. Their original purpose was “to guide agriculture and production in general and to perform administrative tasks at the departmental level.”

The mass organizations that supported the FSLN via the United People’s Movement (MPU) began to organize, attracting new members and consolidating their structures throughout Nicaragua (unions, neighborhood organizations, youth, women, etc.). People realized that everyone, not just Sandinista activists, had to take part in organizing the new nation.

The “leftist extremists” were among the first to be criticized by the FSLN. In Matagalpa on August 12, Daniel Ortega referred to “tiny groups that hold apparently radical positions and use apparently revolutionary language.” Such groups encouraged people to occupy land and properties indiscriminately.

That same month, a small group of politicians and businesspeople from Alfonso Robelo’s Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (MDN) and the Nicaraguan Conservative Party (PCN) formed the Sandinista Social Democratic Party (PSDS). Their symbol was a red and black flag and their motto “Sandinismo, yes; communism, no.” The PSDS demanded that “free, just and honest elections” follow the period of “transitory government.” It rejected “any totalitarian idea tending toward the creation of a one-party system, a single labor confederation or an army at the service of a single political institution, no matter now important its contribution to national liberation.” The PSDS stated its intention to fall in line with the Socialist International. It also voiced concern about a possible US blockade of Nicaragua and called for an end to the blockade of Cuba.

With the moral authority of its 18 years of struggle for the ideals of Sandino and the high number of lives its membership had sacrificed, the FSLN issued a firmly worded communiqué opposing the use of the word “Sandinista” in the new party’s name.

“The representatives of this new organization that shamelessly intends to call itself Sandinista not only refused to support the struggle of our people and their vanguard but also spoke out against the heroic struggle of the Sandinista Front…. Emphatically and categorically, the Joint National Directorate reaffirms that only one organization in the land of Sandino has followed, maintained, and defended this precious legacy of our people” (communiqué published by the FSLN’s Joint National Directorate on September 11, 1979).

One week later, the National Reconstruction Government Junta (JGRN) ratified the FSLN’s decision:

“Only the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the different civilian and labor groups organized by the FSLN or belonging to it may call themselves “Sandinistas” (decreed by the JGRN on September 18, 1979).

The new party immediately removed the word “Sandinista” from its name, becoming the PSD, and the incident had no further repercussions. On September 23, 1979, the PSD was officially recognized as a party.*
* The PSD is presently a member of the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN), which has decided not to take part in the elections. The Socialist International has never accepted the PSD, despite its numerous efforts to obtain membership. One of the sons (and the namesake) of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro is a PSD leader, which helps explain why the newspaper La Prensa, of which Chamorro is coeditor, provides regular and emphatic coverage of the PSD’s activities.
During the first few months following the 1979 triumph, the newly formed PSD tried to move to the forefront and gain grassroots support. For example, in October it called for a “dialogue” in order to analyze the first 100 days of revolutionary government and “to clarify some doubts that prevail in certain sectors of the Nicaraguan people and international public opinion with respect to the revolutionary process.”

Toward the end of September, the FSLN National Directorate dropped the word “joint” from its name, reflecting a greater consolidation of internal unity. On the same occasion, the FSLN announced that it was drafting its regulations for party membership.

The political parties that had formed the National Patriotic Front (FPN) during the anti-Somoza struggle supported the government’s efforts during the first phase of the revolution, while endeavoring to adapt their structures to the new situation. In September, the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN), which never had joined the FPN, began to call for the creation of a single party, declaring that it was a “necessity” for the revolution. The PSN made its proposal to the FSLN and called on the two other Marxist parties—the Communist Party of Nicaragua (PCdeN) and the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement (MAP-ML)—to join it. Nevertheless, the PSN maintained that both these “hold anti-unity and divisionist positions, which are negating the process,” offering as an example their refusal to accept the creation of a single united workers’ confederation, another PSN goal.
*In December, the PCdeN also insisted on the need for a “sole party of the Socialist people’s revolution” and a single worker’s confederation.

Already in this first phase, the word “counterrevolution” was used frequently because it represented a daily reality. The most noticeable manifestations of the counterrevolution were the crimes committed against members of the military by former National Guardsmen who had fled from justice and were operating in border areas or in the cities. Although the overall situation was fairly peaceful for a country that had just emerged from a war, the Emergency Law was in effect from the time of the victory until April 22, 1980. This law had no effect on the freedom of the political parties, which held rallies, assemblies and meetings that were freely covered by the media. Few people attended these party activities, however; compared to the FSLN, the political parties had only a tiny social base.

The MDN had representation in the JGRN via its president, Alfonso Robelo. It offered enthusiastic support and “total devotion” to the revolution, which Robelo defined as a “socializing process.” He called the FSLN the “determining factor” in the revolution and defined the MDN as its “motor” (perhaps because of the control exercised by certain MDN members over different sectors of the economy). In this early stage of the revolution, Robelo’s fiery speeches can be summarized in one word—“participation.” The Democratic Conservative Party (PCD) and the newly formed PSD began to criticize the Sandinista Defense Committees (CDS)—neighborhood organizations that played a key role in surveillance, physical reconstruction, consciousness raising, etc. However, Robelo urged his party members to correct the mistakes of the CDS by actively participating in them.

One of the most important political debates at this stage concerned the composition of the Council of State, which was to share the nation’s legislative responsibilities with the JGRN. Its 33 members were to represent proportionately the forces that contributed to the overthrow of the dictatorship. The Council of State was originally scheduled to hold its first session on September 15, but the dynamics of the reconstruction process made it impossible to respect this deadline (and many others). For several months, the parties that had never joined the FPN charged that the postponement of the Council of State’s official inauguration was an irregularity from a legal standpoint. In reality, the delay was due to a vital resettling of the country’s social forces, which were arriving at a new balance of power that differed from the one agreed upon prior to the July 19 victory by the majority of the anti-Somoza forces.

On November 14, the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP)* complained to the JGRN that “the private sector feels neglected in the government’s decision-making process” and that there was a “feeling of perplexity and mistrust” as well as “confusion between state and party.” On January 5, 1980, the PCD also criticized this confusion, alleging that it was caused by “the FSLN’s political preponderance in deciding the country’s destiny” or the “totalitarianism of the sole party.” The following day, the Social Christian Party (PSC) spoke of a “single-party system” winning out over “pluralism.”
* COSEP is made up of the private sector associations most opposed to the revolution: Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce, Nicaraguan Chamber of Construction, Nicaraguan Chamber of Industry, Nicaraguan Institute of Development, Nicaraguan Union of Agricultural Producers, Nicaraguan Federation of Ranchers, Nicaraguan Federation of Coffee Growers, Nicaraguan Association of Cotton Producers and Nicaraguan Associations of Sorghum Producers. COSEP is a member of the CDN and its economic interest are represented by La Prensa.

The formation of the Patriotic People’s Bloc (BPP) was announced on February 21, 1980, at the ceremony commemorating the 46th anniversary of Sandino’s death. The BPP was an outgrowth of the unity consolidated in the FPN. Carlos Núñez described the new alliances as a “barricade against the right and extreme leftwing organizations” including “all the democratic, leftist and progressive parties desiring to strengthen our Sandinista process.” Those joining the FSLN in the BPP were the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC), PSN, PC and MDN. The BPP was the precursor of the Revolutionary Patriotic Front (FPR), which was undone in 1984 at the outset of the electoral process. Its members were the FSLN, PPSC and PSN.

Also on February 21, Tomas Borge announced the creation of the FSLN Party, “based on the living thought of Sandino and Carlos Fonseca.” He spoke of “active and careful recruiting” of members and gave a long description of the characteristic a Sandinista militant was to possess.

In early March 1980, COSEP warned that Nicaragua was “on the threshold of a crisis,” portraying the situation as one of “anarchy and disorder.” The Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE), the most influential organization within COSEP, termed itself a “co-administrator of the revolution” and said it was willing to stick with the government “whatever the cost” based on “respect for private property and free enterprise.” At approximately the same time, the recently created BPP pointed out three problems that it contended were obstructing the revolution: 1)decapitalization by some members of the private sector; 2) the conditions demanded by the US in exchange for loans, as well as anti-Sandinista activities organized jointly by the CIA and groups of former National Guardsmen; and 3) the negative attitudes of the PCdeN and its labor union, the Confederation for Action and Labor Union Unification (CAUS), which were stopping production with strikes and encouraging spontaneous land seizures.

The intense activity of the MDN, and especially of its head, Alfonso Robelo (statements, rallies, etc.), was one of the main characteristics of this first phase of the revolution. On March 16, the MDN declared that it was no longer a “movement” but rather a “party.” The goal of this new party, which Robelo defined as “revolutionary and multi-class,” was “to take power by means of the popular vote.” A few days before making these statements, Robelo had spoken of the plans to carry out a massive literacy campaign in terms that contrasted strongly with the general enthusiasm for this project: “It’s time to talk clearly. We’re talking about literacy on behalf of liberation, not about a campaign that can be manipulated for the purpose of taming the minds of the marginalized; that would only be a crime.”

Robelo’s position with regard to the Literacy Crusade—which he expressed in several different ways—marked an important turning point in his political career. Just a month later, the resigned from the JGRN, reflecting the first visible crisis in the national unity policy.

The FSLN was concerned about Robelo’s positions in the period leading up to his resignation, in which he mixed enthusiasm for the “authentic revolution” with aggressive skepticism. In a March 20 communiqué, the FSLN National Directorate called on Robelo “to reflect” and avoid “distorting” the history of the revolutionary process. According to the National Directorate, his statements were dangerous in that “without intending to do so, the MDN leaders may become a stepping stone for the reactionaries.” The next day, Robelo replied to what he called the “very respectful” communiqué, insisting that “we are not in the opposition but in the genuine revolution.”

On April 19, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro resigned from the JGRN “strictly for health reasons.” Four days later, Robelo presented his resignation, asserting that “fundamental changes” had developed in the original plans for government and that “certain measures steered us away from the goals of our revolution.” In its explanation to the Nicaraguan people, the FSLN maintained that Robelo had been accepted as a member of the JGRN not because of a deal with the US but as a sign of revolutionary flexibility. The FSLN also contended that he was resigning from the government because “he was unable to meet demands for sacrifice and selflessness required in a situation that is critical for the Nicaraguan workers.”

The crisis caused by Robelo’s resignation only affected a few state enterprises that had been entrusted to MDN professionals. A greater crisis arose in the MDN itself, which, since its foundation in 1978, had been composed of a certain number of individuals who cooperated with the FSLN. Known as particularly hard workers, they left the MDN and remained in the government following Robelo’s resignation.

The crisis was more apparent in the newspaper La Prensa than anywhere else. La Prensa had clearly encompassed two tendencies and Robelo’s departure from the government produced a definitive split. For 36 days (April 20-May 26) the newspaper went unpublished. Xavier Chamorro, the brother of the deceased Pedro Joaquín, left La Prensa to found El Nuevo Diario, joined by 180 of La Prensa’s 197 workers. La Prensa began to reflect with increasing clarity both Nicaraguan and foreign rightwing politics.


From the inauguration of the Council of State to the end of Carter’s term

The months leading up to the inauguration of the Council of State on May 4, 1980, were marked by a continual controversy over who would hold seats in the new co-legislative body. Approximately two weeks after Robelo’s resignation, the Council began its first session. Originally, it was to have had only 33 members, but this number was increased to 47, which the government justified by referring to the great changes that had taken place in the country in a very short period of time. The day of the inauguration, Edén Pastora solemnly handed over the Nicaraguan flag that the FSLN had captured during its August 22, 1978, seizure of the National Palace, which had housed the legislature under Somoza.

The General Statutes of the Council of State had been promulgated on May 2. The 47 seats of the first legislature were distributed in the following manner: political organizations (12); professional associations (7); grassroots organizations (11); labor union organizations (12); and private enterprise (5).*
*The Constitutionalist Liberal Movement (MLC) was the only political organization from the original agreement that was excluded from the list of 47 members. The JGRN decided to eliminate it at the last moment, alleging its scarce representativity. The MLN stated it had accepted the decision “with surprise but also with dignity.” Ramiro Sacasa later confirmed persistent rumors that Robelo had pressured the JGRN to exclude it. Over the past five years, the MLC—which became the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) on March 20, 1982—has been the most independent of the parties that form the CDN. It is never overly active, and its positions are usually based on historical criteria. It avoids confrontation with the government and its only purpose seems to be survival.

Although the bourgeois parties and business associations did have some representation in the Council, the FSLN grassroots and labor union organizations held the majority of seats. There has always been total freedom of expression in the Council, but the real balance of power becomes apparent when the representatives vote.

The Council of State has provided the opposition with a genuine forum from which to voice its viewpoints and has served as the best showcase for the country’s political life. Throughout the five legislatures, the opposition has at times participated in the Council and at times boycotted it. Opposition representatives have walked out of legislative sessions, delayed the nomination of representatives and obstructed debates. For those who support the revolutionary process, the Council of State has been an “embryo for the institutionalization of democracy” and a school where they have learned to discuss, argue, debate and decide.

The PSC, PCD and MDN did not designate their representatives in the Council of State for the opening session and remained absent from the first few debates. A month after the Council’s inauguration, the PSC acknowledged that, while “it is not perfect, subjects of high political importance have been treated.” On June 8, the PCD decided to participate, contending that “certain circumstances have changed.” These “circumstances” were the measures taken to reorganize the JGRN following Robelo’s resignation. On May 18, the JGRN had named two Conservatives, Rafael Córdova Rivas and Arturo Cruz, to replace Violeta Chamorro and the MDN leader. The business groups and opposition parties had a great deal of confidence in Cruz. On June 10, the MDN joined the Council of State.

Over the last four years, Córdova Rivas, a well known Conservative and one of the late Pedro Joaquin Chamorro’s closest friends, has drawn a wide variety of reactions from PCD members as a result of his participation in the JGRN. Initially, they were pleased and remarked that the new appointments “proved once again that governments in crisis turn to the most prestigious members of the Conservative Party to restore confidence in the state.” Subsequently, Córdova Rivas’ continual public statements of unconditional support for the revolution caused serious tension in his party. One sector of the PCD has wanted to expel Córdova Rivas and the Conservatives on the Supreme Court, accusing them of “leaning toward the Sandinistas.”

On October 17, in an interview published in El Nuevo Diario, Córdova Rivas justified his approval for the revolution’s ideals as follows: “[We Conservatives] have always robbed other ideologies. We stole the 19th-century Liberalism, and all the Conservatives who took power put it into practice. We are capable of adopting new ideas if they favor the common good.” In a PCD convention on October 26, he said: “The viability of the PCD depends on its capacity to remain immersed in the Nicaraguan and Sandinista revolutionary movement.” His bourgeois background, close ties with the martyred Pedro Joaquín Chamorro and present positions in support of the revolution have earned Rafael Córdova Rivas the strong dislike of the opposition parties.

During this second phase of the revolution, the opposition continued to demand elections. The Conservatives were the first to make a clear request. In July 1980, they asked the government to act urgently to draft a political parties law. (In March they had presented the JGRN with a bill on the subject, which was rejected in September by a commission of the Council of State). They also called for the election of municipal authorities. The PSC asked the government to set a date for the elections immediately, suggesting that they be held in 1981. COSEP, La Prensa and the PSD all put forth an identical demand.

There was some expectation that the FSLN would make an announcement regarding elections on the first anniversary of the revolution, but it did not. On July 20, the MDN, PSC and PCD published a joint statement insisting on “the need for prompt elections” and requesting the presentation of a political parties law.

A few days later, following a period of hesitation, four parties (the FSLN, PLI, PPSC and PSN) joined to form the FPR. The MDN, by then clearly in opposition to the FSLN and in favor of what it called “Socialism in freedom,” as well as the PCdeN, which had radicalized its ultra-leftist positions even more, remained outside the alliance.

On August 23, at the closure of the Literacy Campaign, Humberto Ortega announced that the elections would be held in 1985, as the FSLN had stated when it took power. Without going into details regarding the elections, he spoke extensively of the democracy needed in the new country and of how the Literacy Campaign had contributed to that democracy. His explanations did not satisfy the opposition parties, which began a new series of attacks on the FSLN.

The PCD declared that a “fundamentally anti-juridical de facto situation” had been created and continued to call for elections at its political rallies. The PSD, PSC, MDN and PCD issued a new communiqué asking for a political parties law, an electoral law and a multiplicities law, as well as an explanation by the JGRN regarding “its hegemony over the governmental structure.” La Prensa provided daily support for these demands.

On September 15, in a firmly worded communiqué, the JGRN responded to these parties, using the country’s history as a reminder: “They are making vain attempts to cast a veil of oblivion over the circumstances surrounding the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.” The JGRN defined itself as “a pluralistic power-sharing body” made up of citizens “called upon by the FSLN National Directorate.” The communiqué contained strong remarks aimed at those creating “an artificial separation between the FSLN, as the vanguard of the entire revolutionary process, and the JGRN, as the executive leadership of the revolutionary state.” It also repeated that “there will be no elections of any kind in Nicaragua before 1985.”

The same day, the FSLN held its Third Assembly of Leaders and Militants. From it emerged the Sandinista Assembly, composed of 67 members, whose purpose was to advise the National Directorate in its decision-making processes. The FSLN called this measure “a means of democratizing the organization.” The FSLN also considered that the meeting itself had led to a “qualitative improvement” by introducing more democratic forms of power and establishing collective leadership in all the different FSLN structures. During the assembly, Tomás Borge asserted that “the time has come to organize the party of the revolution.” A few days later, Borge stressed the importance of the FSLN’s power-sharing methods as “a valuable contribution in a continent plagued with systems in which a sole individual makes all the decisions.”

On October 7, a different historical interpretation arose in response to the new and increasingly clear balance of power. The PSC claimed that “different vanguards” existed in Nicaragua and that “their unification ultimately determined the triumph of the people.” The PSC included the Church within the category of vanguards: “And mentioning it at the end, although it comes at the top of the list, the vertical evangelical position of our Church, the vanguard par excellence of peace based on justice.” This was an introduction for the hierarchy (particularly Archbishop Obando), which began to be a continual reference point in statements by the opposition parties and in La Prensa. At certain times since 1980, the Church has been seen as the country’s main opposition force. In general, the PSC is the party most identified with the Catholic bishops. (In 1983, the PPSC accused the PSC of trying to gain control over the country’s rightwing forces by manipulating religious sentiment and the figure of the archbishop.

In November, COSEP set the example for a new line of criticism from the opposition: “The national reconstruction government is no longer one of pluralistic national unity but has become a one-party government—the FSLN…. The most radical sectors of the FSLN Party, overt Marxist-Leninist, are preparing the implementation of a communist political and economic system in Nicaragua.”

Tension increased greatly—much more so than at the time of Robelo’s resignation—when, on November 12, five representatives from COSEP, four from the opposition parties and two from their labor union confederations walked out of the Council of State. This moved the PCD to request that the government restructure the Council in order to establish a “balanced representation.”

The crisis reached its climax on November 17 with the death of Jorge Salazar in an armed encounter with the police. Salazar was a 41-year-old coffee grower from Matagalpa and a leader of COSEP. Investigation later showed that Salazar had been involved in an attempt to organize an urban base for the counterrevolution with the support provided by opposition sectors and ex-National Guardsmen, one of whom was Colonel Enrique Bermúdez.*
*Salazar’s widow is presently a member of the Political Directorate of the US-backed armed counterrevolutionary organization known as Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), based in Honduras. Colonel Bermúdez is the FDN’s top military leader. One of the FDN’s most vicious regional commands is named after Jorge Salazar.

Several factors suggested that the alternative proposed by the bourgeois opposition groups could only lead to violence: the pressure they applied by leaving the Council of State, their harsh criticism of the government in party rallies and in La Prensa, and the armed conspiracy that led to Salazar’s death. The bourgeoisie had not accepted its removal from power and was determined to reverse the new balance of power. Jaime Wheelock responded to the opposition attacks on November 19, insisting that the FSLN wasn’t just another political force but rather the principal representative of those who were carrying out the revolutionary process: the workers and peasants.

This crisis polarized positions and political language became increasingly aggressive and explicit on all sides, although certain statements of support for the revolution by Arturo Cruz helped somewhat to calm the opposition’s fury. For example, “The vanguard of this revolution has no intention of turning our country over to any bloc. Nor has it any long-range plans for eliminating the private sector.”

The government began to censor La Prensa at this time, asserting that some of its information was distorted: for example, certain happenings on the Atlantic Coast or events related to the Salazar affair. With respect to censorship, Arturo Cruz told a group of businesspeople: “I would like to emphasize the fact that we are in a state of emergency, and we forget this frequently, very frequently.”

During the crisis, the FPR parties defended the government’s “democratic policies,” contending that the Council of State was a “national forum composed of different ideologies and parties” and that its decisions were an expression of the people’s will.* The FSLN’s three FPR allies kept a low profile and usually defined their contribution to the revolution as “critical support.” For example, the PLI said that 1980 was a year of reactivation of its grassroots support, recognizing its scarcity of material and human resources. A few months later, the PLI asked that the FPR be considered a “permanent strategic alliance” and act as an advisory council.
*As late as June 1983, Guillermo Selva of the PLI said: “We do not agree with the structure of the Council of State. We have one representative. Our party, which will be 40 years old in 1984, has the same representation as the CNES (National Council of Higher Education). We don’t agree with this. We believe we should have greater representation. The PLI has never accepted the structure of the Council of State, but we don’t plan to go against the Council of State because its structure is imperfect. We had to begin somewhere… But the CDN has adopted an entirely anti-national attitude, one of almost irrational refusal. That’s how its politics come into play.”

At the end of the Council of State’s first legislature, Carlos Núñez—who has been the president of the Council for most of the time it has existed—made a very negative evaluation of the role played by the business and rightwing representatives who had left the legislative body: “When we look over their activities, we find nothing but attempts to obstruct the Council’s work. They didn’t make even one initiative in the interest of the sector they claim to represent.*

*Between May and November, this sector presented the PCD’s project on political parties, a proposal condemning the invasion of Afghanistan and a proposal in support of the Polish workers. It asked for reports from the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Institute of Agrarian Reform and the Ministry of Economic Planning, as well as a report on the use of state vehicles. It also protested against the fact that the CDS committees asked people in their neighborhoods to provide letters for certain bureaucratic formalities.

In late 1980 and early 1981, the rightist parties’ description of the revolutionary process wasn’t very different from their present remarks about the “betrayed revolution”:

“No one can remain oblivious to the aim of certain FSLN leaders to establish a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian regime that would be the same as or similar to Cuba’s” (the PSD’s New Year’s message).

“National unity no longer exists because ambition for power has blinded the leaders of the ruling party…. The FSLN Party has tried to consolidate its power at the expense of our people’s suffering” (the PSC’s New Year’s message).

“This abnormal and conflictive situation has resulted from the FSLN’s embedding its guerrilla organizational structure in the core of the nation, in its government and in the country’s political and social life. In other words, we have a state directed and governed by a guerrilla commando that in many ways has maintained the mentality, system and techniques of the guerrillas” (the PCD’s New Year’s message).

When Ronald Reagan took power, a clearly expressed objective in his platform was to roll back the Sandinista revolution. In Nicaragua, his closest allies were to be these minority parties that were unwilling to resign themselves to a loss of power.


Aggression leads to the State of Emergency

As of 1981, the newly elected Reagan government began its war against Nicaragua, using economic pressure and thousands of ex-members of Somoza’s National Guard living in Honduras.

In February, the PPSC proposed the creation of the Broad Anti-Interventionist Front in an attempt to revive the FPR, which had little influence on the country’s political life. The PPSC’s intention was to form a nucleus that would rally national unity in the same way the national reconstruction campaign did in 1979 and 1980. According to the PPSC, national unity needed to be “redefined” and “restructured.” The PPSC also complained that the FPR remained a peripheral organization. Analyzing the new situation arising from Reagan’s election, the PPSC criticized the FSLN’s foreign policy, which, it said, revealed a “triumphal and idealistic attitude.” In consequence, the FSLN needed to stop using its “anti-imperialist rhetoric.”

The PSN also found fault with the FPR alliance. In February, the Socialist leader remarked that unity had not been consolidated within the FPR. “It has no significant influence on political life and has developed no practical activities that we could define as efficient.” The PSN considered that the FSLN had neglected its relations with the FPR, although it acknowledged that this was due not to a lack of interest but rather to the country’s serious problems.

On March 5, the JGRN was reduced to three members, with Arturo Cruz being named as Nicaragua’s Ambassador to the US. Alfonso Robelo complained that an important channel between the Government Junta and the opposition parties had been eliminated with Cruz’s departure. He also criticized the concentration of power in the person of Daniel Ortega, who had become coordinator of the JGRN with the new restructuring.

Cruz, however, affirmed that the change was “a step forward because we must go beyond the splendid system of power sharing so that the executive power will have a more vertical structure.” In his statements, Cruz denied that he had resigned and assured: “I will never betray my militia card,” referring to his membership in the Sandinista People’s Militia.

On March 14, groups of Sandinista protesters prevented an MDN party rally from taking place in the town of Nandaime. With the slogan “We’re going to Nandaime:” Alfonso Robelo had intended to put the government’s tolerance for pluralism to a test. La Prensa and several radio stations had profusely publicized the event. The violence by members of the Sandinista Youth and CDS organizations was the culmination of a series of similar disorders designed to perturb other MDN gatherings or to attack Robelo and his property. The activities of the “mobs,” as people began to call them during this period, were very frequent for a few months in 1981.

On one hand, La Prensa described the Nandaime affair as “Nicaragua’s return to the law of the jungle, the end to many people’s hopes and discredit for the revolution.” On the other hand, the FSLN issued an official communiqué calling the incident “the people’s first insurrectional effort against the reactionaries.” The FPR’s member parties made a joint statement referring to the crowd’s behavior as an expression of the social polarization that necessarily reflects a revolutionary situation. They considered that the incident would consolidate mass organization.

In April, the Reagan administration cut off a $75,000,000 loan originally granted by President Carter, part of which had been earmarked for the purchase of wheat. The Nicaraguan government called for massive support in signing the “Letter of Dignity,” with which Nicaragua launched a request for international solidarity. Alfonso Robelo and leaders of the other bourgeoisies parties refused to sign the letter, which Robelo called “a waste of time.”

Four new members joined the Council of State for the opening of the second legislative session: two from the newly founded National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG); one from the Ecumenical Association (Eje Ecuménico); and one from the MLC, which was given back the seat it had lost.* MISURASATA disappeared from the Council of State following a crisis caused by its representative, Stedman Fagoth, who joined the armed counterrevolutionaries in Honduras. There was a split in CONAPRO, with the formation of another organization—CONAPRO, Heroes and Martyrs**—which supported the revolution. It was this group that was granted representation in the Council of State.
* MLC leader Ramiro Sacasa Guerrero stated that the reincorporation of his organization into the Council of State was “a positive sign, but not sufficient proof of pluralism.”
**CONAPRO Heroes and Martyrs is made up of 24 professional organizations.

In March, different political parties began talks to create the National Forum, which was supposed to pursue a “patriotic dialogue.” Of all the attempts at dialogue initiated by the opposition groups, this was the most successful.

As far as the FSLN and the FPR were concerned, the basic objective of this forum was to take advantage of the groups’ varied contacts and points of influence in Central America, Mexico and Venezuela in order to prevent a war with Honduras, a possibility that seemed increasingly imminent, owing to continual incursions into Nicaragua by contras based in Honduras. The bourgeois parties, which formed a bloc for the talks, maintained that the fundamental issues were problems of internal politics, whereas the FSLN insisted that the internal problems were secondary to a possible invasion.

The first preparatory meeting for the forum took place on March 31, and the second on April 24. “Regulations for the National Forum” were established on May 28 and the forum itself began on June 13. The regulations made the forum an almost academic discussion of the nation’s problems. The PSD, which had not yet obtained representation in the Council of State, said it would not attend the forum if Archbishop Obando did not take part. The PCD withdrew from the forum before it started, demanding elections. Positions were totally divergent. Just before the inauguration of the “dialogue,” the FSLN contended that the forum needed to adopt a consolidated position in the face of the Reagan administration’s growing aggressiveness, and the PSD responded that the forum’s goal should be to ensure that free and pluralistic elections would be held as soon as possible.

In the first session of the forum, Alfonso Robelo spoke on behalf of the opposition, requesting among other things, the election of a Constituent Assembly in 1984 and of executive branch leaders in 1985. During the forum, the parties making up the reformist bloc began call themselves “dissidents,” a term the FSLN also used to describe them. They said they “supported the revolution but disagreed with the way it was being led.” However, the term “dissident” was soon to disappear from Nicaragua’s most frequently used political jargon.

In June, the forum was already bogged down in an endless and useless confrontation over Nicaragua’s history, the history of the insurrectional process and theoretical definitions of concepts such as democracy, pluralism and nationalism. On July 2, however, the forum announced 19 points of consensus, which the PCD immediately questioned, alleging that no agreement had been reached regarding the definitions under discussion.

On July 19, at the celebration of the second anniversary of the revolution, the government promulgated the Agrarian Reform Law, the Cooperatives Law and the law Against Decapitalization. With the enactment of these new laws, the opposition contended that the forum had “practically reached the end of the line.” Ramiro Sacasa said: “We can add nothing but comments and submissiveness.” In reality, the forum did cease to function in July.

On September 18, the government promulgated the Law of Social and Economic Emergency, which COSEP strongly criticized. On October 4, four COSEP and three PCdeN leaders were arrested for breaking this law.”* “On one hand, the leftist extremists from Altamirano’s group [PCdeN] accuse us of selling out to imperialism and capitalism. On the other, the rightist extremists charge us with totalitarianism, condemning us for supporting countries like Libya and Cuba,” said an FSLN leader.
*They were released February 15, 1982, after the government received heavy pressure from many domestic and international sources.

The polarization led some political leaders to exile themselves or to join the armed counterrevolutionaries. The first noteworthy example of this was José Francisco Cardenal, a COSEP leader who had been appointed vice president of the Council of State and who represented the Chamber of Construction. On May 15, without prior notice in the Council of State, Cardenal appeared in Washington telling a group of US congressional representatives that “hundreds of Nicaraguans are fighting in El Salvador with weapons sent in Cuban planes.” On July 14, Fernando Chamorro Rappaccioli, the secretary of international relations for the PSD, asked for political asylum in Costa Rica. There he joined his brother Edmundo, who had created the counterrevolutionary organization Nicaraguan Democratic Union (UDN), and together they formed the UDN-FARN (Nicaraguan Revolutionary Armed Forces).

On July 9, it was announced in Nicaragua that Edén Pastora had resigned from his position as deputy defense minister and director of the People’s Militia and had left the country. According to a letter he had written before leaving, he was going to continue fighting for the liberation of other peoples. It was known only nine months later that Pastora was participating in Costa Rican-based counterrevolutionary activities. He had created the Sandino Revolutionary Front (FRS), whose name comes from an armed movement founded in 1959 by the adventurer Alejandro Martínez. Pastora had fought with Martinez in 1959, and Martínez was leading counterrevolutionary bands in Costa Rica when Pastora left Nicaragua.

In late October, the MDN and PSD began forming the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN), which later added to its appellation the name of Ramiro Sacasa Guerrero, who died in an automobile accident on September 27.

On November 14, Arturo Cruz resigned as Nicaragua’s Ambassador in Washington and took up his former job in the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). “I will be with the revolution until the end,” he said. “I hope that someone identified with the FSLN will replace me…. I belong to the opposition within the revolution.”

In November, new initiatives were taken to encourage dialogue among the different parties. Edgar Macías, head of the PPSC, proposed a “Meeting of Patriotic Reflection” to discuss four points: 1) elections and form of government; 2) political pluralism; 3) defense of the revolution and 4) a moratorium on political antagonisms. The MDN, PSD and PCD refused to participate in the talks, and the PSC proposed a different dialogue based on five points, one of which was a halt to attacks on the Church. A short time later, the PCD suggested another dialogue with four other points.

On November 18, in order to initiate the institutionalization process, the FSLN presented the Council of State with a bill containing 14 articles for a political parties law. The bill, which was not very well formulated, provoked an uproar from the opposition parties and virtually represented a test of their attitude toward the institutionalization of the revolution. Would they return to the Council of State to debate this law they had so insistently requested? The PCD was the first party to come back to the Council of State, whereas the MDN, PSC and PSD began to draft an alternative law and presented 18 fundamental objections to the original bill, contending that its text was nothing more than “a penal code for political crimes.” The MLC claimed that an electoral law was needed before a political parties law so as not to “put the cart before the horse.”

The PLI spoke of the “vacuum” in the bill and the responsibility of the parties to “fill” that vacuum. The PPSC seriously criticized the bill and presented its own proposal for a new one. Nine alternative proposals were presented before discussion of the bill ever began.

The debate took place from November 1981 to March 1982 in the Special Political Parties Commission. (The Council of State was in recess). The debate was also conducted in mass and in meetings of the individual parties. A few days before the state of emergency was decreed, all discussion of the law was suspended due to the increasingly critical military situation in the north of the country.

In early 1982, there was a crisis in the PPSC. A wing of the party that advocated stronger support for the revolution forced the former deputy minister of labor and head of the party Edgar Macías to resign. The new leader, Mauricio Díaz, said that the individualistic stands taken by Macías during the latter period of his eight-year presidency might have been promoted by the PSC in an attempt to harm the FPR. Macías had complained that the PPSC’s alliance with the PRN was entirely ineffectual. Díaz insisted that the FPR should be “a strategic and not a tactical alliance” and that the restrictions on political pluralism were the result of US aggression. He also emphasized that the PPSC was not allied with the FSLN out of opportunism but in order to provide critical support and a wider base for the revolution, particularly among non-organized workers, small and middle-level businesspeople and certain religious groups.

The crisis in the PPSC came to an end when the party’s disciplinary court ousted Macías and five other leaders, accusing them of trying to divide the party. Macías left Nicaragua to live in the US, and his tendency founded a new party: the Authentic Popular Social Christian Party (PPSCA), which has not yet obtained legal status.


From political restrictions in the State of Emergency
to the announcement of the upcoming electoral process

On March 15, the escalation of armed attacks by Honduran-based and US-supported counterrevolutionaries forced the Nicaraguan government to enact a State of Emergency. Restrictions on demonstrations, freedom of movement and freedom of expression affected the political parties’ activities and the level of political debate. Robelo informed Bayardo Arce of his fear that “with fanaticism and war fever” on one hand and the armed counterrevolutionaries on the other, the organizations making peaceful criticism of the FSLN could be caught in the middle “like ham in a sandwich.”

Two months later, the MDN made it known that Robelo, Alvaro Jerez, Fabio Gadea, oberto Urroz and other leaders of this party were living in Costa Rica. “We respect their decision, but it is hard for us to judge their strategy,” said José Dávila, a member of the PSC and leader of the CDN. Later, Dávila would also become a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE) in San José, Costa Rica. The PSD, too, kept its distance from Robelo, stressing that its party line was not violent. In Panama, the MDN leader stated that his party had chosen armed struggle because its members no longer wanted to play the part of “useful idiots,” adding that “civilian solutions are no longer possible” and that in Nicaragua “foreigners control a system of terror that is crueler and more sadistic that the previous dictatorship.” Robelo also announced his alliance with the armed group under the command of the “patriotic” Edén Pastora. The MDN thus became the “political arm” of ARDE, whose other organizations and leaders were the FRS (Pastora), the UDN-FARN (Fernando “Negro” Chamorro) and the indigenous group MISURA (Brooklyn Rivera).

In March, it was reported that Adolfo Calero Portocarrero, who had been the PCD political secretary, now belonged to the FDN’s Political Directorate. It was already known in January that Calero had left Nicaragua, but his Conservative colleagues said he was traveling because of his “important responsibilities.” Nevertheless, they elected his substitute in February. In June, PCD spokespeople contended that the Calero affair “is out of our control,” comparing it to the case of Córdova Rivas, whose decision to participate in the JGRN, according to the PCD, “is quite peculiar and does not come from the party.”

Upon learning of Robelo’s option and the MDN’s resulting departure from the CDN, Adán Fletes, a member of the PSC and president of the CDN, traveled to Costa Rica to talk with Robelo. After returning to Nicaragua, he met with Bayardo Arce. This was the first meeting of members of the opposition and the government since the declaration of the state of emergency. On May 20, the CDN published a document containing two important appraisals: 1) “It is obvious that political space is being reduced in our country” and 2) “This situation in no way implies that a peaceful solution is no longer possible in Nicaragua.” The PSC took over the MDN’s role as leader of the CDN.

In August and September, the CDN and FPR took part in talks concerning the political parties law, which had not yet been resumed, the electoral law and the media law. The CDN proposed that the parties law be passed by November 1982 and that the electoral law be ready for December. In this way, the CDN contended, elections for both the National Assembly and the executive branch could be held in 1984.

According to Luís Sánchez Sancho, a PSN leader, these conversations were the “third opportunity” for a constructive dialogue. The Socialists considered them different from the two previous initiatives (the National Forum and the Meeting of National Reflection), describing the three attempts at dialogue as follows.

* The Forum: “All it was intended to do was bring together different opinions on political problems and serve as a kind of safety valve for certain political and ideological pressures that were building up in the country. It did not pursue specific objectives, and neither of the two sides aimed at reaching concrete agreements.”

* The Meeting of National Reflection: “It was based on the well-intentioned initiatives of certain sectors (the PPSC and Macías), but did not enjoy the support of all different forces… It was virtually a repeat performance of the Forum.”

* The latest talks: “The objective is to ensure a normal democratic channel for the political institutionalization of the revolutionary process.”

Despite the expectations and efforts, these talks didn’t seem to be leading toward any specific results either. For example, on October 15, the CDN said it would only continue participating in the dialogue if the State of Emergency was revoked. This came at a time when US aggression was steadily escalating. On October 22, to attempt to break the standstill and create a basis for greater political stability, the FPR requested that the JGRN implement six measures that would help institutionalize the revolutionary process: 1) an electoral bill; 2) a bill proposing a foreign investment law; 3) continuation of the discussion of the political parties law; 4) a media law; 5) reforms in the Emergency Law regarding political party activities; and 6) a television program called “Debate” in which different political tendencies could be confronted.

The CDN was not happy with these specific proposals and requested that they at least be discussed outside the Council of State. The PSC presented six questions in response to the six proposals. Three examples of these questions are: 1) When will they be passed? 2) What orientation and context will be included in the new laws? 3) Are these proposals an FSLN tactic for overcoming an especially difficult crisis? The PSC also set forth four points, one of which was “our opposition to the establishment of a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian regime in Nicaragua.”

Despite the obstacles, the talks continued and in November a political parties bill was presented for discussion. On December 4, at the closure of the third legislature of the Council of State, Daniel Ortega announced that progress was being made in the preparation of an electoral bill. From this point on, the political parties’ activities would center on discussion or rejection of the two laws’ contents.

A draft of the parties bill was presented for discussion on November 21, 1982. It contained 34 articles, as compared to the 14 presented in the FSLN’s initial bill. The most controversial article was the one that defined the role of the parties.* (For more on the Political Parties Law, see envío No. 23 (May 1983).
A special commission composed of 12 Council of State members (including members from each of the seven parties represented in the Council) studied the bill and met with delegates from all the parties. In January, the PSC, PCD and PLC withdrew from the commission. The CDN parties also refused to participate in an important symposium held in January, the purpose of which was to allow each party to present the other parties with its own history and its interpretation of Nicaragua’s history and to confront its with those of the other parties. All the participating parties felt that the symposium had been a useful exercise in pluralism and a test of mutual respect, as well as an indication of the country’s need for a deeper examination of political theory.

The FSLN called the CDN’s abstention “political immaturity.” however the FSLN also reiterated that the doors of the Council of State would remain open for the CDN representatives if they wished to return. The CDN parties did not participate in the round of inter-party talks that took place in March and April. Nevertheless, the PSC demanded that elections be held in 1984, and representatives of the CDN, following a February trip throughout various Latin American Countries, declared: “We have maintained that duly guaranteed talks are the best way to deal with conflicts and the only efficient way to ensure a sound and democratic political solution.”

The war had an effect on everything, and the parties’ positions regarding it gradually painted their portrait. For example, in November 1983, Daniel Ortega denounced a letter written by the Conservatives and sent to different Latin American governments—those of Venezuela and Mexico were mentioned—requesting that they advocate talks including the Nicaraguan government, the opposition parties and the armed counterrevolutionaries. (The latter were referred to in the letter as “patriots” and “Nicaraguans who oppose the government with weapons in their hands.” On November 25, all members of the Council of State, except the PSC representative, supported a PSN motion calling for condemnation of the Conservatives’ initiative. This was the first instance of a proposal for dialogue with the contras. Since then it has become a constant demand or “condition” by the CDN parties and their political allies.

Despite the CDN’s boycott, the parties bill followed its course. For six months, the special commission made consultations, put together the suggestions of the different parties and included substantial modifications in the bill. On May 18, it was submitted for discussion to the Council of State’s plenary session. The discussion, which lasted from May until August, was an interesting ideological battle. Several times during it, the CDN parties walked out the Council of State and returned to it. It seemed that their only objectives were to delay the discussion and make their presence (or lack of it) felt. In the longest session of its short history, the Council of State passed the law on August 17. For the first time in Nicaragua’s history, the country’s political parties were given a legal framework for their activities. This was the first fundamental step toward institutionalization and elections.

The following are opinions on the law expressed by different party leaders.
PPSC: “The law includes the most progressive aspects of modern legislation and democratic political ideas.”
PSN: “It establishes the principle of pluralism and provides the parties with a legal and political foundation.”
PLI: “It responds to the internal needs of the revolutionary process and represents a victory for the FPR.”
MAP-ML: “It had to grant privileges to the workers’ parties and isolate the bourgeois.” PCdeN: “It is a step in the direction of normalizing democracy.”
PSC: “It ratifies the Fundamental Statute and the Program of Government.”
PLC: “It is democratic in nature.”
PSD: “It is a first step and needs to be complemented with the electoral law.”
The PCD did not wish to make any comments on the law.*

After passing the Political Parties Law, the Council of State continued with other business. In late August, the CDN parties withdrew from the Council for three days during the discussion of the Military Service Law. Military service was to be mandatory given the escalation of US attacks. It quickly became an important target for the opposition, which constantly accused the government of being “militaristic” and “warlike.”

On September 25, the PSC held its tenth congress and established eight points, among which were demands for moving the elections up to 1984 and speeding up both the drafting and discussion of the electoral law. Nonetheless, when the government announced in February 1984 that elections would be held on November 4 of the same year, the PSC objected to the change.

In October, the Council of State’s Electoral Commission began a series of meetings with the country’s nine political parties to hear their criteria on the electoral law. The commission members made it clear from the start, however, that the bill it was to propose would be more than just the sum of these criteria.

As the institutionalization process advanced, the opposition parties took an increasingly extremist position. For example, in November, Manuel Matus, the PSD’s national secretary for political training, asserted that “what is going on in Nicaragua is a confrontation between religions, given that communism is a religion and not an ideology.”

At the height of the crisis caused by the counterrevolutionary and US aggression, the PSC presented Venezuelan President Herrera Campins with a document calling for a peaceful solution to be implemented through means such as elimination of the state of emergency, troop reduction, “national reconciliation” and elections under the supervision of Contadora and the Organization of American States. “It is made to order for Regan,” said the FSLN. The PLI declared the document “submissive.”

On November 22, the CDN again engaged in conversations with the FSLN concerning the electoral process, press censorship and dialogue with the Church and the counterrevolutionaries. Following the crisis, which made US intervention seem more imminent than ever before, tension lessened somewhat and the government liberalized censorship of the communications media and restrictions related to the State of Emergency. In early December, the amnesty decrees and the announcement of certain aspects of the upcoming electoral process also helped let off some of the steam.


From a more relaxed political climate
to the beginning of the electoral campaign

As of December 4, 1983, when it was announced that the electoral process would begin in January, and even more so as of February 21 (commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Sandino’s death), when the November 4 election date was announced, political activity and debates intensified. The liberalization—with the limits of the Emergency Law—contributed to this political opening.

Shortly before the December announcements, the PSC had “leaked” outside of Nicaragua the FSLN’s supposed plans for the future: 1984 - electoral campaign; 1985 elections for a constituent assembly; 1986 - swearing in of the Constituent Assembly and provisional government; 1987 - preparation, discussion and passage of the Constitution; 1988 - electoral campaign for the executive branch; 1989 - election of the executive branch; 1990 - new government. The PSC denounced this schedule, proclaiming that it would perpetuate the FSLN in power and delay elections. It proposed a plan for national reconciliation with provisions for the election of a Constituent Assembly and an executive branch between 1984 and 1986.

At this point, La Prensa began to insist almost daily on “national dialogue” as an indispensable condition for elections. Frequent topics of speculation in the newspaper were whether the “armed rebels” should participate in this dialogue and whether the talks would need a guarantee from Contadora. Another subject raised by La Prensa was the possibility of outside “supervision” for the elections. In Nicaragua, the term “supervised elections” is reminiscent of the 1927 elections in which US citizens and Marines controlled the voting and counting processes, as well as the selection of candidates.

In December, the crisis in the Conservative Party deepened. Differences became irreconcilable between two tendencies, one led by Enrique Sotelo Borgen and Clemente Guido and the other by Mario Rappaccioli and Miriam Argüello. The first group was more open to the revolution, whereas the second held positions closer to those of the CDN. The difficulties led to a total split, with both tendencies claiming to be the rightful descendants of the traditional Conservative Party. The Supreme Court handed down a decision in favor of Sotelo Borgen’s group. Rappaccioli’s group, which is now called the Nicaraguan Conservative Party (PCN), joined the CDN in April but has not yet obtained legal status as a political party.

In this first stage of reactions to the recently announced elections, Julio Centeno, the PLC representative in the Council of State, played the role of “dissident among dissidents.” He supported the amnesty law, which the other CDN parties considered “incomplete”; supported the electoral process, viewed with skepticism by his CDN colleagues; and participated in the National Council of Political Parties (CNPP). While he never went so far as to formulate clear criticism of US aggression against Nicaragua, Centeno’s positions made him too controversial. On February 22, he resigned from his seat in the Council and from his membership in the PLC, stating that in Nicaragua’s current situation “our attitude should be one of constructive and revolutionary opposition.”

On December 28, La Prensa’s main headline read: “COSEP Document.” In the document, the CDN parties and COSEP stated that they might refrain from taking part in the elections if the FSLN did not meet nine prior conditions, which are such that they imply the imposition of a plan for government before the elections actually take place. This document has remained the “opposition’s electoral card.” One of the most distinctive aspects of the document was the lead role played by COSEP in drafting it.*
*envío’s “The Month” articles in early 1984 have made a detailed evaluation of the political implications contained in the document’s proposals.

Although the PLC remained in the CDN, it did not sign the document. As it had done several times before, it justified its decision not to sign by expressing disagreement with the document’s interpretation of historical references. The PLC also dissented with the document’s call for electoral “supervision.” The signatures on the document were those of the PSD, PSC, Nicaraguan Worker’s Confederation (CTN), Confederation for the Unification of Labor Unions (CUS) and all business associations belonging to COSEP.

On January 21, the Council of State’s Electoral Commission began to work in a nonstop session. On January 24, the Council passed the Regulations of the Political Parties Law following a heated debate in which the Council’s representatives took the floor 332 times in only three days of sessions. The regulations allowed all parties 15 days to register with the National Assembly of Political Parties (ANPP). On February 18, the electoral bill was presented to the Council of State.

Speculation concerning the future of the FPR alliance began as soon as preparations for the electoral process were announced. At first, the PSD and PPSC considered the possibility of forming an electoral alliance, but the PLI proclaimed that since the FPR had been “a front for political and social objectives and not an alliance with electoral ends,” it would “obviously” cease to exist during the electoral campaign. And so it did. The PLI withdrew from the FPR on February 26. It professed its intention of running its own candidates in the elections and its certainty of winning 60% of the popular vote. Virgilio Godoy, the leader of the PLI who had been the minister of labor since 1979, resigned that post at the beginning of the year to devote more time to party work. On April 2, the PSN announced that it too would run its own candidates.

The Electoral Law raised even more controversy than the Political Parties Law. However, the time for its discussion was shorter in order to keep up with the electoral schedule, making the debate even more intense. The CDN used this as an argument for delaying the debate or refusing to participate in parts of it. The members of the CDN spoke of “the government’s bulldozer tactics.” Citing this argument and contending that the bill was being discussed “in a political atmosphere dominated by FSLN-induced collective hysteria,” the PSD withdrew from discussion of the bill on February 28. On March 9, when the Council had already passed more than half of the bill’s articles, the PLC and PSC also withdrew from the debate. The Electoral Law was passed on March 15 (for a detailed study of the Electoral Law’s most debated issues, see envío No. 34, April 1984).

At a Nicaraguan Development Institute (INDE) meeting, COSEP leader Enrique Bolaños asked the CDN to abstain from participating in the elections, alleging that the electoral process was “deformed” and “needs to be postponed until suitable conditions exist.” Once again, COSEP was attempting to orient the political opposition.

Both in March, at the end of the debates on the laws designed to institutionalize the revolution, and again in August, with the electoral campaign about to begin, the CDN parties were divided and seemed to have no precise plans. Following Centeno’s resignation, the PLC resumed its customary low profile. The PCN, while maintaining close relations with the CDN, remained plagued by internecine tensions. The PSC claimed that COSEP had attributed itself “a leadership that no one has granted it.” La Prensa continued to act as the PSD’s main advocate. (Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Jr. became its political secretary in October 1983.) COSEP represented a binding force for the opposition until late July, when Arturo Cruz arrived from Washington espousing abstention.

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Offensive against Nicaragua and its Elections: On the Way to Invasion?

Nicaraguan Political Parties and Movements (Part II)

The Contadora Negotiations: Expectation and Reality
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