From the Elections to the State of Alert
Nicaragua’s long-awaited election day and the massive voter turnout were major domestic and international victories, preceded by difficult times and a standstill in peace negotiations. Moreover, the hope they sparked was short-lived, as Reagan’s reelection two days later immediately caused an escalation of US aggression against Nicaragua, forcing the country into a state of alert. (See the two other articles in this issue for a more detailed description of the events immediately prior to the elections and an analysis of the election results.)
Two methods for destroying the revolutionFor the past four years, Ronald Reagan has sought to destroy the Sandinista revolution in two basic ways: 1) through political, diplomatic and military pressure; and, conditions allowing, 2) through direct military intervention. This last possibility has never been discarded.
The two methods are complementary. On the one hand, both require a combination of military, economic, political and diplomatic harassment. On the other, whenever Nicaragua succeeds in thwarting US plans on one of the two flanks, the pressure is promptly applied from the other.
Nicaragua avoided situations that might have created conditions for an invasion throughout the US and Nicaraguan election year, from November 1983 until today. Reagan, meanwhile, focused on political and diplomatic pressure as well as military harassment in his attempt to turn back the revolution, while simultaneously continuing to prepare conditions for an invasion.
During October, Nicaragua kicked off a diplomatic offensive with its decision to sign the revised Contadora accords and fend off political pressures designed to disrupt the electoral process. As had been expected, this last month brought an intensification of counterrevolutionary attacks and other pressures designed to obstruct the elections.
The counterrevolutionary troops: In order to apply political and diplomatic pressure and pave the way for an eventual invasion, the Reagan Administration must maintain and continually increase military pressure, which directly affects the economy and can therefore reduce support for the revolution. Let’s look at the military aggression and its economic consequences.
Scattered but still active
In the period leading up to the elections, there was a clear increase in counterrevolutionary military activity intended to disrupt the electoral process. According to the Ministry of Defense, the Nicaraguan army engaged in 285 battles with the counterrevolutionaries during the three-month electoral campaign. This increased the daily average from 0.67 to 3.17 military encounters per day. The daily average of contras killed over this period was 5.84.
The intensity of fighting was uneven throughout this period, however, and some periods, such as the one between October 1 and 24, were particularly critical, with 92 battles taking place within this span of time. The Sandinistas killed 240 contras, wounded many more and captured 28. In this same period, 34 violations of Nicaraguan air space were also detected (an average of more than one per day). These violations are made primarily by planes coming from Honduras to supply the counterrevolutionaries with ammunition and logistical support. Such activities emphasize Nicaragua’s need for fighter planes such as MIGs or armed combat helicopters. Both the fighter planes and helicopters would be defensive weapons in that they would not be used to attack other countries in the region, much less the United States. Of course, they would be used offensively against the counterrevolutionaries in order to defend the nation’s sovereignty. The US media reports that the CIA has provided the counterrevolutionaries with at least 12 artillery-equipped Push and Pull planes that have already attacked Nicaraguan targets. Likewise, Nicaragua’s virtually nonexistent air force is clearly outclassed by those of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. As the elections approached, the counterrevolutionary focused their efforts on seriously disrupting the voting process. One of the means by which they hoped to achieve this was the capture of major towns, a tactic that had always failed in the past. Their targets were Estelí, Somoto and Condega. Over 500 men and 3 regional commands congregated in Region I for this purpose, and fighting took place just a few kilometers outside of Estelí, where contra efforts were defeated in the 50 battles involved in this strategic plan.
Sandinista forces fragmented and dispersed the contras throughout this month, inflicting heavy losses on their troops. Their chances of waging a war of position, which would have been possible if a large town had been taken, were thus eliminated, and the contra groups were forced to continue their “irregular warfare.” Up to 50 dispersed groups of 15 to 20 men are resuming the tasks of assaults and ambushes on roads, highways, cooperatives and small peasant communities, targeting primarily the civilian population and means of transportation. There are still some concentrated groups of contra commandos operating in the central regions of the country, the strength of each of which may range from 800 to 2,000 men. It is still unknown whether such groups, once independent from one another, are forced into tactical defense or if the small units represent an offensive designed to wreak small-scale destruction and sabotage the harvests.
“Task forces” of 60 to 100 men also operate in various zones of the country. One such task force, led by “Cyclone,” operated in and around Boaco. Its 75 members were all killed on November 5 in an operation carried out by the “Pablo Ubeda” Special troops Battalion.
This was the most successful action against the task forces to date, although it resulted in the death of Subcommander Enrique Schmidt, Nicaragua’s Minister of Telecommunications. Battered and dispersed as the contras were in the strategic zones of the north, the “truce” they announced for the elections can only be interpreted as an attempt to cover up their current weakness.
Nevertheless, contra infiltrations have been massive—up to around 6000 men—and their current dispersion does not rule out a possible regrouping in the form of commands, especially as they have excellent and highly sophisticated communications devices that would allow them to do so rapidly. During the coffee harvest months (November-February), irregular warfare tactics such as ambushes, sabotage, the mining of roads and isolated attacks will probably serve the contras’ purposes best. Such tactics place the lives of thousands of coffee pickers in danger and represent a threat to the harvest itself, which promises to be one of the best in Nicaraguan history. Many lives and large sums of hard currency may be lost thanks to these small armed groups, especially in Jinotega and Matagalpa, where the bulk of the nation’s coffee is grown.
Although the ramifications can still not be measured, the counterrevolutionary forces suffered several major internal divisions during the last month. At first glance, the changes would appear to be qualitative.
Brooklyn Rivera, the head of the Miskitu armed group Misurasata (a member of ARDE, and opposed to Stedman Fagoth’s Misura, the Miskitu armed group based in Honduras) visited Nicaragua on October 20-31 at the invitation of the revolutionary government, with which he held extensive talks. Rivera visited the entire Miskitu zone and was free to speak in public wherever he chose. Rivera’s decision to engage in dialogue was criticized by the ARDE members still loyal to Edén Pastora. (Pastora had also rejected Arturo Cruz’s proposal for dialogue between the counterrevolutionaries and the Sandinista government). The attempt to assassinate Alfonso Robelo in San José also reveals various divisions and tensions within ARDE: Pastora, who still insists on speaking of “his” 8,000 armed men, appears to be totally marginalized, whereas the alliance of the MDN (Robelo) and the FARN (“Negro” Chamorro) with the FDN, seems to be developing smoothly. Likewise, the CIA’s decision to move thousands of armed FDN contras from Honduras to Costa Rica demonstrates yet again that the Somocista forces of the FDN enjoy the United States’ highest trust. Daniel Ortega recently stated that this troop movement “is the first phase of the intervention and has already been completed.”
While Rivera’s visit deepened old divisions in ARDE, the FDN was suffering entirely new divisions. Edgar Chamorro, of the FDN directorate, recently criticized the CIA’s methods of dealing with the counterrevolutionaries in public statements made in the United States. He included the now infamous “manual” in his list of complaints, calling it “repugnant.” Some of Chamorro’s criticisms were echoed by Alfonso Callejas, also of the FDN directorate. This indicates that all the publicity and to-do caused by the Guerrilla Psychological Operations Manual actually stirred up tensions among the leaders of the strongest counterrevolutionary organization—the FDN.
Next year will be even more difficultThe first four years of Reagan’s military aggression in Nicaragua has resulted in 7,500 deaths, left 130,000 homeless and orphaned 5,000 children. Both the human and economic costs have been extremely high.
The FSLN electoral campaign included door-to-door visits to attain a greater appreciation of people’s major concerns. Throughout the country, the overwhelming majority of problems were the same. Naturally, military service was the foremost worry for families with draft-age children. The other three major problems were supplies, public transportation and health care (hospitals and health centers). The lack of foreign exchange (for spare parts and medical equipment) and the results of the war (prioritization of vehicles, fuel, food and hospital care for combatants) seriously affect these three crucial areas of people’s lives. Prospects for these areas in 1985 do not look good, and shortages and other limitations may worsen, especially if aggression intensifies, as all signs seem to indicate.
Scarcities and economic deterioration are felt particularly hard in Managua, where 900,000 Nicaraguans reside. The rural exodus to the capital has only exacerbated these problems. Managua currently has an annual growth rate of 8%, twice the national average. In addition, approximately 60,000 people from the city’s periphery and some 200,000 from the nearby departments of Masaya, Carazo and Granada travel to Managua daily to work and eat. This places a severe strain on the capital’s food supply and transportation system.
Even though the revolution has prioritized the countryside over the city, the rural exodus is more a product of the revolution than of the inherited economic structure. Migration to Managua really began to grow in 1979, when the families of the new Sandinista Army began to move to the capital, and later increased as a result of the differences that still exist between rural and urban earnings. (A night watchman makes about 3,000 córdobas per month while a cotton picker only makes 60 córdobas per day). The war has further accelerated the exodus. Some of the heaviest migration has come from Matagalpa, a zone hit particularly hard by the war.
This migration has resulted in rapid and chaotic growth for Managua. Neighborhoods spring up in vacant lots with no running water or electricity. They are often isolated from the bus routes and food distribution networks. A trail of shantytowns that is slowly stretching from Managua to Masaya may well create costly long-term political and economic problems.
Military and economic conditions will continue to be difficult. The counterrevolution has the upper hand in various isolated parts of the country. While it is ridiculous to say that Nicaraguans are “starving,” the economic crisis does affect the entire population to a certain degree. However, neither military pressure nor economic strangulation has proven successful in turning back the Sandinista revolution, nor does it appear that they ever will. Military means for successfully confronting the counterrevolution do exist as do rational means for organizing a resistance economy. Popular consensus doesn’t appear to have seriously waned. Seen in the context of the current crisis, the elections are an eloquent testimony to continued widespread identification with the FSLN.
Political aggression targets electionsThe military and economic aggression have been complemented by political aggression, which was prioritized in these three election months. By all means available, the Reagan administration attempted to impede and discredit the institutionalization of the revolutionary process and the international legitimization that would result from the elections.
Diverse plans in distinct phases were used to accomplish this. The first phase was an attempt to open up political space within Nicaragua for the armed counterrevolution (The ploy of “dialogue with those who have taken up arms,” proposed by the Coordinadora since December 1983).
In the second phase, Arturo Cruz was presented as the representative and mediator of the counterrevolution and, at the same time, as the primary advocate of electoral boycott and abstention. It was made clear in Rio de Janeiro (October 1-2) that acceptance by the FSLN of the Coordinadora’s positions would not really guarantee an end to aggression, the objective of which is not to secure a share of the FSLN’s power for groups like the Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN), but rather to destroy the revolution entirely. The CDN’s insistence upon abstention made it clear that this organization had no intention whatsoever of resolving its conflict with the government by means of elections. This stubborn position was formulated by the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), chaired by Enrique Bolaños, who is closely tied to the US administration.
The third phase was implemented primarily in the final month of the electoral campaign, when the electoral process appeared unstoppable. There were continued attempts to discredit the elections and draw the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) and Democratic Conservative Party (PCD) into the abstention camp. During this phase, verified but still incomplete news reports revealed continual overtures by the US Embassy to these parties’ leaders. Promises, remuneration, pressure and threats were used in an attempt to keep them from participating in the electoral process.
Interestingly, the Bishops’ Conference remained silent on the electoral issue. However, Bishop Pablo Vega, president of the Bishops’ Conference, convened a conference for the national and international press on October 23 to present some of his personal writings on the socio-political issues of the day. He read excerpts from a 16-page document containing severe criticism of the government. According to this document, the elections could not be considered fair because there were insufficient “conditions” and freedoms. More significant than the document itself, however, was the fact that the bishop had to present it by himself and was forced to admit as much at the conference. An official position on the elections had been expected from the Church hierarchy since the elections were announced last February. Until the final weeks prior to November 4, Vega and those sectors of the hierarchy most opposed to the revolution had insisted that a Pastoral Letter would appear, but it never did. This is a sign of the lack of common criteria among the ten bishops, which resulted in respectful silence. In fact, the hierarchy as a whole neither called for abstention nor publicly demonstrated sympathy for any of the contending parties, although both Bishop Vega and Archbishop Obando, with their continual ambiguous and skeptical statements about the electoral process, clearly supported the CDN’s abstentionist positions.
The fourth phase of attacks on the elections began before November 4 and will certainly continue into the future: it consists of efforts to portray the elections as a hoax. The US administration will use military, political and diplomatic pressure to push for new elections in 1985. The State Department and La Prensa have already stated as much.
Political attacks on the elections resulted in failure. Despite the political costs (internecine divisions in the PLI and PCD, campaign problems, the image of intransigence with Cruz, etc.) the FSLN emerged from the elections essentially untarnished, and the revolutionary government held its course. The election results themselves will now serve as the best defense against this fourth phase of attacks.
Diplomatic pressure: Contadora at the CrossroadsThe United States, its Central American allies and many other countries were genuinely surprised by Nicaragua’s decision to sign the revised Contadora accords. Never, for instance, did they think Nicaragua would be willing to put a freeze on its supply of defensive weapons as stipulated in the accords.
Nicaragua’s decision was the first step towards the realization of the peace agreements, which were to be signed October 15. The move inspired support for Contadora from numerous nations and institutions of diverse political tendencies. Many nations publicly declared their adherence to the additional protocol agreements. The Contadora foreign ministers traveled to various countries to present the agreements to different heads of state in the hope of gaining their support. When they failed to receive a response from the Vatican, for instance, they presented the document personally to Pope John II during his visit to the Dominican Republic. They also took it to Indira Gandhi, president of the Movement of Nonaligned Nations. The Indian prime minister’s expression of “complete support” for the agreements was one of her last public acts.
However, this worldwide search for peace did not suffice to convince the United States, whose role is fundamental in the Central American conflict. After rapidly reassessing its tactics in light of Nicaragua’s decision, the Reagan administration began a counteroffensive, starting with general statements about the “Sandinistas’ insincerity.” Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Shultz declared that the revised Contadora document was nothing more than a “rough draft” that would remain subject to further negotiations and the US right to make recommendations. Meanwhile, the US press reported that Reagan had changed his position on Contadora by 180 degrees. Actually, the change was only cosmetic. When the moment of truth arrived in the form of the revised agreements, all US proclamations of support for Contadora proved to be empty rhetoric. Compliance with these agreements would have required the US to remove its bases from Honduras, suspend its military maneuvers in Central America, and cut off all aid to the Salvadoran armed forces and Nicaraguan counterrevolutionaries.
At no other time in Contadora’s 20-month history have the limits of this group of Latin American mediators been revealed so clearly. These countries can do nothing to change the total US unwillingness to negotiate or to influence the US commitment to overthrow the Nicaraguan government and maintain its control ever Central America at any price, even that of a full-scale regional war.
The US position caused immediate reactions from many parts of the world. Mexico was the first Contadora country to warn of the “enormous risk” of attempting to begin new negotiations. Carlos Andrês Pêrez, the former President of Venezuela, remarked that the US attitude was “extremely dangerous.”
Washington’s official criticism regarding the revised accords took the form of a two-page document that circulated in diplomatic channels. The fundamental US objections can be expressed simply: Nicaragua would win and the United States would lose, and this is not permissible. According to Washington sources, the agreements would have “put and end to all military aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica,” “placed the Duarte government on an untenable footing with the guerrillas,” and “reduced our presence in and our pressure upon Nicaragua without requiring a single concession from Nicaragua.” Clearly, this is not so: upon signing the accords, Nicaragua would promise to cancel all aid to the FMLN, agree to a periodic inspection of its defense arsenal and accept a freeze on its arms supplies. Nicaragua is willing to accept the risks to its survival and sovereignty that the arms limitations entail if the US agrees to sign the protocol acts and cease its support for the counterrevolution. Naturally, with Contadora, everyone wins something, everyone loses something and some win more than others. Nicaragua would win peace and the United States would lose its hegemony.
Another reason for Washington’s reluctance to sign the protocol agreements is that Cuba and the Soviet Union would be called upon to do the same. According to the Reagan Administration’s rationale, US acceptance of this would be equivalent to acknowledging that these two countries should play a political role in Central America. With this position, the US government is not only ignoring the fact that Contadora asked all countries of the world to adhere to the protocol agreements; it is also implicitly declaring that Central America is and must remain exclusively within the US sphere of influence. Therefore, the US position clearly undermines Contadora’s overall intentions, which are based on the right to national self-determination and autonomous diplomacy.
On October 15, the Contadora foreign ministers met in Spain to receive the Prince of Asturias Award for their peace efforts. Ramírez Ocampo, Colombia’s foreign minister, said, “We hope the Madrid meeting will be the group’s last task, but we cannot close the book without reaching a solution.” In Madrid, the ministers studied the various objections made by the Central American countries since September 7. By the end of the meeting, the ministers declared that the objections were such that they would require another meeting. The Contadora book remains open, but a death sentence hangs over the last page.
The same day, Daniel Ortega sent a letter to the four Contadora Presidents requesting a rapid summit meeting of the nine Contadora and Central American Presidents. Herrera Campins, former President of Venezuela and one of the initiators of the Contadora efforts, suggested a meeting of the four Contadora Presidents in Nicaragua prior to the November 4 elections.
At the Tegucigalpa meeting of Central American foreign ministers on October 19, which Nicaragua did not attend, agreements were made to hold new meetings in order to amend the revised Contadora agreements. Furthermore, the four US allies in Central America appear anxious to abandon Contadora’s mediation, which they had previously accepted, and to edit the Contadora document by themselves: “We (the four countries) reiterate at this stage the crucial importance of direct participation by the Central American nations in the negotiation and editing of the text of the agreements.” Nonetheless, the Contadora foreign ministers pursued their struggle and went before the 39th General Assembly of the United Nations to present their resolution proposal, calling urgently on the Central American countries to sign the agreements and the countries of the world to sign the protocol agreements. UN debate over Central America began October 24. The discussion began with a dramatic appeal by the Mexican representative, Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, to “put an end to the prolonged cycle of hegemonic ambitions in the area,” to which he attributed the conditions of injustice and poverty in the region. Two days and 43 declarations later, the 159 member nations—including the US and the Central American countries—passed the resolution by consensus. It was a nice gesture expressing the world’s desire for peace in Central America, but, since it did not break the Contadora impasse, it drew applause from the very countries that were drafting a proposal for a new agreement: the US and its Central American allies.
On October 30, the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry read the new agreements, and, after reflecting upon the Honduran, Salvadoran and Costa Rican observations, made the following declarations:
• * “[The new agreements] make substantive changes that seriously affect the nature and spirit of the Contadora proposal and those agreements reached by consensus.”
• * “Examining the observations…we found that they faithfully reflect all of the objections made by the United States government.”
Nicaragua expressed its “total opposition” to these observations, declaring that it would be simply “unacceptable to go back to the beginning of the negotiating process.”
Initially, Nicaragua rejected those observations related to demilitarization and the forms of verifying and controlling it. Nicaragua also disapproved of the proposals dealing with definitions of a single form of democracy. The first group of observations contains schedules and mechanisms designed to “calm” the worries of the United States.* The second would require a standardizing of electoral and administrative forms and processed for all the countries in the region. This could result in the invalidation of Nicaragua’s recent elections. The stability and originality of the Sandinista government could be endangered if it accepted such observations.
These are similar to what has already been leaked through US sources in the case of Manzanillo: The US proposes that Nicaragua promise to remove all its military advisors. After this, the United States would “consider” removing its advisors from other Central American countries.
“Contadora is fatally wounded,” said Father Miguel D’Escoto, Nicaragua’s foreign minister, in his evaluation of the current deadlock. In all likelihood, the US will attempt to have the Central American question withdrawn from the Contadora forum and placed in the hands of the OAS. Such has been the desire of the US administration since the outset of the Contadora efforts. In fact, a US National Security Council document recently leaked to The Washington Post boasts that the US successfully “blocked” Contadora.
After 20 months of hard work, Contadora presented the revised accords on September 7. Given that the content of the accords was discussed and approved by all the Central American countries in lengthy meetings, and that all of the countries had entrusted Contadora with the responsibility of resolving their differences in a compromise text including mutual concessions, the accords were only to require a few final touches.
The present standstill leaves open two alternatives: the Contadora countries will either continue to push for consensus on the basis of the revised agreements, or will give in to US pressure and accept the objections. The latter would mark the death of a diplomatic initiative whose great value is that it is Latin American and independent of the United States. It represents the diplomatic framework through which the existence of a revolutionary Nicaragua could have been guaranteed and offers the possibility of obtaining a modicum of Latin American dignity in the face of the US empire.
The Manzanillo and La Palma TalksSince the Manzanillo talks were an indispensable complement to Contadora, they too suffered a crisis once the US successfully blocked the latter.
It is well know that both parties agreed not to release any information about the content of these meetings or to make any public statements that might place the talks in jeopardy. However, after the seventh round of conversations (October 29), State Department officials who had been “optimistic” prior to Nicaragua’s signing of the revised Contadora agreements, stated that they were now pessimistic; they said “no progress” had been made. Some sources even went so far as to say that US negotiator Shlaudeman had “limited autonomy” and that “the administration does not genuinely desire a settlement with the Sandinistas.”
Daniel Ortega told the international press that Nicaragua had proposed “a framework of mutual security” to the US, but the “balance was unfavorable,” the talks had “reached a standstill” and “it is noteworthy that no advances were made prior to the elections.” Ortega also stated that, since Shultz’s visit to Managua on June 1, which was followed by the Manzanillo talks, the US had repeatedly referred to those rounds of conversations as a means “to strengthen Contadora.”
The FDR-FMLN dialogue with the Duarte government in La Palma (October 15)—whose implications for El Salvador we will have to analyze at another time—was also relevant to Nicaragua. For a closer look at the “strategy of symmetry,” see the June 1984 issue of envío. The pressure to achieve “symmetry” by pushing for dialogue with those who have taken up arms has already been unsuccessfully tried. However increased aggression could result, for example in the “liberation” of a portion of Nicaraguan territory with the aid of invading US troops. This, in turn, might lead to a search for “solutions” by means of dialogue, but from a position of strength.
In any event, the La Palma dialogue demonstrates, from an objective perspective, the lack of symmetry between the conflicts in El Salvador and in Nicaragua: Duarte did not go to Cuba to engage in dialogue but rather stayed in El Salvador to talk with the FDR-FMLN. Nicaragua’s representatives went to Manzanillo to talk with those of the United States.
On November 4, Nicaragua had its elections. As expected, the FSLN emerged victorious, but neither the day’s events nor the elections results were what the US administration had expected: the Nicaraguan elections weren’t the “sham” the administration had announced they would be.
Two days later, the United States had its elections. As expected, Reagan was the winner, but, as no one had expected, even before the final results were announced, the administration had created “the MIG scandal” amidst considerable fanfare.
Basing its concern on the alleged shipment of MIG fighter jets, which were allegedly to arrive in Nicaragua aboard a Soviet vessel, the US government threatened that it would take “all necessary measures”—including an invasion, according to some spokesmen—to prevent the ship from unloading its cargo in the port of Corinto. In an attempt to justify its stance, the administration claimed that MIG planes in Nicaragua would unsettle the balance of power in the Central American region and represented a threat to US national security.
The most aggressive statements by Reagan, Weinberger and Shultz and the most threatening actions all took place within a very short time span. A US warship intercepted the Soviet vessel near the entrance to the port and remained in Nicaraguan waters as if to watch over the ship while it discharged its freight. On November 8, a sophisticated US spy plane, the SR-71 “Blackbird” flew once again over Nicaraguan territory internationally breaking the sound barrier. (It had flown over Nicaragua for the first time on October 31.) That same day, the Voice of America performed “tests” by intercepting the state radio station, Voice of Nicaragua. The same kind of test had been carried out in Grenada at the time of the invasion. The US also announced that several battalions of its top land, naval and paratroop divisions, including the 82nd Airborne Division that participated in the invasion of Grenada, had been mobilized. The extensive Central American military maneuvers of the upcoming weeks were also announced, the most impressive being “Rapid Thrust,” in which some 15,000 US soldiers will participate, as will one battalion of the 82nd Division and an air-attack battalion (November 30- December 7).
Nicaragua responded immediately, making an urgent call to the UN Security Council, acting on political and diplomatic contacts, calling for urgently needed international solidarity, and decreeing a state of alert so the armed forces and Civil Defense brigades would be ready for possible air attacks or a massive invasion. On November 8, the government ordered the 20,000 young volunteers about to head north to pick coffee to remain in Managua as combatants and train to defend the capital in case of an invasion or bombings.
Thus, only 72 hours after the FSLN’s and the Republican Party’s clear electoral victories, the conflict between Nicaragua and the US entered one of its most critical phases. These difficult times have given rise to several questions and interpretations:
Is the current intensification of threats and aggressive acts just another form, although more extreme, of pressure and harassment?
-If the recent escalation is just a new stage of pressure, then it would appear that it is a response to the success of the Nicaraguan elections. Perhaps the increase in hostilities is a way for the Reagan administration to distract attention from its own “failure” in the Nicaraguan elections, which were clearly not the sham the administration had predicted.
-The escalation may be a response to the serious setbacks suffered by Duarte’s armed forces, especially the death of Colonel Monterrosa, the key strategist in counterinsurgency operations, and other military leaders. Since El Salvador is where the US urgently needs to step up its involvement or even intervene directly, the current pressure on Nicaragua may well be an attempt to divert US attention from El Salvador in order to act more freely there.
“Is the recent escalation the first step towards a direct invasion? Have the success of the Nicaraguan elections and the strength of the Sandinistas caused Reagan to give up on all the other forms of pressure?
-The recent escalation may well be the “remainder” of a plan for a surprise attack that was cut short by both the Nicaraguan elections and the apparent tension over Central American policy between the State Department, on one hand, and the White House and Pentagon, on the other. (There are indications that those responsible for disclosing the MIG scandal are the same ones who opposed a surprise attack.)
-Perhaps the current pressures and threats are aimed as much at crippling the revolution as at preparing for a direct intervention. The objective of the latter would be to “liberate” a part of Nicaragua—such as the Atlantic Coast—thereby dividing the country. Politically, this kind of aggression would cost the US government less than a full-scale invasion and militarily more efficient than the counterrevolutionaries’ present harassment tactics.
In any event, US pressure will continue to intensify, as will Nicaragua’s defense measures. This nation will require support and solidarity from many parts of the world. Reagan now has four more years to choose when and how to strike. The most dramatic times are still ahead.