Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 36 | Junio 1984



Defense in All Spheres: Requisite for Survival

Envío team

The war against Nicaragua, in all its magnitude, was the main focus of attention this past month. This war is promoted and sustained by the US administration, and it is moved by a fundamental political concept: the recovery of spheres of influence throughout the world. This war marks the starting point of our analysis.

The US policy of destabilization and attrition against Nicaragua has become evident in a war encompassing all areas of national life. While attempting to wear down and, if possible, paralyze the productive activity of the country, this policy also aims at discrediting Nicaragua’s commitment to political pluralism by attacking the present phase of the electoral process. The attacks have also been ideological: the attempt to spur on the anti-Sandinista “internal front,” which, after five years, remains incapable of organizing itself. Furthermore, the Reagan administration has tried to weaken Nicaragua by isolating it internationally.

Spearheading this war are the military operations of the anti-Sandinista forces, which underlie and accelerate all the other aspects of the aggression, while facilitating and preparing the way for direct intervention in the region, still a viable, medium-term possibility.

The war effort demands that the Nicaraguan leadership and the people as a whole respond at all levels in confronting the aggression in order to reduce the already high costs.

Within this framework of aggression and defense, the surprising visit of US Secretary of State George Shultz to Managua (June 11), heading up a “mission for peace and dialogue,” did not arouse expectations within the country in light of the questionable sincerity of those who propose dialogue while preparing for and promoting all-out war.

Throughout our analysis, we will attempt to address several aspects of this multifaceted, complex situation:
1. The military aggression and the population’s response
2. Economic problems caused by the aggression and the search for solutions
3. The ongoing electoral process in the midst of aggression
4. Nicaragua’s survival is at stake

To conclude, we will attempt to sketch the possible short-term directions that developments in the Nicaraguan situation might take.

The military aggression and the population’s response

Chronology of Military Events between May 5 and June 5
5/7: Heavy fighting is reported in El Zapote, near Quilalí (Department of Nueva Segovia). The region of San Carlos-Río San Juan is attacked, near the border with Costa Rica. The results: 6 civilians dead and 1 kidnapped. Attacking forces suffer 17 casualties.

5/8: A Honduran helicopter is shot down in Punta Cosigüina (Department of Chinandega). All 8 Honduran crew members are killed. Days later, as a reprisal, Honduras expels Nicaragua’s ambassador in that country.

5/10: A truck is ambushed while transporting food supplies in EL Carao (Northern Zelaya). Nicaraguan army Commander Hugo Torres reports conservative estimates of 600 contra casualties in the last two months, counting both dead and wounded.

5/12: Official spokespersons announce the deaths of 38 contras in the north of the country. Heavy battles are reported in the region of Quilalí and in northern Río Blanco (Department of Matagalpa), as well as in the hills of Algodón, Verde, El Espinazo and Caño Sucio.

5/13: In Caño el Jorgito (Central Zelaya), 35 peasants, 10 of them children and 5 women are murdered when contra forces attack this civilian population. At the time of the attack, the villagers were celebrating a fiesta.

5/16: In Lausika, 27 km north of Barra del Río Grande (on the Atlantic Coast in Southern Zelaya), a detachment of ARDE forces in “piranha” speedboats are detected. Two boats are sunk, two are captured and two break down. The following week, another boat is destroyed in the same zone (Monkey Pint).

5/17: Simultaneous attacks by ARDE are reported near the southern border in La Pimienta, Bocas de Sapoá and Peñas Blancas. These attacks are carried out one day after the signing of border treaties by Nicaragua and Costa Rica under the supervision of Contadora. Contras attack the State Production Unit Castillo Norte, 65 km north of Jinotega, killing 20 peasant militiamen, setting fire to dwellings and raping two 2 women.

5/19: Analysis of the contra military operations of the last week indicates that the preferred targets are the State Production Units, like Castillo Norte and Los Alpes. Fighting is reported in Nueva Guinea. An 800-man command unit tries to penetrate the region of San Juan del Río Coco, where a heavy battle is waged. Casualties total 70 for the FDN, 15 for the Sandinistas.

5/22: A task Force of 300 men attacks the El Garrobo agricultural cooperative, 25 km from Waslala (Department of Zelaya). Some of the facilities are destroyed. Days later it is reported that damages and losses in all of Region 6 (Matagalpa and Jinotega) total about a million córdobas. It is also reported that anti-Sandinista groups operating in this region are supplied daily by C-47 aircraft from the Honduran Aguacate air force base.

5/23: The Legal Investigation Organization of Costa Rica reports that the plane that crashed in Costa Rica on April 9 was transporting more than half a million bullets and other supplies to ARDE.

5/26: Sandinista artillery groups attack an FDN regional command post 30 km from San José de Bocay (Department of Jinotega). The Nicaraguan government announces that ARDE is planning to provoke a new military incident from within Costa Rica in order to disrupt that country’s neutrality.

5/28: Indalecio Rodríguez, of the National FDN Leadership, tells Radio Impacto of Costa Rica: “Unity between the FDN and ARDE will be forged this year with Pastora or without him.” He harshly criticizes the US Democrats, accusing them of being “incompetent” in their response to the administration’s moves. These statements are interpreted as an answer to the extremely harsh words by Speaker of the House Thomas O’Neill on May 24, the day the House rejected Reagan’s request for more aid to the anti-Sandinista forces. Heavy fighting is waged in the region of San José de Bocay. Days later, it is announced that 100 contras died during the conflict, which lasted until June 3.

6/1: A group of about 1000 FDN approaches the city of Ocotal (capital city of the Department of Nueva Segovia). A commando unit manages to penetrate the heart of the city, partially destroying the radio station and economic targets. More than 50 contras and 12 Sandinistas die in the battle.

6/5: New attacks are reported in southern border regions: Peñas Blancas, La Pimienta, etc.

What do these military events mean?

The anti-Sandinista military offensive, initiated three months ago, continues despite the heavy blows the counterrevolutionary forces have been dealt. During his visit to Quilalí on May 29, Tomás Borge stated, “The counterrevolutionary offensive, which is just beginning, is intensifying on all the military fronts.”

The more solidly organized structure achieved by the counterrevolutionaries in the last few months—their formation into regional commands—as well as the use of good communications systems (such as the PR-72, ICOM, and SAUCON) are two elements that allow for tactical dispersion with orderly regrouping.

However, the Sandinista military forces, which have been successful at stopping the advance of groups that have penetrated Nicaraguan territory, have directed their efforts at militarily defeating the offensive, or at least pushing the attackers back toward Honduras. In order to shore up the counteroffensive, the governmental troops have applied a series of measures that include concentrating troops in the most affected regions, granting priority to the most conflictive zones by stimulating social and economic development in those areas, consolidating the functioning of the state apparatus in those zones and guaranteeing the FSLN’s presence there. In addition, the systematic use of powerful military equipment, such as rocket launchers and 122-mm cannons, combined with aviation, infantry detachments and special battalions, serves to strengthen the response to the attacking anti-Sandinista forces. The decision to designate some members of the FSLN National Directorate to the most conflictive regions is another important element in the military response to this counterrevolutionary offensive; an offensive that does not preclude the preparation of conditions that could facilitate a direct military intervention by US troops. During a public appearance on June 5, Defense Minister Humberto Ortega offered an interpretation of the offensive and outlined a possible scenario for intervention that included new information.

“The open war strategy employed by the Reagan administration consists of wearing down the country by tearing apart the nation’s economy and disrupting the government’s social and economic programs. This strategy relies on counterrevolutionary activities in the Atlantic Coast, part of Chontales and the Río San Juan region. The strategy is aimed at disarticulating the country’s basic military defense structure by trying to force the Sandinista army to spread itself out over vast stretches of territory and then wearing it down. The enemy plans to take over the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, including Managua, through massive attacks by the US forces. In the overall plan, the counterrevolutionaries are assigned the mission of distracting and dispersing the Sandinista forces, thereby allowing the invading troops to concentrate their actions on strategic targets in the country.”

According to this interpretation, the counterrevolutionaries currently have the task of dispersing and wearing down the Nicaragua Army. Within this framework, it is logical that the Reagan administration would want to forge a structural unity between the two main anti-Sandinista organizations. Over the last month, the statements by leaders of both ARDE (in Costa Rica) and the FDN (in Honduras) tend to support the “need” for unity in order to strengthen their efforts at carrying out their assigned tasks. Given that Pastora was leading a sector of ARDE opposed to the merger—versus the Robelo-led tendency in favor of it—the attempt against the guerrilla leader’s life can perhaps he explained in light of these dynamics. At the press conference where the explosion occurred, Pastora was about to explain the internal tensions. From the perspective of the CIA, it is logical that their plans include the elimination of any element hindering the unity of the FDN and ARDE.

Another important element to consider in this military dispute is the social base of the counterrevolution. Apparently, in the more conflictive region of Matagalpa and Jinotega, some peasants have collaborated with the counterrevolutionary groups, often for fear of brutal reprisals, including humiliation, rape and torture, if they refuse. Some were forced to collaborate, and others did so for the money. In other cases, collaboration was a result of a lack of political and cultural awareness of the overall complexity of the issues at stake. Still other reasons include the remoteness of some areas and the consequent delay in receiving the benefits of the revolution, together with certain mistakes made by the government.

In spite of continued military aggressions by anti-Sandinista forces, the offensive has been neutralized, and in some regions, some of the attacking forces have begun to retreat. On their way out of Nicaragua, however, they spread destruction, attacking the economy and the social infrastructure: rural daycare centers, health pasts, schools, etc. The civilian population is not excluded from the wrath of these military activities. Certain attacks, such as the attempt to occupy the city of Ocotal, are an attempt to obtain publicity and are aimed at accelerating the war of attrition. However, many of their operations backfire, as was the case in Ocotal, leaving the contras with serious setbacks and heavy human and military losses. The overall efforts of the Nicaraguan government—ranging from military aspects to establishing priorities in developing of the most conflictive zones—have absorbed much energy but have also greatly contributed to neutralizing what has been, without doubt, the major offensive launched against Nicaragua in the last few years. This offensive, despite the human and economic costs entailed, is now under control in a large part of the country.

Economic problems caused by the aggression and the search for solutions

“The amount of material damages for 1983 is equivalent to US$128.1 million, a figure that represents 31% of our export earnings for that year. Between January and March, 1984, damages totaled 149.8 million córdobas… To date, damages resulting from the mining of our ports have amounted to US$9.1 million…” (Daniel Ortega, inauguration of the Fifth Legislative Session of the Council of State, May 4, 1984).

The material costs of the aggression take on immense significance for a small country, already suffering the consequences of the international crisis and the inheritance of underdevelopment from the Somoza era, in addition to the effects of the earthquake and a civil war prior to July 1979.

Since 1981, material damages produced by the counterrevolutionary aggression have amounted to 2,046.7 million córdobas, 77% of which accounts for damages caused in 1983. This is a revealing indicator of the intensification of the war of attrition. The effects of counterrevolutionary activity on the nation’s infrastructure total 517.9 million córdobas, one-fourth of the entire cost of damages. This fact clarifies an essential aspect of the war: the wearing away of the country’s basic economic structures. The military aggression has forced the country to allocate 25% of its national budget to defense. This amount surpasses the figures for 1983 and 1982 of 20% and 18%, respectively.

Closely linked to the military aggression are a series of growing economic problems, of which the shortage of essential basic consumer products is a foremost example. Besides the difficulties related to production, which have worsened in the primarily grain-producing regions because of the military situation, is the general lack of foreign exchange. The increased consumer demands since 1979, and obvious distribution problems are additional factors that contribute to the national crisis of shortages. It is worth noting that 90% of the production of beans and corn—basic staples in the Nicaraguan diet—is in the hands of small and medium-size farmers, located mostly in the very conflictive regions.

The country’s economic situation has made it impossible for the state to absorb through its subsidy the increases in prices paid to consumers, which means that these increases have been passed on to consumers. However, the wage scale has just been restructured, which will mean raises for many workers. Price increases favoring producers were seen as an absolute necessity for stimulating weak production figures. For example, producers now receive 2.40 córdobas per pound of corn, up from 1.80 córdobas. Previous prices did not even completely cover production overhead. The new measures to aid producers are also viewed as an attempt to respond to the economic difficulties of peasants, who make up one of the major social bases of the Nicaraguan revolution.

However, even if these increases succeed in stimulating production, the whole problem will still not be resolved. In a effort to control the distribution channels, the Ministry of Domestic Commerce (MICOIN) defined three types of products with their corresponding prices and means of distribution. Six basic products—salt, cooking oil, sorghum, sugar, rice and soap—will be distributed solely by the state. Corn and beans will continue circulating through both state channels and private merchants, and their prices will be governed by the laws of supply and demand, since these grains are produced almost entirely by peasants.

The supply of imported manufactured products, such as toothpaste and toilet paper, will depend on the availability of foreign exchange. When such products are imported, however, the state will guarantee their equal distribution, while trying to stop the speculation that arises during times of scarcity.

These measures have met a great deal for approval from poorer sectors of the population, which via the Sandinista Defense Committees (CDS) proposed a stiff law to sanction speculators. Their bill was approved by the Council of State and is now awaiting final approval from the governmental junta (JGRN). However, the new measures cannot guarantee that the problem of supplying necessary provisions will be totally resolved. The lack of certain products is an objective fact—a product of the aggression we have described in some detail above—to which there is no simple answer. Nevertheless, in the necessary framework of shortages, the plans for reorganization are intended to implement a fairer and more rational distribution system, penalizing those who attempt to speculate with people’s basic needs.

Of course, these measures will require active participation and organization by the people. In turn, this calls for an increase in consciousness and understanding of the consequences imposed on the civilian population by a war of aggression. “When asked about military aggression, the majority of the population is willing to defend our national sovereignty, but not many people have understood that the costs of the war must be paid by both the military and civilians. They don’t realize that the daily shortages we began to experience last year are another form of attack on us” (except from the speech by Dionisio Marenco, Minister of Domestic Commerce, in his appearance before the Council of State on June 1).

In another sphere, the land reform has been intensified. This has taken some of the wind out of the sails of the anti-Sandinista campaign directed at the peasant classes with phrases such as: “The Sandinistas are going to take your land away,” or “They want to establish state control over everything.” This increased activity in the field of land reform can also be seen as an attempt to undermine the counterrevolutionaries’ potential social base in places like Matagalpa and Jinotega. In the last month, the government augmented the amount of land turned over to both coops and individual small farmers. The land handed over to the population comes from three sources: 1) the Area of People’s Property (state-owned land); 2) unproductive land confiscated from large owners; and 3) fertile land bought from its owners by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The economic problems resulting from this war of attrition are immense and are growing day by day with every counterrevolutionary attack: the attack on Ocotal alone cost over 69,000,000 córdobas. The situation is so serious that we could actually say the food supply of the Nicaraguan population is at stake. This war of aggression might also become a “war of hunger.” In addition, the economic problems have ideological implications that the reactionary sectors tend to take advantage of in order to destabilize the country. The government’s response has been what it calls a “policy of truth,” which consists of explaining all these problems in public and finding solutions, as happened this month, that tend to distribute more equally the burden of sacrifice caused by the war.

The ongoing electoral process in the midst of aggression

The war of aggression against Nicaragua and the nation’s response to it provide an indispensable basis for the analysis of the electoral process. A second important element in this analysis is the tendency of all the country’s fundamental political sectors and forces to rally around one of two electoral positions: abstention or participation.

Despite the obstacles created by the anti-Sandinista offensive from within and without the country, the electoral process continues to move ahead. On May 24, the Supreme Electoral Council presented an electoral timetable that had been debated in the National Assembly of Political Parties, where all the country’s political forces are entitled to representation. This debate allowed for important changes in the original proposal. The following decisions were finally approved:

a) Registration of candidates between May 25 and July 25
b) Voter registration on July 27,28,29 and 30
c) Electoral campaign between August 8 and October 31

The First national Electoral Training Workshop took place on May 21, involving 110 electoral agents. By using the same pyramidal multiplication system as in the National Literacy Crusade, it is hoped that more than 30,000 citizens will be trained in the coming months to take care of some 5,000 polling stations and carry out other electoral tasks.

In addition to these concrete gestures, which clearly demonstrate the intention to hold elections on November 4, there has been a display of varied and opposed political positions resulting from the electoral debate, the decision to extend the State of Emergency 50 days beyond May 30, and the critical discussion of the Social Communication Media bill in the Council of State.

The Democratic Coordinator, whose member parties expressed criticism of governmental policy throughout the month, eventually published a document on May 25. In general terms, this new document is very similar to the one it issued on December 28, 1983. (See envío No. 31.) The Coordinator continues to lay down conditions and make demands of both the FSLN and the government, while questioning the very essence of Nicaragua’s revolution. The document makes no mention of the aggression faced by Nicaragua. For this reason, it is void of both political validity and practical feasibility. In addition, it is manifestly abstentionist.

Contrary to the Coordinator, the “Legitimist” tendency of the Democratic Conservative Party (PDC) publicly stated its decision to participate in the electoral process, expressing the opinion that the prevailing electoral climate is favorable to such intentions. Although the National Council of Political Parties has not yet reached a decision concerning which of the two feuding tendencies will be officially acknowledged as the authentic representative of the Conservatives, the decision by the Legitimist tendency will broaden the scope of participation in the elections.

In a document marked by an effort to overcome pronounced internal differences, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) also reaffirmed its decision to take part in the elections. The same document refers to the attacks on Nicaragua and voices support for the Contadora peace talks, but also directs sharp criticism at the FSLN and the government. The criticism caused one local newspaper to describe the PLI’s latest positions as a move to the right. Supposing that the Coordinator decides to abstain from participating in the elections, it seems that the PLI has its hopes set on picking up the votes that normally would have gone to the Coordinator, as well as a great deal of the rightist votes in general.

The recent tensions within the Revolutionary Patriotic Front (FPR) arising from discussions over the Media Law in the Council of State have not reduced in any way the participation of the FPR’s members—FSLN, Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC) and the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) in the electoral process. Despite the PPSC’s strong criticism of the FSLN’s proposal to entrust the Ministry of the Interior with the application of the law—it proposes the creation of a national communications commission for this purpose—it has held to its decision to take part in the elections.

The discussion over whether the National Emergency Law should be lifted emerged toward the end of the month. This law has a relatively strong influence on the country’s political activity, which has been intense on the part of all the political forces, including the Coordinator. Of course, this law also serves as a necessary weapon in Nicaragua’s defense against aggression. The government’s decision to extend the law converted the latter into a “battle cry” for the Coordinator and irritated other parties, such as the PLIU and the PPSC. Official statements seem to indicate that the law will be lifted before the beginning of the electoral campaign on August 8.

It is clear that the Coordinator intends to use the abrogation of the law as a demand, condition or pretext in its dealings with the government. This can be seen in the attitude demonstrated by several parties making up the Coordinator when they attended the Salvadoran elections as observers. (envío has no intention of comparing the Nicaraguan government with the repressive Salvadoran regime, which has been responsible for the deaths of 50,000 people.) They considered that the Salvadoran elections were legitimate and constituted a model for Nicaragua, and their impressions were not altered by the fact that a state of siege was in force almost up to the very day of the elections or by the killing of more than 50 civilians in the last 15 days before the elections.

The non-abrogation of the emergency law could be seen as a stimulus for those parties favoring abstention from participating in the elections if we did not consider the military situation that Nicaragua is forced to face. The Coordinator, which gives no credence to the military situation, has described the decision to extend the law as an example of political rigidity on the part of the FSLN. Such contradictions are the inevitable product of carrying out elections in a situation of war.

Despite the quarrels, debates, and discussions, the abstentionist tendency that threatens the electoral process has so far been restricted to the parties of the Democratic Coordinator. The decision of the PCD Legitimists to participate in the elections widens the electoral spectrum. Regardless of its growing criticism of the FSLN, the PLI has so far maintained its decision to use the polls as a means of attempting to become the nation’s second most important political force. The Communist Party of Nicaragua, the PSN, the PPSC and the FSLN have also decided to participate. Therefore, it appears that parties of very different ideological designs will be taking part in the electoral joust.

An open challenge both for the FSLN and the country’s other political forces is the solution of certain contradictions—such as the emergency law—that have resulted from the need to institutionalize an electoral process at a time when a war is making its effects felt in everyday life throughout the country.

Nicaragua’s survival is at stake

If we look at only the most obvious aspects of the war against Nicaragua (military, economic, political), it becomes cleat that the Reagan administration’s policy is costing Nicaragua and Central America an incalculable price. For the people of Nicaragua, this policy has meant torture and murder, as well as mass abductions along the borders and in mountainous regions. The 50,000 Americans who died in Vietnam during ten years of war represent 2.32 deaths for every 10,000 people. The 1,500 Nicaraguans who have died over the last two years as a result of the war in this country represent 4.58 deaths for every 10,000 people.

Both the Reagan administration’s war against Nicaragua and its support for the Salvadoran government in the continuation of another extremely costly war are based on a political conception in which the primary goal is to regain US hegemony over its zones of influence. In this context, as many US Republican leaders have repeated, Central America is a vital area and a security zone.

The unexpected visit to Nicaragua by US Secretary of State George Shultz on June 1 can only be understood in the light of the very hard-line speeches made by Reagan on May 9, by Motley a few days later, and by Kissinger in Austria. Shultz brought to Managua the same general proposal that the Reagan administration has maintained for some time without showing any sign of change or flexibility in its position. According to the proposal, Nicaragua should respond to the following four demands: 1) Stop the exportation of “subversion” to other Central American countries; 2) Restore military “equilibrium” to the region through disarmament; 3) Remove foreign military advisers from the area; 4) Assure free elections, political pluralism and respect for human rights (as defined by the US). Implicit in this proposal is the Reagan administration’s demand that the Sandinistas adhere unilaterally to these points. Besides addressing these points in its own six-point peace proposal last fall, Nicaragua has continuality insisted that it is willing to discuss these issues if they are to involve multilateral adherence by all the parties in the region, including the United States.

The media coverage of Shultz’s trip added to speculation that his Managua visit was primarily an attempt to give the Reagan administration an image of concern over peace and a political solution in Central America. Such an image could be helpful in enabling the administration to reduce pressure from within the US that has arisen, for example, as a result of the recent vote by Congress against additional aid for the contras and the constant criticism by Democratic candidates of Reagan’s Central American policy. This attempt to create a new image could also help to appease international critics, including European allies such as Great Britain, almost all of which have condemned the mining of Nicaragua’s harbors and Reagan’s bellicose policy toward Central America. Shultz’s trip could also have been intended to give Contadora the impression that the US is open to the possibility of negotiations and to lessen tensions—considerably aggravated by the debt problem—with the Latin American nations. Moreover, the trip was probably part of the Administration’s regional strategy. Dialogue with Nicaragua, even if Duarte’s dialogue with the Salvadoran guerrillas is postponed or never takes place, would make the administration look a bit cleaner if it became necessary to use direct US military intervention in El Salvador. Moreover, if dialogue with Nicaragua were to prove unsuccessful, as could very well be the case, given the rigid unilateral tone of the four points serving as a precondition, direct military intervention in Nicaragua would become a “justified” alternative.

Nicaragua’s response to the US initiative was to stress the importance of using dialogue as a means to reach more normal relations between the two countries, as well as to insist on certain long-standing principles: respect for self-determination; the signing of formal agreements with respect to mutual security; a negotiated solution of the Salvadoran conflict; earnest support for the Contadora negotiating process. The response of the Nicaraguan government also confirmed the proposal that it had presented in Washington on October 15, 1983, and the principle that internal affairs related to Nicaragua’s sovereignty and self-determination are not negotiable. With regard to Contadora, a fundamental aspect of the Nicaraguan position has been the Sandinistas’ refusal to agree to demands calling for Nicaragua’s unilateral adherence to points that really involve all parties in the region. The Sandinistas continue to promote progress toward a political solution through vital bilateral agreements, such as those reached recently between Nicaragua and Costa Rica regarding joint supervision of conflicts on their common border. (See envío No. 35.) Another key point in the Nicaraguan-US negotiations is whether the US will agree to the presence of Mexico as a third party entitled to witness and perhaps even help settle disputes.

In this struggle between the US, intent on recuperating its hegemony in the area, and Nicaragua, whose will is to preserve its sovereignty, the existence of the US is not endangered, whereas the very survival of Nicaragua’s model of society is threatened. An analysis of the immediate costs to both adversaries reveals that the struggle is both unfair and irrational. Paradoxically, the unfairness of the struggle may very well help Nicaragua win it, for the fight for survival can unleash unimagined amounts of energy.

Where is Nicaragua headed?

All indications are that the policy of aggression against Nicaragua will remain at a dangerous level in the coming months. However, the arrival of the rainy season and the FSLN’s decision to concentrate its political and social efforts (land reform, new roads, schools and health centers) on those areas of the country where military pressure is most intense may mean that the FSLN will be able to continue neutralizing and defeating the aggressors.

The implementation of new measures concerning shortages, the reorganization of the wage scale for workers in several areas of production, and the intensification of the land reform should all tend to lessen the war’s effects on the civilian population. Especially with regard to the measures intended to control the shortages problem, the decisive element will be the degree to which the Nicaraguan people participate in organizational tasks. The implementation of these measures will not be easy considering that the direct or indirect control of shortages will affect business sectors (even small business) that, at least in theory, represent a part of the revolution’s social base and could be upset by the new measures. It remains to be seen what political price the government will have to pay for the application of the measures. We cannot forget that a high percentage of the urban population is involved in buying, selling and retailing activities requiring speculation as a means of economic survival.

The political scene will certainly be one of the most intense in these coming months. In June and July, the majority of the nation’s political forces will hold national assemblies and conferences in order to come to definitive decisions concerning the elections. The key date in this process will be July 25, the deadline for registering candidates for President, Vice President, and National Assembly representatives. The countdown has already begun for the groups that favor abstention. For these planning to participate, this will be a time of intense preparation.

The next steps in the dialogue between George Shultz and Daniel Ortega will be laden with question marks, one of which is the position of the Contadora negotiating group, several of whose members started a tour of the countries of the region on June 7 in order to present a preliminary draft of a peace treaty. It could be that, by shielding itself behind the Shultz initiative, the Reagan administration is attempting to use the new Contadora efforts against Nicaragua and present itself as the new “defender of regional peace.” Contadora will need to remain impartial in the face of the US effort to go on a Central American diplomatic offensive, while trying to hide the human cost of its military offensive from the Latin American Countries that are pointing an accusing finger at Reagan’s policy of war.

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