Electoral Process Moves Ahead Amid Difficulties
“The present law institutionalizes the right of the Nicaraguan people to elect their leaders in a free, secret, direct, and sovereign way. The Sandinista Revolution won this right and guarantees it. In addition, there is the right to be elected to public office. Voting is a fulfillment of a citizen's patriotic obligation to contribute to the nation's social, economic, and political reconstruction.”
This is the text of Article I of the Electoral Bill, which has been under debate, article by article, in the Council of State since February 28. Nine political parties, from both right and left, have participated in these debates. Just prior to the initiation of this debate, on February 21, Daniel Ortega, coordinator of the Government Junta, announced that elections will take place on November 4, 1984. The announcement was made before 150,000 people, including delegations from 40 different countries, at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of General Augusto C. Sandino, Nicaragua's greatest national hero.
Threat of abstention and continued military aggressionA date has now been set for the elections, and preparations move forward each day, although difficulties are becoming increasingly apparent. Some rightwing parties have threatened to boycott the elections if certain conditions are not met. These include foreign supervision of the elections and a national dialogue with the “armed rebels.” Military attacks by those “rebels” have increased this month, and a new element has been introduced: the mining of the principal ports of El Bluff and Corinto, respectively on Nicaragua's Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
These attacks now have the additional objective of causing a climate of instability and fear that will interfere with carrying out the elections and threaten the legitimacy that the elections would add to the revolutionary process. Disrupting the electoral process could pave the way for a US intervention if Reagan is reelected. With these attacks, the likelihood of a regional war will increase if the Salvadoran crisis worsens to the point of providing a pretext for a US intervention there.
After the Big Pine II maneuvers, which lasted six months and ended on February 6, the Reagan administration announced new joint maneuvers, Granadero I. According to General Paul Gorman of the US Southern Command, these will begin in May and last until 1988. In the period between maneuvers, the US military infrastructure in Honduras is being supervised by 1700 US soldiers, plus 300 specialists in reconnaissance flights. At the same time, the White House is battling Congress to obtain increased military aid for the Salvadoran army and for the Nicaraguan counterrevolutionary groups. This entire militarist policy threatens the letter and the spirit of peace and democratization the Contadora Group is seeking.
The electoral process to which the Nicaraguan government has committed itself will certainly strengthen the FSLN if, as it predicts, it wins the elections. This would be a serious defeat for the Reagan administration's Central American strategy. No one doubts that the threats to Nicaragua that have existed for more than three years will continue in a possibly different form during the present electoral process.
Principal dates on the electoral calendar The Nicaraguan electoral process officially began on January 31, 1984, although in reality it began on December 4, 1983, with announcements concerning elections made by the Government Junta. The electoral process includes all those activities that lead to the election of the country's leaders, in accordance with the Fundamental Statute of the Republic.
As part of this process, the Council of State’s Electoral Commission, made up of representatives of parties with very diverse ideologies (Social Christians, Conservatives and Sandinistas), received proposals from various parties regarding the content of the electoral law. The commission conducted a series of consultations with the political parties represented in the Council of State, a process that continued until February 15. As a result of this work, the bill prepared by the commission underwent 119 changes (7 of them major, 68 minor and the others of varying importance). After these changes were incorporated, the bill was approved by a majority of the Electoral Commission and was then presented to the full Council of State for passage. After ample discussion, the bill was given general approval on February 22. That approval initiated an extensive article-by-article debate of the bill beginning February 23. This is the current stage of the bill, and estimates are that it will be finalized and passed as law around March 15.
Upon passage of the bill, a Supreme Electoral Council will be appointed. It will be made up of three members and will function as a temporary “fourth branch” of the government, the final authority in anything related to the elections. The Council will be named by the Supreme Court and, once installed, it will proceed with the registration of political parties and their designated candidates. The opening of the electoral campaign will follow and will last from two to four months, culminating with the November 4 general elections. On that day, Nicaraguans will elect a President and Vice President and 90 National Assembly representatives and their respective alternates. The number of representatives per department will correspond to the percentage of population in those various geographic regions. They will carry out constituent and legislative functions and will begin their six-year term on January 10, 1985.
Major Themes under Debate in the Electoral ControversyAs in any electoral process, the opposing parties have very diverse opinions regarding a wide variety of issues. Nicaragua's present situation accelerates and sharpens normal controversies. Some of these themes became irrelevant in a few weeks, others in just a few days. Still others continue to be topical over a longer period. The political atmosphere is charged even before the electoral campaign has begun. The following are some of the most relevant controversial themes.
Free Elections: One fundamental debate concerns the FSLN’s willingness to hold free elections. Some consider the December 4 announcement nothing more than a tactical maneuver to alleviate tensions built up during October and November. This interpretation gained support on February 6, after serious attacks by war planes on military targets in northern Nicaragua, when the Electoral Commission decided to postpone the bill’s introduction to the full Council. While it argued the absence of a necessary climate of peace, the Government Junta, using its executive power, revoked this decision the next day, emphasizing that the established electoral calendar would be observed. There were generally three reactions in Nicaragua to the Commission's decision. Some saw it as a correct decision and felt that military defense must take priority over the democratization process. Others felt that Nicaragua had fallen into a trap provoked by the military action. They argued that Nicaragua has to combine both defense and democratization regardless of military attacks. For still others, the decision was a move by the Sandinistas to hide their unwillingness to hold elections. It should be pointed out that the decision to postpone the introduction of the bill came not from the Government Junta or the Council of State, but rather from one of the latter’s commissions. Once the matter was cleared up, the electoral process has moved ahead with no further delays.
It is highly probable that the Reagan administration will look for ways to aggravate the Nicaraguan military situation in order to interfere with the electoral process. Nicaraguan leaders have stated on various occasion that the attacks by ARDE and/or the FDN will not impede the elections, but interference by another country—Honduras, the United States or a regional alliance—could force a postponement of present electoral plans.
Type of elections: Some thought the Nicaraguan elections would be carried out within only one party, the FSLN, but the bill clearly demonstrates that all officially organized and registered parties will have the right to vie for power in these elections. At present there are nine officially recognized parties, all of which are participating in the Council of State's debate over the electoral law.
Honesty of the process and respect for the results of the balloting: Three parties (the Social Democrats, Conservatives/democratic faction—and Social Christians) have proposed that other countries supervise the elections through the OAS, the UN or Contadora. They use the word “super-vigilance.” They propose that these supervising bodies control, manage and ultimately guarantee the process and the counting of ballots through their own armed force created for such a purpose. The FSLN considers this proposal an insult to national sovereignty, pointing out that it was against this type of elections that Sandino took up arms. The FSLN proposed the presence of international observers whose moral judgment would testify to the fairness of the elections. Among the groups mentioned as possible observers were the Contadora Group, the Socialist International, the Liberal International, the Christian Democrat International, the Nonaligned Movement and the United Nations. The theme continues to be a topic for debate, but it is clear that the FSLN will not compromise on this issue. Other parties in the Council of State support the FSLN proposal for observers, not supervisors.
The amount freedom necessary to developed a clean electoral campaign: Everyone agrees that this freedom should exist and should guaranteed. The problem that arises is how to balance the necessary restrictions imposed by a war of external aggression whit the freedoms necessary to as electoral campaign. An emergency law is presently in effect in Nicaragua. This law contains a series of military measures and partially restricts the freedom of the communications media and mobility for political rallies. Some parties demand that the emergency law be totally abolished, although they propose no alternative solution to guarantee the military defense of the country. Others call for a partial lifting that would maintain only those parts strictly pertain to the military, removing those sections that would affect electoral preparations.
During this discussion, one of the most lengthy in the process, the Council of State approved the articles of the Electoral Law referring to freedom of public demonstrations and party propaganda in the newspaper, radio, TV and other media. In the case of television, a committee will study whether TV, a state body, should give equal time to all parties (as proposed by the Social Christian Party) or whether “free enterprise” should prevail (opinion of the Independent Liberal Party). The FSLN seems to favor the Social Christian motion. This would indicate, and Daniel Ortega has expressed, that the Emergency Law will be revised to conform to the Electoral Law once it is finally approved.
Who will be excluded from the elections: The Fundamental Statute of the Republic, approved July 20, 1979, prohibits the return of Somocismo. Despite that, in December, 1983, three parties demanded a national dialogue that would include the “armed rebels” as a condition for their participation in the elections. These “rebels” are largely former Somocista National Guard. This “dialogue” has also been one of the proposals made to Nicaragua by the US government. On December 4, in order to broaden the participation of all Nicaraguans in the elections, the government declared an amnesty with guarantees of repatriation. This was especially intended to encourage the repatriation of those peasants who, by deceit or coercion, had left Nicaragua and even joined armed Somocista groups. (At present, 806 persons have taken advantage of this decree, whose deadline has been extended from February 21 to May 4). This same decree prohibited the return of National Guard officers or leaders of armed groups that adopt similar positions, such as calling for foreign intervention in Nicaragua, requesting or accepting funds from such a power, or planning terrorist attacks against the population or the economy of Nicaragua. Thus, the leaders of ARDE and the FDN will be excluded from the elections. They are responsible for hundreds of criminal acts since the 1979 victory. The government also appears unwilling to negotiate the return of counterrevolutionary leaders. If the government were to accept their return, there is every indication that those people would be rejected by large sectors of the population. Some 50,000 Nicaraguans were killed by the National Guard during the insurrection against Somoza. Nevertheless, discussion of participation by “armed rebels” is still maintained by some opposition parties.
The nature of the elections: Some propose that only a Constituent Assembly be elected. This body would then appoint a provisional executive branch. Others feel that both the Assembly and the executive branch should be elected at the same time, with the assembly being both legislative and constituent. With some exceptions, the opposition parties on the right support the first option, and the progressive or leftist parties support the second. The main argument put forth by the supporters of the first option is that it is more in line with the Fundamental Statute, the revolutionary government’s legal foundation, which stated that the first elections held in the country would be to elect a Constituent Assembly that would draw up a new Constitution to replace the Statute. It was estimated that this task would take approximately two years, during which the government junta would remain in office. Once the Constitution was written, the executive and legislative branches of government would be elected in accordance with that document. That electoral procedure would allow the FSLN to extend its time in power, whatever the eventual outcome of the elections. Nevertheless, the FSLN, with the support of other parties, has opted to elect both branches of government at the same time. Thus, the elected executive branch will govern according to the present Fundamental Statute until the Assembly writes the new Constitution. The legal objections of the rightist parties have been weakened by changes made in three articles of the Statute that refer to the electoral model. However, the discussion is not only a legal one; it is also political. The FSLN expects to win the upcoming elections easily, both for the executive branch and for a majority in the Assembly. It therefore prefers to carry out the elections all at once so that it can then concentrate on other basic needs such as strengthening the economy and military defense, if military attacks continue.
Former Government Junta member Arturo Cruz, despite being a severe critic of the present electoral process and an unofficial candidate of the coalition of rightwing parties, seems to agree with the Sandinistas about the probable outcome of the elections. He commented on March 2, “In fair and free elections, the Sandinistas would possibly win, given that they enjoy considerable popular support.” However, Cruz has also expressed his opinion that conditions for fair and free elections do not exist in Nicaragua. The parties on the right also seem to share Cruz's assessment of the Sandinistas' chances and consequently are seeking to put off the elections in order to continue to have a reason to attack the revolution. In this they agree with the Communist Party, although for different reasons. It also says it needs more time: in order to establish hegemony over the revolutionary process, of which it considers itself the authentic vanguard.
The date of the elections: In 1980 the Nicaraguan government declared that elections would be held in 1985, without setting an exact date. As late as January 1984, the rightwing parties suggested that the date be moved up. Now that this has occurred, they are somewhat disconcerted.
There was both approval and criticism, the latter based on the charge that there’s not sufficient time for adequate organization. While certain political observers see moving up the date as a demonstration of flexibility by the Sandinistas, especially their willingness to respond to urgings from groups such a the Socialist International, almost all agree that it will make it harder for President Reagan to carry out his aims in Nicaragua.
Elections in the United States will be held on November 6. Nicaragua' s decision to schedule its elections just two days earlier will lessen the possibility of a direct invasion of Nicaragua during the last months of Reagan's first term, obtain greater legitimacy for the revolution internationally and greater internal unity in Nicaragua in case Reagan is reelected and then decides to intervene and lay the groundwork for an understanding between Nicaragua and a Democratic US President, should this happen, so that dialogue concerning the Central American crisis could begin quickly.
Other important issues have included whether members of the military should vote, whether such laws as the Military Service Law, the law to prevent decapitalization, etc., should be valid after the election or the new government should decide which of those laws will remain in effect, and what the minimum voting age should be? (The FSLN proposed that the minimum age be 16 because of the great participation by young people in the literacy crusade, in defense, in agricultural production, etc., and this proposal was passed by the Council of State.). In these and some of the many other topics that continue to be discussed, there is frequently lack of agreement even within the party blocs. For example, regarding the minimum voting age, there was disagreement among the parties on the right. Some felt that there is not sufficient maturity at 16 or that this age group is generally uncritically supportive of the FSLN. Other parties thought that, in Nicaragua, the situation under which people live accelerates the maturing process. They also doubted the charge that these young people would provide uncritical support for the FSLN. The Council of State will carry on its debate of these issues as the process of drafting the final form of the Electoral Law continues.
The parties in light of the electoral debateThe recently initiated electoral process and the accompanying discussion have brought to light some of the possible coalitions in which like-minded parties might combine forces in the upcoming elections.
Based upon positions been expressed to date, some speculation on coalitions is possible. One might be made up of the Social Christian Party, the Social Democrat Party and the Conservative Party/democratic faction. The platforms of these parties coincide in my respects with the Reagan administration's policy. Some dismiss this similarity by the party leadership as “coincidental” or due to the fact that “President Reagan has an objective understanding of the Nicaraguan situation.” The participation of these three parties in the elections remains uncertain because of their repeated insistence that sufficient guarantees and conditions do not exist.
A second group, opposed to the first, might form an electoral coalition under the ideological leadership of the FSLN, together with the Popular Social Christian and Nicaraguan Socialist parties. These three parties have maintained a high degree of cohesion since the revolution.
Outside these two groups, other parties are presently reexamining their alliances. Among these is the Independent Liberal Party, considered progressive, which announced its decision in February to end its alliance with the FSLN and participate in the elections without allying with any other party. Other parties in similar circumstances are the Conservative Party/legitimist faction and the Constitutionalist Liberal Movement. Although the latter two are considered rightwing parties, some feel that these three parties could form a third coalition, since they seem to have in common a general support of the revolutionary process. Others feel that they will choose to unite with the rightist coalition and still others that they will each go it alone in the elections. Whatever the outcome, they are parties with a lot of internal work yet to do.
Finally, the Communist Party, aligned with the Soviet Union on foreign policy and with radical domestic positions, has officially announced that it will run alone with its own candidate.
Initial reactions to the election processImportant political leaders, some of whom came to Managua for the 50th anniversary of the death of Sandino, have reacted favorably to the Nicaraguan electoral process. Hans-Juergen Wischnnewski, leader of the German Social Democrats and vice president of the Socialist International, pointed out the danger in judging Latin America from a European respective. He added, however, that knowing Nicaragua’s history as well as its present war situation, he supported the Nicaraguan electoral effort and offered to cooperate in that effort. Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden voiced very similar opinions. Latin American Social Democratic leader Carlos Andres Pérez responded to the following question in La Prensa: Would you participate in the Nicaraguan elections, such as they are set up, if you were a member of the opposition?” His response: “In politics, one has to act realistically; one has to operate with what is possible. As a member of an opposition party, or as a Nicaraguan interested in politics and in supporting a particular direction of political life, I would not hesitate for one moment to take the Junta up on its promises or to enter the political struggle within the framework of reality that exists in Nicaragua.” (The “reality” to which Pérez was referring was the military aggression.)
These opinions are in marked contrast to those of certain sectors of the internal political opposition, among which those of the president of the Episcopal Conference, Bishop Pablo Vega, must be included. The bishop has expressed doubt that conditions exist under which a normal electoral process can develop. These Nicaraguan bishops have announced that they are preparing a Pastoral Letter on the subject of the elections.
In the US, Secretary of State George Shultz said on February 23 that the Nicaraguan elections are not to be trusted, and called for “foreign supervision.” He added that the Reagan administration policies would not change even after elections were held.
In Managua, US Ambassador Anthony Quainton agreed with Shultz in his overall lack of confidence, giving as an example of democratic elections those to be held in El Salvador on March 25. His assessment is surprising in light of the fact that: a) the elections in El Salvador will be held under a state of siege, which was extended for 30 days on February 26; b) the Salvadoran Central Election Council has stated that close to 300,000 Salvadorans eligible to vote have duplicate identity cards, greatly increasing the possibility of fraud; and c) the FDR-FMLN will not participate in the election, although it controls 25% of the national territory with a sixth of its municipal governments and 250,000 of its five million people. Nor will any of the nearly one million refugees outside the country be able to participate in the elections.
The Reagan administration has also praised the example of Guatemalan “democracy.” In that country, the democratic parties have been demanding that the Constituent Assembly, which will be elected in August 1984, have the power to designate a provisional president while the Constitution is being written. General Mejía Víctores, buying time in order to bolster the power of the military sector he represents independent of the legal form it takes later—responded curtly to this proposal on February 17: “I have already said on various occasions, and I am not going to keep repeating it, that the Assembly will be elected to draft a new Constitution and not to govern the country. If politicians do not take advantage of this opportunity, they will have a dictator. If they want a dictator, they will have him and they will see who it will be.” Political leaders in Guatemala have also expressed their concern over the role the military will play in conducting the upcoming elections. In addition, the Democratic Socialist Party of Guatemala declared in Venezuela that it had to go underground to prevent its leaders from being assassinated. On March 4, the Democratic Civic Front stated that many of its members have been threatened or repressed. According to the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, 77 persons were assassinated by official repressive organisms in the last week of January. And 300 persons were arrested on charges of being “suspicious” between December 31 and January 2. The current level of official repression has forced the government to accept the formation of a commission to examine the causes of the resurgent violence. The commission will include representatives of the Church, university leaders and members of the media.
Despite all these irregularities, Washington continues to assert that the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments have taken important steps “toward the establishment of democratic and constitutional norms” and thus are deserving of military and economic aid. Meanwhile, the “corrupt process” in Nicaragua necessitates the request for US$50 million more to finance the armed operations of ARDE and the FDN. The dilemma between a strategy of war and one of peace underlies all the declarations for or against the Nicaraguan elections. Therefore, the evaluation of the area's electoral processes is constantly subjected to a double standard.
Regional militarization: The daily challengeIn Reagan's Central American plans, El Salvador is the top priority. Defeat in El Salvador would be a serious blow to his reelection campaign. Thus, elections to legitimize a new government in El Salvador are of paramount importance while the US continues its attempt to defeat the FMLN military. Consequently, while the Big Pine II maneuvers were directed primarily against Nicaragua, the next ones that are planned will be directed toward El Salvador. These maneuvers, termed Granadero I, were first announced for June 1, but the Miami Herald has stated that they will be initiated in May. Meanwhile, spy planes that Pentagon sources admit “probably” fly over El Salvador have been in operation since March 1. The Pentagon says this operation is headed up by the US 224th Military Intelligence Battalion and utilizes 300 members of the military. They use OV-L Mohawk twin-engine turboprop planes with infrared sensors for night operations, as well as cameras and radar. They operate from several Honduran airstrips built or upgraded by the US. While fighting continues between the FMLN and the Salvadoran army, Reagan keeps searching for ways to increase military and economic aid to the Salvadoran government amidst great difficulties with the US Congress. The amount of money requested by Reagan ($178 million this year and $132.5 million next year in military aid alone) can be better appreciated when one realizes that the Central American countries—from Belize to Panama—averaged $594 million in exports for 1983.
These US policies toward El Salvador and toward Nicaragua are intimately connected. In order to “further electoral freedom in Nicaragua,” William Casey of the CIA asked the House and Senate for $50 million more for “covert operations” against Nicaragua, an amount equal to 11.4% of the value of Nicaragua's 1983 exports.
Since the date of the Nicaraguan elections was announced, the counterrevolutionary attacks have increased. In an official protest note from the Nicaraguan government to the US Secretary of State, Nicaragua denounced the February 24 attack on the port of El Bluff, on the Atlantic Coast. It was carried out by a Piranha speedboat, which came in from Costa Rica. The boat's crew launched a 20-minute attack with machinegun and rifle fire against gas storage installations, but failed to destroy them. Before leaving, the attackers mined the harbor, which sank two fishing boats, causing the death of two people and injuries to another seven. Another protest note was sent to Shultz on March 2 after ARDE announced in Costa Rica that it had mined Nicaragua's main port at Corinto.
These attacks and the information about them from Costa Rica are also affecting the proclaimed neutrality of that neighboring country and causing increasing tension in the relations between the two nations. This was confirmed during the last week in February by two Nicaraguan attacks on Costa Rican Rural Guardsmen near the border between the two countries. Some Costa Rican authorities charged that Nicaragua has made an unprovoked and unjustified attack on Rural Guard members. There had been several attacks by ARDE troops in the same area in the preceding days. Costa Rican officials admit that the Rural Guard should not have been in that area and that they had removed their identifying insignias. The Nicaraguan government, while expressing regret for the incident, stated that the Sandinista troops believed they were firing at ARDE fighters. The incident caused a serious strain between Nicaragua and Costa Rica and also within the Costa Rica government. One Costa Rican official has publicly charged that high government officials are working closely with ARDE.
Tensions between Nicaragua and Honduras have also increased. Starting March 1, there have been repeated attacks in Bilwaskarma, Leymus, and Waspam, all on the Honduran border in Northern Zelaya. The Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry denounced the participation of large contingents of counterrevolutionary forces, supported by Honduran troops with 105-mm. mortar fire. These battles are still continuing. Other attacks have also occurred along the Honduran border on the Pacific side. Helicopters from Honduras attacked Potosí and Punta San Jose with rockets on March 3, 4 and 5. Three Nicaraguans were killed in one attack and three others were wounded. According to the Foreign Ministry, 50 Honduran soldiers attacked the Nicaraguan observation post at Las Minitas, department of Chinandega, from Honduran territory on March 4.
The Nicaraguan electoral progress is moving forward in this context of military aggression and defense. The bellicosity of the Reagan administration, underlined in the findings of the Kissinger Commission, continues to be an obstacle to the Contadora Group. Many of the aforementioned attacks were carried out while the Contadora Group and representatives of the Central American countries were meeting to continue the technical work that is supposed to result in a peace treaty on April 30. Foreign ministers of the Contadora countries have seen fit to speak out against US policies. On March 1, they described the Kissinger Commission Report as contrary to the Contadora Group’s efforts.
Conclusion The Nicaraguan electoral process is moving forward in the midst of pluralistic debates and work among parties to create alliances. The Reagan administration, aware of the defeat that a successful electoral process would cause, continues its efforts to discredit the process or force the Nicaraguan government to postpone or suspend it.
Toward that end, a new military offensive against Nicaragua is underway. Such offensives have already been costly in economic terms and in human lives. Continued aggression will necessarily force the government to limit electoral liberties. As attacks intensify, the development of the electoral process will be even more difficult. Meanwhile, three parties (the Social Christian, Social Democrat and “democratic faction” of the Conservatives) are demanding a political dialogue with the “armed rebels” and foreign “super-vigilance” of the elections. They coincide completely in these demands with the US government position. An increase in military attacks and possible abstention by these same parties would complicate the electoral process. The Nicaraguan government will try to minimize the effects of the military attacks and allow the widest latitude possible to the opposition parties. It will try to see that no party withdraws from the race. However, even if those three parties were to withdraw, six others would remain in the contest. The rightist parties seem to be vacillating between abstention, which would be political suicide and would count on US intervention as the ultimate solution, and fully participating in the elections, thus winning at least a share of power and the right to influence the direction in which Nicaragua will move in the future. The probability is that some parties will opt for the first alternative, while others will opt for the second and seek political victory in the elections or at least a share of the power.
The military and political events in El Salvador will play an important role in the Nicaraguan situation. Events in Lebanon and developments in the anti-nuclear movement will play a role in the US electoral year and, in turn, will have their effects on Central America. Conversely, the situation in Central America will also play a role in the US campaign year. Meanwhile, the Contadora Group continues its struggle to find peaceful solutions in the region.
The Nicaraguan people continue to develop their revolution. In spite of economic difficulties and attacks provoked by the Reagan administration, the number of militia members increased 100% during 1983, according to a February 26th statement by the Defense Ministry. On the anniversary of Sandino's death, the agrarian reform program gave out 20,400 acres of the nearly 1,200,000 acres scheduled to be distributed this year. In addition, 1,600 Nicaraguan young people have begun an intensive training course to prepare to replace the Cuban teachers who went home in November. With the integration of these young people into the educational system, the number of teachers now in Nicaragua will be 41,500, compared to only 12,500 during Somoza's time. The number of schools is now 5,094, compared to 2,400 before. More than a million students in a population of 3 million are expected to be enrolled in the upcoming school year, which begins this month. In the area of health, thousands of polio vaccinations were given on February 11 and 12. Thanks to such efforts, there has been no polio in Nicaragua in the last two years. Malaria has declined by 75% and infant mortality has dropped from 121 to 85 per 1,000 live births between 1979 and 1984.
However, much remains to be done. This is why the aspirations of General Augusto C. Sandino continue in the development of new social programs, in the longing for self-determination and in the willingness of the people to take up arms to defend their nation from outside aggression. Sandino’s call to put the people and their future before any party aspirations continues to be valid. Because he symbolizes the best of Nicaragua's past and his philosophy is the hope of Nicaragua's future, he continues to be the symbol of nationalism and patriotism fifty years after his death. The coming elections in Nicaragua are for many Nicaraguans the realization of Sandino's vision.