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The economic crisis of the nicaraguan electorate in 1990

The incoming Bush Administration, after recovering from its shock that its regional allies had given new life to the peace process, set about cutting off its oxygen supply once again. In that effort the main tool of Bush's predecessor, the armed contra forces, have been at least temporarily replaced by political and economic reactionaries inside Nicaragua.

Nicaragua's economic crisis and its upcoming elections are the new name for the war. Nicaragua's Government—determined to comply In mid-April Nicaragua's National Assembly reopened debate on the electoral law passed last year, taking into account many of the criticisms offered by the opposition parties in bilateral meetings with President Ortega both before and after the Esquipulas IV accords were signed.

The legislature also approved a law governing the media and ratified the new date of February 25 for general elections, 10 months earlier than originally scheduled. President Ortega had agreed all of these to in the Salvador meeting. Also in compliance with those accords, and despite widespread opposition in Nicaragua, 1,894 ex-National Guardsmen serving prison sentences, some for up to 30 years, were released on March 17.

This leaves only 39 Somocista prisoners, whose crimes were so heinous that the economic crisis of the nicaraguan electorate in 1990 National Assembly was unwilling to pardon them. President Ortega has since announced that even these cases will be reviewed again.

Baena Soares called the pardon a contribution to "the peace process in Central America and to the objective of reaching stability and national agreement in Nicaragua. He informed the cardinal that 10 priests expelled in 1985 during a period of intense conflict between Obando and the government could return to Nicaragua.

A third step was the reconvening of the National Reconciliation Commission, which had been suspended pending the five times postponed presidential summit meeting. Another important move in the concertation, as the national unity effort is known in Nicaragua, was a meeting between private farmers and the state in mid-April in which the government announced significant economic measures to encourage planting. See "Inflation Drops, Planting Begins" in this issue for a detailed analysis of those measures.

The Bush Administration—determined to defeat

This package was made possible by the effectiveness of the government's anti-inflation policy in recent months. The Sandinista government agreed to and promptly implemented all these measures favoring greater political pluralism and a mixed economy because it appeared that the eight-year war was about to end. What had so shaken the Bush Administration in the Esquipulas IV meeting was the one concession Nicaragua received for all of its promises: But in fact, two events revealed that Nicaragua would not receive the one guarantee it was promised in Esquipulas IV.

The Central American nations failed to approve a final plan for demobilization or to agree on a date to put it into effect. New aid was passed by the US Congress to keep the contras alive until after the Nicaraguan elections.

The UNO Electoral Victory

The Bush Administration—determined to defeat The Bush Administration has taken its time tooling its own policy toward Nicaragua. On the international level, it needed to take into account the Soviet Union's new posture and the logic of peace that is increasingly guiding the resolution of regional conflicts. The administration has also had to thread its way between the geopolitical concerns of its predecessor and the increasingly pressing geo-economic concerns of the US establishment.

Domestically, the new Republican administration has had to deal with the Democratic victory in both houses of Congress and the rancor stirred up by eight years of quarreling over US policy towards Nicaragua. Although the different views jag across party lines to some degree, they have caused divisions between Democrats and Republicans and between Congress and the White House that threaten other, more serious policy the economic crisis of the nicaraguan electorate in 1990.

The ultraconservative current, very powerful within the Republican Party, still has not wavered in its objective regarding Nicaragua: To that end they remain committed to a military strategy and tactics based mainly on the counterrevolutionary forces.

Allies such as the opposition parties and Catholic hierarchy within Nicaragua, or "friendly governments" in Latin America, particularly in Central America itself, are seen by this group as mere supports to help create the conditions within which this military dream can be realized. Roger Fontaine and Lt. Jordan for the Committee of Santa Fe. Its predecessor, "A New Inter-American Policy for the Eighties," authored by the same four and edited by Lewis Tambs in 1980, became a major policy guideline for the Reagan Administration.

The neoliberals, based mainly in the Democratic Party, are interested only in forging representative democratic structures in Nicaragua and guaranteeing that the country pose no military threat to US interests in the rest of the region.

They could coexist with the Sandinistas, were they to win a "free" election, as long as they are sufficiently domesticated along these lines. Toward this end, the neoliberals want a shift away from the military emphasis of US policy. They would agree with the assessment, released in early March of this year by the General Accounting Office, a congressional investigative body, that the Reagan policy of diplomatic, economic and military pressure against the Sandinistas was "generally ineffective" with "negative effects on the region as a whole.

This position is by no means equidistant between the other two, but rather a more pragmatic variant of the ultraconservatives. Working through all these tensions, Secretary of State Baker has succeeded in forging a new policy.

  1. But in fact, two events revealed that Nicaragua would not receive the one guarantee it was promised in Esquipulas IV. He informed the cardinal that 10 priests expelled in 1985 during a period of intense conflict between Obando and the government could return to Nicaragua.
  2. Many Nicaraguans expected the country's economic crisis to deepen and the Contra conflict to continue if the Sandinistas remained in power.
  3. See "Inflation Drops, Planting Begins" in this issue for a detailed analysis of those measures. Such cases, it should be noted, do not include friendly countries like Paraguay or Haiti.
  4. To accomplish the latter it is already working together with the extreme right in Nicaragua to discredit the upcoming electoral process. Even with freeing of the National Guardsmen, the contras have refused to free the continually growing number of prisoners of war and kidnapped civilians, despite the provision of a detailed list with names, dates and even places of detention.
  5. While in Europe, Ortega charged that the Bush Administration had made phone calls to European leaders and sent an envoy to the region to persuade US allies not to aid Nicaragua or send electoral observers.

With the signing of the bipartisan accord on March 24, after weeks of negotiating, the administration achieved a working consensus around that policy. While administration officials claim that the new goal is to "contain" rather than overthrow the Sandinista revolution, all indications are that what has changed is the emphasis on the means, not the end itself.

Forging a Bilateral Consensus The new Bush team has been much more adept than Reagan's in making the necessary concessions to reality. Recognizing both the defeat of the contra forces and Nicaragua's economic crisis, the bipartisan accord concedes to the neoliberals lip service to the Esquipulas agreements and commits the US to provide no military support to the contras while the agreements remain in effect.

To mollify the ultraconservatives, it agrees to provide nonmilitary aid to maintain the contras in Honduras as a reserve force prepared, if necessary, to continue the war after Nicaragua's elections next February.

  • At first, the various anti-Sandinista groups were weak and divided and did not have a cohesive government program to challenge the FSLN;
  • Virgilio Godoy Reyes, head of the PLI and former minister of labor under the Sandinistas, was chosen as her running mate.

When the general lines of the aid proposal were first revealed in early March, Democratic liberals strongly criticized the fact that aid would go to sustain the contras as a military force rather than for their demobilization, as agreed to by the Central Americans. The arrangement is "one more example of Congress and congressional committees trying to manage the details of foreign policy," argued Robert H.

Bork, a conservative constitutional scholar. White House officials had convinced the Democrats that Secretary of State Baker would pursue timetables for Nicaragua to move toward democracy with "carrots and sticks"—or, to use the curious language of the bipartisan accord itself, "incentives and disincentives.

But perhaps to satisfy the still smarting conservatives, the administration, despite Nicaraguan compliance with all its new commitments, applied the "disincentive" instead. On April 21, a week after contra aid was approved, Bush announced that he would indefinitely prolong the economic blockade, due to expire on May 1.

He also signed additional protocols with Honduras for the continuation of joint US-Honduras military maneuvers.

Nicaragua's Electoral Process—The New Name for the War

As Congressman George Miller had recognized in early March, "This is little more than a continuation of the Reagan doctrine. To accomplish the latter it is already working together with the extreme right in Nicaragua to discredit the upcoming electoral process. If the White House succeeds in its destabilizing aims, and can maintain the incipient consensus for its policy within the United States, it could create a situation similar to that existing in Chile by 1973.

  • As Congressman George Miller had recognized in early March, "This is little more than a continuation of the Reagan doctrine;
  • Roger Fontaine and Lt;
  • Roger Fontaine and Lt;
  • On May 30, the Sandinista government, along with the UNO transition team and the Contra leadership, signed agreements for a formal cease-fire and the demobilization of the Contras.

The culmination of that effort was a US-backed coup by Chile's own military; in Nicaragua, lacking that option, it could lead to a direct invasion by US forces, backed by the contra reserves. Nicaragua's US Allies—determined to destabilize None of the steps taken by the Nicaraguan government have mellowed the position of those Nicaraguans who have hitched their wagon to the US star.

Even with freeing of the National Guardsmen, the contras have refused to free the continually growing number of prisoners of war and kidnapped civilians, despite the provision of a detailed list with names, dates and even places of detention. For its part, the rightwing big business umbrella organization, COSEP, refused President Ortega's invitation to send a delegate to a mid-May meeting of European countries called by Sweden to discuss economic support to Nicaragua, and sanctioned one of its members, the head of the private milk company FONDILAC, who attended the Stockholm meeting on his own.

Taking a major step beyond mere boycott, COSEP jeopardized the possibilities for assistance to other private producers by sending a letter to the meeting urging that no aid be approved for Nicaragua. Nor is it surprising that the extreme rightwing political parties organized into the alliance with COSEP and rightwing trade unions known as the Coordinadora followed suit. In the 1984 elections, the Coordinadorad parties abstained, providing President Reagan the excuse to discredit the electoral process and step up the war.

Once again, the Coordinadora is playing a central role in the new strategy against the revolution.

This willingness to sink even their own economic and political well-being in the process, to say nothing of their country's, also characterized Chile's right wing during the US destabilization of that country. It helps explain their unbridled hostility in the discussion of the media law and reforms to the electoral law, in which polarization of the debate became more important than the laws themselves.

For a detailed discussion of these laws, see "Setting the Rules of the Game: The Reformed Electoral Law" in this issue and look out for an article on the media law an upcoming issue.

In an act of public defiance that would have been scandalous had it occurred in the United States, La Prensa and opposition leaders burned a copy of the media law in a demonstration and vowed to ignore it. The Coordinadora's immediate objective is to delegitimize the new laws internationally—even though the majority of the concerns expressed by the opposition were included—in order to call the electoral process into question from its very outset and, while they are at it, pressure the Sandinistas to make additional concessions.

Opposition Unity—An Impossible Dream? A concurrent, more domestically oriented objective of the Coordinadora is to forge as big an opposition alliance around itself as possible. Ideally, this would include the more moderate parties that participated in the 1984 elections and thus hold seats in the National Assembly. The current fruit of this effort is known as the Group of 14, which for the past year and a half has maintained a precarious unity.

That unity will be put to the test in coming weeks when the parties begin to make a series of crucial the economic crisis of the nicaraguan electorate in 1990 regarding the elections.

See electoral calendar, in box. One of the more problematic issues is approval by the Council of Political Parties of at least 11 applications for accreditation by multiple splits of the already existing parties. Bickering has already begun over who has the right to the name, colors and emblems. Political observers in Nicaragua consider that the possibility of maintaining unity is very remote, given the ideological differences and personalist rivalries that crisscross what could soon be 23 accredited parties in Nicaragua.

A second bloc would take more centrist positions. Many of these leaders have expressed opposition to the continued existence of the contras through the elections. If such a line-up takes place, it remains to be seen where some of the tiny parties at other points on the political spectrum—for example, the Socialists and Communists, who have so far allied themselves with the Group of 14—will place themselves.

In any event, it is a foregone conclusion that, given the Coordinadora's likely failure to unite the opposition or even a significant part of it around itself, it will not be a graceful loser. Depending on the circumstances that best suit its purposes, it can be counted on in that event to either pull out before the elections, as it did in 1984, charging inadequate conditions to conduct a "free and fair" campaign, or wait until afterward and claim voting fraud.

  • For its part, the rightwing big business umbrella organization, COSEP, refused President Ortega's invitation to send a delegate to a mid-May meeting of European countries called by Sweden to discuss economic support to Nicaragua, and sanctioned one of its members, the head of the private milk company FONDILAC, who attended the Stockholm meeting on his own;
  • The contras still attack within Nicaragua and exist as a threatening presence in Honduras;
  • Nor is it surprising that the extreme rightwing political parties organized into the alliance with COSEP and rightwing trade unions known as the Coordinadora followed suit;
  • It would be his first visit to Nicaragua;
  • Nicaragua's economic crisis and its upcoming elections are the new name for the war.

This in turn would open the doors for the US Congress to renew military aid to the waiting contras following the elections, thus taking the next step in the "chileanization" of Nicaragua. Such cases, it should be noted, do not include friendly countries like Paraguay or Haiti. To forestall any accusations of electoral fraud or mismanagement, the Nicaraguan government has invited international observers to oversee every step of the process, not just election day.

Among those invited was the United Nations, which in fact sent a representative to Nicaragua to witness the debate around the electoral law. It is hoped that as the campaign progresses that presence will grow. A similar request has been made to the Organization of American States and during President Ortega's current visit to at least 10 European countries, he made the offer personally to the member countries of the European Community and to the European Parliament.

Among the opposition persuaded to go along was the Communist Party of Nicaragua. The rather bizarre idea of the talks was that from Honduras the contras—the essence of the Somocista dictatorship—would play the role of "guarantor of democracy in Nicaragua. Other parties whose representatives went along made various disclaimers about their participation when they returned, some even claiming that the positions taken were individual and not that of the party itself.

The Coordinadora parties made no such apologies. Chamorro is mentioned in Nicaraguan circles as the prime presidential candidate being considered by the Coordinadora. She is also reported to have met directly with President Bush, which is being interpreted by the Nicaraguan opposition as US endorsement of her candidacy. Her visit caused such polemics inside Nicaragua that even her own son, Barricada editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro, personally signed an editorial—a highly unusual practice—accusing the La Prensa directors who made the tour of selling out their country.

Central America— autonomy to the winds After demonstrating some autonomy in the signing of the new Central American accord in February, the US government's allies in the region are now being corralled back into more conservative positions. Its candidate for the upcoming elections is a member of the party's old guard, despite Arias' attempts to favor the new generation of activists. He lacks the votes even within his own party—some say due to his own political ineptitude—to ratify the proposal for a Central American Parliament, to which he agreed in Esquipulas.

This has narrowed his margin of independence from the United States; particularly noticeable is his gushing praise of the US bipartisan accord, despite its violation of the Central American agreement regarding the demobilization of the contras. Arias got so carried away in his charges of Nicaragua's "noncompliance" with the peace accords that President Ortega was moved to write to him from Scandinavia, where Arias had received the Nobel Peace Prize, to remind him of the steps that Nicaragua had taken and to appeal to his maturity in not encouraging those favoring intervention.

Arias has since been much more tactful, but relations between Costa Rica and Nicaragua became tense again in recent days when Costa Rica's ambassador in Nicaragua, Farid Ayales, was accused of working actively with the opposition parties.