Since the publication of our issue "Crisis in Nicaragua" (Nov-Dec 1978), events in that Central American country contin- ue to unfold at an uneven pace. Nicaragua was in the news earlier this year only to fade away and then momentarily reappear with the FSLN Holy Week offensive. Evaluating the development of the political situation in Nicaragua over the past months, given this scanty coverage, is a difficult task. Therefore, we have asked Alejan- dro Bendarfa, one of the authors of MaylJune 1979 the Nov-Dec Report, to analyze the events since September. The political and economic crisis which has torn Nicaragua since late 1977 is proving irrever- sible. Two general strikes, three local uprisings, last September's nationwide insurrection and the repression that followed have radically polarized Nicaraguan society. The principal contenders -the Somoza apparatus, the bourgeois opposition, the revolu- tionary and popular forces, and the U.S. government-have all been forced to redefine their strategies for transcending the crisis. WAR OF EXTERMINATION Given the current high level of popular mobilization, Somoza is relying even more on the National Guard to maintain himself in power. His gamble is that the masses can be terrorized into sub- mission, thereby neutralizing the FSLN. To this end, Somoza has greatly increased the size and weaponry of the National Guard. Despite the cutoff of U.S. military assistance, massive arms purchases (primari- ly from Israel and Argentina) have bolstered the Guard's arsenal. Repression and violence have become a part of everyday life in Nicaragua. The Permanent Com- mission on Human Rights esti- mates that five to ten people are executed daily by the National Guard, often for the "crime" of be- ing young. In the countryside, peasants have been subjected to bombings and the elimination of male family members during anti- guerrilla campaigns. Since September, Somoza has expanded the Guard from 7,500 to 12,000 members, including a new paramilitary force. Due to this rapid influx, new soldiers have received minimal training, forcing Somoza to rely heavily on the crack infantry corps headed by his son. Small and large scale attacks against the Guard by the FSLN in the past few months have left a steady stream of casualties, a lowered morale and increased desertion rates. Still, Somoza seems resolved to fight to the last soldier. 39update * update . update . update January demonstration in Managua commemorates the first anniversary of the assassination of Pedro Jouquin Cham or r o, publisher of La Prensa. Somoza's policy of "extermina- tion" has troubled certain middle- ranking officers who fear it will ex- acerbate rather than neutralize the social conflict. These differences with Somoza rarely see the light of day, however; two officers who dared express their criticisms publicly were ousted by Somoza. The persistence of the economic crisis negates even the illusion of reformist possibilities. The government's inability to ser- vice its foreign debt and to meet import bills has made an injection of hard currency imperative. Private banking creditors, anxious to stave off a Nicaraguan default, are willing to reschedule the debt. However, they have made such rescheduling conditional upon IMF 40 credits to the government and the concomitant austerity measures. Notwithstanding protests from liberals in Congress, the Carter Ad- ministration and the IMF approved a $66 million loan package re- quested by Somoza. As a precondition for IMF ap- proval, the government decreed a 40% devaluation on April 6. The depreciation exacerbated the economic crisis by sparking new price increases and forcing the unemployment rate to more than 50%. Moreover, the increased borrowing and associated austeri- ty measures have failed to win the support of the capitalist opposition which regards Somoza's immedi- ate resignation as the indispen- sable means to the restoration of social and economic "stability." Rather than solving the political crisis, the loan, therefore, can only prolong and aggravate it. Despite the economic crisis and political isolation, Somoza none- theless continues to control the key element of advantage: military might. A THIRD ALTERNATIVE? The bourgeois opposition, meanwhile, has steadily lost politi- cal force as a third alternative to Somoza's obstinate dictatorship on the one hand, and to the grow- ing revolutionary movement on the other. The failed U.S. mediation ef- forts earlier this year served only to pull the rug out from under the NACLA Reportupdate * update * update * update Broad Opposition Front (FAO). FAO's reliance on external pressure to crack Somoza's in- transigence and its inability to pro- vide a popularly-accepted alterna- tive program demonstrated its political bankruptcy. Several of the small populist and petty-bourgeois parties have abandoned their bourgeois men- tors and joined the Sandinista- backed National Patriotic Front (FPN). (The FPN, created in February, is a cross-class alliance of genuine anti-Somoza forces which puts forward a strongly pro- gressive and nationalist program.) Given that the bourgeois op- position controls no military force and has a shrinking social base, its choices are narrowing. Its only real leverage, as a business sector relatively independent of Somoza, remains its ability to give or with- hold support to any new govern- ment. REUNIFICATION OF THE FSLN The March 20 reunification of the FSLN under a single national leadership constitutes the single most important development in the revolutionary process since Sep- tember. It is the fundamental pre- requisite for a revolutionary victory and continuation of the revolu- tionary process in the post- Somoza period. The agreements grew out of the "tactical unity of action" decided upon in June of 1978 and the popular upsurge during and since September. All three tendencies recognized that a higher level of unity was essential in order to give direction to the spiraling mass movement, a leadership which no single faction could provide. This political strengthening of the FSLN has been coupled with MaylJune 1979 advances in military preparedness. In terms of armaments, com- batants, organization and ex- perience, the FSLN has never been stronger. The Sandinista col- umns which took Esteli during the Holy Week offensive were equip- ped with sophisticated weaponry, medical brigades, modern com- munications equipment and-to judge from the shooting down of several government planes-anti- aircraft guns. During the opera- tion, the guerrillas were better able to integrate the local population and minimize casualties. In rural areas, guerrilla tactics are being used to draw the Guard into unfavorable terrain, and at- tacks on several fronts simultane- ously force the dispersion of the Guard. In past months urban fighting has grown more effective as well. Clashes in Managua and Le6n, especially, indicate the increasing importance of urban militias and commandos in harassing and in- timidating the National Guard. At the same time, a regular San- dinista army is being formed to take on the key units of the Na- tional Guard at the decisive mo- ment. The rapid development of the popular movement with its organi- zational and emotional ties to the FSLN, provide the Frente San- dinista with a mass base of sup- port ready to take arms. In the past months the growth of the United People's Movement (MPU) has been nothing short of phenomenal. Further, its leadership within the FPN assures the dominance of popular and working class in- terests within this nationalist inter- class organization. The presence of this mass movement means that FSLN military gains will not accrue to the bourgeois opposi- tion, but rather, will strengthen the demands of the democratic and popular organizations. STABILITY AT ANY COST The United States remains un- willing to bow to the legitimate struggle of the Nicaraguan people. U.S. interests continue to dictate a strategy parallel to Somoza's: the crushing of the FSLN and the isolation of the MPU and the FPN. The highly publicized withdrawal of the U.S. military mission and cut- backs in the embassy staff have been largely symbolic. The United States has also blocked calls for sanctions against Nicaragua in the UN and the OAS. And while Carter refused to release any existing pipeline aid, he allowed the passage of $30 million in "humani- tarian" aid to Nicaragua and in- creased the quota for imports of Nicaraguan beef. In line with its strategy, the United States has exerted diplo- matic pressure on countries in the region to block aid to the FSLN and to crack down on training camps within their borders. But as we have seen, the mass move- ment's support of the FSLN has created a force that is not so easily subdued. The United States labors under two fears. The first is that any ef- fective move against Somoza could shatter the cohesiveness of the Guard in the same way that the removal of the Shah served as the final blow to an increasigly demoralized army in Iran. The disintegration of the Guard would of course clear the way for some form of popular government. While there are signs of contra- dictions within the Guard, the pro- spect of its rebelling against 41update * upupda te update update Somoza is remote as long as he remains determined to stay in power. Its historic loyalty during past crises, the servility of the high command and its complicity in the Somocist corruption, as well as the command of key contingents by family members tie the Guard to both Somoza and somocismo. The larger fear of the United States is that an FSLN victory would have explosive repercus- sions throughout the region. The impact of events in Nicaragua has already contributed to the polariza- tion of internal politics in the rest of Central America, particularly in Guatemala and El Salvador where the dictatorships are facing their greatest popular challenge in years. These dictatorships can no longer rely on Somoza for support, nor can they lend any significant aid to him without generating fur- ther internal opposition. Further- more, the possibility of any right- wing Central American interven- tion is countered by the likelihood of increased Panamanian and Venezuelan support to the anti- 42 Somoza forces, and by the United States desire to avoid a regional war that could spark numerous civil wars. The sad fact for the United States is that it faces a vacuum of political alternatives. The National Guard is fundamental to any pro- United States bourgeois solution in Nicaragua, but the Guard's partici- pation presupposes Somoza's ac- quiescence. Thus, in large measure, Somoza continues to call the shots. All the United States can do is to apply pressure in critical areas such as the economy. The hope is to make it less in Somoza's in- terest to continue to rule, and more desirable for him to save face (and fortune) by hand-picking a successor in 1981, the date of the next scheduled presidential "election." Given the shifting balance of social and political forces, an in- terim "solution" might be re- quired-either the transfer of power to a military junta or the holding of controlled elections at an earlier date than 1981. Either would be aimed at guaranteeing somocismo without Somoza. There are in fact signs of a cam- paign, which appears to have tacit U.S. support, to clean up the im- age of the Guard, both within the country and abroad, giving it a more "patriotic" and "demo- cratic" image. This lends weight to the persistent rumor that a military autogolpe is being planned. The reason it is being termed an auto- golpe is that should such a coup occur, it will undoubtedly take place with Somoza's consent. Otherwise, infighting within the Guard and the consequent deteri- oration of its fighting capacity is likely. NACLA Reportupdate * update . update * update Whatever the immediate out- come of the current struggle, the popular war of national liberation has undermined the traditional ap- paratus of class exploitation. In the final analysis, if any social force is to be triumphant, it must combine a balance of military and political power. Among the contenders at this point, only the popular forces can claim this combined strength. If the constellation of forces should continue to move in the current direction, the United States, given the insistence of its priorities, may well be forced to some form of intervention, prefer- ably indirect, such as through the use of CONDECA forces, or some international "peace-keeping" force. But direct intervention itself, a la The Mexican oil bonanza began in 1976 when the new President, Jose L6pez Portillo, went exploring with nothing more than his foun- tain pen. Mexico was laboring under a huge $28 billion public foreign debt, and facing three years of austerity under the stern eye of the International Monetary Fund. In order to procure ransom, L6pez Portillo commanded PEMEX, the state oil monopoly, to break out reserves which the staunchly nationalist agency had long concealed from foreign eyes, and to redouble exploration. The results were spectacular. Proven petroleum reserves, now MaylJune 1979 the Dominican Republic, may not be out of the question. Revelations in the New York Times on April 22 that the United States is creating a combat force for possible inter- vention in defense "of American interests in sensitive areas" may be significant. Although this con- tingency plan has the Middle East as its principal potential target, the revelation, coupled with renewed U.S. military maneuvers in the Canal Zone, have not gone un- noticed in Central America, par- ticularly at this time when many observers are predicting a new all- out FSLN assault.
Tags: Nicaragua, Somoza dynasty, repression, economic crisis, FSLN