September 25, 2007

On July 19 the revolutionary ar- my of the Sandinista National Liberation Front entered Managua, victorious after a six- teen year struggle against the dic- tatorial regime of Anastasio Somoza. The following day, 50,000 cheering people thronged the newly renamed Plaza of the Revolution in Managua to welcome the rebel government. When the massive celebration had ended, however, the Sandinistas began to confront what is perhaps an even more difficult task-the reconstruction of the war-torn country and the definition of the Nicaraguan revolutionary process. In the words of Tomas Borge, one of the founders of the Sandinista movement and the new Minister of the Interior, "The most difficult task is yet before us. The war is only beginning." Somoza and his cohorts had literally sacked the country before they left. They siphoned over $500 million out of Nicaragua in the two years leading up to the Sandinista victory. In the final days of the regime, government ministeries were ransacked, state bank ac- counts were drained, and Somoza's son went from bank to bank with a squad of National Guardsmen, taking every cent of foreign currency that remained. Somoza did, however, leave one thing behind-a huge foreign debt of $1.3 billion. The fighting and aerial bomb- ings by the National Guard during the final, eight-week Sandinista in- surrection left much of the coun- try's economic infrastructure in ruins. According to a September 1979 report prepared by the Economic Commission on Latin America (ECLA), well over half a billion dollars in direct physical destruction occurred before Somoza departed. Many factories were destroyed or severely damaged. Most of the cotton crop (a major foreign exchange earner) as well as staple food crops for the local population went unplanted. One million people (out of Nicaragua's total population of 2.3 million) will need emergency food supplies and assistance to survive the next several months. The devastation is inevitably shaping the policies of the San- dinista government in this early stage. To rebuild the country, the new leaders are appealing to all governments, including the United States, for massive relief assistance. The Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) has also called on all Nicaraguan social classes, including the sec- tors of the bourgeoisie that par- ticipated in the anti-Somoza move- ment, to lend their support to the reconstruction effort. THE NEW GOVERNMENT The composition of the Junta of National Reconstruction, the San- dinista government's executive body, reflects the FSLN's decision to create a broad-based govern- ment. The five Junta members are Violeta de Chomorro, wife of the slain publisher of La Prensa, the leading organ of the bourgeois op- position to Somoza; Moises NACLA Reportupdate . update . update update Hassan, leader of the United Peo- ple's Movement, a Sandinista mass organization; Sergio Ramirez, author and university professor; Alfonso Robelo, an in- dustrialist; and Daniel Ortega, a leader of the FSLN. Standing behind the junta is the nine-member Directorate of the FSLN, where three seats are held by each of the three tendencies within the FSLN (the Terceristas, the Prolonged People's War, or GPP, and the Proletarians). The FSLN sets the political direction for the government, is organizing the mass movement, and controls the army The Junta takes care of the day to day administration of the country. Thus far, the diverse government leaders have displayed a remarkable degree of unity in their public pro- nouncements. The only complete program of the reconstruction government published to date was released last July 9, ten days before the Sandinista victory. Couched in very general language, it is design- ed to encompass the interests of the full range of anti-Somoza forces, ranging from sectors of the bourgeoisie to the working class and the peasantry. The program, while recognizing the right of private property, also calls for agrarian reform and the nationalization of all property belonging to Somoza and his allies. In the economic sphere, it provides for a "mixed economy," one composed of both state and private enterprises. The program guarantees "democratic rights" like freedom of the press, and allows all political parties-except for Somoza's Liberal Party-to resume their activities. Ultimately, the new government's policies will not be determined as SeptlOct 1979 much by this program as by the ability of the FSLN to shape the direction of the revolutionary pro- cess in the interest of the popular classes. In many of its early moves, the government is strengthening the new socialized sector by placing key economic functions under state control. Soon after taking office, the Junta nationalized all domestically- owned banks, and prohibited foreign banks from accepting Nicaraguan deposits. The country's export trade has also been taken over by the govern- ment, with special state enter- prises set up to export coffee, cot- ton and sugar. Plans are also be- ing laid for taking control of the mines and other key natural resources. The nationalization of the holdings of the Somoza clan have made the state the largest single economic power in the country. Over seventy-five Somoza enter- prises, ranging from sugar mills and meat-packing plants to auto dealerships and transportation companies, have been taken over. Altogether, it is estimated that one-tenth of the country's labor force will be employed in the state- Y0 03 C,) Throngs of supporters greeted FSLN leaders when they entered Matagalpa a few days after the victory. Pictured from right to left are Bayardo Arce and Tomas Borge (members of the FSLN Directorate) and Eden Pastora (Comandante "Zero"). 41update * update * update * update owned enterprises. The government is encouraging the Nicaraguan private sector to invest-both to build up the coun- try's productive capacity and to provide jobs to the estimated 70 percent of the urban work force now unemployed. But the business community has been slow to respond. Said one businessperson, "The poor people are talking about 'our revolution', and I'm afraid of what they mean by that." Furthermore, some members of the bourgeoisie who left the country during the fighting have not returned. And those who stayed behind are reluctant to in- vest because they know there is little money to be made in the war- torn economy. In the opinion of one businessperson, "There's no private business in Nicaragua that's going to make a profit in the next few years." AGRARIAN REFORM A major concern of the new government is agriculture. With hunger threatening hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans, it is crucial to get food production underway. Also, three-quarters of Nicaragua's export earnings come from agriculture and half the population works in the rural sec- tor, including a large agricultural proletariat. Under the direction of Agrarian Reform Minister Jaime Wheelock-a Marxist who is a member of the FSLN Direc- torate-the government has launched a far-reaching agrarian reform program. Already, the ex- propriation of Somoza's lands as well as those belonging to former government officials and members of the National Guard have placed over 51 percent of Nicaragua's arable land under 42 government control. The agrarian reform ministry is also empowered to expropriate large estates that are not farmed efficiently by their owners, but Wheelock says, "For now we are going to limit ourselves to the Somoza lands, because we don't need anymore." Plans for new agrarian organizations are just beginning to take shape. In cases of expropria- tion of large agro-industrial com- plexes (which include processing and marketing facilities as well as land), workers will participate in management decisions under the technical guidance of the state. Smaller farms of 300 to 400 acres will become cooperatives under the direct control of peasants and workers. Hospitals and schools are to be built as part of these cooperative communities. More traditional peasant plots will be in- cluded in a third type of organiza- tion called an "associate enter- prise," through which peasants will receive both land and technical assistance. POPULAR MOBILIZATION Building on the close ties developed with the masses during the struggle against Somoza, the FSLN is now strengthening the organizations which incorporate the Nicaraguan people into the revolutionary process. The key organization in the countryside is the Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo (ATC), which groups rural workers and peasants, many of whom will be the beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program. In the urban areas, block committees-called Comites de Defensa Sandinista (CDS)-have been formed. Just as their predecessors, the Comites de Defensa Civil (which were im- portant in mobilizing the popula- tion for the popular war), the CDS's are a key avenue for mass participation in this period. Head- ed by elected representatives, the committees are responsible for food distribution, community hous- ing and health needs, and political education. Plans are also being discussed for the formation of a Sandinista political party. For the present, however, the FSLN's emphasis is on developing the political con- sciousness of the Nicaraguan masses, who for decades were deprived of exercising even the most miminal democratic rights. At the same time a popular ar- my has been established to replace the disbanded National Guard. It will incorporate the com- bat forces of the FSLN and also new draftees. The army is firmly under the control of three members of the Directorate of the FSLN with a representative of each of the three tendencies shar- ing joint command. The impor- tance of consolidating the popular army is underscored by the threat of Somoza supporters launching a counter-revolutionary invasion from abroad. Thousands of ex- National Guardsmen are still en- camped in neighboring Honduras where they fled after the San- dinista victory. THE INTERNATIONAL FRONT The new government's most pressing international concern is to procure financial assistance to rebuild the war-torn country. Sum- ming up the government's foreign policy, Moises Hassan declared, "We are open to all and we don't want to block relations with anyone." Nicaragua is seeking financial backing from social democratic governments in Europe, from Latin NACLA Reportupdate * update * update * update America, and from the socialist countries. In response, the social democratic Second International sent a mission to Managua, the Andean Bloc countries set up an office in Managua to coordinate aid, and Cuba (which has warmly welcomed several Junta delega- tions to Havana) is sending educa- tional and medical teams. The new government has also approached the United States for aid. As the FSLN is well aware, the Carter Administration had maneuvered to prevent the San- dinistas from taking power up to the last minute-by proposing an OAS peacekeeping force, and by pressuring for the inclusion of Somoza associates in the new government and for the preserva- tion of the National Guard. While preserving a well-founded distrust of the United States, the Nicaraguans clearly intend to take all the assistance they can get from the United States. In so do- ing, however, they have adamently refused to cave in to political pressure from Washington or any other source. As Tomas Borge states, "We would prefer to die of hunger rather than accept aid with strings attached." The Carter Administration, for its part, has suddenly assumed a public posture of amicable rela- tions with the new government. Shortly after the Sandinista victory Carter himself was emphasizing his administration's "good rela- tionship" with Nicaragua and refusing to blame the turn of events in Nicaragua on the old U.S. bugaboo of Cuba. The new U.S. ambassador to Managua, Lawrence A. Pezzullo, went even further, declaring that "our rela- tions are as cordial and as easy as I've ever witnessed with any government." SeptiOct 1979 0 Voluntary work brigades are helping to reconstruct the war-torn country. Pictured here is a neighborhood brigade in Managua replacing stones used by Sandinista sup- porters to build street barricades during the fighting, THE U.S. STRATEGY What accounts for this about- face in the Carter Administration's policy? The overriding objective of U.S. imperialism is still to contain the revolutionary process in Nicaragua and prevent "another Cuba." But according to Washing- ton sources, State Department of- ficials are now arguing that a policy of open hostility would only serve to further radicalize the new government. Instead, they argue, the U.S. should accept the unplea- sant reality of a Sandinista victory and try to push the government in a more moderate, social democratic direction. In line with this strategy, the U.S. is undoubtedly hoping that some of the more anti-communist Latin American leaders who sup- ported the struggle against Somoza will use their influence and their money to bolster the moderate forces in the Nicara- guan government. A flurry of visits by State Department officials to various Latin capitals in the after- math of the Sandinista victory gave the Carter Administration ample opportunity to coordinate its 43update * update update* update strategy with leaders there. Already Venezuela is reported to have pressured the Sandinistas to include a Christian Democrat in the government as a condition for receiving aid from Venezuela, an attempt denounced by the Nicaraguans. In addition, the Carter Ad- ministration is clearly hoping to use U.S. economic assistance as a lever of influence. In late August the Administration announced it would release approximately $30 million in loans granted to the Somoza government last year, but frozen when Somoza refused to accede to U.S. wishes that he resign. Also in early September the State Department received con- gressional approval for over $8 million in emergency funds for Nicaragua. The Administration has also announced it may make a re- quest to Congress for $200 million in economic aid to Nicaragua over the next two years. Thus far, however, the Carter Administration has been long on promises of assistance but short on delivery. By mid-September, actual U.S. emergency aid amounted to only $7.9 million (in- cluding transportation costs)-far less than the massive flow of U.S. aid monies to Somoza immediate- ly after the 1972 earthquake. U.S. footdragging has brought sharp denunciations from the Nicaraguans. "The North- americans," accused one FSLN commander, Eden Pastora, "are speculating with the hunger of the Nicaraguan people." THE HURDLES AHEAD In the coming year the FSLN is likely to face some formidable hurdles in its determination to forge ahead in a revolutionary 44 direction. With U.S. ruling circles carefully watching the new government as it defines itself politically, the danger of the U.S. reverting to a more interventionist posture are very real. Already, ac- cording to the Washington Post, the CIA and the Pentagon have argued that the U.S. should take a hard-line position in response to the Sandinista victory. in addition, the latent conflict between the bourgeoisie and the popular forces will inevitably sur- face, eroding the alliance between Nicaragua's business sectors and the FSLN. Already a group of social democrats who claim to have the backing of former Venezuelan President Carlos An- dres Perez have formed a new political party (Partido Social Democratica Sandinista) under the slogan, "Sandinismo, si, Com- unismo, no." A spokesperson for the FSLN has denounced the new party, calling it "counter- revolutionary." Only time will tell how suc- cessfully the Sandinistas can navigate the turbulent waters ahead. Thus far they have begun to forge some of the essential building blocks-an army under popular control and the political mobilization of the masses-that make a revolutionary restructuring of Nicaragua possible.

Tags: Nicaragua, FSLN, Somoza corruption, Junta of National Reconstruction, reform

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