Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 123 | Octubre 1991



Reconciliation and Stability: Still an Unreachable Dream

Envío team

Urban property fights, rural violence, an ever more painful economic pinch for the poor, internecine fights within UNO played out between the government branches, the extreme Right’s ideological mudslinging and worse at "Sandinismo" and never-ending interference from the United States continue to be the stumbling blocks to reconciliation and stability in Nicaragua. The concessions laid at the altar of this dream by both the FSLN and the executive branch are continually sacrificed to manipulation by reactionaries and insecurity among the masses.

The property battle

The highly controversial property legislation known as the "César bill" was approved in the National Assembly in late August after months of acrimonious political maneuvering. Its UNO backers make many claims for the bill, but bipartisan support is not one of them. For that matter, the bill does not even enjoy the backing of the executive branch.

The legislation was masterminded by National Assembly president Alfredo César, who is now guiding it through the political dust storm it has stirred up. The UNO majority passed it on August 20 after three hours of debate, with not one concession to the Sandinista bench. The 52-39 vote divided clean along party lines (although one of the two third-party Assembly representatives, former Revolutionary Unity Movement leader Moises Hassán, voted with UNO as he is often wont to do).

The bill's many and varied opponents term it a legal monstrosity; it encroaches on the prerogatives of both the executive and judicial branches and is arguably unconstitutional. As envío went to press, President Chamorro announced a sweeping veto, citing strictly constitutional grounds. The underlying problem, however, is more political than legal, as she herself acknowledges. Beyond the property issue—itself determinant for the future in many respects—is the question of power and its legitimacy.

To accord or to impose: That is the question

The day César rammed his bill through a parliament representing Nicaragua's political forces, the ink was still drying on two presidential decrees legalizing a quite distinct property agreement hammered out by the government and the country's social and economic forces. Government representatives had met for nearly two months in the second round of the concertation forum with representatives of the Nicaraguan Workers' Front (FNT), the umbrella group for the Sandinista labor federations; the Permanent Workers' Council (CPT), the counterpart grouping of pro-government union federations; the pro-Sandinista National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG) and National Chamber of Small Industry (CONAPI); and the rightwing Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP). The focus had been almost exclusively on the property issue. While César ungraciously ceded to a presidential request that he postpone deliberation on his bill until that process reached consensus, the UNO bench in the Assembly barely took its concepts into account.

To neutralize the UNO hardliners' pretensions, the FNT had reduced the percentage it demanded as the workers' share of privatized state enterprises. But negotiations on this point stumbled over what appeared to be a procedural contradiction. Insisting on the "immorality" of Laws 85 and 86 (passed during the Sandinista government's lame-duck period to legalize untitled urban properties already in the hands of their beneficiaries), COSEP demanded that all such properties be returned to their former owners before selling off any that remained in state hands. The FNT, in turn, demanded recognition of these laws before dealing with the return of any properties improperly confiscated or the privatization of those the state chose to divest. The government opted for a middle road: simultaneous recognition of the laws and a thorough review of their application to discern specific abuses committed under their cover. It promised workers an option to participate in up to 25% of the shares of privatized enterprises and proposed that houses given cost-free to recipients under Law 85 be respected if their value did not exceed a specified amount.

In the end, that served as the framework for the detailed negotiations that ensued. Both the government and Sandinista forces hailed the agreement, signed late the night of August 14, as one that would usher in relative stability, even though the CPT refused to sign the section dealing with urban housing and COSEP boycotted it altogether.

The accord, however, was only a general framework; it remained to be translated into law, then executed through a cumbersome legal review of property titles. Within five days of its signing, President Chamorro issued two decrees creating the mechanisms necessary to implement the agreement, thus quickly complying with the first requisite.

This laborious effort, however, only dragged out the crisis and turned it partly into an institutional one between the executive and legislative branches. The President's decrees were contradicted the very next day by the passage of César's bill. The entire property issue is now on legal hold while the UNO bench in the National Assembly decides how it will respond to the President's veto.

Turning back the clock on property ownership

If both the FNT and the Presidency were willing to be flexible, neither COSEP nor the UNO legislators had the slightest intention of reciprocating. Their goal was nothing less than a structural change in the property scheme. They wanted to reverse the economic democratization promoted in the previous decade, denying workers and peasants their hard-won rights. The means to achieve this was the César bill.

The bill would repeal Law 85, 86 and 88 (the latter protects agrarian properties). It would also revoke all untitled property transfers via Law 85 and legalize automatic "expropriation" of everything assigned through all three laws after the curiously arbitrary date of February 1, except urban houses valued under $10,000 and lots under $2,500 in Managua (slightly less in other parts of the country), and rural farmland of less than 85 acres in specific areas to be defined by the Agrarian Reform Institute. Contrary to the Transition Protocol signed in March 1990 by the incoming and outgoing governments, recipients in possession of their property before the February 25, 1990 elections are not explicitly exempted. Ambiguous language in the bill would appear to protect agrarian reform beneficiaries up to a point. But the bill would also immediately give back all property to former owners whose claims were validated by the Confiscation Review Commission and who then received "return decrees" from the Attorney General—who also, conveniently, heads the Review Commission. (The Supreme Court, it should be added, recently ruled those decrees unconstitutional and determined that a special tribunal will determine in each case which owner should get the property and how to compensate the other.) In a final affront to the Presidency, the bill states that the National Assembly must pass specific legislation for each state enterprise the executive wishes to privatize.

In effect, the César bill aims to overturn the revolutionary government's redistribution of urban and rural properties to well over a million Nicaraguans during its 11 years in power. By some estimates, close to half of these beneficiaries stand to lose the properties and other goods—all the way to a tractor on a peasant cooperative—they received over that period. FSLN Assembly representative Dora María Téllez argued that 30,000 peasant families alone would be expropriated due to the 85-acre ceiling on cooperative farmland.

Intra-government battle for power

The competition and contradictions among government branches have thus again become glaring. The Assembly decided that it, not the executive branch, will determine the privatization of state goods, and that it, not the judicial branch, will determine what is constitutional.

Presidential aides also insist that the term "expropriation," explicitly used in the bill, has a very negative connotation for a democratic and progressive government. The bill's backers, however, argue that reviving such a measure is the "proper legal procedure to reverse the Sandinista piñata." They insist that only a "minority" of some 5,000 Sandinistas will be affected by the expropriations or the return decrees.

In the first public display of intra-governmental fissures on the issue, President Chamorro refused to meet with UNO Assembly members who wanted to present the bill. After it was passed she openly censured the Assembly for imposing its will on the executive and judiciary—not to mention the Sandinista opposition. In declarations to a foreign newspaper, Assembly president Alfredo César retaliated by indirectly warning that she would come into contradiction with those who had elected her if she made use of her veto power.

The climax to these mounting tensions came a week after the bill's passage, when President Chamorro publicly dressed César down for publishing its text in a full-page paid ad in La Prensa—well before her advisers had even completed reviewing the bill, much less taken action on it. In an open letter to the Assembly president published in La Prensa on August 30, Chamorro registered her "great astonishment" at seeing the ad. "As you surely know," she wrote icily, "a bill becomes law only when it is sanctioned by the President of the Republic, which has not happened in this case. Such publication appears as if it were already a law of the Republic, and I am made to appear as if I were promulgating it." (The bill's text appeared under the headline-size title, "Law No. 133: The President of the Republic of Nicaragua makes known to the Nicaraguan People that"…)

The limits of concertation

Despite COSEP's accusations that the government had caved in to the FNT's "Sandinista proposals," the concertation accords cannot be construed as an FSLN imposition requiring countervailing action by the parliament. The balance of forces in those negotiations favored neither the FNT nor the FSLN. To avoid social chaos, the FSLN had deemed it necessary to strengthen central government authority and use the concertation forum as the best arena in which to circumvent the Assembly's excessive polarization. But the mechanisms for concertation and the very stability of the nation itself are predicated on concessions and constructive proposals, which were forthcoming from both sides.

Despite this flexibility, what some legal experts are calling a "technical state coup" by the UNO bench in the Assembly has cast doubt on the viability of the political framework agreed to by Sandinista and UNO government negotiators during the transition period. It also makes a mockery of the FSLN's original hope that it could effectively represent grassroots demands for justice through parliamentary negotiations.

Electoral clout vs. social clout

The essence of the problem is the existence of three forces—the Sandinistas, the President and her supporters in the Cabinet, and the extreme Right—each able to pull the rug out from under any understanding between the other two. In the National Assembly, legislation is made not by consensus but by majority, and César had the majority sewn up in this case. He thus denied the Sandinista bench any possibility of brokering a compromise bill as it has occasionally done in the past with the more moderate faction of a divided UNO bench. By so doing, César went over the head of the Presidency, which has made clear that national reconciliation, democracy and the establishment of a new tradition of peaceful electoral transitions for the country requires governing via an accommodation between electoral winners and losers in accord with their relative strength. "The days are over," stressed Minister of the Presidency Antonio Lacayo during the rightwing highway takeover last November, "in which the winner takes all and the losers lose everything, sometimes even their lives."

The FSLN insists that the societal changes that have taken place in the past decade must be recognized. It also stresses that what it calls its own "qualitative superiority"—its status as the most important single political force in the country—cannot be ignored. While Chamorro and her son-in-law Lacayo accept both of those as working premises, they carry no weight whatsoever in the Assembly scheme. In line with US government views, the National Assembly president is determined not to give the FSLN one iota of power more than technically corresponds to it. This incongruence between electoral strength, parceled out in the Assembly among 14 very diverse parties in a single uneasy coalition, and social strength, which only the FSLN can summon in impressive numbers, now threatens to render Nicaragua ungovernable.

By denying the FSLN its legitimate weight in the political arena, the rabidly anti-Sandinista forces—including those in the US government—are, quite intentionally, pushing the FSLN's stated commitment to act within the legal framework to its limit. The FSLN's dilemma is similar to the "Catch 22" identified by political philosopher Herbert Marcuse in the 1960s regarding US media coverage of the movement opposing the Vietnam war: if the anti-war movement kept its protests within the legal framework, the media ignored it; if it went beyond that framework to win attention to its views, it was excoriated as extremist and "undemocratic." Those today who want to obliterate what they consider "excessive" Sandinista influence are also trying to force the executive branch to accept this scheme, even if redrawing the political landscape destabilizes the entire nation.

In the context of its own "responsibility" and of "stability" for a political framework that still offers some space to the popular forces, the FSLN made the concessions. Irresponsibility is the far Right's weapon. Social chaos or the threat of it—even if sparked by its own laws—works in the reactionaries' favor if they can successfully use it to "rectify" the path chosen by the government and eliminate, or at least reduce the influence of Antonio Lacayo and the FSLN.

This they have begun to do. The rightwing UNO parties are blaming the government for the anarchy that, according to them, prevails in the country. They insist that people feel insecure and will have no confidence in the government as long as the armed forces remain in Sandinista hands. Even after the President said she was vetoing the property bill strictly on constitutional grounds, hard-line UNO legislators continued to argue that the Presidency is responsible for the confrontation with the UNO Assembly bench because it is not adhering to the "government program" (read: the parts they interpret as reversing everything the previous government enacted).

It is really Lacayo's head that they are after; they see President Chamorro as the "victim" of two-sided blackmail—imposed on her by her son-in-law from one side and by the FSLN's "threats" that violence could be unleashed from the other. According to Wilfredo Navarro, successor to Vice President Godoy as president of the Independent Liberal Party, "Violeta Chamorro is kidnapped and blackmailed within her own family, by her own son-in-law as well as by Frentista violence and terror. The Minister of the Presidency [Lacayo] is the one who makes the most important decisions in this country, violating the popular will expressed on February 25. In Nicaragua, regrettably, those who were elected to govern are not governing." In addition to insulting the President's intelligence and strength of character, Navarro is wresting from her the very philosophical seals she has personally and publicly worked to imprint on her administration: peace and national reconciliation.

The FSLN, by virtue of its minority status, should supposedly cede to the Right's strategic pretensions—both the business sector's political power plays and the government's neoliberal economic designs. Some Sandinistas are alert to the dangers of exaggerating the strategic differences between Lacayo and César—in other words, between the Right and the extreme Right. Even Conservative leader Myriam Argüello, briefly Assembly president before being outvoted with Sandinista help in a re-election against César, suggests that the contradiction is not all that big. She notes that the majority of officials in César's Social Democratic Party have high-level government positions, and that just as César is using the property issue to win over Godoy's faction in the Assembly, Lacayo could do the same to César once he has accomplished his task.

Some believe that the main reason the extreme Right wants to force a new balance in the Assembly is to later oblige the FSLN to bow to a constitutional amendment to cut the presidential period from six to four years. This, supposedly, would permit César to put himself forward as the "new Right" candidate in 1994. If this is indeed the plan, César has a long row to hoe. Lacayo, too, is said to be jockeying for that vote and would have to be shoved to one side first. Vice President Godoy also has presidential aspirations, as does Managua Mayor Arnoldo Alemán, bona fide rabid member of the "old" Right, who has already begun campaigning through his populist, AID-funded municipal works program and periodic campaign rallies in rural towns. Most, if not all, of those who could cut into the strength of the new Right vote would have to be persuaded to step down, and that will not be easy.

A few legal boulders also have to be moved out of the road. The first one is that such a partial reform to the Constitution requires 60% of the vote, which the UNO bench cannot pull unless it wins over both third-party Assembly members and at least two votes from the Sandinista bench. Lacayo himself pointed out the second, in response to rumors of his own presidential aspirations. Since the Constitution prohibits retroactive legislation, approval of a reform to the length of the presidential term would not affect the current administration. (Former President Ortega's decision to move the 1990 election forward from November to February as a concession to the Central American peace negotiations did not violate the Constitution since it still fell within the same electoral year.)

The recontras

If the situation in Managua has become more charged, the one in the countryside is on the verge of detonating. In the north, attacks and holdups by armed groups known as recontras were almost commonplace by the end of August, creating virtual anarchy in some zones. The vicious circle of violence and counter-violence threatens to generalize the armed conflict.

Groups of former contras have taken up their weapons again, claiming persecution by military authorities and armed Sandinista cooperative members (see "Behind the Birth of the Recontras" in this issue). The latter claim, in turn, that they are only defending themselves; they refuse to answer the call that they turn in their own weapons as long as their security cannot be guaranteed. The army and the police, already grappling with a drastically limited budget for vehicle repairs and fuel, to say nothing of salaries, are not being sent into the conflictive areas. They are also reluctant to be sent in, even though the majority of victims are Sandinistas; they know that any aggressive policy on their part will only provoke the recontras to increase their activities. The solution to the problem has to be social and economic, not military.

No expertise in sociology is required to grasp that much of the rural violence, like the burgeoning crime rate in the cities, is largely a product of tremendous unemployment (45-50% of the economically active population), credit restrictions for small farmers (many of whom have been ruined by the drought affecting the Central American isthmus), the disastrous state of the roads which impedes getting the little being produced to market, and the fact that what does find its way there does not fetch a fair price. In Region VI (Matagalpa and Jinotega), this translates into tens of thousands of desperate landless and jobless people. With no means of survival, some are on the lookout for a plot of land on which to eke out some kind of subsistence, and will get it any way they can. Others have turned to highway robbery.

Will negotiations cure the causes?

The group that has captured the most media attention is led by Juan Angel Morán Flores, known as "El Indomable" (Untamable). While his demands fluctuate, he has recently called for the removal of the regional police chiefs and Ministry of Government delegates (at one point he demanded that Minister of Government Carlos Hurtado himself be removed), the dismantling of army bases in his region and the disarming of Sandinista cooperatives.

The government says that the solution has to be "negotiated" with the recontras, but others believe that this encourages even more intransigent demands; several recontra groups have, in fact, presented virtual ultimatums to the government. In surprisingly tolerant fashion, the government assures them that it will disarm all civilians, a position the FSLN supports as long as the disarming starts with the recontra bands. The Ministry of Government estimates that some 80,000 weapons are still in civilian hands, while the army calculates 30-50,000.

The order from superiors to use dialogue instead of force puts the army and police in the field in a difficult spot; if the political forces in Managua cannot reach a negotiated understanding, there is little reason to think that the military forces in the countryside can. Requests from Sandinista cooperatives and townspeople for protection against threats and land takeovers led by both recontras and old land barons also weigh heavily on the FSLN and military authorities. Both are concerned that, as long as the government keeps catering to the recontras' innumerable and constantly changing demands while not dealing with the deteriorating situation as a whole, new groups will be stimulated to use violence to win government concessions too. This, in fact, is just what is happening.

Minister of Government Carlos Hurtado said at the end of August that 32 rearmed groups already exist, and officials from the Organization of American States' International Support and Verification Commission (CIAV) say more appear almost daily. Intelligence reports indicate that the groups are operating in various points around the country and that many of their members move back and forth between armed raids and tending their own crops.

In some parts of the country, particularly the old war zones of Regions I (Las Segovias) and VI, recontra groups are virtually the only authority and thus act with impunity. The level of social decomposition threatens to spread to the rest of the country. At the beginning of September, recontras launched their first attack against an unarmed cooperative in the south-central region of Boaco. The attack left three civilians, two of them children, dead and two wounded. As long as any band launches military attacks against civilians who no longer have weapons for their own self-defense, the government's policy to disarm civilians and reach accords with the recontra bands creates no small conflict. At the very least, it makes it very difficult for the FSLN to defend its commitment to that policy.

The far Right joins the fray

The objective problems of economic recession, physical insecurity and legal snarls over land tenure are now melding with the political impact of the conflicts between the executive and legislative branches and the open sympathy that extremist politicians are demonstrating for demobilized contras who have rearmed. These politicians, among them notable UNO National Assembly representatives such as Azucena Ferrey, have taken their confrontational discourse to the countryside, to capitalize on the existing discontent. Herself a former civilian contra official, Ferrey and six like-minded Assembly colleagues have formed what amounts to a recontra support group called the "Group of Seven." Ferrey personally went so far as to propose the "intervention" of foreign forces in Nicaragua to resolve the recontras' problems. Her suggestion was rejected by both the Presidency and the FSLN as violating national sovereignty. CIAV, created to oversee contra demobilization and reintegration, has already aroused suspicions in the countryside for giving too much legitimacy to the recontras' highly politicized demands.

Both the right wing and recontra leaders use any case of police or army abuse against former contras to argue that it is part of a general policy. According to this campaign, the army and police have launched "witch hunts" in rural areas against demobilized contras and are persecuting their leaders. The rightwing media have given the campaign wide play, and openly back the recontras' demands, particularly those of Indomable, who is just the sort of intractable figure out of whom they can get a lot of mileage. Indomable recently insisted that President Chamorro personally go up into the mountains to negotiate with him, and was very annoyed when she sent a delegation instead.

Other recontra groups back Indomable's demands. Despite his own violent reputation, dating well back to contra days, they justify his actions as a "logical response to the abuses and constant human rights violations committed by members of the army and Ministry of Government forces, particularly former members of the nefarious State Security, today the National Police." They have called for the immediate intervention of both President Chamorro and Cardinal Obando y Bravo to resolve the problem. At the same time, however, these bands mock the executive by displaying a similar attitude to that of UNO legislators and COSEP.

Sauce for the gander

Indomable is formally accused of killing two policemen during an attack on Quilalí, among others, and has been classified as a dangerous criminal. The government, shortly after saying that it would not dialogue with armed criminals, retracted that position. This tendency toward executive weakness worries the FSLN, which sees it as self-destabilizing. The FSLN accuses the government of excessive passivity by keeping the army on the sidelines and insisting on a negotiated solution even at the cost of sacrificing its own authority. The FSLN daily Barricada recently came down particularly hard on the government:

"As well as sowing terror and crime, the rightwing bands are attempting not only to continue with impunity, but also to elevate themselves to judge, law, affected party and omnipotent authority in the vast zone they aspire to put under their absolute control, beyond the mandate of the Constitution, turning themselves de facto into a second army. While the Resistance opted for civilian life and national reconciliation over a year ago, the government is today offering its hand to malefactors who kill, then go to the wake and drink coffee, then attend the burial, protected by official impunity. It remains to be seen (God help us!) what the attitude of the Cardinal, CIAV-OAS, the mayors, UNO [Assembly] representatives and the government itself will be the day an armed group appears that is not made up of recontras but of Sandinista guerrillas, or the day that the aggrieved, in the absence of law, organize in their own defense."

Civilians in conflictive zones are, in fact, beginning to take various initiatives of their own, including the formation of self-defense units. In addition, some retired army and Ministry of Government personnel living in rural areas are known to have created paramilitary units. In the face of the army's inactivity, these self-defense groups emerged at the end of August, following another ambush of police and army personnel. Many Sandinistas have no patience left for government submissiveness to the recontras' actions and the UNO legislators' seconding of Indomable's demands to dismantle or withdraw the police and army from the north of the country. Some are beginning to wonder if the recontras, too, are recipients of US Embassy-financed programs for the "promotion of democracy."

The US strategy

The FSLN, besieged by demands from the popular sectors for physical and economic security, finds it increasingly difficult to remain loyal to a government and a political framework that due to their very nature, the political moment or the aggressiveness of the armed and unarmed right are demonstrating their inability to guarantee those securities. The problem is that the political framework, symbolized in the Constitution and the Transition Protocol, is partially a Sandinista creation. It had been presumed that the FSLN would give the framework, and more concretely the executive, enough popular viability and real authority to resist onslaughts from the far Right and the US. It was also thought that the forces represented in society by the "Ortega brothers" and in government by President Chamorro and Antonio Lacayo would together be strong enough to permit not only stability and peace but also a role for popular organizations in the direction of government.

Although the extreme Right has a smaller power base than its opponents in the executive branch and the FSLN, events have shown that it does have veto power, through both the legislators and the recontras who are rebelling against the framework and forcing the government to renegotiate it with them. If the executive cannot provide legal and physical protection to the grassroots majorities, what turn should the FSLN take once the end of the persuasion road has been reached?

The profile of US strategy has thus been coming into sharper focus: on the one hand, subordinate the executive (Lacayo) to the legislative (César), if necessary by reducing either President Chamorro' s powers or her term in office and imposing a kind of "parliamentary dictatorship" during the transition. On the other, given the rearmament of the former contras, subordinate the army and the police to positions assumed by CIAV and give the recontra groups a new quota of power by naming them to positions of police authority that the rightwing UNO municipal and regional representatives would support.

Through this twin effort, the US is trying to achieve what it failed to get through either the war or the elections: wiping out Sandinista influence as a significant political force in society and government. César has maintained his links with both Republican and Democratic congressional representatives, seeking backing from the most conservative of them so they will keep up pressure on slow moving "pragmatists" in the State Department.

The general outline of the US plan is already designed, and is clear to anyone who visits the Embassy. US officials speak with pleasure of other projects UNO legislators are ready to hit the FSLN with once the property issue is wrapped up: reforming the legislation that regulates the activities and statutes of the police and army, conditioning budget assignments to the naming of a civilian defense minister and to the purging of the army command structure, replacing Sandinistas in the Supreme Electoral Council and Supreme Court or marginalizing their influence by increasing the members on those two bodies, and blackmailing the executive for concessions in her decrees and bills.

Within this design, the rearming of the former contras and their insistence on replacing the police in certain areas of the country is giving a military foundation to the gradual "coup" being contrived against the executive to wrest power from the Sandinistas. To this must also be added the US Agency for International Development's enormous efforts to promote grassroots organizations parallel to those of the Sandinistas, particularly in rural areas; Embassy officials speak openly of the need to "break UNAG's monopoly." The US has to give Alfredo César all the legal, financial, social and military cooperation he needs to execute his gradual "counterrevolution" and pave the way to beat out Lacayo as candidate in the next elections.

Flies in the ointment

The strategy is not without its flaws. First, there is no guarantee that the Embassy has the wherewithal to keep the whole rightwing opposition orbiting around Alfredo César. In addition to the efforts of Vice President Godoy and Mayor Alemán to raise their own respective campaign funds from the Somocista exile community in Miami, neither they nor traditional Conservative leaders trust César or his small Social Democratic Party.

Second, the Embassy continues to err in underestimating the FSLN's real strength. The latest surveys published in La Prensa confirm this.

Third, it is difficult for the United States, as it is for César, to frontally attack the executive branch while "doña Violeta" is at its head; her popularity is as high as ever. Even more important, they will have a hard time incorporating the economically discontented grassroots into their project. On the contrary, both Washington and the National Assembly in Managua have to give the government's economic program their support. Any counterrevolutionary strategy comes up against the need to avoid actions that destabilize the neoliberal economic program, which, given its nature, has earned the support of the international banking community.

Complicating matters further, the more the far Right supports the neoliberal economic strategy, the more it distances itself from even the non-Sandinista trade unions. Even Cardinal Obando y Bravo echoed the whole of the trade union movement in calling the government's pitiful minimum wage offer to urban worker of $46 a month unacceptable (the basic market basket for a family of six is over $130). Both Obando and the Permanent Workers Council (CPT) also joined the FNT in calling for more decided action to stave off increases in prostitution, drug use and traffic and inattention to public health—at a moment in which newborns are dying in hospitals for lack of oxygen and the country waits in dread for the arrival of cholera.

Not even time is on César's side in political and economic terms. The possibility of provoking divisions in the FSLN is decreasing, and the erosion of government popularity due to the economic crisis could begin to be reflected in increasingly violent fashion very soon. Having cancelled Nicaragua's debt arrears with the multilateral lending agencies through new loans, the Minister of Foreign Cooperation is now predicting the prompt arrival of $700 million in foreign aid; if it comes, it will be a record breaker in the country's history.

Furthermore, César cannot totally rely on the United States, given its well-known tradition of using, then discarding, Nicaragua's rightwing politicians as the situation warrants. Lacayo and César each have their own backers in Washington—it is said that Lacayo's are in the State Department and César's are in the CIA. The FSLN's sensibility and its commitment to the government's stability, as well as its promotion of political negotiations in El Salvador have made a favorable impression in some US government circles. The pressures of US extremists do not seem to be conditioning official aid to Nicaragua, as was the case before.

The FSLN has again been obliged to appeal both to the people and to the executive to face the counterrevolutionary challenge that, at least for now, is spearheaded by the UNO bench in the National Assembly. While the Front for Popular Struggle (FLP) threatens massive civil disobedience campaigns, new FSLN National Directorate member Sergio Ramírez urged the Presidency to take serious measures to thwart the anti-constitutional coup the Assembly is trying to carry out through its property bill.

It is lost on no one that the rightwing legislators' blackmail is endangering the reconciliation policy promoted by the Chamorro government. If the concessions made by the FSLN do not soften the extreme Right's position or bolster the government's determination to find a better solution, the methods the FLP warned of will end up being the only recourse.

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