The National Forum
The National Forum, a dialogue between opposition and revolutionary political parties, is one of the principal political events which is currently taking place in Nicaragua. The following attempts to provide you with some basic information about the forum and its significance for the revolutionary process.
Why the National Forum?Basically, the opposition has become increasingly isolated from the institutional structures established for input into the political process. In May 1980, Alfonso Robelo resigned from his position as a Junta member of the National Reconstruction Government, a position he had occupied since the victory on July 19, 1979. At that time, Robelo represented the most organized opposition sector, both in political and economic terms. He holds leading positions in the Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (MDN) and COSEP, the Superior Council on Private Enterprise.
Despite Robelo’s resignation, the interchange continued between government and opposition groups within the Council of State, Nicaragua’s legislative body. In November 1980, several opposition parties walked out of the Council of State.
In the opposition intended to produce a national political and institutional crisis through these actions, this crisis did not occur. Both the Junta and the Council of State retain their political legitimacy and the Council continues to serve as a vital discussion forum and legislative body for Nicaragua.
Yet these actions have distanced the opposition from the government structures, reducing considerably their platform for political expression and further blocking the way for dialogue between government and opposition groups.
Since March of 1980, the Nicaraguan situation has become increasingly complex. The U.S. aid cut-offs, the existence of military training camps in Honduras and Miami, the border attacks and assassination of leaders of the citizens associations, the local opposition communication media campaigns to stir popular unrest in the face of a difficult economic situation, the flight of capital—all of these events provide the backdrop to the National Forum.
Objectives of the ForumOne of the principal objectives of the Forum is to unite all national sectors in an effort to preserve the peace, and if the worst should happen, to repel any aggression which Somocista and imperialist forces might attempt to commit against Nicaragua. (Document of the Revolutionary Parties, Barricada, June 2, 1980).
The forum provides an opportunity to clarify before the Nicaraguan people, all the details of the situation in which we are living and the position of each group with respect to this situation. (Ramiro Sacasa, President of the opposition parties, Coordinating Commission, La Prensa, July 18, 1981).
These statements reflect the different views held by opposition and revolutionary parties concerning the objectives of the forum.
The revolutionary parties are promoting a discussion which will permit greater national unity, in this way, strengthening peace in Nicaragua, clearly the decisive element in National reconstruction.
For the opposition, the National Forum is a public platform replacing that from which many of their representatives have resigned, namely the Council of State. From this platform, they can project their criticisms of the government. Throughout the Forum, large sectors of the opposition coalition have demonstrated that this political objective takes precedence for them over that of national unity.
The National ForumThe first session of the national forum, was held on June 13, 1981 in the auditorium of the Planning Ministry. The Forum began with a tentative list of basic themes; from these five principal areas of discussion were established: 1) politics, 2) economics, 3) labor, 4) social issues, 5) law. Each area then incorporated a series of sub-themes, determined by mutual agreement.
In practice, all aspects of the national situation are open for discussion, from national unity to the threat of intervention and including the problem of capital flight, flaws in the existing laws, and the social demands of the Nicaraguan people.
From the first moment, it was decided that the Forum would be open to press and the Nicaraguan Film Institute, who have contracted to film the sessions with the intent of producing a documentary.
Julian Corrales, assistant-dean of the Nicaraguan Autonomous University was designated as coordinator by both groups.
The following delegates represent the coalition of revolutionary parties:
a) Permanent Delegates (Always present)
Commander Carlos Nuñez – FSLN
Natan Sevilla – FSLN
Gustavo Tablada – Nicaraguan Socialist Party
b) Alternates (Can be substituted or replaced)
Eli Altamirano (Communist Party of Nicaragua)
Cesar Delgadillo (Popular Social Christian Party)
Alejandro Gutierrez (Popular Action Movement)
Ulises Somarriba (Independent Liberal Party)
The following delegates represent the coalition of opposition parties
a) Permanent Delegates (always present)
Alvaro Jerez (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement) MDN
Adan Fletes (Social Christian Party)
Donald Castillo (Nicaraguan workers Central)
b) Alternates (can be substituted or replaced)
Jose Davila – Social Christian Party
Guillermo Putoy – Social Democratic Party
Alfonso Robelo – Nicaraguan Democratic Movement (MDN)
Ramiro Sacasa – Liberal Constitutional Movement
There are always seven representatives for each coalition in each of the sessions
The Conservative Party, CUS (Unified Syndicate Central) and UPANIC (Union of Agricultural Producers of Nicaragua) have decided to boycott the Forum. UPANIC is the only business group belonging to COSEP which stated publicly that they would not participate in the forum.
Throughout the month of June, four sessions have been held. In each session, lasting up to eight hours, delegates have discussed numerous topics, such as the definition of democracy, the contradiction between formal and popular democracy, the nature and character of the revolutionary process, political pluralism and nationalism.
The two coalitions have thus far arrived at nineteen points of agreement between them, an important achievement for the forum. A document stating these points of agreement was signed by all the delegates from both coalitions in the session of June 27, 1981. We have classified these agreements according to general areas.
The Overall political Situation
1. There is only one revolutionary process-and during this phase of reconstruction – the process is governed by the Program of the Government of National Reconstruction, the Fundamental Statutes and the Bill of Rights and Guarantees for Nicaraguans.
2. The Nicaraguan Revolution must be characterized as democratic, popular, pluralistic and anti-imperialist and should continue to develop in this spirit.
3. The Program of the Government of National Reconstruction, the Fundamental Statutes and the Bill of Rights and Guarantees for Nicaraguans are valid in this stage of reconstruction. They should be modified if necessary in order to accurately reflect the dynamic of this revolutionary process. In order to facilitate such modifications, adequate consultation mechanisms need to be established.
4. Democracy and the exercise of democracy should be conceived according to realistic criteria appropriate to our socio-economic, political and historical context.
5. We reaffirm the inalienable right of our people to self-determination and the right to reject all forms of oppression, submission to political and economic dependence, and the plundering of our natural resources.
6. The social, economic and political demands of the Nicaraguan people form the essential goals of the revolution.
7. Somoza and his system are a part of history, and both delegations agree that we can not and should not return to it, nor to any other situation or system that negates the goals of the revolution.
8. We recognize that deficiencies exist and errors have been made in the development of our revolutionary process, some of which are natural to any transition period.
9. Whatever be the internal problems or differences we face, we emphasize and clearly reject any imperialist intervention or aggression.
10. We oppose all forms of counter-revolutionary aggression. By this we mean al offensive actions which would tend to negate, alter or distort the fundamental objectives of the revolutionary process.
11. It is the inalienable right of the people to assume responsibilities in the social, and economic programs of our country through their organizations i.e. unions, political parties, cooperatives, syndicates, community and neighbourhood associations.
Political Principles:1. It is agreed that the process of reconstruction in Nicaragua should continue to develop within the pluralistic framework of the Program of the Government of National Reconstruction.
2. The inheritance from the past, exacerbated by the Somoza dictatorship and North American imperialism in Nicaragua are fundamental causes of the country’s present economic problems and socio-economic situation.
Economic Principles1. Our mixed economy, which includes private, mixed and state enterprises and other forms of property ownership, duly defined and regulated, should be stimulated within a framework of adequate planning which incorporates all economic sectors for the benefit of the Nicaraguan people.
2. The active participation of labor, the government and business–persons in efforts to increase production is fundamental to the struggle for the economic emancipation of the country and its labor force and is vital to the establishment of economic conditions which will enable Nicaragua to solve its social problems.
3. Different forms of capital flight from the country, duly proven according to the corresponding law, should be severely punished in whatever sector in which they appear.
4. It is necessary to promote and institutionalize agrarian reform in order to improve the situation of the peasants and all working people through the following means: land distribution among peasants who need land; putting to use non-functioning large rural estates and land in the power of the government; and, at the same time, respecting the agricultural productive units which cannot be parcelled out for economic reasons. Agrarian Reform will encourage and promote different forms of organizational relationships among the peasants.
Role of the Government1) It is the government’s responsibility to offer people effective legal means that enable them to obtain their demands and to defend their hard-won rights to democracy, pluralism, liberty and respect for human rights in the economic, social and political sphere.
2) It is necessary to undertake joint efforts that will enable us to improve the different levels of the Nicaraguan revolutionary government organizational structures. This will demand the participation of all political organizations, trade unions and syndicates in order to overcome problems, and in this manner to insure the development of the revolutionary process.
ConclusionIn the forum, revolutionary and opposition groups have demonstrated two very different perspectives on both the forum itself and the role of national politics in this historical juncture.
Revolutionary and opposition delegates hold opposing views on the role of both the forum and national politics in this moment of Nicaraguan history, precisely because their historical positions in Nicaraguan society are very different. The Sandinistas are in power. Faced with a difficult economic and international situation, they hold responsibility before a people with whom they have struggled, a people who now hold very high expectations for change. The opposition delegates represent a minority sector who find their personal financial futures limited by a revolution which favors the vast majority.
Still the forum has arrived at 19 points of agreement which reaffirm the pluralistic, popular, democratic and anti-imperialist nature of this revolution. Furthermore, the forum condemns capital flight practices and calls on all sectors to promote agrarian reform and the mixed economy.
The Forum is a significant achievement. It reaffirms the political participation present in the Nicaraguan process at a time when the Reagan administration, international press and sectors of the opposition speak of Nicaragua as totalitarian.
It reasserts the necessity for national unity as a basic for reconstruction and as an effective guarantee against external aggression. Finally the Forum dramatizes the basic fact that national unity must continue to be the vocation of all Nicaraguan.
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