Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 309 | Abril 2007



A Hundred Days in Babel

The government is sticking to its anti-neoliberal discourse, right alongside compliance with the IMF’s neoliberal policies. It’s confronting the United States while seeking its benevolence. It’s cultivating friendship with and investments from both Chinas. And it’s juggling both ALBA and CAFTA, the prelude to the FTAA. The presidential family claims that the “citizenry” is in power, but attempts to organize that citizenry by centralizing power. The governing couple is managing all these contradictions not from the presidential offices, but from their own home, which is in turn the office of their party’s secretariat. The revolution they propose this time is “spiritual” but they are promoting a cultural involution. The only things clear are that the pact lives and that the same figures still dominate all three sides of the triangle of power.

Nitlápan-Envío team

In the biblical Babel—the Hebrew name for the city of Babylon located in what was then Mesopo- tamia and is now occupied and bloodied Iraq—there was a project to build a tower, even more famous than the twin towers. But it too crumbled. Genesis explains that the project failed because it was born of the arrogance of power. Although not mentioned in the biblical myth, it seems it also collapsed because the masons didn’t calculate the materials very well. There was a great confusion of words in those times and pronouncements meant different things to different ears.

Nicaragua’s new government is also planning to build a project using words whose meaning has been corrupted or that are adjusted to the meaning it finds most convenient at the moment. The materials needed to construct this new tower don’t seem to be calculated very well either. And there’s no lack of arrogance. One hundred days into the new government’s term, a great deal of confusion reigns in the republic of Nicaragua.

At the base of the tower

In 2005, before the tower began to be erected, historian and Conservative political pundit Emilio Álvarez Montal-ván tried his hand at another metaphor to explain the tragedy dominating the national scene: a “Bermuda triangle” that was fatally attracting everything toward its dark core. On the three sides of that triangle he placed Daniel Ortega, Arnoldo Alemán and Cardinal Miguel Obando.

That triangle that swallowed everything, including any vision of a more decent future, is still with us. A hundred days have been enough for Ortega to demonstrate the kind of President he’ll be, for Alemán to go virtually free although still not technically absolved of his crime, and for Obando to be offered a new way to continue playing the role of “spiritual leader,” now as part of the new government. This triangle forms the base of the tower. Does such a foundation leave it prone to collapse or will passivity deepen and resignation increase? Only time will tell. For the moment, hardly anybody is saying anything out loud. Have we lost our capacity for shock, indignation, reaction and organization?

Arnoldo Alemán
free for two reasons

On March 16, Arnoldo Alemán was allowed to go free under the formula of “country arrest,” a novel concession granted personally by President Ortega, but assumed “institutionally” by the penitentiary system. It allows Alemán to travel anywhere in the country and even to make political statements in press conferences. What it does not do is lift his conviction. Still pending after four years is the appeals court hearing that will either ratify or overturn his 20-year sentence for money laundering.

With this decision, Nicaragua began to write the next-to-last chapter of the chronicle of an embarrassment foretold. The last one will be Alemán’s definitive liberty, a conclusion they have been gradually accustoming us to as Alemán passed from prison to house arrest to municipal arrest to country arrest. It’s like getting us all used to the water in an unheated pool step by step because throwing us into the deep end all at once would be too much for the body’s resistance.

Neither President Ortega nor any other government official showed any shame, presumably because they feel none. When journalists tried to corner the President into taking responsibility for Alemán’s freedom, he mockingly foisted it off on the owners of the rightwing newspaper La Prensa. “This happened after Alemán met with Mr. Jaime Chamorro and with Holmann,” he retorted. “Perhaps they cut this deal.” He was alluding to a meeting a few days before Alemán was sprung to which the leadership of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) invited owners of the print, radio and TV media. It was an ambush set up by Alemán, who unexpectedly showed up to chair the meeting.

After the announcement of his new status, Alemán promptly visited Cardinal Obando, whom he congratulated for his decision to work with the Ortega government. He also took the opportunity to announce that he, too, would start working for “national reconciliation” in a countrywide tour he planned to make immediately, a grueling trip that calls into question his diagnosis as an “invalid” with no fewer than 10 serious chronic illnesses, which was the excuse for granting him all his previous privileges as a prisoner. The cardinal stated that “I’m a friend of Dr. Alemán and am glad they’ve given him the freedom to move throughout Nicaragua. He’s a very active, very dynamic man and it makes me happy. They still haven’t proven any crime against him.” Alemán’s second stop before his tour was to see the bishop of León, Bosco Vivas, who referred to Alemán’s liberty in similar terms.

The first of two objectives behind Ortega’s generous lengthening of the leash by which he has Alemán tethered is that it assures the 25 votes of the PLC bench in the National Assembly. The President needs them for the projects he’s pushing, his naming of unconditional loyalists to public posts and above all the constitutional reforms currently being cooked up, which require at least 62 of the 93 Assembly votes in two successive legislative sessions. The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Movement (FSLN) has 41, only after “persuading” 2 representatives elected on the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) ticket and 1 on the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) ticket to switch sides. The plan, now commonplace for constitutional reforms, is to present them for the first vote in December, right before the end of this session, then return them for the second round next January so they can go into effect that same year.

Ortega’s second objective is to keep the Liberals split into two camps, a project currently threatened because some leaders on both sides are engaged in talks to reunify the once-powerful Liberal party. Alemán is a wonderfully divisive factor, as demonstrated by his tour through the Liberals’ mainly rural strongholds to reassert his personal sway over the country’s least informed, most traditional population.

The tit-for-tat pact
is alive and well

Ortega freed Alemán and Alemán upheld the deal with Ortega. On March 28 the PLC voted with the FSLN in the National Assembly to elect four new Supreme Court justices (two from each party), the Public Prosecutor and his deputy (one from each), 16 associate judges (eight from each) and 10 other posts. This followed the same design under which the pact has operated since 1998: half for you, half for me, with the largest half going to the strongest party at the time.

The pact had been a constant theme during the electoral campaign last year, with almost all candidates claiming to oppose it, albeit with differing degrees of sincerity. The word “pact” is hardly heard anymore, but its tit-for-tat significance remains intact. Ortega’s circle, which always sidestepped any use of the word, has made no effort to find a more euphemistic synonym now that it’s in government. Nor has the PLC. Together with Alemán’s Liberals, Sandinista government officials argue that something similar takes place in any democracy: those who have the votes negotiate, and those who know how to negotiate best end up with the most votes. What they never mention is that in few democracies is what’s being negotiated so baldly self-serving to the parties and damaging to the country and its people.

It has quickly become apparent that there was no reason to have granted the new ruler any “benefit of the doubt” after his electoral victory. Any sense of institutionality in Nicaragua had already been smashed with the bricks of that dreadful pact, and those same bricks are now being used to build the new Babel in which we Nicaraguans must try to communicate for the next five years without understanding what we are or what’s being said to us.

While the PLC, the ALN and the MRS have already presented their proposed constitutional reforms, the FSLN is keeping its cards close to the vest. Its high card is Daniel Ortega’s right to reelection. Will it also propose holding the municipal elections on the same date as the national ones? Alemán has been given his freedom to support Ortega in these reforms so he can run for immediate reelection in 2011. Both dream of reliving the 1996 campaign in which they ran against each other as “rivals” and “adversaries,” although in the 2011 remake these words should be retranslated as “partners” and “pals.”

Obando accepts the
new “ad hoc” post

On the third side of the triangle sustaining the tower is Cardinal Miguel Obando, who finally accepted the offer made by President Ortega in February to head the new ad hoc Council of Reconciliation and Peace he created so the prelate could continue making declarations, heading up mediations, making recommendations, advising and exhorting. He has been steadily losing such spaces ever since April 2005, when for reasons of age the Vatican finally accepted his resignation from the post of archbishop of Managua, which he had exercised for 35 years.

Ortega’s offer scandalized a sector of public opinion and caused rifts in the Bishops’ Conference, where three bishops expressed open disagreement with the cardinal accepting the post. What real sense did it make to join the government with such a generic mission as reconciling the opposing bands from the war of the eighties so many years later or administering tasks more appropriate to other ministries, such as providing veterans from both sides with lands, study grants, pensions or development projects?
Calculating the inappropriateness of the offer and the scandal it was triggering, President Ortega wrote Pope Benedict XVI, begging him to let the cardinal accept the post. Days later, Obando went to Rome for a private audience with the pope to present his views on the matter, although he had publicly made it clear he was eager to accept. When he returned, with neither formal papal permission or prohibition, Obando announced his acceptance, couching his political decision in words from the Gospel.

The names are changed
to protect the guilty

Days later the Bishops’ Conference met with Ortega to analyze what for all intents and purposes showed that Obando and Ortega had gotten their way. It was an opportune moment to say the truth and there were real expectations about the bishops’ conclusions. But accepting Ortega’s version—that Obando would not be subordinated to the government or manage public funds or receive a salary—they chose to wrap their political differences and their commitment to truth in ambiguous words and ended up more reconciled to state power than the Gospel.

As this was all about using and abusing words to the point of corrupting them, President Ortega got the final word on the issue, changing the name of the institution the cardinal will direct into something longer and more grandiloquent. It will henceforth be called the Commission of Verification, Peace, Reconciliation and Justice. That’s how it is in Babel: names are changed and so is the meaning of words. Truth isn’t what matters; what matters is saying whatever is needed to achieve what you want.

No seeming sense of direction

Given the uncertainty about the tower’s political leaning, economist José Luis Medal sought yet another metaphor: that of a ship adrift on the sea. According to Medal, one day the government seems to be heading to the left, the next to the right. “We don’t know where the ship’s going,” he said. “The only thing we’re clear about is that the captain isn’t letting anyone else near the helm.” He announced that, notwithstanding all its incoherencies, the governing couple and their closest circle have a long-term personalist/family project.

Medal summarized the govern-ment’s style, which is part of the cause of the reigning confusion, in this neat phrase: “The government doesn’t do what it says and doesn’t say what it’s doing.” In other words, there are more than enough words, but they don’t communicate anything real.

Days before Medal’s remark, Jaime Morales Carazo—a longstanding Liberal who was once the contras’ chief negotiator and is now Ortega’s Vice President—confirmed Medal’s impression in his response to a question about how the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are going. “Children say what they’re doing,” quipped this man who defines himself as a “spare tire” in his new post and seems comfortable in the kingdom of confusion; “the elderly say what they did, but only fools say exactly what they’re going to do.” During the electoral campaign this same political figure explained his political philosophy as pendular: “being a politician means moving from the right to the left, passing through the center, without staying at any point forever.” Great! Our tower of Babel even rocks.

They don’t do what they say and don’t say what they’re doing

The new government certainly doesn’t do what it says. It talks about “reconciliation” while preparing its new intimidating and selectively repressive apparatus. It talks about “participation” while excluding from government those who think and speak up with their own criteria, and while controlling, centralizing and discretionally awarding funds and projects. It talks about unity yet doesn’t make itself felt as the government of all. It talks about empowering women yet translates that into the all-embracing power of Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo.

It proposes a “spiritual” revolution yet is helping confuse the spirit of the population, constructing a confessional state that promotes the most retrograde expressions of religion, packaged with Christian words. Ortega has even gone so far as to claim that ALBA, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s Latin American Bolivarian Alliance, “is spiritually the most advanced in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

And the government definitively doesn’t say what it’s doing. Confusion and uncertainty is growing because the tower is being built in an atmosphere of secrecy, with public opinion controlled and administered among the like-minded. Nothing is transparent; every-thing passes through a single filter.

Contradictory messages

In this situation, the economy is hostage to politics. The tower’s economic zone is full of ambivalent words and ambiguous gestures that are building a discourse good only for the moment.

Even if the political project is long-range and clear to the governing couple and its closest circle, what appears to be missing in the economy is a medium-term social and economic development strategy. A lot of people are asking where all this is heading. And the typical answer is a shrug of uncertainty and helplessness. For many, “Only God knows”; while for others, “may God’s will be done.”

The government is continually sending out contradictory messages, seeking to satisfy the expectations of both the foreign and national investors and international cooperation agencies waiting on the right, and its party rank and file and Latin American allies on the left.

The IMF hasn’t
changed its approach

Ortega has blamed the International Monetary Fund and international cooperation for the country’s persistently high poverty levels despite the millions in aid received since the end of the war in the eighties. But following the conclusion in mid-March of the first round of meetings to negotiate a new agreement with the IMF, held with the same secretiveness that prevailed during the Bolaños administration, Central Bank President Antenor Rosales claimed that the IMF and the Sandinista government share the same macroeconomic policy approach to poverty reduction.

The budget Ortega presented to the National Assembly is clear proof of that shared approach as it was essentially the same one neoliberal Bolaños would have approved and bore the IMF’s seal of approval. It still prioritizes payment of the domestic debt with national commercial banks, even though one of Ortega’s campaign promises was to renegotiate the portion resulting from the fraud-riddled bank collapses during Alemán’s administration and redirect the resources to social programs. The government now argues that it must “honor” this debt so as not to lose “credibility” with national and foreign investors. The PLC and FSLN benches approved it in a tense session on March 7 without allowing opposition legislators from the ALN and the MRS to present their motions.

Rhetoric, vagueness
and ambiguities

Ambiguity also reigns in foreign relations. Today the government flirts with mainland China, tomorrow it shakes hands with Taiwan, the next day it criticizes China and the day after it advocates reunification of the two Chinas. The same is happening with the United States. Daniel Ortega’s public discourse about the United States and everything related to it could be the subject of an interesting study on the duration of time spans in the Presi-dent’s mental space.

The only thing that reduces the risks of such rhetorical tenacity is that no one takes Ortega’s words seriously anymore. Even Republican Otto Reich says he feels comfortable with them: “We’re watching what President Ortega says and does, and so far all signs are that he wants better relations with the United States.”

“We defend life”

The government is also generating confusion in the world of international relations beyond the borders of ALBA by presenting a project with diffuse words. Such was the case with Foreign Minister Samuel Santos’ first visit to Spain. His March 8 speech in the Casa de América in Madrid, which can be seen and heard on Internet, disappointed listeners from a society that still displays such solidarity with Sandinista Nicaragua. The speech was full of such vague, imprecise and commonplace commentaries as his evasive response to a question about why the FSLN voted with the Right to endorse the religious hierarchy and criminalize therapeutic abortion during the electoral campaign. “Any nation,” said the foreign minister, “has a right to debate its issues. In Holland abortion only stopped being debated a couple of years ago. And that’s one of the most liberal countries in the world. In essence, we’re defending life, in all of its expressions.”

Between the IMF
and Venezuela

The ambiguity in the economic speeches can be partly explained by the Nicaraguan budget’s absolute dependence on financing from international cooperation, with disbursements conditioned on the government’s signing of an agreement with the IMF. On the other side, the Ortega government can’t abandon its anti-neoliberal rhetoric because it also depends on Venezuela’s financing for its social investment plan, crucial to reconstructing the FSLN’s political clientele.

What will drive the economy under this Sandinista government? The quick answer offered to the international financial institutions is “the private sector.” The equally quick answer offered to Nicaraguans is “Venezuelan solidarity,” which is supposed to propel not only the economy, but also the anti-poverty struggle and even “a new development model.”

Erecting the tower also involves the use of confusing words to shore up Venezuela’s cooperation. On March 27, the National Assembly ratified the agreements signed by Nicaragua and Venezuela in the ALBA framework. While they ultimately voted in favor, Sandinista legislators on the MRS bench denounced the “private modality of their implementation,” underscoring the danger that this cooperation will be exploited not for national advantage, but rather that of the Ortega-Murillo government. Days later, they expressed their argument more thoroughly in a document sent to the Venezuelan government.

Facilitators and privatizers

Apart from Venezuela’s in-kind donations to health and education, its investments in Nicaragua will constitute a “parallel budget.” No one in government is revealing the exact amount of Venezuelan collaboration, but it is known, for example, that just the provision of petroleum at concessionary prices will free up some US$85 million a year.

The official version, ratified by government adviser Orlando Núñez in this issue’s “Speaking Out” section, is that the government will act only as “facilitator” in the operations with Venezuela. All earnings and debts will be administered by “private businesses,” which Núñez refers to as “associations” and which he expects will head up a “new economic subject.”

You can’t ask for more neoliberal expressions than facilitator state and private enterprise. Berated by the FSLN for 16 years, they will now be the pillars of a new project in Nicaragua. Meanwhile, the theoreticians of that project are looking for the “subject” to erect the tower. Many of those forged as such by these years of neoliberal shortfalls will now offer themselves up willingly as “stonemasons.” Is it the same van-guardist voluntarism as always?

Are we to be
citizens or customers?

It’s a rather disconcerting and worrying thought. What reality do these words express? Who will be the directors and partners in these private companies or “associations”? With what criteria and legality will they be set up? What will the government’s “facilitating” mean and who will benefit from it in private operations involving substantial amounts of money? Will this add up to discretionary, untransparent management of large amounts of money, complete with patronage and perks, totally protected from institutional oversight and public control, using these “new private economic subjects” as a screen? Such thoughts generate confusion and worry.

As economist Adolfo Acevedo put it: “There’s a fundamental difference between channeling cooperation through the budget and channeling it through private companies. The only way citizens can behave toward private companies is as customers, whether economic or political. But they can demand complete transparency and accountability from the public sector, behaving as the holders of rights that they can insist be respected without any kind of discrimination.”

The public and
private spheres

Acevedo goes on to say that “paradoxically Venezuela’s cooperation will be the object of a ‘privatization’ process. The argument the Central Bank president offers to justify this is that the state must operate mainly as a ‘facilitator’ state and shouldn’t engage in entrepreneurial activities, which should be private and limited to individuals. This argument is strange coming from a government that during the electoral campaign was such a harsh critic of the privatization of public companies and the neoliberal approach in general.”

Beyond the neoliberal cut of the bank president’s declarations and others like it is something still more profound: the prevailing culture of impunity and of seeing the public and even private sphere as legitimate spoils of office.

Given all this, what’s the real, concrete possibility of corruption in the management of these funds? Surely the Bolivarian colonel is aware that things disappear in the Babel in which he has gotten involved—“things” like banks, cattle, property registry folios, all the illegally felled mahogany logs found clogging a Caribbean coast river from bank to bank for miles… He must know that the concept of the private sphere in this Babel means nothing or could mean anything.

Energy is another
slippery piece of turf

The ambivalent way Ortega is setting out to construct his economic project can also be seen in his relations with foreign investors. The President has offered a warm welcome to Mexican multimillionaire Carlos Slim, US executives from the powerful Cargill corporation and other representatives of US corporations claiming to want to invest in assembly plants for re-export, tourism and agroindustry. For them, his catch phrase is “respect for investments.” At the very same time, however, “intervention” is the word with which Ortega suggests, warns or threatens to partially or totally renationalize the key energy and hydrocarbons sector. He has particularly threatened Unión Fenosa, the highly questioned Spanish transnational corporation responsible for electricity distribution, in an on again-off again manner.

Ambiguous and contradictory words have been the mortar continually used to build the tower in the strategic energy sector, where many interests are at stake, making the confusion even denser. Ortega has expressed interest in renegotiating the lease of installations granted by the state company in charge of distributing oil derivatives (Petronic) to the Swiss trans-national Glencore, which is therefore distributing the fuel oils Venezuela is sending Nicaragua in the ALBA framework. In addition, one of the FSLN-controlled courts annulled a geo-thermic exploitation concession held by Polaris, alleging that the Canadian company had failed to fulfill the concession contract. It is known that top Ortega government officials are interested in taking over ownership of this project. Using less ambiguous words, Managua Mayor Dionisio Marenco, a top-ranking member of Ortega’s most trusted circle, has come out in clear support of the state taking charge of Petronic’s operations again and of the immediate re-nationalization of both electricity distribution and generation.

A tangle of interests

The contradictions over the energy sector within the power groups surrounding Ortega are as entangled as the mess of cables strung from Managua’s street posts. For example, Emilio Rappacioli, who heads the new Ministry of Energy, Mines and Hydrocarbons and is also part of Ortega’s inner circle, differs with Mayor Marenco. He argues for pragmatic negotiations with the trans-nationals that already have investments in the sector.

He and other pragmatists believe that it’s preferable in the Glencore case to wait until the corporation’s concession expires in 2009, to avoid a costly judicial conflict that would be very damaging for the country. They also point out that the concession contract stipulates that Glencore would only return the installations that existed prior to the 1999 contract, which means that only 13 of the 63 service stations in Petronic’s current national distribution network would come back into state hands, while acquisition of Glencore’s investments would have to be negotiated.

A question of a whole other order is whether Ortega’s government has the human resources needed to efficiently manage a national oil derivatives distribution network. Could it really assume the distribution currently being handled by the controversial Unión Fenosa, which is already talking about a multimillion dollar suit against the Nicaraguan state?

These practical questions are crucial. A hundred days after the presidential couple took office, the words efficiency, capacity and professionalism seem not to figure among their criteria for selecting many Cabinet officials.

Distrust is slowing
down the economy

The uncertainty about the country’s political course is already beginning to have a negative effect on the economy. The more exact word is “deceleration,” although you won’t hear any government officials using it. In fact, they don’t talk about it at all. Foreign and national investors are waiting for clearer signs to emerge from the prevailing atmosphere of confusion before they decide whether to launch new projects or even continue investing in existing ones. Construction is particularly sluggish. Both construction companies and banking sources report that the demand for housing dropped by 30-40% in the first quarter of this year.

The drop in private investment and contraction of the construction industry have been aggravated by the 35% plunge in the value of coffee exports—still the country’s main generator of hard currency—due largely to climatic factors, although also to a lack of highway and road maintenance and of financing for productive activities. To make matters worse, the agricultural cycle is getting underway with no clear policies or directions for the sector, even though the government has now been in power for 100 days.

Despite everything, the government is trusting that the economic growth rate of recent years (3-4% annually) will be maintained as a result of the ambitious program of public investments in infrastructure, the traditional exports whose healthy prices are holding in the international market, and especially the ever growing flow of remittances. The fact is that the Nicaraguan exodus to the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador and new migratory destinations, such as Spain, have not slowed up and show no signs of doing so despite the “spiritual revolution” promised by the new government.

Beginners’ blunders,
imprudence or inexperience?

Watching the tower go up, the builders would appear to be the eager young guerrilla novices of thirty years ago, those who had to be forgiven for so many things. But those same people are now going bald or dying grey hairs. In the very best of cases, we could accept that, overwhelmed by all of Nicaragua’s social inequalities, they seem to be throwing themselves into needed and rightful projects without measuring the consequences.

Education is one of the places where this is most evident. Who didn’t welcome the elimination of fees in the public schools? But did no one calculate the consequences of ending the school autonomy model of the last ten years with the stroke of a pen, no consultation, no consensus building and no salary increase to compensate the army of teachers for the loss of income provided by the fees? Did it not occur to anyone to measure any of the changes that the gratuity would involve? Was it not foreseen, for example, that increasing enrollment without upping the number of teachers or doing anything to remedy the existing deficiencies in the schools would provoke the chaos of 60 children in a single classroom?

In another hundred days

Did the new governing team take on board the real state of the country and its real resources during the post-1990 neoliberal years or did it only focus on learning the country’s legal loopholes so it could twist the laws in search of arenas of power? Nothing starts from scratch in Nicaragua. The country is awash in investigations, assessments and SWOT analyses (short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).

Or could it be that this seemingly rudderless governmental ship only expresses the FSLN’s deterioration over the past 16 years, after it left the rank and file to their fate, relying on their votes as unconditional supporters while its leaders concentrated on their own economic interests? Or is it simply that everything we’ve seen during the past hundred days basically reflects the arrogance of power, just as in the biblical Babel?

What could change the course? Might it be the severe water shortage already being suffered in many rural zones and poor urban neighborhoods due to last year’s severe drought? Will the population’s thirst bring back down to earth the builders of the tower and those who voted for them, dreaming of again “touching heaven” from the top of the structure? Perhaps some of these burning questions will be cleared up a bit in the next hundred days.

Will they be able to
or won’t they?

Meanwhile, we’ll continue observing the work of a government that came to power under the unstated slogan, “The end justifies the means,” backed up by the belief proclaimed so proudly during the campaign by Ricardo Coronel Kautz, one of the group’s ideologues, that “ethics is a bourgeois prejudice.” In today’s Babel this all adds up to the principle that “Truth is anything that serves the purpose.”

It must be recognized that the FSLN won the elections with exactly this vision of politics and life. But will it be able to govern with that same ultra-pragmatic vision?

Can it be a friend of Teheran and of Washington, conduct trade as part of both ALBA and CAFTA, visit both Chinas, walk like a Sandinista and talk like a neoliberal, be pro-woman and anti-feminist, modern and confessional all at the same time? Can it keep swinging through that eternal pendulum movement expounded by Vice President Morales Carazo: back and forth from right to left, passing through the center…but always remembering that only fools tell the truth? Perhaps the next hundred days will provide a better idea of whether it can pull this off.

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