San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Sandinista Leaders Call for ‘New Revolution’

MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The SandinistaNational Liberation Front (FSLN) iscalling on all disenfranchised Nicaraguansto join a “new revolution of the conscience”to commemorate the 25thanniversary of the insurgency that oustedthe Somoza family dictatorship on July 19,1979.Monday’s anniversary will be celebratedin Managua with a mass celebrated byArchbishop Miguel Obando, followed by aSandinista rally featuring invited guests fromCuba and other “friends” of the revolution.The Sandinista’s renewed call for anunarmed insurrection is an effort to bring theparty back to its socialist roots, according tothe party’s vanguard. By doing so, saysinner-circle member Tomás Borge, theSandinistas hope to re-harness the “mystique”of the popular revolution of the 1970sand ride it to electoral victories in theupcoming municipal elections in Novemberand presidential contest in 2006.FORMER revolutionary President(1984-1990) and Sandinista party bossDaniel Ortega compared the U.S. government’ssupport for current PresidentEnrique Bolaños to the days of the U.S.-backed Somoza dynasty, which lasted formore than 40 years.“Today there is a new somocismo withoutSomoza. This is the government of theso-called democrats who are supported bythe Yanquis,” he said.“The new revolution is about justicefor all,” he continued. “Land forcampesinos, education for youth, healthcarefor all. ¡Sandino Vive! ¡Patria Libre!”Ortega, who has lost three consecutivebids for President, has already announcedhis candidacy for 2006.FOR the protagonists of the revolution,many of whom are still alive, the 25thanniversary is a time to reflect on theaccomplishments and shortcomings of theSandinista movement.The insurrection caught the world’sattention, and was often romanticized as amovement led by artists,poets and warriors. Itpromised to build a newNicaragua with a governmentmodel based onnationalism, equality,dignity and hard work.The revolutionarygovernment, however,eventually fell into someof the same power-pitfallsas the dictatorship ithad ousted, as someSandinista leaders are now starting toadmit.The revolutionary government’s cozyrelationship with Cuba and others managedto frighten the most powerful nation in thehemisphere, and Nicaragua became envelopedin a devastating U.S.-funded counterrevolutionarywar that lasted for most of the1980s, diverting the Sandinista’s attentionaway from promised reforms.When the dust had settled, theSandinistas had been voted out of powerand Nicaragua’s economic and social problems– the very issues that inspired the revolutiontwo decades earlier and eventuallyclaimed 50,000 lives – were unresolved,and in many ways exacerbated.YET many who fought for the revolutiona quarter-century ago still defend ittoday, even if they no longer support theSandinista party.“The revolution completely changed thedirection of Nicaragua. It brought us into the21st century as a democratic country thatallows citizen participation,” said ComandanteDora María Téllez, who defected fromthe Sandinista directorate in the mid-1990sto form the Sandinista RenovationMovement along with former vice-presidentand renowned novelist Sergio Ramírez.“Before 1979, the population onlybelieved in the generosity of Somoza, andhad no concept of social, economic or culturalrights. The revolution taught peopletheir rights and taught governments theirresponsibilities to the people,” she said.The former commander noted that currentstruggles in Nicaragua for campesinoland titles and government funding for publiceducation and health-care are all movementsthat were born of the revolution.TÉLLEZ gained revolutionary fameas a young womanin August1978 as second in command toEdén “ComandanteCero” Pastoraduring theSandinista’s takeoverof Congress.A year later, atthe age of 23,Téllez was appointedthe Sandinista’stop commander of the northern-frontrebels that drove Somoza’s National Guardout of the departments of Leon andChinandega. Under the Sandinista government,Téllez served as Public HealthMinister from 1984-1990.Today, at 48, Téllez is president of theSandinista Renovation Movement and occasionallyteaches classes at the public universities.She lives in a pleasant home filledwith books and noticeably devoid of revolutionarymemorabilia – a stark contrast to thehomes of many of her male counterparts,who have adorned their walls with photos oftheir younger selves waving AK-47s anddressed in guerrilla gear.Although no longer a party member,Téllez adamantly defends what she callsthe “transcendental” accomplishments ofthe revolution: the public’s inculcationwith the concepts of rights and self-dignity;the professionalization of police andmilitary institutions, agrarian reform andcampesinos rights; a multi-party politicalsystem; and the establishment of the Northand South Atlantic Autonomous Regions(RAAN and RAAS).Were it not for the revolution, she toldThe Tico Times, “Nicaragua would beruled right now by the fourth generation ofSomoza, and he would be shooting us rightnow for talking.”COMANDANTE Tomás Borge, formerhard-line Minister of the Interior andright-hand man to Daniel Ortega, is anotherstaunch defender of the revolution, andhas been since he joined the Sandinistaguerilla movement in the early 1970s.He claims the easiest part of the revolutionfor him was when he was captured bythe National Guard and tortured for ninemonths in 1978. “That’s when I realized howeasy it would be to defeat them,” he said.Congressman Borge now is head of thelegislative tourism commission and a hotelowner. But tourism hasn’t made the 74-year-old any softer.Borge still identifies himself as a revolutionaryleader, and his office walls are clutteredwith photographs of him posing with avirtual Who’s Who list of U.S.-identifiedboggie men: Fidel Castro, Col. MumarKhadafi, and Yassir Arafat, to name a few.There is also a photograph of Sandinistanamesake Augusto Sandino posing withBorge’s father, a revolutionary from the1930s.BORGE still speaks of the revolutionin romantic terms.“The revolution recuperated the dignityof the country and achieved some socialadvancements,” he told The Tico Timesduring a recent interview. “The revolutionwas a seed without which there would beno possibility to produce fruits and flowers.But the fundamental achievement ofthe revolution was to give birth to hope.”Borge does, however, acknowledgemistakes made by the Sandinista governmentof the 1980s.“We were victims of arrogance,” hesaid, adding that the next Sandinista government(if they win in 2006) will implement“more realistic” policies and notrepeat the mistakes of land confiscations,nationalizing interior trade or establishingmandatory military service.Borge believes firmly in a rejuvenatedSandinista movement as the country’s“only hope.”FOR others, the revolution is hard todiscuss.Former Catholic priest and poet ErnestoCardenal, the Sandinista’s Minister of Culturein the 1980s, declined an interview withThe Tico Times, saying he didn’t want totalk about the revolution or its anniversary.Téllez said it could be because “therevolution is still controversial.”“A revolution is not an option for moderates,it is something that is acted out byradicals,” she said. “I am still a completeradical. Why would that change with age ifthe reality of the country has not changed?If the poverty has not changed?”Regardless of how Nicaraguansremember the Sandinista revolution, noone can deny it has made this country whatit is today, and perhaps forever will be.“In some ways we are like CostaRica, in some ways we are like Cuba, andin all ways we are like Nicaragua,” Borgeconcluded.

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