San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Huge Sandinista Rally Marks 25th Anniversary

MANAGUA – Flags, booze, mortarsand revolutionary rhetoric. These were thefour main ingredients of Monday’s celebrationof the 25th anniversary of thePopular Sandinista Revolution that oustedthe U.S.-backed Somoza family dynasty onJuly 19, 1979.The theme of the day was revolutionarypride and Nicaraguan nationalism, but themessages of peace and reconciliationappeared inconsistent and confused throughoutthe day.The celebrations began with a mass celebratedin Managua’s Cathedral byNicaraguan Cardinal Miguel Obando, whospoke of the importance of peace, forgiveness,and learning from history. Sandinistasecretary general Daniel Ortega sat in thefront row during mass, offered a brief homilyon the importance of peace, and tookcommunion.THE mass is being called an historicalmending of the rocky relationship betweenthe Catholic Church and the SandinistaFront. As a result, the mass was much moreof a media spectacle than a solemn religiousevent, with members of the national presscorps swarming Ortega during the entiremass and effectively knocking down the velvetrope and storming the alter, pushingpriests out of the way, to get pictures of theSandinista leader taking communion.After mass, Ortega and company traveleduptown to Plaza de la Fe Juan Pablo II,on the southern shore of Lake Managua, fora massive party rally that drew more than200,000 Sandinista faithful from all over thecountry.The plaza was swarming with people ofall ages, selling food, waving a variety revolutionaryflags, shooting mortars into the air,hoisting children onto their shoulders andforming human pyramids. Many of theteenage and adult men were visibly drunk,some passed out on the ground.The event – which featured representativeguests from the Zapatista movement inMexico, the Farabundo Marti NationalLiberation Party in El Salvador, the WorkersParty in Brazil and the Cuban government –paid homage to past and present Sandinistaheroes and icons.ORTEGA finally delivered the keynoteaddress – a nearly two-hour speech – at theend of the afternoon, as the crowd wasalready starting to thin after having stood inthe sun all day.The speech, which recounted the heroicsof the revolution and counterrevolution (TT,July 16), touched on Latin American history,addressed current world events, criticizedU.S. foreign policy from the days of WilliamWalker to the present, and blasted free-tradeagreements such as the one pending betweenCentral America and the United States(CAFTA).Ortega also spoke about the failures ofrepresentative democracy, and promised thatthe new Sandinista government, if elected in2006, would usher in a new era of participativedemocracy.Overall, the mood of reconciliation andforgiveness that set the tone during themorning mass, appeared to return to theold angry, revolutionary spirit of us-versus-them by the afternoon, as Ortega laidon thick the anti-Yanqui and anti-governmentrhetoric of the past.Although Monday’s rally was an impressiveshow of force, it remains to be seen ifDanielismo is as strong as Sandinismo – inother words, whether Ortega will be able todraw as many Sandinistas to the votingbooths in 2006 as he was able to draw to theplaza this week.

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