The Campaign is collecting its last payment of our support for Los Quinchos (see here), which works with children who live on La Chureca. Here’s our latest appeal message:
Do something different this Christmas, and help children who live in appalling conditions.
One month to raise £1,400.
Christmas appeal for Nicaraguan children – Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign
Your contribution, however much, can make a difference to some of the poorest children in the world.
Because of your generosity, the Campaign has succeded in raising around £24,000 over the past four years to support the Los Quinchos Centre which works with the children of La Chureca rubbish dump. We are launching a Christmas appeal, to raise £1,400 to complete our support for this year. Any additional funds will also be sent to the Centre.
You can ensure it succeeds by giving on-line:
Or if you’d prefer to send a cheque:
“Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign”, Tŷ Iorwerth, Ffordd y Sir, Penygroes, Gwynedd LL54 6ES.
“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”
In our next newsletter, another Campaign member discusses the nature of solidarity, and the effect of working with the people of Nicaragua:
Mari Wyn and the Nicaraguan Revolution
If the influence of society on individuals and the influence of individuals on society were recorded like a bank account, i would be in a huge debt. Especially where Nicaragua is in question.
When I was writing the thanks to include in the front of my first novel ‘Mari Wyn’, I thanked everyone who had helped me directly with the writing process. Only afterwards, when I asked Ben could I write an article for the Campaign’s newsletter (because I think that members of the Campaign would have an interest in it!), did I realise how much I need to say thank you to the people of Nicaragua for their contribution towards the process of forming the ideas for the book as well. This, in its turn, led me to think about much influence Nicaragua has had on my life generally and everything that I do.
Only living there made me realise how hard life can be. Especially if someone lives in a marginalised area (which is being pushed more to the margins because of global warming and lack of resources) under an economic system which stops someone looking after and profiting, in the true sense of the word, from their surroundings. This made me realise that my way of life in Wales and the economic, social and political systems which sustain it, prevent my friends in Nicaragua from living in some cases, without speaking about living comfortably. It made me realise that changing a few lights to low energy bulbs, however important, isn’t enough.It made me realise, if I called myself a friend to these people, I should do everything I could, as they themselves do, despite their everyday hardships to, put simply, change the world. It made me realise, if I did this I would have to accept, and others around me in my society, being less comfortable.
On the other hand, living in Nicaragua showed me the power of ordinary people of all types to change the world through co-operating to survive and thrive. I can’t describe the feeling of freedom I had sitting on the roof of a bus at 5 o clock in the morning, hurtling through the countryside, singing at the top of our voices ‘the people united will never be defeated’ on the way to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the revolution, and then the 20th. The same excitement I felt attending the huge Jubilee 200 protest in London and the G8 protest in Genoa, as well as smaller protests around Wales and England. The results of the struggle of the Revolution in Nicaragua weren’t perfect, nor the campaigns I have been a part of. There’s not one transformation of society which is perfect, I think. But the hope tied up with the process of campaigning and trying to change society is as important as the results in my opinion. Because this hope can enable us to envision a better reality, to imagine that it is possible.
Which brings me to the third thing, and perhaps the most important, that the people of Nicaragua taught me. Once someone feels this hope and has had a glimpse of a better future, the revolution doesn’t come to an end. There are ways of acting every day, and through every action someone takes. The actions being taken across the country at the moment are testament to this. The revolution isn’t a list of things to provide that someone can judge their success against.It is a cycle of social, political, emotional, spiritual and physical processes. Processes which contribute to the welfare, in its widest sense, of the earth and its residents. The revolution isn’t getting rid of something bad, but building something good. Not that this is easy. Reading ‘The Country Under My Skin’ by Gioconda Belli who part of the revolution in the 70s and afterwards, reminds me of the birth of a baby (decision, determination, strength and perseverance are the words which come to mind, as well as a sense of humour, of course. But it is possible.
Writing this now I have noticed that I should have not only thanked the people of Nicaragua in the book, but dedicated it to them. The novel was summed up on the back cover like this: ‘This is the story of a young girl who comes to understand the world and its contents. But Mari Wyn’s journey represents a lot more than this. Through getting a glimpse of a possible future, we search fo the way we choose to live our lives today, and ask are the choices we make the wise ones…..’. It’s become obvious to me that Mari’s journey in the novel represents the journey I made through working in Nicaragua. The experience I had there not only contributed to forming the ideas of the novel, it made a huge impact on the way I see the world, and the way I chose to live my life.
I am lucky then, that the influence on individuals by society and the influence of individuals on this society is not recorded in a bank account. But that’s what’s so lovely about solidarity (standing side by side with brothers and sisters working for a better world), the fact that we don’t record the transfer of inspiration in one direction or the other, and the actions we take which results from this. In fact, even if we did this, the sums would never add up, because in this case the sum would be greater than the parts. The fact is, as Taid said to Mari Wyn in the novel, “Of all the powers which make the world a better place, there’s nothing so far or so powerful as hope.” The fact is, as I once shouted on the roof of a bus “Juntos unidos, jamas seran vencidos!”
Mari Wyn is published by y Lolfa, you can buy it in your local Welsh bookshop or if there isn’t one close, on line.
Mae’r Ymgyrch yn casglu ei daliad olaf yn ein cefnogaeth i Los Quinchos (gweler yma), sy’n gweithio gyda phlant La Chureca. Dyma ein neges diweddar yr apel:
Gwnewch rhywbeth gwahanol y Dolig hon, a helpu plant sy’n byd yn amodau erchyll.
Un mis i godi £1,400.
Apêl Nadolig er mwyn Plant Nicaragua – Ymgyrch Gefnogi Nicaragua Cymru
Mae eich cyfraniadau, beth bynnag eu maint, yn gallu gwneud gwahaniaeth i rai o’r plant tlotaf yn y byd.
Oherwydd eich haelioni, llwyddodd yr Ymgyrch i godi tua £24,000 dros y bedair blynedd ddiwethaf i gefnogi Canolfan Los Quichos yn nhomen sbwriel La Chureca. ‘Rydym yn lawnsio apêl Dolig gan fod rhaid inni godi £1,400 erbyn diwedd y flwyddyn i gwblhau ein cefnogaeth. Bydd unrhyw arian ychwanegol yn cael ei anfon i’r Ganolfan hefyd.
Ydych chi’n gallu sicrhau’r llwyddiant trwy gyfrannu ar-lein ?:
Neu os gwell gennych anfon siec, anfonwch hi ati:
“Ymgyrch Gefnogi Nicaragua Cymru”, Tŷ Iorwerth, Ffordd y Sir, Penygroes, Gwynedd LL54 6ES.
Yn ei cyflwyniad i dathliad 25 mlynedd yr Ymgyrch, dyfynodd David McKnight Eduardo Galeano Hughes
“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.”
Yn ein cylchlythyr nesaf, mae aelod arall yr Ymgyrch yn trafod natur solidariaeth, ar effaith arni o weithio gyda phobl yn Nicaragua:
Mari Wyn a Chwyldro Nicaragua
Petai dylanwad cymdeithas ar unigolion, a dylanwad unigolion ar y gymdeithas honno yn cael ei gofnodi fel cyfrif banc, byddwn mewn dyled aruthrol. Yn arbennig lle mae Nicaragua yn y cwestiwn.
Pan oeddwn yn ysgrifennu’r diolchiadau i’w cynnwys yn nhu blaen fy nofel ‘Mari Wyn’, diolchais i’m rheini oedd wedi fy helpu’n uniongyrchol gyda’r broses sgwennu. Dim ond wedyn, ar ôl imi holi Ben os oedd modd sgwennu erthygl am y llyfr i gylchlythyr yr ymgyrch (gan y byddwn yn meddwl y buasech chi fel aelodau’r ymgyrch gyda diddordeb ynddo!), wnes i sylweddoli faint oeddwn angen diolch i bobl Nicaragua am eu cyfraniad nhw tuag at y broses o ffurfio syniadau ar gyfer y llyfr hefyd. Arweiniodd hyn i mi feddwl am faint o ddylanwad gafodd Nicaragua ar fy mywyd yn gyffredinol ac ar yr holl bethau dwi wedi ac yn eu gwneud.
Parodd yno imi sylweddoli pa mor anodd mae bywyd yn gallu bod. Yn enwedig os ydy rhywun yn byw mewn cynefin ymylol (sy’n cael ei wthio mwy mwy tuag at yr ymylon gan gynhesu byd eang, a phrinder adnoddau) dan system economaidd sy’n atal i rywun warchod ac elwa, yng ngwir ystyr y gair, y cynefin hwnnw. Parodd imi sylweddoli bod fy null o fyw yng Nghymru a’r systemau economaidd, cymdeithasol a gwleidyddol mae hynny’n parhau, yn atal fy ffrindiau yn Nicaragua rhag byw, mewn rhai achosion, heb sôn am fyw’n gyfforddus. Parodd imi sylweddoli nad oedd gosod ambell i fwlb ynni isel, er yn beth pwysig i’w wneud, yn ddigon. Parodd imi sylweddoli, os oeddwn am alw fy hun yn ffrind i’r bobl ‘ma, fod rhaid imi wneud popeth o fewn fy ngallu, fel y maen nhw eu hunain yn ei wneud, er mor anodd yw eu bywydau bob dydd, i newid y byd. Parodd imi sylweddoli, os oeddwn am wneud hynny byddwn yn gorfod derbyn fod fy mywyd fy hun, a bywydau eraill o fewn fy nghymdeithas, yn gorfod bod yn llai cyfforddus.
Ar ochr arall y geiniog, wedi byw yno, sylweddolais y pŵer sydd gan bobl gyffredin o bob math i newid y byd wrth gydweithio i oroesi a ffynnu. Fedrai’m disgrifio’r wefr o ryddid a gefais wrth eistedd ar do bws am 5 o’r gloch y bore, yn hyrtlan trwy cefn gwlad, yn gweiddi canu ‘Juntos unidos jamas seran vencidos’ ar y ffordd i ddathliadau pen-blwydd y chwyldro’n 19 ac wedyn yn 20. Yr un wefr a deimlais wrth fynychu protestiadau anferthol Jiwbilî 2000 yn Llundain a’r G8 yn Genoa, yn ogystal â phrotestiadau llai o amgylch Cymru a Lloegr. Dim bod canlyniadau ymgyrch y chwyldro yn Nicaragua’n berffaith, na chwaith yr ymgyrchoedd dwi wedi bod yn rhan ohonyn nhw. Does ‘na’r un newid cymdeithasol yn berffaith. Ond mae’r gobaith sy’n ynghlwm â’r broses o ymgyrchu a cheisio newid cymdeithas yr un mor bwysig â’r canlyniadau yn fy marn i. Oherwydd y gobaith hwnnw sy’n ein galluogi ni i weledigaethu realiti gwell, i fentro dychmygu ei fod yn bosib.
A ddaw a mi at y trydydd peth, ac efallai’r peth pwysicaf, wnaeth bobl Nicaragua ei ddysgu imi. Unwaith mae rhywun wedi teimlo’r gobaith hwnnw ac wedi cael cip ar ddyfodol gwell, ni ddaw’r chwyldro byth i ben. Mae ‘na fodd ei weithredu bob dydd, a thrwy bob gweithred a wna rhywun. Mae’r gweithredu a gaiff ei wireddu ledled y wlad hyd heddiw’n dyst i hynny. Dydy chwyldro ddim yn rhestr o bethau i gyflawni fel y gall rhywun ei arfarnu a datgan ei lwyddiant neu beidio. Mae’n gylchdro o brosesau cymdeithasol, gwleidyddol, emosiynol, ysbrydol a ffisegol. Prosesau sy’n cyfrannu tuag at les, yn ystyr ehangaf y gair, y ddaear a’i thrigolion. Nid cael gwared o rywbeth drwg mo’r ‘chwyldro’ ond adeiladu rhywbeth da. Dim bod gwneud hynny’n hawdd. Mae darllen ‘The Country Under My Skin’ gan Gioconda Belli a oedd yn rhan o’r chwyldro yn y 70au yn fy atgoffa o eni babi (penderfyniad, cadernid, nerth a dyfalbarhad yw’r geiriau ddaw i’r meddwl, yn ogystal â synnwyr digrifwch wrth gwrs!). Ond mae o’n bosib.
Wrth sgwennu hyn rŵan dwi’n sylweddoli na ddylwn i wedi dim ond diolch i bobl Nicaragua yn y llyfr ond ei gyflwyno iddynt. Caiff y nofel ei chrynhoi ar gefn y llyfr fel a ganlyn: ‘Hanes hogan fach yn dod i ddeall y byd a’i bethau yw hon. Ond mae taith Mari Wyn yn cynrychioli llawer mwy na hynny hefyd. Wrth gymryd cip ar ddyfodol posib, cawn archwilio’r modd rydyn ni’n dewis byw ein bywydau heddiw, a gofyn a yw’r dewisiadau a wnawn ni yn rhai doeth…’. Mae wedi dod yn amlwg imi fod taith Mari yn y nofel yn adlewyrchiad o’r daith a fues arni wrth fyw a gweithio yn Nicaragua. Mae’r profiad gefais i yno nid yn unig wedi cyfrannu tuag at ffurfio syniadau ar gyfer y nofel, mae wedi cyfrannu’n fawr iawn tuag at y ffordd dwi’n gweld y byd, a’r ffordd dwi’n ceisio byw fy mywyd.
Dwi’n lwcus iawn felly, nad yw dylanwadau ar unigolion gan gymdeithas a dylanwadau unigolion ar y gymdeithas honno yn cael eu cofnodi fel cyfrif banc. Onid dyna sydd mor hyfryd am solidariaeth (sef sefyll ochr yn ochr â’n brodyr a chwiorydd wrth weithio tuag at well byd), y ffaith nad oes modd cofnodi’r trosglwyddiad o ysbrydoliaeth rhwng un person a’r llall a’r gweithredu caiff ei wireddu yn sgil hynny. Hyd yn oed petai hynny’n bosib, fyddai’r sỳms byth yn adio’n gywir, achos yn yr ystod yma mae’r cyfanwaith yn fwy na chyfanswm y rhannau. Y ffaith fod, fel y dywed Taid wrth Mari Wyn yn y nofel, ‘O’r holl rymoedd sydd yn gwneud gwell byd, does ‘na’r un mor anhepgorol, yr un mor rymus â gobaith.’ Y ffaith fod, fel y gweiddais o do bws unwaith, ‘Juntos unidos jamas seran vencidos!’.
Cyhoeddwyd Mari Wyn gan Y Lolfa, mae modd ei brynu o’ch siop lyfrau Cymraeg lleol neu os nad oes un yn agos, dros y we.
Amid the dross that the coverage of the Nicaraguan elections has produced, there is starting to emerge sounder analyses which are, perish the thought, fact based. But until you find them you still have to endure the dross. At least some of them have the attraction that they are comic in their absurdity. One which has been widely sindicated is an article by the Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin (see here for the words of wisdom).
According to Garvin Nicaragua exists under a perpetual full moon. He lived in Nicaragua for five years, so you wonder what he got up to during the evenings. However, his political views are as dodgy as his scientific ones. He was more concerned about the nocturnal habits of presidential candidate, Daniel Ortega. If Nicaragua exists under a full moon, then it’s only surprising that Ortega isn’t a vampire. The irony here is that under the Somoza rule, Nicaraguans were literally bled dry by the dictator – he owned the service which bought blood from poor Nicaraguans, exporting it to the United States.
Almost at the same level of fiction is the US government’s predictable response to the results (see here for a report). State Department spokeman Mark Toner said “The Nicaraguan election results were not transparent”. However, he severely undermined his case when he added “The US government remains committed to defending democratic processes and universal human rights, and we encourage the Nicaraguan government to do the same.” And all, presumably, without a hint of irony from Mr Toner.
In the real world Nicaragua’s progress is still being reported. Five days after the elections Nicaragua’s Central Bank reported a growth rate of over 5% compared with the same quarter the previous year. Exports grew, tourism was up and so was employment, according to the same report (see here).
More evidence why the Nicaraguan population turned out in such large numbers for the Sandinistas has been provided by a summary of social statistics reported by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, based in Washington. The article by Daniel McCurdy, details the improvements in poverty alleviation, health and education (see here). According to McCurdy:
The major media, which are generally hostile to Ortega (and to most of the left governments in Latin America), mostly missed the main economic changes that might explain this result. These include a significant reduction in poverty and inequality and a considerable increase in access to health care and education.
Our sister organisation, the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, has produced an excellent round-up of the elections, including the views of the observers, whose divergent opinions have been reported previously on the blog. Click on this link ( election briefing) for the full report.
Finally, Fidel Castro has given his views on the election results. A long time comrade of Ortega, his analysis is imbued with anti-imperialism, and if you want a Marxist-Leninist take on the election results, then this is where to start (see here). However, far from being extreme, this view is mainstream for much of Latin America, and has been so for more than a century. His words are not a million miles way from those penned in 1904 by the great Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario, on the imperial nature of the United States and their President Theodore Roosevelt:
It is with the voice of the Bible, or the verse of Walt Whitman,
that I should come to you, Hunter,
primitive and modern, simple and complicated,
with something of Washington and more of Nimrod.
You are the United States,
you are the future invader
of the naive America that has Indian blood,
that still prays to Jesus Christ and still speaks Spanish.
You are the proud and strong exemplar of your race;
you are cultured, you are skillful; you oppose Tolstoy.
And breaking horses, or murdering tigers,
you are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar.
(You are a professor of Energy
as today’s madmen say.)
You think that life is fire,
that progress is eruption,
that wherever you shoot
you hit the future.
The United States is potent and great.
When you shake there is a deep tremblor
that passes through the enormous vertebrae of the Andes.
If you clamor, it is heard like the roaring of a lion.
Hugo already said it to Grant: The stars are yours.
(The Argentine sun, ascending, barely shines,
and the Chilean star rises…) You are rich.
You join the cult of Hercules to the cult of Mammon,
and illuminating the road of easy conquest,
Liberty raises its torch in New York.
But our America, that has had poets
since the ancient times of Netzahualcoyotl,
that has walked in the footprints of great Bacchus
who learned Pan’s alphabet at once;
that consulted the stars, that knew Atlantis
whose resounding name comes to us from Plato,
that since the remote times of its life
has lived on light, on fire, on perfume, on love,
America of the great Montezuma, of the Inca,
the fragrant America of Christopher Columbus,
Catholic America, Spanish America,
the America in which noble Cuahtemoc said:
“I’m not in a bed of roses”; that America
that trembles in hurricanes and lives on love,
it lives, you men of Saxon eyes and barbarous soul.
And it dreams. And it loves, and it vibrates, and it is the daughter of the Sun.
Be careful. Viva Spanish America!
There are a thousand cubs loosed from the Spanish lion.
Roosevelt, one would have to be, through God himself,
the-fearful Rifleman and strong Hunter,
to manage to grab us in your iron claws.
And, although you count on everything, you lack one thing: God!
The conclusions on the Nicaragua elections in the mainstream media fall into three main areas. They were, in fact, mapped out in many of the articles which preceded the vote:
- the Sandinistas could not win a fair election
- the election observers all corroborate this conclusion
- even if the vote itself was fair, the Sandinistas have manipulated the run up to the election, and have ‘bribed’ the electorate through social programmes financed by Venezuelan aid
Most alternative views have appeared in blogs rather than in newspapers or tv and radio. John Perry, writing from Nicaragua (see here), puts the election victory down to a combination of the benefits of the social programmes and the personal support for Ortega, who has won over many of the ‘independents’ or ‘undecideds’ who in the past have lined up against the Sandinistas. Whatever the validity or otherwise of his candidacy (the argument can be boiled down to unconstitutionality vs clever politics) the result underlines that in these elections at least, Ortega was the right candidate for the FSLN to choose. His final vote, just over 62%, correspondeded with both what the opinion polls were saying and the approval ratings his government was attracting before the election.
Another blogger, Dave Lindoff, put it even more bluntly in his post on the wonderfully named site This Can’t Be Happening (see here for full post). He gave these reasons for Ortega’s victory:
Why of all the nerve! What a crook and a scheister! Imagine catering to the needs of the poor in order to win an election. How low can a politician stoop?
Except that, wait a minute. Isn’t that what politicians are supposed to do: to adopt policies aimed at pleasing their base?
Not to mention, isn’t the basic idea of government supposed to be to improve the lot of the majority, and especially of those who are society’s neediest?
The Nicaragua Network, in their latest update, reports on the three main groups of international observers (their briefings draw their information from the Nicaraguan media, including the anti-FSLN dailies La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario). Far from being unanimous, the oberserver groups have come to different conclusions:
The observer mission of the European Union released its preliminary report about Sunday’s elections on Tuesday afternoon. According to a summary in La Prensa, the EU delegation deplored the unconstitutional candidacy of Daniel Ortega, the failure to appoint new members of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the accreditation of national observer groups sympathetic to the government and the failure to grant accreditation to opposition groups, the failure to distribute voter ID cards in a timely fashion, lack of transparency in the formation of local electoral boards at each precinct, missing poll watchers when the votes were being counted, and Roberto Rivas’ attacks on La Prensa. Luis Yañez, head of the mission, said, “The total of irregularities shows many imperfections but as to whether or not Daniel Ortega won, he won. Beyond that I won’t say.” He also said, “If you read the report carefully, it is balanced; we are not congratulating anybody,” which could mean that there is more in the report than was summarized in La Prensa.
The Organization of American States, however, released a communiqué congratulating Nicaraguans on their elections, noting that “in spite of certain predictions about tensions and acts of violence, the maturity of the Nicaraguan people and their vocation for peace marked the peaceful character with which the general elections closed on Sunday…. In Nicaragua yesterday democracy and peace advanced.” The communiqué noted that OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza had called President Daniel Ortega to congratulate him on “the maturity shown by Nicaraguans during the process.” The communiqué went on to say, “Beyond the commentaries that will be included in the final report, the accompaniment mission has expressed to Nicaraguan authorities the indispensible need to guarantee that an electoral accompaniment mission has the security to carry out its mission without any difficulty.” The OAS mission at the beginning reported difficulty gaining entry to 20% of the polling places it was scheduled to cover. After reporting the problem, the OAS said that the situation was remedied. The OAS communiqué said that the mission had received complaints from diverse political organizations about irregularities which members of the mission did not themselves observe but that these would be noted in the final report.
The Latin American Council of Election Experts (CEELA) fielded the third international observer group in Nicaragua for the elections. Alberto Ramirez Zambonini, president of Paraguay’s electoral council, said the electoral process proceeded positively with “agility in the voting process and effective organization with tranquility and peace.” As to the irregularities alleged by the opposition, he said that members of his group did not themselves find evidence of them.
A fourth, constant narrative during the elections, and before, was to portray the FSLN government as a dictatorship. The emerging reports of violence in Northern Nicaragua, where both FSLN and PLI supporters have been killed, will play to this theme. The only violence during the election day itself came from PLI reporters. Though it is too early to say who has instituted the current wave, several of the political parties, including members of the MRS (ex-Frente Sandinista members) have been talking up a violent response if the elections were ‘stolen’ for several months. The situation is undoubtedly tense, and there could be several more flashpoints before things calm down. In the 2008 municipal elections there was also violence, much of it emanating from the opposition.
Perhaps more disturbing is the way the police are being portrayed. In his online publication Nicaragua Dispatch, Tim Rogers, no friend of the Sandinistas, quotes a representative of CENIDH, the human rights organisation:
“This has become a situation of institutional violence, state violence. The police are working with government paramilitaries to repress the opposition and preventively detain people to keep them from protesting. And that’s only throwing more gasoline on the fire,”
The police consistently come out as the most trusted law enforcment body in Central America, and their head the most trusted official by Nicaraguan people, far above any of the politicians who stood for election. Gonzalo Carrion’s quote about throwing gasoline on the fire may be true, but it is as well to ask who in fact is adding fuel to this particular fire.
Tortilla con sal has produced its first reaction to the election results. See here for the analysis from the website which has constantly offered analysis of the political situation in Nicaragua, whilst maintaining support for the Frente Sandinista.
Although the final anouncement is yet to be made, many of the press agencies have been reporting a sweeping Sandinista victory. In a report earlier this evening (see here) Reuters are calling it as 62% for the Sandinistas, double the PLI’s 31%. The PLC suffered a meltdown, receiving only 6% of the vote.
The anticipated allegations of foul play have been made throughout the Nicaraguan night, but Reuters reported it thus:
Gadea refused to accept the results and accused Ortega of voter fraud, but international election observers said voting irregularities had not changed the final result.
As described by Arturo Cruz (no friend of the FSLN) in the AlJazeera video posted previously, these elections have seen a huge re-alignment in Nicaraguan politics, with the Sandinistas doing as well as the polls predicted. The result will have big implications not only for Nicaragua, but for the region as a whole. It stands in stark contrast to neighbouring Guatemala’s elections, where a run-off for the presidency was also held yesterday. There a former general, Otto Perez Molina has been elected. Perez Molina’s campaign has been dogged by his links to some of the worst atrocities during the 30 year civil war in Guatemala, which saw genocidal violence against its indigenous people. Perez Molina has promised more blood and iron to deal with the country’s spiraling drug cartel problem. The difference with Nicaragua couldn’t be greater.
The votes have been cast and the count has begun. After 7 per cent of the votes were counted the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) issued a prediction of an FSLN victory, based on samples across the country.
The vote hasn’t been without incident, but has mostly been carried out calmly. There have been problems for the European Union observers with access to polling booths, which they were able to resolve, whilst Organisation of American States observers were only able to access 80 per cent of the polling stations they visited. These problems will undoubtedly be reflected in ther fiinal reports. According to the BBC the head of the European Union mission, Luis Yanez, said the polls had taken place “in a climate of normality and tranquillity”.
The most recent CSE returns (3am Nicaraguan time) show the FSLN (Daneil Ortega) way ahead in the Presidential race, with 64% of votes cast; the PLI (Fabio Gadea) with 29%, and the PLC (Arnoldo Aleman) with only 6%. Whilst the final tally for the Frente Sandinista is likely to be less, it is not a million miles away from the 59%+ the FSLN have been scoring in the most recent polls. The biggest surprise is the total collapse in the PLC vote, after being one of the two main parties in Nicaragua for 15 years.
The most up-to-date returns can be found at the CSE website. ALJazeera English have also posted a report on the elections, including interviews with two of the FSLN’s opponents.
Tortillaconsal are reporting that the final election results should be announced by mid-day Nicaraguan time (6pm UK time).
What will Nicaragua look like after November 6?
Nicaraguans go to the polls tomorrow with a huge victory for the Sandinistas looking increasingly likely. The last two opinion polls (the most recent of which was commissioned by right-wing daily, La Prensa, but has been embargoed by the newspaper) shows Daniel Ortega comfortably over 50 per cent, with a 40 per cent lead in one of the polls. Though this is likely to be wrong in terms of the margin, the FSLN will probably get over half the votes, something which seemed wishful thinking when they won with 38 per cent five years ago.
The expected derogatory articles have started to appear, even before the first vote is cast, leading the way Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal and the rabid Miami Herald. Both peddle the line that the Sandinistas cannot win a fair election, so if they win, it must be unfair. In a recent article, Tim Rogers in his on-line publication the Nicaragua Dispatch also casts doubt on the numbers. He also adds another statistic to the mix, that Ortega is the second most distrusted President in the Americas, after Fidel Castro (according to regional pollists from Chile, Latinobarometro). The fact that Fidel Castro ceased being the President of Cuba in 2007 seems to escape ‘journalist’ Rogers.
The Chilean polling figures are given a more thorough going over in a blog on ZNet by Kevin Young (see here for the full post). The regional question about the continent’s perception of its leaders is something of an exception for Latinobarometro. Most of the questions are targetted at how the citizens of individual countries rate their leaders, political system and the economy. So, far from reflecting the media’s image of the leaders of the ALBA, their citizens give them a much better scoring.
Nicaragua is rated better than average for how democratic they think their country is, and if the government is doing something about inequality. Young also writes a telling paragraph which does more than anything to explain why the FSLN are riding so high in the polls (and why perhaps the United States are trying so hard to undermine the forthcoming win):
Another important question asked if the respondent’s country “is governed by a few powerful groups in their own interest” or “for the good of all the people.” The responses are consistent with those above: Uruguay was first, with 54 percent of Uruguayans saying that the country is run “for the good of all the people,” followed by Nicaragua with 42 percent, Venezuela with 39 percent, Ecuador with 34 percent, and Argentina and Bolivia tied for fifth with 30 percent. Colombia (25 percent), Mexico (15 percent), and Honduras (15 percent) were all below the regional average, reflecting a level of cynicism comparable to that of the US public, 81 percent of whom saythat their country “is pretty much run by a few big interests”
In the end the electorate will have the last say. But we can also speculate at what the agenda and challenges will be for a new Sandinista government with a healthy working majority in the National Assembly.
The top ten……
1) Re-instate therapeutic abortion
Opinion polls consistently show a majority against abortion in Nicaragua, but also a majority in favour of therapeutic abortion. This position is not contradictory or surprising given the history and culture of Nicaragua, as heavily influenced by the church as it is by the 80s revolution. With a working majority in the Assembly it will be possible to overturn the ban, but it will not necessarily be easy or top of the agenda. It will be something that feminists within the FSLN will be slowly pushing over the next five years.
2) Tackle violence against women
On the whole Nicaragua can lay claim to being the safest and most secure country within Central America. But a number of recent, high profile cases of rape have seen the accused walk away scot free, leading to protests from many sections of society, including women within the FSLN’s ranks. Together with lifting the ban on abortion, the Sandinistas could demonstrate that they are serious about women’s legal rights as they are about the progress they have made on empowering women economically over the past government term.
3) Re-vamp the Citizens Power Councils
Critics within the Sandinistas have called into question the role of the CPCs, particularly in relation to how they relate to local government, and how effective they are in increasing direct participation. The claim that they are merely ways for the Sandinistas to look after their own does not hold that much water – a political strategy which excluded those who might be potential voters in the future would border on idiocy. More telling is the charge that they are re-inforcing already existing power brokers, with people from across the political spectrum (including Sandinistas) being excluded if their face doesn’t fit. The need for political renewal goes back to the debate within the FSLN during the mid 90s, and will become more pressing the more successful the Sandinistas become in government.
4) Another agrarian reform?
One of the major achievements of the last admnistration was the titling of land, something which the FSLN failed to do first time around during the Revolution. Within two years the government had recognised more land titles than had happened over the previous 16 years of neo-liberal governments. And this process has continued, with another 11,000 campesinos seeing their land titles recognised earlier this week. Added to the targetting of women with land under the Zero Hunger programme, the support for small producers (including the ALBA agricultural credit bank, PRODUZAMOS) has been one of the main contributors to the achievement of the first Millennium Development Goal this year. But the question remains, how to support those farmers without land, and what to do about the large landowners?
5) Taking autonomy to the next level
Another area where great strides have been made is on the Caribbean Coast. By Spring this year 17 out of the 22 communities (which communally hold large areas of land) had been titled, with the rest scheduled to happen before the election. Added to this has been the implementation on the Coast of the National Development Plan – road communications have been improved with the Pacific in both the RAAN and the RAAS, and tens of thousands of people in remote villages have been connected up to electricity for the first time. With the infrastructure improving, will the Plan be able to create and protect jobs for people on the Coast? And wll the regional assemblies start working effectively, more or less for the first time since they were instituted in 1990?
6) Moving away from aid
Whilst the ALBA, and its model of re-distributing the benefits of trade to both parties, has been responsible for many of the improvements in Nicaragua over the last five years, it has been under-pinned with the oil that Venezuela has provided on beneficial terms. The big question for Nicaragua is can it grow its economy to be less dependent on this money, whilst at the same time developing ways of trading which incorporate the ALBA model – co-operative businesses, used to re-distribute benefits widely. It will be particularly challenging if Nicaragua is to move from its position of being an agricultural producer and provider of cheap labour for assembly/garment factories, and move up the development ladder. How can Nicaragua develop bi-lateral links with other countries which aid technology transfer, whilst ensuring trade is fair and just?
7) Funding development from within
Nicaragua’s economy has grown steadily over the past five years, with record inward investment and exports in a stormy international climate. The country came out top of all Central American countries in the World Bank’s 2012 Doing Business report published late last month. Far from being the lawless disctatorship it is often portrayed, it improved in five key areas, including registering property, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. Little wonder then that inward investment is growing, and Nicaragua’s business elite are doing very nicely, thank you. So, to move from being dependent on outside aid, it’s time for Nicaragua’s oligarchs to cough up, something the region’s elites are notorious in avoiding. The Nicaragua Tax Alliance have said the government should increase its tax collection by 4 per cent of GDP to go to education. Nicaragua’s teachers (the worst paid in Central America) and pupils would agree.
8 ) Go oil free
Within six months of gaining power, the Sandinistas had solved the country’s energy problem, with rolling 12 hr electricity cuts the norm for much of the 16 years they were out of office. The FSLN have the aim of cutting the dependency on oil totally for energy production during this decade. With investment in wind, hydro and geo-thermal increasing leaps and bounds, and with no shortage of solar power potential, the goal is easily reachable if they remain focused on moving away from oil whilst the economy grows.
9) Deal with corruption
Corruption, like in most countries, has been current through most of the governments of the past twenty odd years. With the panicky change over of power with the collapse of the revolution in 1990, some Sandinistas helped themselves to parts of the state in the ‘pinata’, which sullied the FSLN’s reputation for many years. This has lead to the formation of a group of businessmen which are part of ‘Sandinista capital’, which assert a strong influence on the direction of the country. This was followed by pillaging of the state under the Chamorro government, and then by president (and current PLC candidate) Arnoldo Aleman, who helped himself to $100 million. The next scandal involved the issue of CENIs, bonds to rescue two Nicaraguan banks, with allegations against the 2006 presidential candidate (and supporter of Fabio Gadea) Eduardo Montealegre. The present government’s five years hasn’t been without its own corruption scandals. In May of this year Daniel Ortega ordered the National Police, with the Office of the Comptrollers General, to investigate all institutions of government. It particularly focused on the General Directorate of Revenue, who’s head, Walter Porras, is alleged to have colluded with other officials in de-fraud the state of $67 million. At the same time there were also corruption allegations swirling around senior FSLN officials in Managua.
10) The 2016 election
With a majority in the National Assembly, it will be tempting for the Sandinistas to call for a Constitutional Assembly, something which has happened in other ALBA countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia. One of the major arguments is sure to be whether to remove the limits on consecutive Presidential terms (and Daniel Ortega’s present candidacy has been controversial enough). The question isn’t as straight-forward as it appears. If the FSLN think they will carry on winning with Daniel Ortega as their candidate, they will carry on trying to create the political conditions to make this happen. And given the positive impact on the poorest during the past Ortega presidency, and the seeming ease with which he will win again, this seems to make good political sense. However there are questions about this. Firstly to be dependent on one ‘figure-head’ is to create its own problems – the turmoil caused by Chavez’s recent illness is all too apparent. Secondly, if a political ‘mystique’ is embodied in one person, then it is a short step to seeing this as something that can be passed on, either to a family member, or to an anointed successor. Thirdly, if this brand of politics is seen to work at a national level, then similar arguments can be made at a local level, and the political system soon becomes ossified. The pros and cons of another Ortega term will be hotly debated, both within the Frente Sandinista and by the country at large over the next Presidential term.
And just in case you are wondering, most of these problems and challenges apply to Wales, or indeed to any small country trying to steer an independent line during this time of economic and ecological crises.