|Sandinista National Liberation Front
Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional
|International affiliation||Socialist International and the Foro de São Paulo|
The Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional) is a leftist political party in Nicaragua that first came to power in 1979, by overthrowing the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Generally referred to by the initials FSLN, the party took its name from the 1930s struggle of Augusto César Sandino, a charismatic peasant leader who organized and led a resistance to the United States' occupation of Nicaragua, which the United States had declared a protectorate. The party first held power from 1979 through 1990, initially as part of a ruling Junta of National Reconstruction. Voted out of power in 1990, it was reinstated in 2006 with the re-election of President Daniel Ortega (José Daniel Ortega Saavedra), its long-time leader.
Although it has been credited with implementing improved health care, and vocational training, among other reforms, it has faced continuing dissension, occasionally violent. Dissenters have included former FSLN allies as well as supporters of the former Somoza regime. More recent opposition includes segments of the Nicaraguan population that support the Constitutional Liberal Party, the major opposition party which is generally allied with the Catholic Church and big business.
The Sandinistas, as FSLN members are widely known, began in 1961 as a group of student activists at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua. They sought to overthrow the Somoza regime, which had held power from 1936 (and which eventually began to receive strong United States backing), and establish a Marxist society. Founded by Carlos Fonseca, Silvio Mayorga, Tomás Borge, and others, the group first called itself The National Liberation Front (FLN). (Only Tomás Borge lived long enough to see the Sandinista victory in 1979.) The term "Sandinista" was added two years later, as a way to identify with Sandino's movement, and use his legacy to promote the newer movement's ideology and strategy. By the early 1970s, the FSLN was launching limited military initiatives. Initially, however, according to an official Nicaraguan source, "Its first military action ended in a massacre because the group was surrounded by the National Guard and the Honduran army at the national border in the department of Jinotega, a place that used to be the setting of numerous battles directed by Sandino against North American marines."
On December 23, 1972, Managua, the capital city, was leveled by an earthquake that killed some 10,000 of the city's 400,000 residents, rendering another 50,000 families homeless. About 80 percent of Managua's commercial buildings were reportedly destroyed. Much of the foreign aid intended for the victims, however, was appropriated by President Somoza, and several parts of downtown Managua were never rebuilt. "By some estimates," according to one source, "Somoza's personal wealth soared to US $400 million in 1974." This overt corruption and lack of concern for rebuilding Managua caused even some people who had previously supported the regime, such as segments of the business community, to turn against Somoza and call for his overthrow.
Meanwhile, the FSLN had been intensifying its military actions. For example, in October 1971, "Sandinista commandos hijacked an air plane in Costa Rica and obtained the freedom of Sandinista prisoners in Costa Rican jails." A few years later, in December 1974, a guerrilla group affiliated with FSLN, led by Germán Pomares and Eduardo Contreras, seized government hostages at a party in the house of Somoza ally and former Minister of Agriculture, Jose María "Chema" Castillo, in the Managua suburb Los Robles. Among the hostages were several Somoza relatives. (The seizure, undertaken just after the departure of U.S. Ambassador Turner Shelton, resulted in the death of the Minister, who reportedly reached for a gun to defend himself). The guerrillas received U.S. $1 million ransom, and had their official communiqué read over the radio and printed in the newspaper La Prensa.
The guerrillas also succeeded in getting 14 Sandinista prisoners released from jail and flown to Cuba. One of the released prisoners was Daniel Ortega, who would later become the president of Nicaragua (1985-1990, 2006- ). To garner popular support, the rebels also lobbied for an increase in wages for National Guard soldiers to 500 córdobas ($71 at the time).
The Somoza government responded by imposing martial law in 1975, tightening censorship and reportedly allowing the National Guard to torture and murder individuals suspected of collaborating with the Sandinistas. During the crackdown, many of the FSLN guerrillas were killed, including in 1976 its leader and founder Carlos Fonseca, who had returned from Cuba to try to resolve fissures which had developed in the organization. 
Initial military setbacks, including a significant defeat in 1967, led the FSLN to reorient its focus on urban activism, towards reaching out to peasants, who they felt were increasingly radicalized by the National Guard's crackdown on Sandinistas, a crackdown that was often waged against civilians as well as revolutionaries. This strategy became known as the Prolonged Popular War (Guerra Popular Prolongada, or GPP). Henceforth peasants, through a "silent accumulation of forces," would be mobilized, along with students and urban dwellers, into small-scale military attacks against the Somoza's National Guard. 
But during the 1975 state of siege, the Guard's increasingly brutal and effective crackdowns led some Marxist intellectuals to reject the rural guerrilla strategy in favor of self-defense and urban commando actions by armed union members. These Marxists defined themselves as the Proletarian Tendency, in opposition to the GPP faction.
Shortly thereafter, a third faction arose, the Terceristas. Known alternately as the "Insurrectional Tendency" and the "Third Way," it was led by Daniel Ortega and his brother Humberto Ortega, who followed a more pragmatic or eclectic approach and called for tactical, temporary alliances with non-communists, including the conservative opposition, in a popular front—which embraced both armed and unarmed action, such as rioting—against the Somoza regime. Conservatives would join, they argued, because of growing disgust with Somoza. Further, by attacking the Guard directly, the Terceristas would demonstrate the weakness of the regime and encourage others to take up arms.
On January 10, 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, editor of the opposition newspaper La Prensa was assassinated, with some evidence pointing to Somoza's son and members of the National Guard. Rioting broke out in several cities, and even members of the business community called a general strike, which effectively paralyzed the country for ten days. (Revenue losses, however, led most of the participating businesses to shortly cease their support for the strike.) During the turmoil, the Terceristas launched attacks in several cities, provoking even further repressive actions by the National Guard, which responded with intensified crackdowns on all opposition.
The United States, meanwhile, ceased all military assistance to the Somoza regime, but allowed humanitarian aid to continue.
In August, 23 Tercerista commandos led by Edén Pastora seized the entire Nicaraguan congress and took nearly 1,000 hostages including Somoza's nephew José Somoza Abrego and cousin Luis Pallais Debayle. Somoza paid a $500,000 ransom, released 59 political prisoners (including GPP chief Tomás Borge), and broadcasted a communiqué with FSLN's call for general insurrection. The guerrillas were flown to exile in Panama.
A few days later six Nicaraguan cities rose in revolt. Armed youths took over the highland city of Matagalpa. Tercerista cadres attacked Guard posts in Managua, Masaya, León, Chinandega and Estelí. Large numbers of semi-armed civilians joined the revolt and put the Guard garrisons of the latter four cities under siege. Members of all three FSLN factions fought in these uprisings, which began to blur the distinctions among them and prepare the way for unified action.
By early 1979, the United States government, under President Jimmy Carter, no longer supported the Somoza regime. But its equally strong opposition to a left-wing government led it to support a moderate group, the "Broad Opposition Front" (Frente Amplio Opositon, or FAO), composed of Nicaraguan government dissidents and a group of business leaders known as "The Twelve" (el Grupo de los Doce), who had originally been organized by the Terceristas. The FAO and Carter proposed a plan that would remove Somoza from office but would also prevent government power for the FSLN.
This plan, however, became known as "Somocismo sin Somoza" (Somocism without Somoza), which cost the FAO and The Twelve a loss of popular support. As a consequence, tens of thousands of youths joined the FSLN. On March 7, 1979, three representatives from each FSLN faction formed the organization's National Directorate. They were: Daniel Ortega, Humberto Ortega and Víctor Tirado (Terceristas); Tomás Borge, Bayardo Arce, and Henry Ruiz (GPP faction); and Jaime Wheelock, Luis Carrión and Carlos Núñez (Proletarian Tendency).
On June 16, the FSLN and several other groups announced the formation in Costa Rica of a provisional Nicaraguan government in exile, the Junta of National Reconstruction. Its members were Daniel Ortega and Moisés Hassan (FSLN), Sergio Ramírez (The Twelve), Alfonso Robelo (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement or MDN) and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, widow of assassinated La Prensa editor Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. By the end of that month, most of Nicaragua, except for Managua, the capital, was under FSLN control.
The provisional government in exile released a policy paper on July 9 in which it pledged to organize a democratic regime, promote political pluralism and universal suffrage, and ban ideological discrimination—except for those promoting the "return of Somoza's rule." Somoza resigned on July 17, 1979, handing power to Francisco Urcuyo, chairman of the lower house of Congress, and fled to Miami. Urcuyo, in turn, was supposed to transfer the government to the revolutionary junta, but announced he would remain in power until the end of Somoza's presidential term in 1981. Negative reaction to that attempt, however, was so intense and pervasive that two days later Urcuyo fled to Guatemala. The five-member junta entered the Nicaraguan capital the next day and assumed power, reiterating its pledge to work for political pluralism, a mixed economic system, and a nonaligned foreign policy.
The insurrection was over. In its wake, approximately 50,000 Nicaraguans were dead and 150,000 were in exile.
The Sandinistas inherited a country in ruins with a debt of US $1.6 billion, an estimated 50,000 war dead, 600,000 homeless, and a devastated economic infrastructure. To begin the task of establishing a new government, on August 22, 1979, "the junta proclaimed the Fundamental Statute of the Republic of Nicaragua. This statute abolished the constitution, presidency, Congress, and all courts. The junta ruled by unappealable decree under emergency powers. National government policy, however, was generally made by the nine-member Joint National Directorate (Dirección Nacional Conjunto—DNC), the ruling body of the FSLN, and then transmitted to the junta by Daniel Ortega for the junta's discussion and approval."
The junta also created a Council of State as a consultative entity, empowered both to develop its own legislation and to approve laws of the junta. However, the junta retained veto power of council-initiated legislation, as well as over much of the budget. Members of the Council were appointed by political groups, with the FSLN having the right to name 12 of its 33 members. Soon after, the FSLN decided to increase the Council's membership to 47, and to allocate another 12 members. "Opponents of the FSLN viewed the addition of the new members as a power grab, but the FSLN responded that new groups had been formed since the revolution and that they needed to be represented."
In 1980, both non-FSLN junta members resigned, and as of the 1982 State of Emergency, opposition parties were no longer given representation in the Council.
Outside of the formal government, the Sandinistas developed sources of power through their mass organizations, including the Sandinista Workers' Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women's Association (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos), and most importantly the neighborhood-based Sandinista Defense Committees (Comités de Defensa Sandinista, or CDS). Modeled on Cuba's Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Sandinista CDS were often castigated as spy organizations designed to stifle political dissent.
Their activities included political education, organizing Sandinista rallies, distributing food rations, organizing neighborhood/regional cleanup and recreational activities, and policing both to control looting and apprehend counter-revolutionaries. The CDS's also organized civilian defense efforts against Contra (counter-revolutionaries) activities and a network of intelligence systems to apprehend Contra supporters. As de facto lesser units of the government, the CDS were empowered to suspend privileges such as drivers' licenses and passports of locals who refused to cooperate with the new government.
These Sandinista-controlled mass organizations were extremely influential over civil society and saw their power and popularity peak in the mid-1980s.
Upon assuming power, the FSLNs political platform included the following: nationalization of property owned by the Somozas and their supporters; land reform; improved rural and urban working conditions; free unionization for all urban and rural workers; and fixed prices for commodities of basic necessity. In addition, it included improved public services, housing conditions, and education; abolition of torture, political assassination, and the death penalty; protection of democratic liberties; and equality for women. It also established a non-aligned foreign policy; and began the formation of a "popular army" under the leadership of the FSLN and Humberto Ortega.
The FSLN's literacy campaign, under which teachers flooded the countryside, is often noted as its greatest success. Within six months, half a million people reportedly had been taught rudimentary reading, bringing the national illiteracy rate down from over 50 percent to just under 12 percent. Over 100,000 Nicaraguans participated as literacy teachers. The successes of the literacy campaign was recognized by UNESCO with the award of a Nadezhda Krupskaya International Prize. Critics pointed out that the materials used in the reading campaign were heavily politicized, serving as propaganda to indoctrinate the population in Sandinista ideology.
By 1980, conflicts began to emerge between the Sandinista and non-Sandinista members of the governing junta. Violeta Chamorro and Alfonso Robelo resigned from the junta in 1980, and rumors began that members of the Ortega junta would consolidate power among themselves. These allegations spread, leading to rumors that it was Ortega's goal to turn Nicaragua into a state modeled after Cuban Communism. In 1979 and 1980, former Somoza supporters and ex-members of Somoza's National Guard formed irregular military forces, while the original core of the FSLN began to splinter. Armed opposition to the Sandinista Government eventually divided into two main groups: The Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (FDN), a United States-supported army formed in 1981 by the CIA, U.S. State Department, and former members of the widely condemned Somoza-era Nicaraguan National Guard; and the Alianza Revolucionaria Democratica (ARDE), a group that had existed since before the FSLN and was led by Sandinista founder and former FSLN supreme leader, Edén Pastora—also known as "Commander Zero" and Milpistas, former anti-Somoza rural militias, which eventually formed the largest pool of recruits for the Contras. Independent and often at conflict with each other, these opposition militias were initially organized and largely remained segregated according to regional affiliation and political backgrounds. They conducted attacks on economic, military, and civilian targets. During the Contra war, the Sandinistas arrested suspected members of the militias and censored publications they accused of collaborating with the enemy (that is, the U.S., the FDN, and ARDE, among others).
Opposition to the Sandinistas also came from the Catholic Church, long one of Nicaragua's dominant institutions. The Church's concern, aside from their opposition to "Godless Communism," focused on the growth of Liberation Theology, a populist Catholic movement which began in the 1960s. Under it, local priests and other Catholic workers joined with secular forces "in the struggle for social and political liberation, with the ultimate aim of complete and integral liberation." Catholic conservatives in the Church hierarchy, however, saw Liberation Theology as contradicting traditional Church doctrine.
Opposition to the Sandinistas, promoted by the United States government and segments of the Nicaraguan population—especially but not entirely groups sympathetic to the former Somoza regime—led directly to an uprising against the FSLN by the Contras. The war, which began in 1981, did not end with the 1984 elections, but continued throughout the decade. Its effects were devastating. As reported by a multi-university association of United States observers (including those from Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base), the Contra war began "a little over a month after President Ronald Reagan's 1981 inauguration." The war "was a frighteningly effective instrument of economic aggression. The displacement of farmers by Contra attacks reduced agricultural production significantly. Attacks on granaries, schools, health clinics, bridges and electrical plants forced public funds away from productive activities. Investment by producers was discouraged by Contra threats against the fundamentally private sector of the Nicaraguan export economy. And the United States blocked loans in private and multilateral lending agencies, restricted foreign assistance and embargoed trade between Nicaragua and the United States The International Court of Justice ruled that the United States military actions violated international law, but the United States ignored the decision."
While waged within Nicaragua, there is no question that the war was stoked by outside interests, especially the United States, which was still engaged in Cold War proxy battles with the former Soviet Union. As the multi-university association noted, "In March 1981, the U.S. media began reporting that Nicaraguan exiles were undergoing paramilitary training at several private camps in Florida and other parts of the United States…. In November 1981 President Reagan formally authorized the creation of a small contra army." For its part, the U.S. viewed with alarm the close relations between Nicaragua and Cuba.
In an effort to end the war, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez authored a peace plan that was signed on August 7, 1987 by five Central American nations, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, along with Costa Rica. Known as the Arias Plan, it "set specific guidelines and target dates for each nation to comply with an order to stabilize Central America and bring peace to the region." The plan "called for dialogue between governments and opposition groups, amnesty for political prisoners, cease-fires in ongoing insurgent conflicts, democratization, and free elections in all five regional states. The plan also called for renewed negotiations on arms reductions and an end to outside aid to insurgent forces."
Fighting nevertheless continued, and the Arias plan eventually collapsed. The Contra war came to an actual end only in 1990, with the election of the first female president of Nicaragua, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, a former anti-Somoza junta member and the widow of La Prensa editor Joaquin Chamorro, who had been assassinated a decade earlier.
In March 1982, in response to the Contra war, the Sandinistas declared an official State of Emergency, which would last six years, until January 1988. Under the new "Law for the Maintenance of Order and Public Security," which largely affected the rights guaranteed in the "Statute on Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans," many civil liberties were curtailed or canceled such as the freedom to organize demonstrations, the inviolability of the home, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the freedom to strike. Habeas corpus was restricted. The new law also provided for "Tribunales Populares Anti-Somozistas," which allowed for the indefinite holding of suspected counter-revolutionaries without trial. Further, all independent news program broadcasts were suspended. In addition, according to the editor of La Prensa, Sandinista censor Nelba Cecilia Blandón issued a decree ordering all radio stations to hook up every six hours to the government radio station, La Voz de La Defensa de La Patria.
During the 1984 elections, critics of the Sandinistas alleged that rallies of opposition parties were often physically broken up by Sandinsta youth or pro-Sandinista mobs.
James Wheelock, the FSLN member and founder of the Marxist-oriented Proletarian Tendency, justified the Directorate's state of emergency by saying "… We are annulling the license of the false prophets and the oligarchs to attack the revolution."
On October 5, 1985 the Sandinistas broadened the 1982 State of Emergency. A new regulation also required organizations outside of the government to first submit any statement it wanted to make public to the censorship bureau.
The situation of human rights in general under the FSLN has been a subject of controversy, but clearly the abuses were considerable, including against the indigenous Miskito Indians. However, Contra human rights abuses were notable as well.
Yet, according to the NGO Human Rights Watch, "U.S. pronouncements on human rights exaggerated and distorted the real human rights violations of the Sandinista regime, and exculpated those of the U.S.-supported insurgents, known as the contras."
A 1984 report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—an agency of the Organization of American States, a mulitlateral institution in Washington, D.C.—noted that "the right of movement and residence has been curtailed, and it has been suspended in those regions where the government has considered that confrontations with the armed groups operating in Nicaragua have been occurring with the greatest intensity. These forced displacements have affected a large number of people…" The Commission also objected to the Sandinista policy of "restricting the effectiveness of the habeas corpus remedy" and said it had been told of "situations where persons are held for short periods without their families being informed about their whereabouts and the charges made against them."
While the Sandinistas expressed a support for grassroots pluralism, they were less than enthusiastic about national elections. They argued that popular support had already been expressed in the insurrection, and that further appeals to popular support would be a waste of scarce resources. But under international pressure and domestic opposition, the government made provisions for a national election, eventually held in 1984. Tomás Borge warned that the elections were a concession, an act of generosity and of political necessity. A broad range of political parties, from far-left to far-right, competed for power. Electoral observers from around the world—including groups from the UN as well as observers from Western Europe—certified the result.
Several groups, however, refused to participate. They included UNO (National Opposition Union), a broad coalition of anti-Sandinista activists headed by Arturo Cruz, a former Sandinista; COSEP (Private Enterprise Superior Council, or el Consejo Superior de la Empressa Privad), an organization of business leaders; the Contra group FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force, or Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense), organized by former Somozan-era National Guardsmen, landowners, businessmen, and peasant highlanders. COSEP's decision to withdraw was based on the FSLN's refusal to lift press censorship. UNO's decision was based on electoral process restrictions, and on the advisement of United States President Ronald Reagan's State Department, which feared that their participation would legitimize the election process. In addition, Coordinadora Democrática (CD) refused to file candidates and urged Nicaraguans not to take part. And the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), headed by Virgilio Godoy Reyes, announced its refusal to participate in October.
When the elections went ahead in spite of these withdrawals, the United States continued its objections, citing political restrictions under the State of Emergency (such as censorship of the press, restriction of habeas corpus, and the curtailing of free assembly).
Daniel Ortega and Sergio Ramírez were elected president and vice-president, respectively, and the FSLN won 61 out of 96 seats in the new National Assembly, having taken 67 percent of the vote on a turnout of 75 percent. Despite international validation of the elections by numerous political and independent observers (virtually all from among United States allies), the United States refused to accept their legitimacy. President Ronald Reagan denounced them as a sham.
Daniel Ortega began his six-year presidential term on January 10, 1985. After the United States Congress voted to discontinue funding the Contras in April 1985, the Reagan administration ordered a total embargo on United States trade with Nicaragua the following month, accusing the Sandinista regime of threatening United States security in the region.
The FSLN officially advocated a mixed economy, under which both public and private ownership of the means of production were accepted. Nevertheless, government spokespersons occasionally referred to a reconstruction phase in the country's development, in which property owners and the professional class would be tapped for their managerial and technical expertise. After reconstruction and recovery, the private sector was to give way to expanded public ownership in most areas of the economy.
Economic growth was uneven in the 1980s. Restructuring of the economy and the rebuilding immediately following the end of the civil war caused the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to jump about 5 percent in 1980 and 1981. Each year from 1984 to 1990, however, showed a drop in the GDP. Reasons for the contraction included the reluctance of foreign banks to offer new loans, the diversion of funds to fight the new insurrection against the government, and, after 1985, the total embargo on trade with the United States, formerly Nicaragua's largest trading partner. After 1985 the government chose to fill the gap between decreasing revenues and mushrooming military expenditures by printing large amounts of paper money. Inflation skyrocketed, peaking in 1988 at more than 14,000 percent annually.
Measures taken by the government to lower inflation were largely wiped out by natural disaster. In early 1988, the administration established an austerity program to lower inflation. Price controls were tightened, and a new currency was introduced. As a result, by August 1988, inflation had dropped to an annual rate of 240 percent. The following month, however, Hurricane Joan cut a devastating path directly across the center of the country. Damage was extensive, and the government's program of massive spending to repair the infrastructure destroyed its anti-inflation measures.
In its 11 years in power, the Sandinista government never overcame most of the economic inequalities that it inherited from the Somoza era. Years of war, policy missteps, natural disasters, and the effects of the United States trade embargo all hindered economic development. The early economic gains of the Sandinistas were wiped out by seven years of sometimes precipitous economic decline, and in 1990, by most standards, Nicaragua and most Nicaraguans were considerably poorer than they were in the 1970s.
In preparation for the 1990 elections, which were mandated by Nicaragua's 1987 constitution, anti-Sandinista activists formed a coalition to compete with the far better organized FSLN. The coalition, known as the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Opositora, or UNO), drew support from "conservative and liberal parties as well as two of Nicaragua's traditional communist factions," according to a report by the United States Library of Congress. Intense campaigning began immediately, with the UNO nominating Violetta Barrios de Chamorro, one of the initial members of the anti-Somoza ruling junta. Chamorro, a member of one of Nicaragua's wealthiest but politically divided families, at the time was publisher of La Prensa, the anti-Somoza newspaper where her late husband was editor when he was assassinated. Her running mate was Virgilio Godoy Reyes, a former Sandinista minister of labor.
The FSLN nominated its long time leader Daniel Ortega for President, and Sergio Ramirez Mercado as his running mate.
According to the Library of Congress report, the campaign, while intense and marred by occasional violence, "was carried out in relative peace." It was monitored by an international delegation of the Organization of American States (OAS), under the leadership of former United States President Jimmy Carter.
In general, the Sandinistas campaigned on a policy of patriotism and support for their revolution. They portrayed UNO supporters as pro-Somoza and handmaidens of United States foreign policy. For its part, the UNO focused on the crumbling economy, and promised to end the military draft. Financial assistance amounting to tens of millions of dollars to the UNO came from the United States, much of it through the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit group founded in 1983 during the Reagan Administration to promote democracy. Critics accused it of promoting United States political interests in various countries.
Chamorro won the popular vote over Ortega by 55 percent to 41 percent. Soon thereafter, the FSLN and UNO worked out a peaceful transfer of power, and the Contras "completed their demobilization." Despite the expectation on the part of some that Ortega would not relinquish power, the transition took place as scheduled.
Following the FSLN loss of power in the 1990 elections, Sandinista leaders have been widely accused of participating in corruption. Many Sandinistas were said to have stolen government property upon leaving office, an action known as pinata and tolerated by the Chamorro government. One history source noted that as the Sandinistas "left power, many simply absconded with government assets, taking what they could while they could in desperation or plain greed." The source, however, also said the Chamorro government reversed the social gains implemented by the former FSLN administration, having "dismantled the social programs of the Sandinistas, [after which] indigenous rights were neglected and the historic project of the Sandinistas to consolidate the Autonomous Regions of the East Coast languished. Under Violeta [Chamorro], Nicaragua became a 'heavily indebted poor country' and the gains of the early 1980s were replaced with poverty, maquilas and debt."
Following the 1990 elections, the FSLN lost twice more, in 1996 and 2001. But in 2006, Daniel Ortega, selecting as his running mate fomer Contra spokesman Jaime Morales, won back the presidency with 38 percent of the ballots.
Economic issues facing the new Nicaraguan administration remain serious. Foreign aid amounts to around a quarter of the country's Gross Domestic Product, and the richest 10 percent of the population controls nearly half of GDP. According to NationMaster, "Nicaragua has widespread underemployment and the third lowest per capita income in the Western Hemisphere. Distribution of income is one of the most unequal on the globe. While the country has progressed toward macroeconomic stability in the past few years, GDP annual growth has been far too low to meet the country's needs, forcing the country to rely on international economic assistance to meet fiscal and debt financing obligations."
Politically, the FSLN remains beset by traditional opponents, most notably the Constitutional Liberal Party, largely supported by big business, and the Catholic Church. In the fall of 2008, for example, armed clashes erupted between supporters of both parties, over allegations of mayoral electoral fraud.
Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños
|Presidency of Nicaragua
(Junta of National Reconstruction)
Daniel Ortega Saavedra
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