Nicaragua: Sandinismo and its Critics



Following the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in July 1979, a vast global solidarity movement developed. This provided invaluable support to the beleaguered people of Nicaragua who for ten years were victim to a vast campaign of overt and covert military, political, diplomatic and economic aggression, principally from the US government. Without external support from sympathetic organisations and governments across the world it is doubtful that the Sandinistas would have survived for as long as they did. In the end, Sandinista bureaucratisation, ten years of unceasing war, a massive propaganda campaign and electoral interference, along with the collapse of ‘really existing socialism’ eventually forced the Sandinistas from power in 1990.

The massive international support for Nicaragua and its revolution during the 1980s contrasts with the lukewarm foreign reception that FSLN governments have received since Daniel Ortega was re-elected in 2005. This is puzzling given much-improved economic and social statistics, the fact that the FSLN share of the vote has been increasing steadily since it first won power and the largely positive view of the global left for governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and so on. Why has Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, been singled out for disdain and criticism? Why does the FSLN no longer excite left-wingers in the ‘developed world’? The answer is rooted in the past, in the relationships forged during the 10 years of the first Sandinista government, and in the divisions which occurred after the FSLN lost the 1990 elections. 

In the months before their victory in 1979 the Sandinista Front became a broad coalition of groups, which included many members of the former elite. In the following ten years the FSLN grew from a small guerrilla vanguard into a mass political organisation linked to the state and the mechanisms of power. Those with education were in high demand, and rose rapidly in the bureaucracy. Following defeat in 1990, the FSLN was forced to deal with an internal crisis, as well as the political and economic effects of the new government’s right-wing policies.

The crisis led the parliamentary sector of the FSLN to attempt a takeover of the leadership of the Party in order to set it out on a more ‘reformist’ social democratic path. Political differences were exacerbated by arguments over asset grabbing prior to the power handover in 1991, the FSLN’s policy of alliances, as well as personal rivalries within the leadership. The effort to seize the leadership failed, as Ortega and his supporters ably appealed to the Party’s social base to retain the revolutionary legacy. Instead of blaming their defeat in the failure to attract the Party’s base, the social-democrats blamed it on Ortega’s authoritarian tendencies.

What followed was acrimonious division, with the vast majority of the FSLN’s parliamentarians and Party apparatchiks founding a new Party which they called the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) in 1993. Led by Sergio Ramirez, Nicaragua’s former vice-president, the MRS also took a large number of Sandinismo’s leading lights, such as Ernesto Cardenal and Dora Maria Tellez. Having been well known during the 1980s they took with them a decade’s worth of friendships and contacts abroad. Many other educated Sandinistas were forced by privatisations to seek work in the media, business, or in the foreign-financed NGO sector which boomed in the 1990s. Many of them became increasingly critical of the FSLN.

While division was without doubt a serious blow to the FSLN, it also provided an opportunity to revamp the party, to rethink its strategy, and to promote new cadres. While the FSLN had previously been dominated by well-educated Sandinistas from Nicaragua’s traditional elite, now cadres mobilised during the 1980s are at the forefront, people educated by the revolution. Although they lack the ‘legitimacy’ of a guerrilla past, these men and women lived the 1980s revolution in the bottom and middle levels of the FSLN and many fought in the Sandinista armed forces.

Meanwhile the former MRS Sandinistas have lost electoral ground, and their political alliances have moved to the right even while the rhetoric has remained leftist. Lacking a real alternative left-wing national project the MRS has increasingly concentrated on visceral personal attacks, gradually withdrawing from constructive politics. The MRS has received support from US government funded agencies such as USAID and the IRI and NED, and last year the MRS and the PLI were even accused of working with the US embassy in Managua to develop destabilisation plans to create unrest, violence and chaos in Nicaragua around election time. Meanwhile the MRS’ electoral base has shrunk during the 2011 election campaign it became the junior partner in a coalition with the right-wing party PLI. They ended up taking 31% of the vote.

The MRS has accused the FSLN, and Daniel Ortega in particular, of increasing authoritarianism and even of being a ‘neoliberal government’ because of its ‘links’ to Nicaragua’s oligarchy. The MRS has also alleged electoral fraud since 2008, and refused to recognise the last electoral results. In this it is even more vehement than the right-wing opposition, who recognised the results. The reason is most likely related to the fact that unlike the Conservatives and the Liberals, the MRS social base is shifting and its mobilisational capacity shrinking. Its supporters are increasingly not former Sandinistas, but right-wingers. All the opposition, its political parties, NGOs and the media frequently accuse the government of violating human rights, citing the notorious 2006 abortion law as an example, and of using social programmes to gain votes.

These allegations are either baseless or exaggerations. To consider Ortega a dictator is to ignore three electoral victories. While the US and various Western-funded NGOs have criticised some aspects of these elections, they have not deemed them fraudulent. In fact, the election results largely mirror dozens of opinion polls results. Meanwhile the allegations ignore the fact that the FSLN is no longer (if it ever was) a monolithic vanguard organisation. There are the trade unions, then the mass organisations such as the Sandinista Youth and a wide variety of environmental, indigenous and peasant organisations. Finally, there are the Sandinistas linked to the Party apparatus, and the leadership. All feed into the strategic decision-making process. It is true that Ortega has become a figurehead such as never existed before in the FSLN, but whilst this may be seen as a shortcoming in Europe, it ignores his standing in Nicaragua. As one Sandinista said to me “I love Daniel because he has never abandoned us, never stopped working for the people.” 

Meanwhile, the abortion law bans abortions and violates women’s rights, but few people are aware that abortion laws are highly restrictive across Latin America, including such enlightened places as Chile and Brazil. The FSLN did not propose the abortion law back in 2005, although it did help pass it (along with today’s opposition) since this was the price of a ‘truce’ with organised religion. Thus, the abortion issue is not a Sandinista problem, it is a Nicaraguan problem and cannot be singled out from Nicaragua’s many social and economic problems.

The real measure of the Sandinista government must be its actions. Through a National Development Plan devised in consultation with business, trade unions and local organisations, the Sandinistas have created economic growth, jobs and improved social services, while undertaking an active foreign policy. The plan has renewed the state’s role in the economy and other fields. The FSLN has also designed an energy policy focused on renewable energy to create reliable energy sources for industry and to turn Nicaragua into an energy exporter.

The overall result is that GDP has grown by a quarter since 2005; in 2010 GDP grew by 4.5%, the highest growth rate in Central America. In education the Sandinista government has restored free education and a literacy programme has eliminated illiteracy for the second time in 30 years. Healthcare has once more been taken out into rural areas. Unemployment and poverty are down. Nicaragua currently spends 53.9% of the government budget on social issues including health and education. Whilst it is clear that much remains to be done, it is also clear that under Ortega and the FSLN, Nicaragua now has a government that prioritises people, and that fights for the interests of the poor whilst pushing for economic development for all.

By Victor Figueroa Clark

Not critical enough of the contemporary FSLN, but it’s a good, brief analysis of the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS).

The LatiNegr@s Project: A Response In Solidarity


In light of the recent Letter to the Editor of Latina Magazine from Alicia Anabel Santos, we, The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino, stand in agreement that Latina Magazine is misrepresenting Afr@Latin@s through their recent list of “Happy Black History Month: The 50 Most Beautiful Afro-Latinos In Hollywood.” We also believe that the term Afr@Latin@ is not a fad in which to be used to sell magazines or advertisements.

However, we disagree in terms of who and what defines Afr@Latin@s.  Here is why.

Black Latinidad, Afr@Latin@s, LatiNegr@s and other panethnic terms are young in both U.S. and diasporic history. While it may seem easiest to define Afr@Latin@s as “descended of” any one particular thing, doing so only falls in line with codes that have been used to divide us (people of African-descent in the Americas) from much needed resources and divide nosotros (people of African-descent who are also Latin@ or Latin American) from creating coalitions with Anglo-identified or identifying Blacks in the Americas.  Policing culture, bloodlines, and birthplace is behavior very familiar to imperialist and colonialist regimes the world over—and it has worked for generations on generations.  None of it has ever gotten at the root of exorcising racist systems of oppression, classist modes of resources distribution or sexual violence within our communities.

The struggle against racist systems of oppression is about Blackness, as it relates to Afr@latinidad, being acknowledged as its own entity. 

Afr@Latin@s are not Black in the same way African-Americans are Black.  Some are Afr@Latin@ because they have African ancestors connected to a particular land with its own particular culture that is not the U.S.  Others are Afr@Latin@s because their experiences, culture, lineage, and personal histories are both of Latin@ or Latin American-descent and of Black descent, whether that be U.S. or diasporic.  This is particularly true of the fast growing population of Afr@Latin@s in the United States—those of Latin@ and Anglo-identifying Black descent.  Still others are Afr@Latin@ because they self-identify as both marked by Blackness and as part of a global struggle against racist oppression enacted against Latin@s and Latin Americans of African-descent. 

There have been generations of Afr@Latin@s born on U.S. soil. We cannot ignore or dismiss this history. As early as the fifteenth century and into the last decades of the nineteenth, Africans moved through the slave holding societies of North, Central and South America.  Most often as slaves, though sometimes as free people of Color, they crossed false boundaries created by colonial regimes.  Over the course of a lifetime, a Black person might find themselves enslaved in Cuba, fomenting slave revolt in Haiti, and freed in New York City.  

Moreover, and especially in Latin America, Blackness existed and exists along a spectrum created at the intersection of two things.  On the one hand, state-sanctioned racial codes policed and police the line between Black and white.  In Latin America, gradations of morena, quarterona and other castas further divided people of African-descent, even determining access to freedom, occupations, and education.  As a result, Black identity was never any one thing but was always stigmatized in relation to whites.  On the other hand, Blackness itself was and is deep and varied, as Africans hailing from Dahomey created families with those of Congo or Segu, and a myriad other societies and cultures over time, including those here in the Americas.  The combination created and creates conflicting racial identities.  This is why there are even Latin@s of African-descent who do not identify as ‘Afr@Latino@.’  And yet their agency is important too.

This is our history.  ‘Afr@latinidad’ is not linear.  But our struggle creates commonalities.  Because Afr@Latin@s usually don’t match a specific “Latin@” image, we are forced to negotiate our identity and are discursively or personally positioned as outsiders in ‘Latin@’ spaces.  The struggle for inclusion, rights, and resources is also about our children, grandchildren, and kin.  And while relations between Afro@Latin@s and African-Americans, or Caribbean and Latin American folk who identify as indigenous or white, have never been perfect, bonds existed and continue to be formed.  We cannot dismiss or police individuals for how they have structured their families, and we must not think we can dictate individuals racial identities to them.  Self-identification is key.

We are concerned with the definition presented in the Letter to Latina Magazine because there is a difference between denying and accepting African-roots.  We gain nothing by using mainstream constructions of race to define our politics or our struggle.  Coalitions and acceptance are political imperatives as we work on behalf of ourselves and our communities. 

To be clear: we will always stand strong when it comes to the exploitation and colonization of our people. We will not stand for commercialization and corporate colonization of Black and Latin@ people anywhere in the world. In Latina Magazine’s blatant disregard of the term and identity Afr@Latin@, they have allowed us to have a dialogue that makes our community stronger.

We always support dialogue that promotes Afr@Latin@s and African Descendants.  Discussion of Latin@s of African-descent needs to happen; often. Acknowledging, honoring, and raising awareness of Black people in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean is critical, necessary, and not up for debate.  And people of Color producing and sharing knowledge is powerful.  Remembering our historical legacy and the long struggle behind and ahead will only make us stronger.

In Solidarity,
The LatiNegr@s Project/@BeingAfroLatino Team


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was successfully operated on in Havana on Monday and is now in good physical condition, announced the Executive Vice president of the Government, Elias Jaua. A communiqué on the health of the president was read by Jaua at the beginning of his speech at the National Assembly plenary, to which he gives information on the government’s performance last year.

The medical team set the date for the surgery as soon as possible and it was carried out as it was planned. The operation was a success and a recovery plan has been set for the coming days, says the communiqué read by Jaua.

It also adds that president Chavez is in good physical condition accompanied by his family and he is in permanent contact with the Executive vice president and the Bolivarian Government.

Regarding the results of the surgery, the communique reveals that the diagnosed pelvic injury was totally removed, as well as the issue surrounded the injury. There were no complications related the local organs.

The head of the Venezuelan State travelled to Cuba on Friday to undergo surgery due to a new injury, which appeared in the same place where a tumour with cancer cells was removed in June last year.


When Africa Called…CUBA ANSWERED!

Saturday, February 25, 2012 - 7 pm

Brecht Forum , 451 West St (btwn. Bank and Bethune St), New York, NY

Join us for this special Black History Month event dedicated to the Cuban 5!

African American Activists have played a key role in supporting the Cuban Revolution! Join us for a night of discussion as we explore this rich political history! 

We will be showing the amazing film After the Battle by Estela Bravo: For 13 years, Cubans and Angolans fought side by side against South African forces in a little-known war that helped to change the destiny of one part of Africa. What was the motivation and what was the outcome for the ones who took part in their conflict? Those who fought answer these questions for each side. Filmed on location in Angola, South Africa, Namibia and Cuba, this documentary examines the politics of the war from all sides and features remarkable combat footage, archival material and interviews with Cuban and South African soldiers as well as grieving families of those who were killed in the war.


  • Michael Tarif Warren, Attorney and Activist
  • Benjamin Ramos Rosado, The Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5
  • A Representative of the Venceremos Brigade to Talk about this Summer’s trip to Cuba

Suggested donation: $5-10 (no one will be turned away for lack of funds) 

Sponsored by: The Popular Education Project to Free the Cuban 5, Jericho NYC, and The Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Center of CCNY. 

For more information call 718-601-4751


The British journalist Lizzie Phelan said the image of events on ground in Syria is completely contrary to what some media try to depict and present to the public opinion.

Phelan, who is now on a visit to Syria, said that she was surprised upon her arrival in Damascus as a journalist 6 days ago to see the situation as it is, as she had thought, based on the image presented by media, that Syria is not safe where chaos is prevailing, the army deployed in the streets and the anti-government protests are being held daily and everywhere.

She stressed in an interview with the Syrian TV that what she has seen during her visit is that life is normal and that people go to their businesses and schools in spite of some problems.

She asserted that the city of Damascus is very safe as she has been moving in it alone in the late hours of the night and has not been faced with any problem or seen any big anti-government protests.

Phelan pointed out that she saw the huge pro-government rally in the Umayyad Square and was surprised with the reality of the situation in Syria, which she said is completely different from what is being conveyed to the West, the US and other countries.

[Militant Socialists] know that the laws are for the most part made by and for the possessing classes, and that in a contest with the workers the bosses do not respect the laws, but quite shamelessly break them. When workers go on strike for better conditions, the police disperse their meetings, club and imprison them and even drive the leaders out of town. It is natural that they should do this, for a strike is not a legal game; it is a war, and both sides use any weapon that they can lay hands on. The difference is that the employers keep up the hypocritical fiction of law and order; while revolutionary unionists, who are either more honest or more clear-sighted, point out that law and order for not exist in a world which is at war. From every platform and in every pamphlet they boldly declare that capitalist morality is hostile to the interests of the workers … They make their own laws in accordance with the needs of their class, just as throughout history other classes have done; and they treat statutes, ordinances and injunctions as so many orders from the enemy.

No one has ever given me a good reason why we should obey unjust laws. But the reason why we should resist them is obvious. When a government puts forth its strength on the side of injustice it is foredoomed to fail. When it depends for “law and order” upon the militia and the police, its mission in the world is nearly finished. We believe, at least we hope, that our capitalist government is near its end; we wish to hasten its end; the only question is how.


“Despite those arrogant people who do not wish us to be together, we will unite forever,” the Iranian president told Venezuela’s socialist leader Chavez at the start of a visit to four left-leaning Latin American nations.

Despite their geographical distance, the fiery anti-U.S. ideologues have forged increasingly close ties between their fellow OPEC nations in recent years, although concrete projects have often lagged behind the rhetoric.

Ahmadinejad was in Venezuela at the start of a tour intended to shore up support as expanded Western economic sanctions kick in over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

“The imperialist madness has been unleashed in a way that has not been seen for a long time,” Chavez said in a ceremony to welcome Ahmadinejad at his presidential palace in Caracas.


The president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Comandante Hugo Chávez, in the name of the Venezuelan people and government, condemns the terrorist attack perpetrated today in Damascus, the capital of the brother Syrian Arab Republic, in the strongest and most unequivocal terms, and stands in solidarity with the brave Syrian people, in sending his most heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the tens of victims.

The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela repudiates this odious act of intimidation, which will not break the will of the Syrian people and their government to push for a broad national dialogue, while reiterating its support for President Bashar al Assad in his effort to push for a sovereign and independent political solution to defeat the attempts at destabilization whose target is the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Bolivarian government reaffirms its utter rejection of the colonialist, warmongering policies driven by the United States and its allies in the Middle East and restates its commitment to the right of the Syrian people to self-determination and independence.

Caracas, 6 January 2012


Tears of Gaza (complete film)

“Documenting the human impact of the 2008 – 2009 bombing of Gaza by the Israeli military, director Vibeke Løkkeberg has made use of local Palestinian crews to provide footage of a conflict largely unseen by the Western media.”


Proletarian Era, Dec. 15 - The Third International Anti-imperialist Conference of the International Anti-imperialist and People’s Solidarity Coordinating Committee (IAPSCC) hosted by the Socialist Party of Bangladesh (SPB) was held at Dhaka Bangladesh on November 27-29, 2011.

This unique event where delegates from almost 20 countries – the representatives of different organizations engaged in anti-imperialist struggle — assembled to exchange their views, their experience of struggle, to learn from each other and chalk out concrete steps to further strengthen and advance the anti-imperialist struggle throughout the world to a higher stage, created tremendous enthusiasm among the people of Bangladesh.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sent condolences expressing his “sincere sorrow” for the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Venezuela is confident that the North Koreans will move toward a prosperous and peaceful future, the ministry said in the e-mailed statement.

The government expressed its solidarity with North Korea and said that Venezuela is willing to “continue fighting along with sovereign nations for the self-determination of countries and world peace.”


By Tanya Keilani 

In the Spring of 2010, just months after our founding, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (C-SJP) officially endorsed the anti-normalization document drafted by Palestinian Youth Against Normalization. The statement, written by Palestinian students from the West Bank, Gaza, inside Israel and in diaspora, rejects normalization “on all levels…economic, political, cultural and institutional,” because it serves to “legitimize Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people by giving the appearance of normalcy to the relationship between oppressor and oppressed.”

Normalization includes participating in any project designed to bring together Palestinian and/or Arab youth with Zionists that “is not explicitly designed to resist or expose the occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people.”

Little did we know our declaration would cause such a fuss; it turned out some people didn’t like our anti-normalization policy. It offended Zionists who felt entitled to “dialogue,” and even some well-intentioned non-Zionists who found it appealing to make it their mission to bring Palestine solidarity and Zionist groups together. The idea that a Palestine group would reject dialogue with a Zionist group seemed “uncivilized,” “primitive,” “cowardly,” “unconstructive,” “silencing,” neglecting of “complexity,” and so on. Hillel groups set up a table on campus at one of our events with signs that said “C-SJP Rejects ‘Normalization’” and “We’re ready to talk, are you?” We had hit a nerve, but why? What was so threatening about the rejection of dialogue, discussion and the slew of “let’s work together” event proposals we’ve been presented with over the years: eating falafel together, smoking hookah together, dance-offs, Frisbee games, etc.?

While going for a walk with fellow SJP members, frustrated by yet another mischaracterization of our anti-normalization policy, I remembered reading Ethan Heitner’s comics on Palestine and immediately wrote to him asking for help creating a cartoon on normalization. I had no idea where to start. I emailed Palestine activists about their experiences, I read the work of Arab political cartoonists on normalization and I mulled over ideas.

Comic Panels
A panel from Nothing “Normal” About It (Freedom Funnies)


Addressing supporters at a rally in Caracas on Sunday, the Venezuelan leader said the Western countries are setting the stage to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad just like they did to “assassinate” former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, AFP reported. 

The United States and its European allies are intensifying their offensive against Syria, infiltrating terrorists to generate violence, bloodshed and death, just like they did in Libya at the beginning of this year,” Chavez said. 

“They managed with bombs not only to topple the Libyan government but to destroy that country and assassinate Colonel Moammar Gaddafi … and now they are taking aim at Syria,” he added. 


It is now incumbent on all of the smaller nations of the world, and indeed, on all governments and persons that believe in the concepts of international law and morality, to forcibly register a strong and profound protest against the manner in which the operative principles of the United Nations and the fundamental precepts of international law were flouted and desecrated by the powerful nations of France, Britain and the United States of America ( and their NATO allies) in their actions against the people, government and nation of Libya, and against Libya’s political leader, the late Muammar Qaddafi, over the period of February to October 2011!