Monday, July 19, 2010
The Nicaraguan Revolution Remains an Inspiration
If you're old enough, remember back to 1979. Swaths of Latin America were ruled mostly by corrupt U.S.-backed dictators, by oligarchies deeply indebted to their American sponsors, by Generals and liars. After a decades-long insurgency, the Frente Sandinista por Liberacion Nacional, or FSLN, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, waged its final insurrection and tossed out the Somoza dictatorship. Somoza, whose family had been in power at the whim of American presidents for decades. Somoza, who personally squandered most of the international relief money donated to Nicaragua after its devastating 1972 earthquake. Somoza, whose National Guard shot down children in the streets. He was gone!
The statue above shows a young masked hero in Masaya during the insurrection against the National Guard: the young revolutionaries donned traditional wire and cloth masks to hide their identities from retribution, and met the tanks and armored cars of the Guard with stones.
The FSLN was a Front of several factions ranging from several stripes of socialist to revolutionary nationalist. When it seized the reins of power in its impoverished country, it immediately began literacy campaigns and land reforms. It instituted participatory democracy, building organizations of civilian cooperation and power to rule the country. It wasn't always smooth going. Isolated and embargoed by the United States, Nicaragua relied on aid and assistance from its allies in Cuba and the Soviet Union and its satellites. When the U.S. policy of isolation turned to military aggression and CIA-funded destablization and insurgency, the FSLN pointed its new Sandinista Army and people's militias northward and fought back against the imperialist provocations.
This is a wall stencil from Granada. It reads, "Bajo la bandera de Sandino, Seguimos de Frente con El Frente, "Under the Banner of Sandino, We Stay Out Front With the Front." It was part of the ongoing FSLN campaign to win support of Nicaragua's citizens for its policies.
While there were incidents of repression, Nicaragua remained a multi-party state, with parties of left, center and right free to organize. After the long hard decade of the 1980s the counterrevolutionaries were defeated and the Sandinistas themselves were voted out of power: the economy was in shambles after a decade of embargo. Today the Sandinistas are fractured into the ruling minority government and an opposition party made up of many veterans of the revolution: many of the factional issues remain unresolved. Although the right-wing (closely aided by its US teabagger allies) committed a coup d'etat in Honduras last year, dictatorship is a thing of the past in Latin America, and left-wing governments hold sway in many many countries there.
The Nicaraguan revolution can be thanked for breaking the back of U.S. ability to dictate the affairs of the people of South and Central America, and that's a lasting victory. Today, July 19, is the anniversary of the Triumph of that Revolution in 1979. May the spirit of Sandino live on!
(Photos by me, 1986. click on them to see them larger. For more of my Nicaragua photos from that year, click here).