Nicaragua: Nothing Will Stop This Revolution

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Nicaraguan human rights observers tell a different story. According to the Managua-based Permanent Commission on Human Rights, private ownership in Nicaragua, as codified in Articles 27 and 31 of the Statute on the Rights and Guarantees of the Nicaraguan People, now means only the "right to the use of the land" and to "receive the fruits of some thing not belonging to oneself." The regime has also reneged on promises to respect "responsible" private ownership by passing new decrees allowing the confiscation of property with government-determined compensation for reasons of "public utility." Says a prosperous Nicaraguan cotton farmer: "That is why there are so few of us left who are staying and reinvesting. They can take your land if they decide it is underutilized. If you show them it is really producing far above average yields, they can also confiscate it as a model for national priority."

The chaos that the Sandinista economic measures have spread is one reason for the shortages that have allowed sardonic Nicaraguans to dub Managua "the capital of queues." So far as the Sandinistas are concerned, the problem is simply being called "distribution," meaning a chronic short supply of operating buses and trucks in the country due to a lack of imported spare parts. The government blames that shortage on the U.S. for leading a campaign to cut off Nicaragua's international credit at a time when the country is staggering beneath an estimated $3 billion in foreign debt. "If we do not have oil, bread and soap, it is the fault of aggressor imperialism," declares a typically hostile sign outside a low-income housing project in Managua.

The shortage of goods poses the danger of creating disaffection among the poor, whose interests the revolutionaries claim to represent. Many of the Sandinista leaders have moved into the luxury residences vacated by Somoza supporters who fled the country; members of the regime's elite 25,000-strong Sandinista People's Army have access to special gasoline supplies, duty-free stores and food outlets. Says a matronly nurse in a health clinic: "The situation is critical. The Sandinista leadership has benefited from this revolution but not the masses. I am 100% Sandinista, but not their type of Sandinista."

Complaints of that kind are more likely to come from older Nicaraguans. In general, the country's youth is still very sympathetic to the revolution, and many blame their hardships on "Yankee imperialism." Says Antonia Garcia, a Managua church administrator: "Adults do not want to change their ways, but young people view the changes with enthusiasm."

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