The impact of what has happened in the last five years in Nicaragua can be grasped only against the background of the previous period. Thus this article begins by reaching back ten years to an important event which captured something of the spirit of the revolution. Then it moves to a statement reflecting people's shock at the 1990 turn of events. We then enter into an analysis of what has happened under the Chamorro administration.
Ten years ago, on July 7, 1985, Nicaragua's Foreign Minister, Father Miguel D'Escoto, began a period of fasting and prayer as the start of what he called a "gospel insurrection for peace, in defense of life and against U.S.-sponsored terrorism."
On July 8 President Daniel Ortega visited D'Escoto and said: "We have confronted U.S. aggression with our combatants, our peasants, militants, workers, youth, and with every legal recourse possible. Now there is a new tool in the struggle for peace and we the government support it."
Addressing a vast throng at the July 19 celebration of the sixth anniversary of the revolution, Ortega read the following message from D'Escoto:
After six years we have come together to proclaim that Nicaragua is free and will always struggle to keep the liberty we won on July 19, 1979.... The forces of U.S. imperialism do not understand that this revolution has a treasure: the compassionate love for the life of the poor and for national sovereignty. This treasure is the heart of our revolution and has no price. The eyes of the world watch our small nation with great hopes.
On August 6 D'Escoto stopped his fast at the urging of his doctors. Two weeks later he spoke at length about his personal spirituality and faith as the underlying motivation for the fast.
The mystery of the cross is a central concept for me--the cross as the inevitable consequence of doing the will of the Father. His mandate is that we be the ferment in building a more just and fraternal society. That obliges us to give personal example and to struggle to replace the old order of selfish relationships with the new order of respect, love, and justice. It is the struggle for the coming of the Kingdom, which will not be achieved overnight.
"That struggle requires," he continued, a clear, categorical, and unambiguous denunciation of everything that keeps us from living as brothers and sisters. And this is the dimension of the Father's mandate which brings us the cross. For when we become a threat to the old order that others want to defend and maintain for their own interests, we become ipso facto a target of those people. The old order targeted the Sandinista revolution with an arsenal of military, economic, and diplomatic violence and achieved its victory in February 1990 when Nicaraguans, tired of dying and starving, voted for Violeta Chamorro in the hopes of getting some relief.
On November 16, 1990, the first anniversary of the assassinations of the six Jesuit priests and two women at the Central American University in San Salvador, a document entitled "Giving Reason for our Hope" was published in Managua. Subtitled "A Word of Encouragement to our People," the analysis of the Nicaraguan situation was signed by one hundred forty-eight priests and religious men and women belonging to eight dioceses of Nicaragua and to thirty-seven religious congregations and institutes, and by two hundred thirty-three Delegates of the Word and coordinators of Christian communities throughout the country.
"In these last months the world situation has changed profoundly," the letter began.
The Berlin Wall came down. The Eastern European socialist bloc collapsed. The Cold War ended. The capitalist system declared itself the `winner.' In Nicaragua, after the elections of February 25, 1990, a new business-oriented, neoliberal government has come to power. It sounds strange to us to hear that the First World interprets the Eastern European crisis as the `triumph of capitalism,' because here in the Third World what we have been experiencing for ages is the failure of capitalism in reality: the prostration and death of the majority. …