Friday, July 20, 2007

no words minced

The people writing the editorials for one of Nicaragua's two principal dailies, La Prensa, are angry. As evidence, I give you one of the concluding paragraphs (translated) from today's editorial page:

"It is clear then, that at the end of the government of Daniel Ortega there will be happy “danielistas”, but this does not mean that the problems that confront Nicaragua will have been resolved. It does not mean, for example, that the production and exports will have grown or that the country will have a higher volume of foreign investment and a lower index of unemployment. It does not mean that hunger and poverty will have diminished. It only means that there will be fatter and happier “danielistas”, eager to again give their votes."

Hmmm, let's see. Nope, no words minced there. So why is La Prensa up in arms?

Well, the paper's history is a long and complicated one. During the Revolution, the paper published highly critical articles about the Somoza dictatorship, whose corruption was becoming more and more well documented and heinous. In 1978, its editor, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, was assassinated; though never proven conclusively, it is believed that the Somoza regime had him killed. Because of Chamorro's popularity, this incident was the last straw that turned all public opinion against the government and in favor of the Sandinista efforts.

However, after the Revolution succeeded, La Prensa attempted to maintain its stance as an independent (though slightly right-ist) publication, meaning that it took issue with some of the new FSLN government policies; this did not please the FSLN, who (in the name of national unity or security, etc) began censoring the paper's content. Nicaraguans tell me the paper's editors used to post the "real" edition outside their offices on the north highway, showing all the blacked out portions the government had prohibited them from printing.

As the Contra War of the 1980s took more and more of a toll on the fledging Sandinista government, the situation in the country economically reached a point where then-President Ortega agreed to an election in 1990. The widow of the slain Chamorro, Violeta, still a beloved Nicaraguan, led the united front that defeated the Sandinistas that year; interestingly, in the election this past November, Dona Violeta came out in support of her son-in-law Edmundo Jarquin, the presidential candidate for the Reformed Sandinista Party, which had broken off of the FSLN in the 1990s when they felt their attempts to reform the party from within were no longer an effective strategy.

From 1996-2006, Nicaragua had two Liberal party presidents, both of which also received a fair amount of criticism in the press, as one might expect any national leader to bear. Perhaps the biting critiques the FSLN is receiving now that it is back in power are due to some fear that history may repeat itself, and that the freedom of the press may become more limited as time goes on in the new administration. This seems like mostly conspiracy theory to me. This is not the 80s, we are not at war, and the amount of information available through a multitude of diverse sources, both internal and external, is extensive. Thus, it is far more likely, as a right-center publication, that La Prensa's issues are with the leftist policies Ortega regularly promotes in his public rhetoric, as well as some of the international friendships he is choosing to cultivate.

So, just like the un-minced words of a US paper's editorial board, the harsh words of these Nicaraguans journalists merely represent one perspective, one judgment on the new Ortega government.

For most of the country, the jury is still out.


ourman said...

Just a couple of things you gloss over. Firstly there had already been an election in 1984. People often forget that the Sandinistas brought democracy. This was no dictatorship - the Sandinistas won 61 out of 96 seats in the National Assembly.

However, that democratic victory was not enough for the US to stop funding the Contras against the Sandinistas.

Secondly it was widely believed at the time that La Prensa was taking money from the CIA. The Sandinistas claimed they had proof. While I don't have access to that - the fact that, later, large parts of Violeta's election campaign was openly US funded - does more than suggest some complicity with the anti-Sandinista US forces.

In addition, she was also promised, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid to give to the Nicaraguan people by the US government - if she won. A promise she passed on to the electorate.

Obviously the biggest promise she made was, because she was US-backed, if people voted for her then the war would stop. No more dead husbands and sons.

It's not hard to see why she won.

nicapamela said...

Yes, it's true my history lesson was not totally complete. Thanks for pointing out the part about Violeta's campaign financing.

Do you think La Prensa is currently receiving US funding for its operations?

ourman said...

I don't know. The more modern way of conducting warfare would be to turn the media, back the incumbent president into the corner and then accuse him of being a madman when he comes out fighting.

Who knows.

Maybe I'm just too paranoid but everytime the lights go out, the water goes off or the media has a go at Ortega - I wonder if someone is pulling the strings.

Did I ever send you this. Read this and let your paranoia bloom: