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In Guatemala, the independent Central America Report observed that the 1990 elections "were mandated in the Nicaraguan Constitution, adopted in January 1987, before the Arias Peace Plan" -- in fact, at a time when the U.S. was pulling out every stop to block the threat of peace. Though "the concessions granted by the Sandinistas were the result of the regional peace accords," the elections were not brought about by the diplomacy of the Central American presidents, still less by the "armed pressure of the contras" as Washington claims. Regarding the diplomatic process itself, the journal notes that Nicaragua alone lived up to the accords, which were defied by the United States and its proxy forces, and its three client states. "Reforms aimed at internal democratization" were blocked in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where human rights abuses are on the rise and no progress has been made in realizing any aspect of the agreements. The journal continues:
The exemplary elections conducted by the Sandinistas appear to be the only relevant "success" of the diplomatic process begun in 1987. Given that the contras have remained in place despite repeated agreements to disband -- the last being the December 8, 1989 deadline of the August 1989 Tela Accords -- editorials question the Sandinista's political wisdom in holding up their side of the bargain.
With regard to the "exemplary elections," "Most analysts agree that the UNO victory marks the consummation of the US government's military, economic and political efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas." Under the heading The Winners, the journal added:
US President George Bush emerged as a clear victor in the Nicaraguan elections. The decade-long Reagan/Bush war against Nicaragua employed a myriad of methods -- both covert and open -- aimed at overthrowing the Sandinistas. Bush's continuation of the two-pronged Reagan policy of economic strangulation and military aggression finally reaped tangible results. Following the elections, Ortega said that the outcome was not in retrospect surprising since the voters went to the polls "with a pistol pointed at their heads"-- a conclusion that the journal accepts without comment. "The consensus attributes the population's defection...to the critical economic crisis in Nicaragua," the report continues, citing an editorial in the Guatemala City press that "pointed out that more than ten years of economic and military aggressions waged by a government with unlimited resources created the setting for an election determined by economic exhaustion." "It was a vote in search of peace by a people that, inevitably, were fed up with violence," the Guatemala City editorial concluded: "It is a vote from a hungry people that, more than any idea, need to eat."4
The analysis ends with this comment:
While many observers today are remarking that never before has a leftist revolutionary regime handed over power in elections, the opposite is also true. Never has a popular elected leftist government in Latin America been allowed to undertake its reforms without being cut short by a coup, an invasion or an assassination.Or, we may add, subversion, terror, or economic strangulation. Readers in Guatemala, or elsewhere in Latin America, need no further reminders of these truisms. One will search far for any hint of such a thought, let alone a discussion of what it implies, in U.S. commentary. Even the fact that Nicaragua had a popular elected government is inexpressible in the U.S. propaganda system, with its standards of discipline that few respectable intellectuals would dare to flout.
In London, the editors of the Financial Times observe that "The war against the Contras has eroded the early achievements in health and education of the Sandinista revolution and brought the country close to bankruptcy." The victors, they add, are the contras -- which is to say, the White House, Congress, and the support team who set up, maintained, and justified what was conceded to be a "proxy army" by contra lobbyists, who hoped that Washington might somehow convert its proxies into a political force (Bruce Cameron and Penn Kemble). Managua correspondent Tim Coone concludes that "Nicaraguans appeared to believe that a UNO victory offered the best prospect of securing US funds to end the country's economic misery" -- correctly, of course.5
The English language Costa Rican monthly Mesoamerica added this comment: "The Sandinistas fell for a scam perpetrated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and the other Central American Presidents," which "cost them the 25 Feb. elections." Nicaragua had agreed to loosen wartime constraints and advance the scheduled elections by a few months "in exchange for having the contras demobilized and the war brought to an end." The White House and Congress broke the deal at once, maintaining the contras as a military force in violation of the agreements and compelling them to be modified to focus on Nicaragua alone. With the deal effectively broken, the U.S. candidate could promise to end the war, while Ortega could not. Faced with this choice, "war weary Nicaraguans voted for peace."6
Summarizing the basic thrust, the winner of the elections was George Bush and the Democrat-Republican coalition that waged ten years of economic and military aggression, leaving a hungry and distraught people who voted for relief from terror and misery. Democracy has been dealt a serious blow, with a "popular elected leftist government" replaced by one elected under duress, by violent foreign intervention that proved decisive.
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4 Central America Report, March 9, 2, 1990.
5 Financial Times, Feb. 27, 1990. After noting that the contra war brought the country close to bankruptcy, with $12 billion in damages in addition to the vast costs of the economic sanctions, they attribute primary responsibility to Sandinista "economic mismanagement" and their "totalitarian system." I leave the logic to others to decipher. Cameron and Kemble, From a Proxy Force to a National Liberation Movement, ms, Feb. 1986, circulated privately in the White House.
6 Tony Avirgan, Mesoamerica, March 1990.