Sandinistas strike as UNO splits

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no 95 June/July 1990

In the few weeks since assuming power on 25 April, the UNO coalition is already showing signs of deep divisions, and the new government has had to make a number of concessions to the FSLN and pro-Sandinista unions.

On 10 May, 50,000 workers in government offices, banks, public transport and telecommunications went on strike for a 200 per cent pay rise and against sackings. This is in response to the new Government’s devaluing of the córdoba by half and repealing the civil service law that guaranteed job security. After first threatening to sack them all, President Violeta Chamorro backed down after six days, and agreed to the job security law, a 100 per cent pay rise and the replacement of the Labour Minister.


UNO is a coalition of 14 parties that divides into three main factions:

  • COSEP, the right-wing business association, in favour of a free-for-all of large-scale privatisation
  • the radical right around Vice-President Virgilio Godoy, with some 30 of the 51 delegates in the National Assembly
  • President Violeta Chamorro and her advisors, described as the most ‘moderate and pragmatic’ faction, allied to the bourgeois opposition to Somoza.

Recognising the level of support for the Sandinistas, Chamorro’s advisors favour a degree of co-operation with them as necessary to govern the country. The Godoy faction want to destroy Sandinismo immediately. So they were furious when Chamorro announced that Humberto Ortega was to stay on as interim head of the armed forces. Washington was not happy either, but their envoy arrived too late to prevent it.

Then, in the first act of the new Assembly, electing its president, the Chamorro candidate, Alfredo César, was only chosen with the support of the 39 FSLN votes, the majority of the UNO delegates (29 of 51) voting for the COSEP/Godoy choice.

Chamorro’s attitude to the Sandinistas does not come from any sympathy for progressive policies. Rather, her advisors, knowing the precariousness of both the UNO government and their position in the coalition, realise they have to go slowly, to try to weaken support for the Sandinistas bit by bit.

The $300m emergency aid that Bush had promised has still not been released. On 15 May Doña Violeta made a direct appeal to Bush for an emergency loan of just $40m, but this was refused.

Even before this, Miguel d’Escoto, previously FSLN Foreign Minister, commented:

‘What happened to Chamorro is a time bomb . . . I hope the UNO last at least three years in power because it’s important for the myth to be completely eroded away: showing that they [the USA] are not good friends to anyone, that friendship is not compatible with the imperialist being, with the selfish being.'


On 5 May contra commander Israel Galeano, who had refused to recognise previous agreements, signed one with President Chamorro in Managua. Under this the 12,000 contras now all in Nicaragua are due to hand in their arms to 800 UN troops. Probably some weapons will be handed in, with many others hidden in caches. Meanwhile, their armed presence in the five security zones makes for an uneasy time for local people, who have had to hand in their guns. 


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