World

When Sandinistas Clash

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The socialist magazine In These Times carries an interesting dispatch from Nicaragua, where Sandinista President Daniel Ortega's authoritarian ways have been earning him enemies on the left as well as the right. An excerpt:

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Until last summer, in Leon--a longtime Sandinista stronghold and the country's second largest city--it seemed possible, if not probable, that the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front] would lose November's municipal elections for the first time since the 1979 revolution. The Sandinista Renovation Movement, or MRS--a reformist, social democratic opposition party that criticizes Ortega as authoritarian and corrupt--posed a serious challenge to FSLN.

Over the last six months, the MRS, feminist leaders and other critics of the Ortega administration have encountered intimidation and physical violence, leading international organizations--such as Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch and the Catholic Church--to criticize the government's heavy-handed tactics. In June, the FSLN-controlled Supreme Electoral Council--which organizes the country's elections--stripped the MRS of its right to participate in the November elections, citing irregularities in the party's formation.

Elsewhere in Reason: Glenn Garvin wrote about the first era of Sandinista misrule in our March 2000 issue. Turns out he gave then-president Arnoldo Alemán more reformist cred than the man deserved (though he's right that the pol "would have been at home in Mayor Daley's Chicago"), but his entertaining portrait of the country in the '80s is well worth rereading.