[Marxism] Francois Houtart - Is there a left in Nicaragua?

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 2 17:13:01 MST 2006

(Quite a different perspective than that of Ernesto Cardenal, this
Belgian author whose works are published in Cuba and visits it
regularly, is sharply critical of the candidate of the Sandinista
Renovation movement, Edmundo Jarquin. He feels support to
Jarquin could end up helping the right, and points to the example
of Helena Heloisa's party in the recent Brazilian elections.)


Is there a left in Nicaragua? 
Francois Houtart 
La Jornada 

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Now that an election is soon to be held, one may wonder whether
there's really a left in Nicaragua. This question, however, goes
beyond the boundaries of this Central American nation to pose the
problem of the overall Latin American region.

Four political parties are predominant in the Nicaraguan electoral
campaign: two of them are liberal, whereas the other two respond to
the Sandinistas. The former are clearly right-wing, namely the
Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense with its candidate Eduardo Montealegre
on one hand, and on the other, the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista
(PLC), for which José Rizo is campaigning. Alianza is linked to the
current President of the Republic Enrique Bolaños, a conservative
landowner and businessman, and the PLC is no less than the fatefully
notorious Arnoldo Alemán?s heritage. The line dividing these two
parties is personal rather than ideological. Montealegre's has a much
bigger traditional clientelista[1] basis than the other liberal

Despite efforts of the United States to unite both liberal parties
in order to secure the victory of a force politically closer to them
and economically inclined to neoliberalism, these organizations are
yet to shake hands over a table. Given the existing divisions amid
the Sandinista opposition, such unity could guarantee a consolidation
of the present process.

The said Sandinista currents are headed by Frente Sandinista and
Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista (MRS). Gratified by about 15% of
the votes according to pre-election polls, the latter ranks as a
left-wing force inspired by Augusto César Sandino's great
revolutionary tradition. In fact, judging by statements of its
leaders and the party's own documents, there's no certainty about its
leftist nature. Its presidential candidate is a former top official
of the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (Inter-American Development
Bank) whose domestic policy and personal stand regarding today's
Latin American climate are not exactly promising in this connection.

His attacks on Frente Sandinista are mainly zeroed in on the
prevailing authoritarianism "Danielism[2]" within that party, the
unethical attitude of some of its leaders, their questionable
alliance with ex-president Alemán's party (the Pact) and its one-way
reconciliation with an ecclesiastical hierarchy unwilling to admit
any faux pas. That such criticism is right on target is beyond doubt,
albeit it would gain in credibility should the MRS offer a real
left-wing choice, as in the case of Brazil's Partido del Socialismo y
de la Libertad. Even if it's been improperly accused by some of
kowtowing to the United States, the movement has certainly smoothed
things out for the Empire's plans in the region by dividing the
opposition, as was evidenced by the visit that senator [actually,
Representative Dan] Burton (regrettably well-known for the
Helms-Burton Act to strengthen the Cuban embargo) paid last September
to clearly express his intention of meeting only with Montealegre's
liberal party and the MRS.

An approach to the existing situation from a left-wing perspective
imposes a class analysis. Actually, the MRS is primarily an outgrowth
of the upper and middle class, its members boasting a topnotch
intellectual and moral level whose immediate ethical dimension hold
sway over politics.

For its part, several factors have had adverse effects on Frente
Sandinista. First, there was the lack of ethics of some of its past
and present leaders. Second, the logic of forming political alliances
as the basis of parliamentary democracy to assure a share of the
power did little more than pave the way for politically and ethically
unbearable contradictions. Yet, the Sandinistas count on real popular
support as well as on a governmental platform with easier-to-see
left-wing leanings, including steps to come closer to Latin America?s
progressive axis, a key political issue in present-day Central
America to counteract the neoliberal dominance fueled jointly by
U.S.-backed interests and the regional well-to-do.

By way of conclusion, we can present you with some views. In truth,
there are no real left-wing parties in Nicaragua, but Frente
Sandinista is the closest to this current. Opening the country's door
to the victory of political neoliberalism and the U.S. neoliberal
goals in the region would be suicide for those bent on setting up
society on different bases, that is, a left-wing alternative.

Another basic problem is hovering over Nicaragua: what is
parliamentary democracy trying to do by killing the ends
(transforming society) to honor the means (access to power), thus
turning the latter into an end? Election-time demands a kind of logic
according to which parties (even those claiming to be on the left)
act as a function of the vote and leave aside any in-depth reflection
about what a left-wing platform is like and the training of its

The Nicaraguan election allows as well for some reflection on the
vital importance of ethics in politics from a three-fold standpoint. 

First, the ethics of life or, as described by Enrique Dussel, human
life production, reproduction and development. The present system is
a death factor that takes a heavy toll on Nicaragua. Opposed to an
awesome 15-to-20% population growth are a highly vulnerable upper
class and widespread misery and poverty both in the countryside and
in informal urban settlements, a model created by the neoliberal
economic, political and cultural systems. Fighting neo-liberalism is
the most important moral imperative and the uppermost ethical level
called to guide all the others and become the pillar of any leftist

On a second but not less important level is the internal ethics of a
political system (a party). Public opinion is quite severe in this
respect. Brazil, as the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, have paid the price
of not having a political ethics, as much related to internal
democratic organization as to the rejection of any act of corruption
or alliances that belie a principle. The third level is reserved for
the political actors' personal ethics. We have frequently seen,
especially in Nicaragua, how much this ethics matters and the very
high cost in political terms that its absence might entail.

Needless to say, all three levels of ethics count when it comes to
assuming a left-wing position. Nevertheless, the first one must be
the prime basis of any political judgment. The remaining two have to
be permanently demanded, albeit they play second fiddle to the
former. This may have consequences for the election in Nicaragua,
where the special stress that MRS has put on the last two levels of
ethics could do away with the first one and give the go-ahead to a
victory of the right.  


[1] In Latin American politics, the practice of obtaining votes with
promises of government posts, etc. (from clientelismo) (T.N.).

[2] After former Nicaraguan president and present contender Daniel
Ortega. (T.N.).

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