[Marxism] Tomas Borge is dead

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 1 06:38:54 MDT 2012


Tomas Borge Martinez Dead: Last Living Founder Of Sandinista 
Movement Dies At 81

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Tomas Borge Martinez, the last surviving 
founder of the Sandinista guerrilla movement that overthrew 
Nicaragua's U.S.-backed right-wing dictatorship in 1979 and 
replaced it with a leftist system criticized for its own 
repressive measures, died Monday night. He was 81.

Rosario Murillo, the wife of President Daniel Ortega, announced 
the death in a simultaneous broadcast on Radio Ya and other 
stations. Murillo, who also serves as a government spokeswoman, 
did not give a cause of death, but the military had said 
previously that Borge was being treated for pneumonia and other 

Borge joined with Carlos Fonseca Amador and others in 1961 to 
found the National Sandinista Liberation Front. It was named for 
Augusto Cesar Sandino, who fought against U.S. military 
intervention in Nicaragua in the 1930s. Ortega joined the front 
later and became its leader.

"Like Carlos Fonseca, he (Borge) is one of the dead who never 
die," Murillo said the emotional announcement, her voice appearing 
to break at times. "He will always be with us in the Sandinista 
Front." She said memorial and funeral plans for Borge would be 
announced later.

An incendiary speaker, combative personality and avid admirer of 
the communist governments in Cuba and North Korea, Borge was 
central to both the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the 
establishment of a junta and then elected Sandinista government. 
He became the target of the Contra rebels supported by the Reagan 

Jailed twice by the Somoza's brutal dynastic dictatorship, Borge 
was himself accused of human rights violations as the powerful 
interior minister during the 1985-90 elected Sandinista 
administration, until it was voted out of power. Working from a 
six-story building that bore the slogan "Guardian of the People's 
Happiness," he controlled the police, immigration agents, jails 
and even firefighters, often using his nearly unbounded powers to 
punish the Sandinistas' enemies in the press, Roman Catholic 
Church and private business.

Miskito Indians living along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast alleged 
Borge orchestrated the displacement and killing of Miskitos 
suspected of anti-Sandinista activities, said Marcos Carmona, 
president of Nicaragua's Standing Commission on Human Rights. He 
was also accused of ordering the killing of 37 opposition members 
in a jail in the city of Granada during President Daniel Ortega's 
first term in office, something Borge always denied.

A staunch defender of the Sandinistas and Ortega, who won back the 
presidency in 2007 and was re-elected last year, Borge once wrote 
that "the return of the right is inconceivable" and pledged before 
the 2011 presidential election that the Sandinistas would stay in 
power "forever." Asked that year who he most admired, he 
responded: "First, Fidel Castro. Second, Fidel Castro. Third, 
Fidel Castro. Fourth, Fidel Castro. Fifth, Fidel Castro."

Congressman Jacinto Suarez called Borge "a transcendental figure 
in Nicaraguan history, not just for his founding of the Sandinista 
National Liberation Front, but for his fight to free the 
Nicaraguan people from Somoza's dictatorship ... I knew him for 40 
years and we always had a friendly relationship, but due to his 
strong character it was impossible not to have some kind of rift 
with him."

Renowned Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli, a Sandinista who later 
broke with the movement, found a tragic trajectory in Borge's life.

"For a good portion of the Nicaraguan revolution, Tomas Borge 
sought to embody its free-flowing, original character," Belli 
said. "Grandiose and unpredictable, he could be tough with one 
hand and extremely generous with the other. He was a good friend 
of his friends. After 1990, I have the sense he gave up his 
revolutionary illusions ... He ended up a tragic-comic figure."

Still, Belli said Monday that Borge's death "has made me very sad. 
I feel as if an era of Sandinismo died with him, notwithstanding 
the fact that he did not end his life as valiantly as he once 
lived it."

Born on Aug. 13, 1930, to a poor family in the city of Matagalpa, 
north of the capital, Borge left university before graduating and 
dedicated himself to the struggle against the hated Somoza family, 
which ran Nicaragua almost as an extended plantation from 1937 
until it was toppled by the Sandinistas in July 1979.

Economists estimate the Somozas owned about 20 percent of the 
country's cultivable land, as well as sugar mills, banks, credit 
companies, cattle ranches, fishing fleets, construction companies, 
florists and other businesses.

Borge received military training in Cuba, and in 1956 he was 
arrested and jailed for three years on charges of involvement in a 
plot that ended with dictator Anastasio Somoza Garcia's 
assassination by the poet Rigoberto Lopez Perez. Borge escaped 
from jail and took refuge in Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

After returning to Nicaragua, Borge helped found the Sandinista 
movement, which began small-scale armed actions against the 
dictatorship about a decade after its founding.

In January 1978, the Somoza regime was seriously weakened when 
opposition journalist Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, editor of the 
newspaper La Prensa, was murdered by a hired gunman named Domingo 
Acevedo and four accomplices. Chamorro's widow, Violeta Barrios de 
Chamorro, blamed the assassination on officials in the former 
Somoza government, who fled into exile after the dictator was 
toppled. All five gunmen were later convicted, but Mrs. Chamorro 
pardoned them after she was elected president in 1990.

Imprisoned for subversive activities at the time of Chamorro's 
killing, Borge was liberated in August 1978 by a Sandinista 
commando force that attacked the National Palace, took legislators 
hostage and traded them for a group of Sandinista guerrillas who 
then escaped to Cuba.

Borge became minister of the interior after the Sandinista victory 
in July 1979 that toppled Somoza Debayle, who was the son of the 
slain Somoza Garcia.

As interior minister, Borge was accused of expelling and harassing 
clergymen during the war against the Contras, imposing strict 
censorship of the press and closing media outlets

In August 1982, the Rev. Bismark Carballo, director of Catholic 
Radio, was arrested by Sandinista police, stripped naked and taken 
to a police station. The official press at the time said he had 
been attacked by a jealous husband who found the priest with his wife.

At about the same time, Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega and four priests 
were expelled from Nicaragua, accused by the government of helping 
the U.S.-backed Contras.

A businessman allied with the opposition, Jose Castillo Osejo, 
charged that he was taken to Borge's office and was beaten by the 

Borge also imposed strict censorship on La Prensa, whose director, 
Mrs. Chamorro, ended Sandinista rule by being elected president in 

During Borge's time in power, the government created Sandinista 
Defense Councils known as "the eyes and ears of the revolution" 
which exist today as Citizen Empowerment Councils run by Rosario 
Murillo, the wife of Daniel Ortega who is secretary of 
communication and citizenship.

The reputation of Borge and other Sandinista officials were hurt 
by what Nicaraguans called the "pinata" – the hurried distribution 
of confiscated properties to Sandinista officials in the weeks 
before they left office after losing the 1990 election. A former 
comrade, poet and priest Ernesto Cardenal, wrote a book alleging 
that Borge was a millionaire, something he vigorously denied.

After Mrs. Chamorro's 1990 election victory, Borge became a 
congressman for the Sandinista National Liberation Front and was 
serving as ambassador to Peru when he fell ill.

Borge is survived by his second wife and four children.

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