Unpredictability is a mark of life in Central America. While natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and droughts have sporadically visited great tragedy on the region, political rifts and extremes have created a perpetual state of agony.
The only predictable factor in Central American politics is that the unpredictable is always around the corner. Governments are toppled, new regimes are installed. But one constant remains in this region in which power in the extreme is wielded without conscience: the grinding poverty of the people.
El Salvador is torn by civil war, massacres of Guatemala's Indian population are on the rise under the reign of its "born-again" dictator, and Honduras is beginning to exhibit the signs of increased repression in the form of torture and "disappearances." Despite power shifts, barbaric militaries have maintained an upper hand throughout the area.
On July 19, 1979, there was reason to hope in Central America. A people's struggle rid Nicaragua of a 45-year dynasty of terror and atrocity under the Somoza family. A brutal dictator was gone, and the people took their liberation into their own hands. They planted new crops, learned to read, improved their medical care. They had inherited chaos, and they had begun to change it.
For many people around the world, Nicaragua has been a sign. They have wanted the Nicaraguan experiment to work. They have applauded its improvements, grieved its mistakes, and held on to hope.
Nicaragua is trying to be a light. Like any candle, it sputters sometimes. And sometimes it fears the darkness around it.
Those fears are justified. There is a darkness that is cutting the candle off at the base, making it shorter and shorter and threatening to come down from above to extinguish it entirely.