The Gift of Democracy

When I heard the election results from Nicaragua, the first thing that came to mind was Ronald Reagan's promise, "We'll make them cry uncle." After 10 years of war and economic devastation imposed by the United States, the Nicaraguan people had enough and cried "uncle." The White House called the results a triumph for democracy.

In a real sense, the Nicaraguan people had been given the gift of democracy, but not by the United States government or its favorite clients, the contras. The gift of democracy to the Nicaraguan people came from the Sandinistas, whom Washington consistently excoriated as totalitarian Marxists who would never give up power except by the gun. Instead it is the United States and the contras who have killed 30,000 Nicaraguans, injured tens of thousands more, and utterly destroyed the Nicaraguan economy with a virtual stranglehold.

The free and fair election carried out by the Nicaraguan government and attested to by 3,000 international observers was the most closely scrutinized of any in modern memory and proved that the hysterical U.S. characterizations of the Sandinistas have been dead wrong. The election was not a vindication of the contras, as their sponsors in the White House and the Congress have claimed; it was instead a vindication of the democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan revolution which the United States had sought to destroy as its number-one foreign policy objective of the 1980s.

War weariness and hunger became the decisive electoral realities in Nicaragua. "The people voted with their bellies," said one observer. "Everyone is so exhausted by war and economic hardship," said another. The state of the economy was the Sandinistas' most vulnerable weakness. Economic issues are central to most elections all over the world and were certainly paramount on February 25 in Nicaragua.

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