The Latin American Left in the '90s: Interview with Daniel Ortega

LINKS: The world has radically changed and in many countries we've seen profound crisis and obstacles for the left and a decline In Its political activity. In this context, LINKS aims to encourage genuine discussion and debate around the Ideas of socialist renewal. We asked for this Interview because we have an enormous Interest In the developments In Nicaragua and the role of the FSLN. We will start by asking your opinion of the Sao Paulo Forum

DANIEL Ortega: We have seen great changes in a world in which the East-West conflict has disappeared and the North-South conflict has come into focus. The collapse of the Eastern bloc has uncovered the real conflict, which was somewhat obscured by the East-West dichotomy.

With the North-South conflict so pronounced, we in the South must make a great effort to link the social movements, the political and revolutionary organisations and the most advanced forces in the South. Ibis would allow us to develop the integration which would promote a SouthNorth dialogue with the essential first stage of linking the most advanced forces of the South with their counterparts in the North, so as to then build a bridge with the more established forces in the North.

Up until now, a North-centred policy has predominated, and in die case of the Socialist International (SI), this policy was very Euro-centric. The North-South initiatives from Europe have shown concern for the issues of the South and deserve our respect. Nevertheless, they are inadequate in the sense these initiatives must come from the South. Especially now with Europe's attention drawn by the extremely complex situation in Eastern Europe, the former USSR and what was Yugoslavia.

This calls for an even greater need to develop initiatives from the South and to make the political forces in the North more sensitive to the fact that we are also part of this planet. The South cannot be ignored because the explosive conditions and conflict we face eventually rebounds in the North. For example, the environment is now a vital issue for the North, yet it continues to plunder and destroy the South's forests and refuses to contribute to its development, thus ruining the planet through environmental degradation.

Given this global context, the Sao Paulo Forum was an initiative which gave shape to this vital need of the countries of the South. The interest it has attracted comes not only from the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America but also, as seen in the most recent Forum held in Havana, from the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean countries.

The experiment has also fostered interaction with political forces and social movements from Asia and Africa, and has attracted the attention and participation of progressive forces from the North. In addition, many parties in the Sao Paulo Forum have a real chance of winning government. So clearly the Forum is a new, broad and non-exclusive movement which allows us to see where we are, interchange ideas, offer mutual support, take collective positions on common concerns and link the issues of Latin America and the Caribbean in search of alternatives.

Latin America has passed through the stage from the '60s to the victory of the Nicaraguan revolution, when armed struggle predominated. Without denying the existence of the guerilla movements in Guatemala, Colombia and other Latin American countries, this is no longer the predominant form of struggle. We are now entering a new era, where political struggle within the framework of representative democracy is the norm.

Being open to those who advocate different forms of struggle, the Forum shows we've made progress and learnt from our mistakes. In the '60s, various movements, like the Tricontinental Front, were formed in Latin America and throughout the world. While they were necessary and played an important role at that time, they had the defect of being exclusive, and if you didn't support the armed struggle, you didn't participate. Now, on the contrary, it is a much broader, non-exclusive movement, which is being put to the test.

The majority of the Forum's member organisations participate in liberal, representative democracies and one of their greatest challenges is to ensure they are conceded power after winning elections. This is the challenge, and it's still an unknown in Latin America.

Up until now, liberal democracy, representative democracy of bourgeois democracy, whatever you like to call it, has shown itself to be intolerant and anti-democratic when it comes to the crunch. It was put to the test with Allende. Chile was one of the best examples of democracy in Latin America until the military coup showed how intolerant and undemocratic it really was. This is what has happened to democracy in Latin America.

The recent results of Venezuela's presidential elections don't show that representative democracy is now tolerant, because Caldera is not Allende. He comes out of Venezuela's two-party tradition, the Christian Democrats and Democratic Action, which has been dominant since the '60s. While there's no doubt that Caldera appears to have independent positions and is supported by sections of the left, you couldn't use him as an example to show that this form of democracy works.

Brazil is where we're going to see whether or not this Latin American liberal democracy works. We'll put it to the test in Brazil with Lula, in Uruguay with the Frente Amplio, in El Salvador with the FMLN. This is a great challenge. Has bourgeois democracy learnt that it must respect these forces?

In Mexico it's a very interesting situation, where the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has managed to win elections for decades, is being challenged by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), led by Chuatemoc C.1rdenas. Nevertheless, you would have to consider Mexico's idiosyncrasies and you can't compare the Mexican system with that of Chile. They are completely different. We will see if Mexican democracy, currently headed by President Salinas, really works and if the August '94 elections are genuinely free, fair and without fraud.

The Latin American left faces these important struggles because of the gains it has won. I wouldn't make a link, as some people have done, between the collapse of the socialist bloc in Eastern Europe and a decline or long-term retreat of the Latin America left. 1 see the opposite. With the traditional parties, including some so-called social democratic parties, like that of Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela or the National Liberation Party in Costa Rica, implementing their worn-out neo-liberal programs, the Latin American people see the left as a real option. People are voting for the left, and when Lula confronted Collor de Mello, it was a new phenomenon, a step forward for Brazil and all of Latin America. The Latin American left is now in a very favourable position from where it can win more space.

The Forum has become a very important element in this process because it promotes a broad and open interchange between the revolutionary forces involved in armed struggle, and those progressive organisations and revolutionary forces participating in elections. Above all, it is important for our links beyond Latin America. It's only natural that we make links with forces in the South, because obviously you can't think of a movement like this outside its natural environment. But, at the same time, we can make links with those forces in the North which are more sensitive to the issues that concern us.

As a result of the Forum how do you see the prospects for socialism In the future? And what Is your option, or your ideal form of socialism?

The traditional Latin American left has understandably clung to a paradigm, which has had a very concrete expression in the Soviet model, in China, in Vietnam and in Cuba. As Sandinistas, we had the advantage of not tying ourselves to this paradigm. Instead of imposing its model, we implemented our own. As an alternative to bourgeois democracy, we proposed grassroots democracy and established a popular and democratic government, which was reflected in profound changes in Nicaragua. We respected the paradigm and we understood the Soviet, Cuban, Chinese and Vietnamese models. Everyone for his own. However, after the changes made in the Cuban revolution and keeping in mind the experience of Chd, who has been a symbol for us, we thought that a viable revolution in Nicaragua had to take into account our reality and our culture, our religious nature. Ibis initial direction wasn't shared by all Sandinistas, but one sector of Sandinismo pushed for this proposal, which later gathered momentum and led to the overthrow of Somoza and the establishment of a revolutionary government.

When Sandinistas talk about socialism, we mean utopia, with communism even further off, and we are still not sure how socialism will develop in our country. We had the Eastern European and Cuban socialist models as examples, but it seemed to us that Nicaraguan socialism couldn't be built the same way. We had to consider the economy and cultural characteristics, like the social consciousness in the cultural roots of our people. We considered a representative democracy with revolutionary roots, a multi-party political system and a mixed economy compatible with a revolutionary program.

This perspective of looking towards national realities and characteristics has been a growing and predominant tendency in Latin America since the '80s.

While we have a socialist ideal, we can't imagine constructing a socialist society in the short term. While considering the uneven development in people's struggles in Latin America, we have to fight to win as much political space as we can. In Nicaragua we are in an extremely privileged position in comparison with other Latin American countries, even though we face a neo-liberal government which is implementing policies that relinquish sovereignty and self-determination.

We must accept this unbalanced political development and not expect sustained advances in all Latin American countries. The predominant vi of the '60s and 70s was more or less that 'We are going to have a revolution now and establish the socialist system that we see in Cuba". In this sense, revolutionaries in Latin America have matured markedly. For example, the compañeros of the FMLN in El Salvador have changed from a traditional guerrilla force, which fought doggedly for revolution until they won sufficient political space. This victory constitutes a great gain for Central America and the whole of Latin America.

While it's very risky at the moment to try to define our ideal, when we talk of socialism, we say we want full democracy in the economic, political and social spheres.

I think it would be folly to define a blueprint for how this will come about. When we've tried to come up with the alternative in the Sao Paulo Forum, we haven't been able to, and 1 don't think we will. Because it would be a bit like a new dogma, and this would be dangerous. We must look for space and interchange experiences, so as to build on the gains won in each Latin American country. We must realise that we're not talking about a short-term process, but preparing for the long haul. This is especially true given the hegemony of neo-liberalism and imperialism. While this could be temporary, it's clearly the current reality.

We can't expect advances to come at the same time and at the same level from every country. It's about making headway where you can, making gains in each country and offering mutual support, with the perspective that a victory for one is a victory for the whole of Latin America. An election win in Brazil for example, is a win for the Haitian people, even while they are repressed by a military regime. We will see how the bourgeois democratic system really functions in Brazil. Will it permit the Workers' Party (M to win the elections? If they win, will they be allowed to take power?. And after taking power, will they be allowed to govern? There are many unknowns and risks.

In addition, the Latin American left involved in this process must firstly work towards a political alliance with the military. 1 can't imagine any Latin American force taking power through elections, if it doesn't have at least some form of agreement with the armed forces.

Equally, it's important to make some links with the more politically conscious economic sectors, those that are progressive economically if not politically. These understandings would allow a left-wing political force to take power and then govern. Without them 1 think it would be very difficult, because the alternative is to destroy the established forces and knock down their main pillar, the military, as we did here in Nicaragua, as the Cubans did and as the Salvadorans tried to do with some achievement.

However, when the civic struggle predominates and left-wing political forces become active in electoral processes, you must consider the army, because taking power means controlling the arms. You can't destroy the army peacefully, at least not in Latin America. So you have to make links with the army and look for how to awaken and encourage the democratic and grassroots spirit which, I believe, exists in every state or social organisation. Of course this process would be extremely arduous with some armies. However, if the left wins an election, it will to have to reach a minimum understanding with the military and with the established economic powers, both of which have a practical power of veto. This would enable the left to develop effective programs for the country.

It's not about jumping immediately from this stage to a complete socialist system, nor finding and applying a socialist model. It's about going forward in terms of winning space and strengthening national proposals in the interests of the majority. The historically powerful sectors must be dragged into a correlation of forces in which the balance of power lies with the grassroots sectors.

Ibis is how I see the short to medium-term prospects of the current political processes in Latin America. It depends to a great extent on the strength of the left in each country and its unity, which is another problem. Furthermore, you must take into account the experiences of China, Vietnam and Cuba. We have to think about what's happening in these countries and see what they are doing. They are incorporating elements of the free market and opening up to foreign investment.

After the Russian revolution, everything became black or white, including the subsequent struggle. Socialism or communism was painted black, while Western capitalism was pure white. For socialists or communists, all aspects of capitalism were rubbish and for capitalism, socialism and communism had no redeeming features. This enormous cultural barrier kept each side blind to the positive achievements of the other. After all, these achievements are part of the heritage of humanity, not the patrimony of big business in the capitalist world, nor the exclusive possessions of communist governments in Eastern Europe. Ibis division, largely due to the forces of capitalism trying to destroy the socialist experiment, became totally exclusive. The Soviets said they had the best scientific development and technology, as did the Americans and the Europeans. 7he Soviets, on one side, tried to deny advances they didn't want to see, although it would have been in their interest to know what was happening on the other side of the wall. And this was true in all areas, including social and economic development. Thus, the planned economy, on one side, and the free market, on the other, became antonyms. We can see that the Chinese, by having the sense to incorporate elements of the market economy at the right time and to open up to the developments of the capitalist world, which had been completely closed off to them, are now promoting a more open process. The same now goes for the Vietnamese and the Cubans. This shows us that it may be necessary to incorporate aspects of the market economy, something totally rejected by the socialist model of Eastern Europe and Cuba, in order to find out what will strengthen the economy and allow it to better produce and distribute its resources.

However, this doesn't mean giving up the socialist project. What we are seeing here is simply the possibility-with China, Vietnam and Cuba as the laboratories—of implementing a socialist project which continues to opt for a more egalitarian and just system, but with elements of the market economy and more open to the global market. Look at the ethical element of the Cuban alternative, which is in complete contrast to the free market policies put forward by other Latin American governments. There's a big difference.

It all depends on who has the arms. If the arms are in the hands of Somoza's military forces, they will be used for repression. If they are in the hands of the people, they will be used to defend the people. In this case, even if the economic instruments are free market policies, which could include adjustment policies, and even if the government negotiates with international organisations, like the World Bank, the alternative will be viable if it maintains a revolutionary course, aims for equity and opposes the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. This is the challenge that we have to consider.

For us, It's Interesting to note that In Europe and In other regions the influence of social democracy Is waning Social democrats might win election with very small margins but, like In Australia, they clearly don't have the genuine backing of the voters. In Latin America, however, there seems to be a strong Interest In social democracy and Its Increasing Influence appears to be partly related to the opportunities of winning space and elections. But, for us, there is a contradiction between the rise In social democracy ad the Influence of revolutionary organisations genuinely determined to make profound changes In their respective countries. Do you see this as a contradiction? Does an alliance with social democracy ultimately lead to an alliance with Imperialism?

I disagree that social democracy is on the rise in Latin America, although many parties label themselves social democratic. The most influential social democratic party in Latin America was in Venezuela, and there was a time when it played an important role as the region's foremost social democratic force. But now it's in a very bad way. In recent times, social democratic parties have also been in power in Costa Rica, where it is very strong, Bolivia with Jaime Paz, Peru with laín García and in Ecuador. If we only look at the strongest social democratic forces in Latin Americabecause there are also a number of very small parties-we can see that they haven't been able to sustain themselves and have been seriously weakened.

Ibis is because most of these parties, after taking power, have applied structural adjustment programs and alienated the people. They have simply done what any traditional conservative party would have done. As a result, alternative forces to social democracy have been growing in Latin America. 1 could mention here the PT, as a political force which offers an alternative to social democracy. In Brazil, the PT and the strong Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB), headed by Brizola, formed an alliance in the elections against Collor.

The Latin America left has tried to make links with the S1. The FSLN has had strong ties with the SI since 1978 and we are currently observers.

But this doesn't mean we've opted for social democracy. We've maintained a philosophical basis which we call Sandinismo. 1 don't consider that looking for labels, whether it be social democracy or any other, is useful for the Latin American left. They should now look to their own rich experiences, reality and historical processes. Ibis is where they'll find the theoretical basis for social change. Social democracy then is very weak overall. It has some possibilities in the Dominican Republic, with Peña Gómez who's competing for the presidency in 1994. But in El Salvador and here in Nicaragua the social democratic parties are tiny. In El Salvador, the FMLN is the most influential leftist force and is the obvious choice. Although some of the compageros within the FMLN are talking about "social democratisation", this is their option and we respect it.

In our case, we should "Sandinise" ourselves even more. As 1 said to the compakeros who'll be attending the extraordinary congress of the FDLN 'We shouldn't be thinking about becoming social democrats, or moving to the centre, the right or the left. We should "Sandinise" ourselves more, which is to strengthen the essence, the practical and theoretical proposals of the Sandinista revolution.' We don't need to leave the country in search of a social democratic or any other type of program for Nicaragua. We have enough contributions here to come up with solutions. This clear tendency to link with the SI is related to the fall of the Eastern bloc. What happened? The USSR and Eastern Europe provided a natural focal point for the left in Latin America and the world. When it collapsed, what was left was various right-wing international networks. The SI was the only international organisation which seemed at least sensitive to the problems of the South and had links with the political processes in Latin America, like the strong ties it has with Nicaragua. So this has meant that many political forces and countries from the South, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, whose point of convergence was Eastern Europe or the USSR now see the SI as a handle or an expression of influence in this unipolar world. Our relationship with the SI is related to our interests, is deliberate and principled.

This relationship does not mean that social democratic thought is going to be presented to the Latin American left as something new. Social democracy has been in Latin America for ages, in sizable parties which have been in power. 1 have mentioned five countries where social democracy has been in power and subsequently lost government. 7he Latin American left won't see social democracy as the panacea or model. If this were so, we would already have the ~igm and would be discussing the ultimate alternative. However, we are persistently searching for alternatives because, in some ways, we lost a focal point which served as a paradigm.

I agree that there are risks in making alliances with social democratic parties, but no more than what you run by forming alliances with any other traditional political force, be it liberal or conservative. The risks are the same, even though the latter are more docile towards imperialism and that social democracy has at times, without breaking from the imperialist yoke, put forward diverse tactics which have caused serious contradictions with imperialism.

'Me influence of social democracy has markedly weakened since the fall of the Eastern bloc, especially in Europe. It was much stronger in Europe when it was manoeuvring between the Soviet Union and the United States. It had more room to move, more space, and its organisations were then more independent. With the collapse of Eastern Europe, social democracy lost its rear guard, because with Eastern Europe snapping at their heels, they were more intrepid when confronting the United States. Since losing this rear guard, they have become alarmingly subordinate to US policies. It's alarming for the Europeans themselves and also for the countries of the South. Because, in the end, we are the victims of the US policies towards our countries, and these policies are now readily taken up by the Europeans.

Within a representative democracy, where the interests of established capital dominate through its army, legal institutions and secure economic power, the left has to fight elections in a minefield. So it's understandable and even justifiable, in order to make headway through this minefield, that the left takes the hand of the forces of social democracy.

In some cases, the left has alliances with even more conservative forces. In Bolivia, for example, the left currently has an agreement with the government, which is apparently conservative. 1 say "apparently" because, in practice, when it comes to governing, no-one really knows who will be more conservative, those carrying the conservative flag or those with the social democratic or progressive flag. Some of the self-proclaimed social democratic or progressive parties become even more conservative that the conservatives themselves when they get into power.

When defining its policy of alliances, in order to win space and make headway it's understandable that the left considers social democracy as more trustworthy and its first choice. However, all of this depends on the situation in each country It's possible there are countries where an apparently conservative force turns out to be more trustworthy in pushing forward a project with the left, than one of the progressive or social democratic forces.

It's clear that imperialism doesn't like or support these alliances. It tries to marginalise the left or deny it any space at all. Look what happened in Brazil when the PT and Brizoia's PSDB formed an alliance in the last elections. Because the strength was with the left, the whole works came out against them. Of course, if the social democratic forces had been dominant, imperialism would have seen this as a lesser evil but as it was driven by the left, imperialism saw the alliance as a threat. Just as it would see an alliance with a conservative or liberal party, if the left held the reigns.

Could you comment on the current situation in Nicaragua and how that Is reflected In the debates and opinions of the FSLN's upcoming congress?

Ibis congress, which will be held on May 20-22, is an extraordinary session of the '91 congress. Obviously many compañeros who didn't participate in the '91 congress, and who now are very active, will attend. The congress has very clear objectives. Firstly, to update the FSLN's program, in view of the new conditions in Nicaragua and to ready ourselves for the next elections. Secondly, to update the Frente's statutes. In the '91 congress, we really didn't have a thorough discussion on this theme. The statutes can't be the same as those we had when we were in government during the '80s, and even when we're in power again in '96, they will have to be modified.

This will logically bring about changes in conceptions, which will enrich and improve the organisational or the leadership changes that must be made at the district or national levels. We shouldn't see changes within Sandinismo simply by looking at structural problems, or at individuals within the party. The Frente won't necessarily be revitalised and strengthened simply with structural changes or if some people disappear. We see it as an issue of making a big leap and changing conceptions.

We are emphasising this because it's very important that the congress permits a deep and thorough debate around our program and statutes and that it doesn't simply become a forum to elect leaders. This will allow us to end the congress united around an updated program and statutes. Greater cohesion will also permit us to regain Sandinismo's ethics of the '60s and '70s, impose discipline within a revolutionary democracy and clarify the very complex current situation. For example, in general a political leader in die past was solely a political leader. Nowadays, this person may have become a businessperson or a union or community leader as well, and is therefore more active in their movement or association than in the party. In these circumstances, because the economic struggle is so strenuous-and not being in government obviously makes this situation worse-it is difficult to reconcile their new role with that of a political leader. One debate is on who should be a party activist, and it is aimed at improving, not excluding. Perhaps some compañeros who are presently activists, and whose work is within the unions or the community movements, should continue with this work and remain as MN affiliates, supporters or friends.

Then how do we get MN representatives from the unions and associations? Previously, the union leadership was almost automatically the representative. But given that union leaders must work with a broad range of forces, at some stage we could have union leaders who are not necessarily Sandinistas. So it may be better if the union's Sandinista rank and file elect their representative, and not necessarily from the leadership.

This is the kind of theme we must thoroughly discuss in order to come up with better definitions for Sandinismo. If we don't do this, the situation will become chaotic and contradictions will appear in our practice and views. There is some confusion and contradiction between the issue of leadership and the political views of the Frente.

This congress will be held as we face the challenge of defending a revolutionary project under very difficult and complex conditions. We must come out of the congress with the unity needed to push forward the struggle which will ensure we win the ’96 elections. While Nicaragua is facing a deep crisis, it's not a crisis of governability. Venezuela has a crisis of governability. After Pérez won government, he implemented a series of measures they called the Caracaso which brought about this crisis. But here the government has been governing and implementing its policies for four years. In spite of the fact that Pérez was respected and renowned throughout Latin America and the world, which is not the case for Mrs Chamorro, her government acts with greater assurance and strength than the government of Pérez ever did.

Why is this? Because the government's economic team acts very deliberately. It's not true that the government is stupid, it knows exactly what it's doing. Despite the polarisation and crisis in the National Assembly, the government continues governing and has been implementing its policies so as to dismantle the economic, social and political achievements of the revolution, both within the country and internationally.

So it's not a crisis of governability, but a much more serious crisis coming from the political and economic struggle between revolution and counter-revolution. The FSLN's alternative is based on the grassroots sectors and advocates progress and improved benefits for Nicaraguans, while the government's proposal is to re-establish the old order.

We are not trying to defend the model we developed during the '80s, nor are we pressuring the government to do so. Neither do we plan to return to this model in ’96. We don't advocate a return to the model of the '60s and '70s, as the government is doing, or a return to the model of the '80s. And it's not because we think this model was bad, but because it's no longer effective. Our new model includes the democratisation of property, and we haven't yet been able to achieve stability on this crucial issue. Our vital concern is that the government is not holding on to property which could be allocated to the grassroots sectors, such as workers, former soldiers or former contras.

This situation also creates conflict with the army and police. The government knows it has these foxes at its disposal and under its command. Nevertheless, there is a commitment to democracy and the revolution within these institutions, which stops them acting brutally or terrorising workers or the general community. The government realises it doesn't have an ideal or reliable coercive force to help it turn the clock back.

We have been fighting a daily struggle to at least maintain an influence in the privatisation process, to ensure the democratisation of property and the economy. In order to stand ground, Sandinista workers must realise that the struggle for property is not short-term. In some cases we are looking to turn back the tide, but this process is obviously under attack. We have to gather our forces to ensure that property stays in the hands of the workers, so that a revolutionary government in '96 can consolidate these new economic relations. This would set the scene for economic democracy and strengthen social and political democracy in Nicaragua.

The government was voted into power and we respect its legitimacy, nonetheless we have the legitimacy of the Constitution. We drew up the Constitution without imagining that another government would come to power and begin dismantling the gains of the revolution. On this issue, the constitutional reforms we are discussing with the National Opposition Union (UNO) are designed to protect the Nicaraguan people and, above all, the sectors threatened with losing their property.

We also want these reforms to protect the country's natural wealth. For example, procedures to distribute resources, like the mines and the marine life, are not specified in the current Constitution. These decisions are presently made by the government executive, but we are proposing that this process be regulated by laws debated by members of the National Assembly, who are obviously not all government representatives. We need a natural resources planning body, which would include workers, cooperative members and employers, as well as the government. The National Assembly must also be able to approve or reject agreements made in negotiations with international financial institutions. Taxation laws must also be submitted to the National Assembly. Constitutional reforms will be an important issue in 1994.

Overall, the '87 Constitution is very good, but it needs to be more specific. We didn't have the intuition to add the controls which appear in other constitutions, and after reading many of them, we've come across some with minute details that simply didn't occur to us.

These reforms conflict with the government's interests and it will oppose changes, such as the power of the executive. Although we were at war when our government drew up the Constitution, we had a highly participative government and didn't concentrate power in the hands of the president. It was a joint effort, as the presidency made decisions with the national leadership after consulting with the National Assembly. Now, the decision-making power is highly concentrated in the hands of the minister or the presidency A parliamentary system is not a bad idea, it's just that the conditions for it don't exist here. So we should look for a balance between the two.

All this, along with the issue of the economy, will provoke discussion, controversy and negotiations in 1994. Our view on the economy is very distinct from that held by the government. They believe they're on the right track and that the economy will rum around in '94 We don't share their optimism, and we are very concerned about the direction of the economy, the social conditions and their repercussions in the political sphere.

In addition, the seven UNO parties are calling for the people to come out on the streets and demand that a constitutional assembly be convoked to write up a new constitution. 1 don't think this plea has much of a future, but it's a tense issue that we can't ignore.

We also have ever-present foreign interference in our internal issues. This government is willing to submit to pressure from any foreign government, by not only the Yankees, who obviously see the army as a manifestation of the power of the revolution and of Sandinismo. The US is not happy with this, and is continually trying to weaken the army and police. Whenever the government makes concessions, they turn up the pressure, that's what the Yankees are like.

A very difficult panorama presents itself in 1994. Our priorities, as Sandinistas, are to build internal cohesion at the congress and continue the fight for jobs, to defend the workers and their property and to struggle against the government's economic policy This necessarily calls for the redefinition of the Sandinista program, the updating of the Sandinista statutes and the strengthening of Sandinismo as we look towards the next elections.

Given that there Is no socialist bloc to provide support and that Nicaragua has an enormous US$11 billion debt, It you win the '96 elections, how are you going to confront the International financial Institutions, like the IMF, which determine the economic decisions In this country? What options do you have?

There are still a few years to go before '96. The changes in the world have been so dizzying in recent times that you'll have to wait a bit to see what it's like in '96.

Nevertheless a grassroots government with a revolutionary commitment to the majority, negotiating with the IMF or the World Bank, even if it implements the sort of adjustment policies we began in '85 and applied with greater rigor in '89, is not the same as negotiating with a capitalist government. As this government sees the impoverishment of its people and the concentration of wealth as the norm, they are not negotiating in the interest of the Nicaraguan people. That's die basic difference.

If we had won the elections and if the gringos were not blocking it, we would be negotiating with the IMF. We would have relations with the World Bank. We always have, we never broke them off. The IMF and the World Bank even monitored our adjustment program and were very positive about the results. Given the difficult global situation, negotiations with the international organisations, with their severe conditions, appear inevitable. But negotiating with those who disagree with neo-liberal policies is not the same as negotiating with those who support them. And it's not the same when the arms are in the hands of the people rather than in the hands of Somoza's guards. This is a big difference.