Monday, July 03, 2006
Ex-Sandanista Presidential candidate dies
Nicaraguan Presidential candidate. Herty Lewites, died of a heart attack over the weekend. For those (i.e. most of us) who have not been following Nicaraguan politics recently, it will come as a surprise that there were two Sandanista presidential candidates, former President Daniel Ortega, standing as the officall FSLN candidate, and Herty Lewites, standing for the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista.
It is now 16 years since the FSLN lost power, following the massive US intervention in the 1990 election campaign, that saw the neo-liberal Chamorro elected president, and who then systematically rolled back the Sandanista gains of the 1980s. The FSLN failed to provide firm and principled opposition, and many Sandanista leaders apparently took part in the corporate plunder for personal enrichment. This may seem an outlandish claim, but following the 1996 election of President Arnoldo Aleman, Daniel Ortega entered into a pact with Aleman, to provide personal immunity for any criminal charges against either party leader. This was particularly useful for Ortega as it quashed efforts to prosecute him for the alleged sexual abuse of his step daughter, Zoilamerica Narvaez.
Former FSLN mayor of Managua, and former Tourism minister under Ortega, Herty Lewistes, therefore broke from Ortega last year, firstly challenging within the FSLN for the presidential candidacy, and then when expelled from the party, standing as a “Sandanista renovation” candidate. There is great bad feeling: Lewites has accused FSLN leader Tomás Borge of negotiating land deals which will net him close to $4 million and Ortega has labelled Lewites a "Judas" and stated that he will "end up hanged by his own shame."
The US ambassador, Paul Trivelli, was supporting Lewites, and apart from promoting “clean government” Lewites was completely quiet on whether or not he opposed neo-liberlaism. His candidacy was populism without content. As Toni Solo wrote before Lewites’s death: “Here we are a year on in. Lewites programme? No one knows. Would his foreign policy support Cuba and Venezuela? Don't know. What's his energy policy to deal with soaring oil prices? Don't know. What's his agricultural policy? No one can tell you. Health? Education? Um, sorry, no one knows. When the crucial vote came in Nicaragua's legislature on the Central American Free Trade Agreement Lewites refused to clarify his position. Why? Most likely because he supported CAFTA but didn't want to say. When asked about CAFTA just before that decisive vote, Lewites supporters like Victor Tirado and Monica Baltodano refused to answer questions on the issue, as did Lewites himself.”
What is more Lewites party has allegedly received funding from the US body, the the International Republican Institute, to train 5000 party workers for the election. At a recent hustings meeting in Miami Lewites said he would urge his voters to oppose Ortega and vote for the neo-liberal candidate if the election went to a second round.
There has been a great deal of controversy within the North American solidarity movement, with exchanges in Z-Net between Toni Solo on the one hand, andthe Nicaragua Network on the other, over whether the solidarity movement should be supporting a return to government of the FSLN. Whatever the faults of Ortega and however flawed the FSLN there seems very little point in a political solidarity movement that doesn’t take sides between the only credible candidate of the Nicaraguan left, Daniel Oregta, and a neo-liberal ex-Sandanista whose candidacy was promoted by the Bush government, Lewites.
The unfortunate death of Lewites increases the chances of the FSLN returning to power, and opens the possibility of Nicaragua moving politically closer to Venzuela, Cuba and Bolivia.