SCOTT UND Residents of Jalapa, Nicaragua, in which this highly watched election occurred. We question whether any election can express full and sovereign democracy while a superpower attempts to force its will on a small nation.” The February 25 vote concluded an electoral process where technique overcame Third World limitations. Its design access for the media, ballot graphics, public announcements informing voters that choices would be secret, poll staffing, and counting procedures took months of planning by international monitors who worked against a backdrop of economic suffering and war-weariness. While the preparations were being made for the elections, the United States invaded Panama. The attack on a nation about 400 miles from Managua was an event thoroughly covered by the. Nicaraguan news media. So less than three months before the election, millions of Nicaraguans listened to the terror of Panamanians talking to radio reporters about the effects of U.S. bombing, about the obliteration of poor Panamanian neighborhoods and small towns. Most Nicaraguans could relate to these victims. Radio Sandino was on hand when U.S. troops forced their way into the Nicaraguan ambassador’s residence in Panama and near the Honduras border pushed people around. It transmitted onscene reactions of the terrified staff, and Nicaraguan television showed the vandalized building’s interior after the military withdrew. The Panamanian invasion clearly demonstrated the powerlessness of residents of small countries in the face of U.S. military excess. Barricada Internacional’ s Sergio de Castro attended top-level meetings and press conferences in December, after Panama was invaded. “Never since the [1979 Sandinista] triumph have I seen so much tension among the leaders,” de Castro said. On New Year’s Eve, within a few days of the invasion of Panama, I traveled with a group of couples to a cement-block seaside cottage as an escape for the holidays. All were concerned with their children’s growing terror of U.S. troops attacking Managua. In this seaside cottage, by candlelight and an outdoor fire \(there was no electricity or runcoming week. All had tickets to send the children out of the country. The women, all professionals, including a director of nursing and an economist, had militia assignments. One was in charge of troops and all expected to participate in hand-to-hand combat in the streets. “This way,” one said of the plans to send the children out of the country, “if we lose, the children will come back another day .to fight for a free Nicaragua.” . For many Nicaraguans, Panama was yet another example of the United States’ disregard for international law. It was a behavior that they understood; they had been victims of a similar U.S. policy for years, while U.S. actions were judged illegal and aggressive by the World Court and the United States ignored the rulings. So the current refusal of the contras to disarm and disperse, as required by the Central American Peace Accords and now urged by the United States, is not surprising, given the model provided by the contra benefactors. Despite the conciliatory tone of speeches made by leaders of both UNO and the Sandinista Frente, hard-ball behind-the-scenes negotiations began almost immediately after the election. UNO finds itself in a difficult situation, restricted by the Nicaraguan constitution from an immediate disbanding of the military and lacking the two-thirds majority required to change that document It further faces a National Assembly dominated by the Sandinistas, who hold 39 seats, while UNO’ s own representatives are spread across a fragile coalition ranging from far 10 MARCH 23, 1990
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