Local News Archive
Print Issue: September 1, 1983
Sandinista Government: A Change From Bad To Worse
By Msgr. Noel Burtenshaw
(A Nicaraguan couple, visiting the U.S., respond to the picture of their country presented in an interview with Father Gerry Conroy in the August 4, issue.)
Juan spoke no English, Marias English was perfect. The visitors were a husband and wife visiting Atlanta from Nicaragua. Both wanted to comment on Father Gerry Conroys remarks on their native land and the present governing Sandinista regime.
You will note, said Juan in Spanish through his interpreter and friend, John Timossi, that I cannot give my identity to you. That is because I could lose my job in Nicaragua and lots more too. That alone should tell you about the present conditions in my homeland. I would like to say here at the very outset that under the Sandinista regime we have lost our liberty in all aspects.
Before the revolution Juan and Maria both worked on the National Human Rights commission in Nicaragua. The commission was needed, said Juan, in obvious anxiety to get the point across. In fact, the revolution was needed. But after the supposed victory, there was no Human Rights Commission. And there is none now. Now all is handled by the Sandinistas.
When Juan and Maria, who are lower middle class farmers with four children, say all they mean a lot. The Church is strong and standing up to the government but the teaching of Marxism is constant. I mean it goes on all the time. It is in the schools, factories, offices, newspapers, everywhere. The papers are censored, of course, and the Catholic radio has been closed.
Both Juan and Maria were asked if they read Father Gerry Conroys comments. Oh yes, indeed, was the answer. The man spoke what he was shown. If you really want to experience Nicaragua today you must go and live there. The people are held by force and fear. You have the Neighborhood Committee that spies and reports. This is a lot of fear. Live there and you will see.
But wasnt Somoza and his dictatorial regime just as bad? Somoza was an evil midget and we welcomed a revolution to rid ourselves of him, said Juan. But the Sandinistas, which were welcomed by the people, have turned out to be a perverse giant. And the people are beginning to say so. They are saying this is not our revolution. The change was needed but the Sandinista government was a change from bad to worse.
Economically, is day to day living better under the Sandinistas? See these jeans, said Juan. I bought them here. You cannot get them in Nicaragua. You stand in line for everything. Food is very short. Each family gets only two pounds of rice and beans each week. Farmers are reluctant to work the land. They are not compensated. All of Somozas holdings were seized. Land was promised to the poor. None has been given. Recreational facilities have become military installments. It is impossible to get visas to leave but many are fleeing illegally. Life has become impossible.
Juan and Maria claim to be very dedicated to the church and looked forward to the visit to Pope John Paul to Nicaragua in 1983. But again the Sandinistas tried to spoil that visit. Mobs are allowed to roam freely and cause mini persecutions to people at will. These mobs persecuted pilgrims who attempted to see the Pope during his stay. It was sad. Many wanted to see the Pope and never did.
According to Juan, a division is taking place in the ranks of the clergy. Some are for the new government; others are against it. The government is taking advantage of the division in this way, says Juan. A popular church has been formed. So far it is not strong and has been condemned by the Vatican and the bishops. But even that should tell you what the revolution has become.
But it is not just the government of the Sandinistas that we need to fear, says Juan. Everywhere there is the presence of the Soviets. All our military stuff seems to be Russian. Our trucks are Russian, so are our tractors. It also seems that under the supervision of the Soviets a new canal is being dug across Nicaragua. We certainly do not like that presence in our country.
Both Juan and Maria will return to Nicaragua soon. They still hope that somehow the revolution, now four years old, will fulfill its original promise, but they are not optimistic. For 45 years we have searched for better things for Nicaraguans. So far they have not happened.