A Nicaraguan Icon?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryJust a few weeks ago, the last co-founder of the Nicaraguan Sandinista National Liberation Front (i.e. the Sandinistas), Thomas Borge, died from respiratory failure. He was 81. His funeral was attended by tens of thousands of people (Sandinista supporters), and he was given a special farewell by current Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Borge will be buried in the Plaza of the Revolution, and there is no question that he will become a virtual revolutionary saint in Nicaragua (and elsewhere) for having been one of the major players of the Nicaraguan Revolution and the installation of the Sandinistas from 1979-1990. Some say that Thomas Borge is being “deified” by Ortega so that when Ortega goes he will be just as much declared a revolutionary saint like Thomas Borge. That may be true, but in my view there is more to this story. Thomas Borge has been declared a revolutionary saint in an effort to sanitize him and the history of the Sandinistas.

What most in Nicaragua will not do now is criticize him for what he did do. From 1979 to 1990, he was the head of the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Interior—the Sandinista secret police. Under him thousands of people were imprisoned for their political and religious dissent. Under Borge people were tortured, held in prison without trial, and executed on Borge’s orders. Borge was especially brutal to the Miskito Indians on Nicaragua’s east coast. During the civil war against dictator Anastasio Somoza, the Miskitos supported the Sandinistas. However, when the Sandinistas came to power, they tried to forcibly indoctrinate the Miskitos into Marxism-Leninism. When the Miskitos resisted, the Sandinistas burnt down their villages, forced tens of thousands of Miskitos into concentration camps (so-called “relocation camps”), and had innocent men, women and children tortured, executed and buried alive on Borge’s orders. It is estimated that 10 percent of the entire Miskito population was wiped out by the Sandinistas.

Doesn’t sound like much of a saint does he? But the Sandinistas have to keep up this appearance for the younger generation of Nicaraguans so that they can legitimate their rule. Anything less and people will start calling into question what the Sandinistas are doing now. After the Sandinistas were driven from power in 1990, they worked, networked and infiltrated into positions of power over the years to be able to retake control. They built up their local committees, took over the unions, slowly got their own people into lower positions from the political process and into the judiciary. This made it possible for the Sandinistas to come to power again in 2007. They intend to stay in power as long as they can. Even though it was in the constitution, Daniel Ortega ran for a second term as president even though he could only have one term. The Sandinistas, through the court system which they now hold control of, voided that part of the constitution to have their pointman stay in power. So making Thomas Borge a revolutionary saint is simply part of the process to make sure the Sandinistas remain in charge.

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