In February 1990, after a tumultuous decade in power, the fsln was voted
out of o≈ce when Conservative leader Violeta Chamorro narrowly beat
Daniel Ortega in the presidential race. The fsln’s loss came as a tremendous
shock to nearly everyone. The fsln and its supporters around the world had
celebrations planned; the Nicaraguan and international press all predicted
an fsln victory, perhaps a landslide; and even the coalition backing Cha-
morro viewed the campaign more as an opportunity to score propaganda
points against the Sandinista revolution than a chance to get its candidate
elected. The fsln campaign was crafted in tone and content to reassure and
reach out to middle-class Nicaraguans, but perhaps not surprisingly, the
middle class voted overwhelmingly for Chamorro. What is harder to explain
is that a significant number of Nicaraguan workers and peasants, the shock
troops of the 1979 insurrection and the base of support for revolutionary
measures during the 1980s, also voted against the fsln.
Part of the explanation can be found in the fsln leadership’s gradual
distancing itself from the ideas and example of Carlos Fonseca. The process
developed unevenly, by fits and starts, but by the end of the decade, the fsln
had changed. Still paying homage to the revolutionary icon of a safely dead
and saintly Carlos, the fsln was no longer in philosophy or practice the
party of Carlos Fonseca. Some of the costly mistakes of the fsln in the 1980s
are presaged by debates that took place a decade or more earlier, in which
Fonseca warned of precisely these errors and advocated a di√erent course.
Although the subject of this book is not the evolution of the fsln following
1979, I want to close by briefly suggesting a few of the ways in which policies
of the National Directorate moved away from the ideas of Fonseca and the
Historic Program.
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