The Sandinistas’ Chagrin

The Eskimo ice cream vendors, car-watchers, windshield-washers,  and the underemployed people who work informally on the streets of Managua, are they all part of the administration’s Christian, socialist and solidarity government project?

I ask myself this because it is something I see every day. It has been five years since the FSLN won the national elections, and I continue to observe many people precariously eking out a life for themselves on the streets of the capital city.

Is this what they call “21st century socialism?” If so, what’s the difference between this and the so-called sixteen years of neoliberal administrations that this revolutionary government criticizes so much? Can you spot six differences? I can’t find one.

In my view, this urban landscape (where misery prevails) does not seem to be Christian, socialist, or in solidarity. It is a landscape that contrasts more and more with the number of billboards alluding to the victories obtained by a government that lifts up the poor from the floor of poverty only to let them fall back on the asphalt of the very same poverty. The government pats the poor on their heads, offers them Band-Aids for their wounds, yet it does not cure them of their ailments because it is more convenient to keep them sick.

This urban landscape (where, I insist, misery prevails) does not seem to be the one that most Nicaraguans voted for either; but it’s a bewildered Nicaragua due to the fraud which cornered the opposition’s vote by more than 60%. I continue to wonder: What need was there for the official party to steal the elections if they, supposedly, had most of the population’s vote guaranteed? I believe they were afraid. Deep inside, that’s the only explanation.

All of this gets even worse if we add some data that corroborate the institutional mediocrity of the state powers managed by the FSLN. According to a report recently published by the German organization Transparency International (TI), Nicaragua is perceived as one of the most corrupt countries in the region. It got a rating of 2.5 on scale of 10, where 0 is the most corrupt and 10 is the least.

The only countries that finished below us on the corruption perception index, according to this study, are Paraguay (2,2) and Venezuela (1,9). Yes, Venezuela, the one country that injects the largest amount of money into Nicaragua and the one that most influences the country’s public policies. In other words, apart from the fact that the Venezuelan money is used in a dirty manner to do personal business for well-known members of the Sandinista leadership, this money comes infested with corruption from the country lost in “the dreams of Bolivar.” But there’s more.

This data, published soon after the rigged elections of Nov. 6, 2011, is even more alarming if we also add other figures provided by the 2011 Human Development Report, published by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

The document establishes that one-third of Nicaraguan teenagers are lagging more than three grades behind in comparison to the expected schooling level for youth their age, while two-thirds of young people between 25 and 29 (I am in this range) have not yet completed high school (p. 79). Simply put, this is the end result of the same corruption.

The report found that the proportion of teenagers and young people who work in the informal sector of the economy is as high as 66%, while underemployment rates among youth are 25%. These are not just cold statistics; they are realities. And more than realities, they are pending subject matters for a government that promises Heaven and Earth to their young people, without showing much real improvement in their education and without offering transparency in public funding.

After analyzing these figures and their corresponding gloomy statistical conclusions, the only thing we can do is continue to use peaceful forms of resistance so that the corrupt people of Nicaragua stop obscuring the future of the new generations who watch, with eyes open in astonishment, how the Museum of Sandino crumbles in the abandonment of his legacy.

William Grigsby Vergara was Born in Managua in 1985. In 2005, he won Honorable Mention in the Ernesto Cardenal International Contest for Young Poets, and in 2010 he was selected by the Nicaraguan Center for Writers to have his poetry collection, Canciones para Stephanie, published by a Norwegian fund. Grigsby is a painter, graphic designer and collaborator for the magazine Envío, published by the University of Central America (UCA).


  • James Banks

    Beautifully written. A very pertinant description of the everyday reality of this country, and one that all people living here should recognise as crucial to sustaining the basic principles of a society. If the people are denied the means to aquire an education, then how can there ever be positive social change. If the average person has to beg, what was his revolution for in the first place? The inclusivity that could have come 30 years ago slips further and further from the political consciousness, and history repeats itself once more.

  • sayayuca

    “What need was there for the official party to steal the elections if they, supposedly, had most of the population’s vote guaranteed? I believe they were afraid. Deep inside, that’s the only explanation.”

    Sorry, but I believe that your question answer itself, There was no need to steal, therefore there was no steal. There is no “supposed” majority vote, EVERY POLL, even the ones paid by the opposition, gave the sandinistas the victory on the election by a WIDE margin. In regards to the second phrase, I have a question of my own. Who are the sandinistas supposedly afraid of? After defeating the Somoza dictatorship, fighting a 10 year war against the most powerful country in the world, accepting defeat on the elections in 1990 and surviving 16 years of bad governments, the sandinistas are NOT AFRAID of anything. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    • mick

      Whether the election was stolen by the Sandinistas or not is a moot point. The significant and underlying point is the lack of integrity of all those involved in the game of Nicaraguan electoral politics. The so-called opposition has proved itself to be as inauthentic and as corrupt as those in power. the mere fact of their participation in a constitutionally illegal and cynical election is proof in itself. That participation only served to legitimize the corruption and insure the continued exploitation of the people of Nicaragua. What if there had been no opposition? Wouldn’t that in itself have exposed the lie of Nicaraguan democracy? The opposition has proven itself to be the enablers, the co-dependents of the thieves and liars, the willing handmaidens of the clowns, con-men and corrupters. Screw them all.

      • http://above howard cox

        If the political class of Nicaragua, all of them, had been in a real country they would all be in jail. They are all gangsters.

    • http://above howard cox

      Do you have any answers for William or just more propaganda? Everything he said about the failures of Daniel Ortega and the F.S.L.N. is a truth understood by anyone who lives in Nicaragua. You would have to be an idiot not to understand the last two elections in Nicaragua were totally corrupt and stolen by the Sandanista party. Either that, or to be a paid propagandist for the Ortegas, as you clearly are. Answer Williams questions as to why nothinf has changed for the better since Ortega has become President- if you can.

    • http://above howard cox

      Venezuela and Nicaragua are the two most corrupt countries in the region. No surprise there.

  • Nica in NYC

    ExcelIent exposure and elegantly written. Cheers for youg Grigsby! I only wish that “sayayuca” would stop writing Orteguista garbage in his comments – blatant denials to the truth that is the Ortega-Murillo cabal.

  • Ken

    I am confused. I guess you live in Managua, and that may explain why you haven’t noticed the substantial reduction in street urchins since Ortega’s first reelection. As an occasional visitor, the reduction is plain to me. It’s quantitative and observable. Plus, this dovetails with the facts: Ortega has demonstrably improved the lives of the very poor. Surely this isn’t debatable, is it? To be sure, there are Other Problems, and frankly I feel these in Nicaragua too. Nicas are more hesitant to express anti-FSLN views than they once were, more inclined to get on the bandwagon and keep their mouths shut. This is not a good development, and deserves criticism, but this is a separate issue. The fact is that Ortega has improved the lot of the poor, seems to be improving economic development prospects for the non-poor as well, and these beneficial accomplishments really should be recognized and separately from the legitimate political criticisms. I mean, come on, nobody is going to turn the second poorest country in the western hemisphere into an oasis of affluence overnight, but Ortega is frankly doing a better job at this than anyone since Luis Somoza. Give credit where credit is due, and criticism where it is due.

    • http://above howard cox

      After 5 years in office, El Pueblo Presidente is still the leader of the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. What exactly has changed in the lives of the people? Please be specific.

  • Arturo


    Yes, beautifully written. Were you writing fiction? It looks like you are a writer, but have no notion whatsoever about how statistics are used. Please take a stats course (another one if you have already) before you begin to draw up conclusions after presenting a couple statistics out of context. If you want to write seriously in the future about socio-economic, you need to take statistics more seriously. This does not add to any constructive discussions. Thank you for trying.