Sandalistas' cannot bear to see the Sandinistas lose power


MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Joy in Washington, D.C., over the victory of Nicaragua's National Opposition Union strikes fear in the hearts of the 'Sandalistas' -- the sandal-shod Americans in Nicaragua to help the Sandinistas.

The 'Sandalistas' fear the conservative UNO administration will recruit pencil-pushing International Monetary Fund-type U.S. advisers in three-piece suits to replace them.


'Lets talk about what were going to do in the future,' an organizer tells 200 American carpenters, teachers, doctors and technicians gathered in Managua to plot their strategy for dealing with the new government. 'But first, did anyone bring a guitar? Lets sing a song and then will talk about what we'll do in the future.'

Affectionately called the 'internacionalistas' or 'sandalistas' for their idealism and 1960s-style dress, the technicians from Nicaraguan solidarity groups in America and other countries enjoy cordial relations with outgoing President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista government. The Sandinistas use American volunteers in their training programs and even in government offices.


The internacionalistas back the economic reforms of the Sandinista Front, which redistributed big plantations to peasants, nationalized the banks and made loans available to poor people, controlled trade and dared to take on the U.S. government.

They fear the new pro-U.S. party will welcome the 'usual' U.S. advisers who will tell the government to privatize banks and industry.

'Ten years of democratic training may now be in jeopardy,' Carter Garber warns the crowd.

'They (the new government) may try to smash the democratic institutions built over the last 10 years' says Garber, a Tennessee economist who has been in Nicaragua for 1 years working on development projects.

Timothy Dylan Wood, 18, his long brown hair tied up in a red bandana, has spent several months in Nicaragua planting trees. He was stunned by the election results.

'I was pretty shocked, based on the polls and the strength I saw at the Sandinista rallies,' Wood said.

The internacionalistas say they plan to stay or to keep visiting Nicaragua, but they forsee tough times ahead.

Augustin Romero, secretary of international relations for the Student Union of Nicaragua, says he has helped direct the use of 145 student workers from 23 countries. He ties their future to the ability of the Sandinistas to hold on to political countrol.


'Before we surrender political power, we have a lot of things to negotiate,' Romero said in an interview. 'We will maintain control of some important ministries like the Interior and Immigration. This will give us the possibility of maintaining some of our agreements regarding the students.'

Lisa Brown, an economics professor at Eastern Washington University, is teaching a macro-economics seminar at the University of Central America in Managua.

Even though it's a Jesuit university, she is worried the new government may have influence there and may interfere with her finishing her program. Her brand of economics is not of the free market variety embraced by UNO.

Brown is more worried that the new government will tamper with the partially state-controlled economy and replace it with a more conservative model used in other Central American countries.

Salt Lake City gynecologist Regala Burki says the U.S. trade embargo has made her work vital. Nicaraguan doctors could not get replacements for U.S.-made health equipment such as anesthesia machines and portable incubators, she says. So she helped smuggle them down.

'We were doing hysterectomies and caesareans under local anesthesia,' Burki said. 'They would wake up during the operation and start screaming.'


Burki says she supports the Nicaraguan health system. She says that Nicaraguans don't have access to all the same health options Americans do, but she says resources are distributed equitably and most Nicaraguans have better access to health care than poorer Americans.

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