Nicaragua in the years since the revolution

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Marco Werman: Finally the evolution after the revolution. In Nicaragua, the revolution in Nicaragua also didn't turn out the way some of its leaders had planned. The Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza in 1979. The Sandinistas took power with a broad base of support behind them. A five person (inaudible) agreed on a set of rules including elections but then says Jennifer McCoy, who directs the Carter Center's America's Program, the Sandinistas made a big mistake.

Jennifer McCoy: The Sandinistas, within that broad based (inaudible) put off elections and that's actually one of the lessons first is that the group needs to agree on the rules and be clear and carry them out. And so that created some divisions. But importantly as well, the United States intervened when the Regan administration came in and actually armed and supported a counter revolutionary movement a year and a half into the revolution. And this put tremendous pressure on the Sandinista government. The U.S. also imposed a trade embargo so there was both military pressure and economic pressure. So in the end they were not able to carry out their goals.

Werman: Hard to imagine U.S. intervention kind of playing out in a similar way in Tunisia or Egypt but I'm wondering if you have a second lesson here for us about international intervention in these countries?

McCoy: Yes, I think that when you look at first of the victory of the Sandinista revolution we have to take into account and this is perhaps lessons more for Libya than for Egypt and Tunisia, but the Sandinistas actually were provided arms by some of their Latin American neighbors and they wouldn't have been able to succeed without that support. Then after coming to power, I think its very important to have a broad based coalition but to agree and carry out rules to make sure that all of the important sectors of society continue to have a buy in and that there's a consensus on moving forward because if you split then it's going to be very difficult to move forward with the democratic transformation.

Werman: Now another broad coalition was formed to oust the Sandinistas from the presidency in 1990, that was when Daniel Ortega lost the election and (inaudible) took over. What happened to that coalition?

McCoy: Well similarly that was a broad based coalition across the ideological spectrum united mainly in their own personal oppositions to Daniel Ortega. So once the chosen leader was elected then that coalition fell apart as personal ambitions of the parties and leaders began to conflict and they were each pursuing their own ambitions.

Werman: And the situation you describe is pretty much where Nicaragua is at right now, correct?

McCoy: Well, it's very interesting that it's reverted to its past of two major political parties, one had led for ten years and then Daniel Ortega did win the election and is back in power. But during that time period there was actually a pact between those two major parties to exclude third parties from an ability to compete on an equal basis.