Eight months after the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, the euphoria of popular victory has faded and the heterogeneous alliance that overthrew Anastasio Somoza shows signs of breaking into many conflicting parts.
When Somoza and his friends were forced out of the country, they left next to nothing behind. The national treasury was a virtual void.Democratic political institutions were unknown. Somoza's idea of order had obliterated conventional Western notions of the rule of law.
Into this vacuum the Sandinistas marched last July 19 along with a vast array of other groups, opinions and influences both to their left and to their right. Now the strains of reconstruction are starting to show.
Unrest among workers in the cities and peasants in the countryside has disrupted the government's plans for economic recovery through increased production. Several leaders of the far-left Workers' Front have been arrested and charged with "counterrevolutionary activities." Their newspaper has been shut down.
Some businessmen and landowners, meanwhile, have pulled massive amounts of capital out of the country. A new law makes such withdrawals a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.
Employes of business concerns are being encouraged to report any evidence of attempts by their bosses to take large amounts of money out of the country.
"It's a balancing act," said one businessman. "The junta tells the workers not to seize the factories, but at the same time it orders the owners not to take all their capital out of them."
A common complaint against the junta is that it rules by capricous decree. Businessmen were angered recently when the junta changed its mind about lands seized while the owners were investigated for possible ties with Somoza. It originally said they would be given back if the owners were exonerated. But after peasants staged a demonstration demanding that the government keep every acre, the government agreed.
The spokesman for Nicaragua's increasingly restless private sector is junta member Alfonso Robelo. Last weekend he announced the transformation of his Democratic Nicaragua movement into a political party. Despite Robelo's denials, many Nicaraguans see it as the beginnings of an institutionalized opposition to the Sandinistas.
When a Sandinista flag was unfurled at the first convention of Robelo's party on Sunday, a suggestion was made over the loudspeaker that it be saluted. Many of the businessmen let out a resounding boo instead.
Partly in hopes of resuscitating the unified spirit of the revolution, the government has pressed ahead with a massive literacy campaign to cut down a 50 percent illiteracy rate. More than 175,000 high school students and other volunteers have been trained to start fanning out across the country on March 24 to teach the fundammentals of reading.
Even this effort has met with difficulties because parents have been reluctant to give their children permission to join the literacy brigades.
Crusade directors say such dilemmas have been resolved and the campaign will begin as scheduled.
Yet as other problems continue and frustrations grow, what Nicarguans have always seen as an uneasy friendship -- their relationship with Somoza's longtime ally, the United States -- has turned into open antagonism.
When radical leftist unions seize factories and demand 100 percent wage increases, the government blames the Central Intelligence Agency. When businessmen spirit capital out of the country, that, too, is said to be part of a U.S. plot.
If there were doubts in the minds of many Nicaraguans about such accusations, many of them felt their worst fears confirmed when the U.S. House of Representatives went into secret session last month to hear the CIA's version of what is happening in Nicaragua.
The subsequent congressional freeze of a $75 million loan clinched their suspicions. The Nicaraguans are well aware of the ways in which the United States undermined the Marxist government of Salvador Allende in Chile, and it is nearly impossible to persuade them the United States is not doing the same in Nicaragua.
U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo has tried to fight these accusations with explanations of the complex congressional budgeting process and uncontrollable congressional opposition. The CIA testimony before Congress, according to Pezzullo, actually favored the aid to Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan officials met representatives of 60 foreign banks Wednesday to discuss refinancing $1.6 billion in foreign debts incurred by Somoza's government.
[Nicaraguan officials said of the total foreign debt $1.26 billion was public sector debt, 75 percent of which was owed to American banks, about 15 to 20 percent to European banks and the remaining 5 to 10 percent to Japanese banks, Reuter news agency reported.]
[The new government has promised to repay the debts.]
In the meantime, several of Nicaragua's top government officials have gone to Moscow to see what support might be forthcoming from the Soviets.
"We'll look for help from any country," said one young Sandinista in the government. "Nicaragua needs to be friends with the whole world."