Nicaragua celebrates 44th anniversary of Sandinista Revolution
President Daniel Ortega addresses attendees gathered for the 44th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution in Managua. | Jamal Rich / People's World

MANAGUA, Nicaragua—On July 19, 2023, thousands of supporters, foreign dignitaries, and friends from various countries gathered outside the Roberto Clemente Stadium here for the celebration of the Triumph of the Sandinista Popular Revolution on its 44th anniversary. Many of those gathered were decked out in shirts emblazoned with “44/19” for the occasion.

International delegations present included representatives from Belarus, Burkina Faso, the Russian Federation, Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, the Mozambique Liberation Front, Honduras, the Fatah National Movement for the Liberation of Palestine, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and more. Social movement, labor, environmental, and religious leaders were represented among the delegations from various countries and institutions present.

The evening exuded joyful unity and celebratory spirit as the Sandinista Youth welcomed the delegations with chants and songs prior to the arrival of President Daniel Ortega. Throughout the evening, they chanted in unison their support of the Sandinista Revolution and the president.

Taking the stage in front of a statue of Augusto Sandino—the Nicaraguan revolutionary who fought against the U.S. occupation and whose name was adopted by the liberation movement—was Ortega, along with his wife Rosario Ortega, the vice president of Nicaragua. The audience was then presented with an hours-long performance of music and social movement chants. Full live coverage can be found here.

The crowds gather in Managua near the statue of Sandino. | Jamal Rich / People’s World

Rosario Ortega opened the program with joyfulness and seriousness, asking “Who could have known? It seems like it was yesterday… It seems like yesterday that we arrived, enhanced by luminous journeys…all full of the heroism of a people who stood up, who fought, who armed themselves, who proved their right for history, and who won. A people that overcomes, that’s what we are.”

Africa, and Burkina Faso in particular, were the highlights of the evening. Thomas Sankara, who led that country from 1983 until his death in 1987, was a friend of the Sandinista Revolution and had visited Nicaragua in 1986. Sankara and Ortega were both young revolutionaries fighting off Ronald Reagan-led U.S. imperialism that was trying to stop revolutionary progress in their respective countries in Africa and Latin America.

The current Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Apollinaire Joachimson Kyélem De Tambèla, was the guest of honor and spoke at the event commemorating Ortega’s 1986 visit to Burkina Faso and the friendship between the two nations.

President Daniel Ortega spoke at length to close out the evening, connecting the struggles of Africa and Latin America as a core part of his speech. In particular, he pointed out how the U.S. launched damaging aggressive actions against revolutionaries like Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, destroying that nation to control its oil and triggering the current migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Ortega recalled visiting Sankara and told of how they became brothers; he also recalled how imperialism assassinated the Burkina Faso revolutionary. The fight for a free and independent Puerto Rico was another topic in his speech, prompted by a young delegate handing him a baseball with a Puerto Rican flag on it.

Ortega then addressed the heroes of Nicaragua, including those who defeated the Spanish invaders; those who fought against the expansion of slavery and the U.S. imperialist William Walker (who imposed himself as President of Nicaragua); the National Poet, Rubén Darío; and Augusto César Sandino, who defeated the U.S. troops. Sandino would eventually be assassinated by Somoza, backed by the United States. Others honored included Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, journalist Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (who was assassinated by the Somoza government), and Roberto Clemente.

The Nicaraguan president also spoke about the war in Ukraine and the U.S.’s recent decision to send cluster bombs. “The same U.S. rulers have said that those bombs are terrible because they kill children, they kill people, because the bombs scatter everywhere; it is a bomb that when it explodes it releases a lot of little bombs and the little bombs are scattered on the ground.”

Ortega strongly denounced this decision by the Biden administration and said the U.S. should comply with the International Court of Justice decision on Nicaragua from 1986, which ordered the U.S. to pay upwards of $31 billion USD in damages for violating international law during the Contra War.

“We wanted peace, we fought against the tyranny imposed by the Yankees because we wanted peace, we wanted our people to be freed from extreme poverty, and illiteracy, which exceeded 60%. And we had to fight against the governor imposed by the Yankees here in Nicaragua, because Somoza was nothing more than a governor imposed by the Yankees after he fulfilled his mission of assassinating Sandino, and the Yankees armed him, financed him, he was a brother of the Yankees.

“You know that when we use the term ‘Yankee,’ we mean those who have a racist, imperialist attitude, which is not the case with the United States people. That is not the way of the United States people. The United States people have been a people in solidarity with our struggle, indisputably given that the weight of the capitalist system, the weight of the military industry, will bend any president.”

In 1979, a Marxist-oriented political organization called the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (Sandinista National Liberation Front, FSLN by its Spanish initials) overthrew the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship, ending its 44-year rule.

International delegates attend the celebration. | Jamal Rich / People’s World

Upon taking power, the FSLN immediately enacted progressive policies, such as nationalization of former property owned by the Somozas; land reform; improved rural and urban working conditions; making it easier to unionize for all workers; price controls for basic necessities; improved public services, housing conditions, and education; abolition of torture, political assassination, and the death penalty; protection of democratic liberties; equality for women; a non-aligned foreign policy; and the formation of a people’s (popular) military under the leadership of the FSLN.

Taking a cue from the Cuban experience some years prior, the FSLN engaged in a literacy campaign that within six months taught half a million Nicaraguans to read, dropping the illiteracy rate to 12%.

Shortly after the FSLN took power and initiated reforms, the United States and former National Guardsmen of the Somoza dictatorship began plotting to undermine this newly-born revolution. The National Guardsmen, under the Fuerza Democrática Nicarag­üense (FDN), grew out of the Fifteenth of September Legion, which was infamous for the torture, rape, and wounding of thousands of Nicaraguan women and children during the fall of the Somoza dictatorship.

The FDN became known as the primary counter-revolutionary (commonly known as “contras”) force in the coming Contra War that would last until 1990, slowing the progress of the Sandinista Revolution and killing tens of thousands of people in order to return the country to rule under an extreme-right dictatorship backed by U.S. imperialism.

The FSLN’s revolution has strengthened its popular support since the party returned to power in the 2006 elections and the attempted U.S.-backed coup of 2018. The solidarity among friendly nations and activists around the globe is important, considering the tightening economic sanctions against the country and others in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Cuba and Venezuela.

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Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from Washington, D.C. where he is active with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.