Friday, June 27, 2014

1996 Interview with Dr. Mariano Fiallos

A law professor could be Nicaragua's next Foreign Minister

by Peter Costantini, MSNBC News
Managua, Nicaragua
October 16, 1996

If the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) wins Sunday's elections in Nicaragua or an ensuing runoff, Dr. Mariano Fiallos will become Foreign Minister for President Daniel Ortega in what the party has dubbed Everybody's Government [el Gobierno de Todos].

For Nicaragua's 1984 and 1990 elections, Dr. Fiallos directed the electoral process as President of the Supreme Electoral Council.  His efforts in this critical position were widely praised by Nicaraguan and international observers.

From 1980 to 1984, Dr. Fiallos served on the Council of State, Nicaragua's provisional government.  He advised the National Assembly on the drafting of the nation's constitution from 1985 through 1987.  President of the National University of Nicaragua from 1974 to 1984, he has been professor of Constitutional Law there since 1964.

Dr. Fiallos holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Kansas, and law degrees from the University of Paris, Southern Methodist University and the National University of Nicaragua.  In 1986, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Washington.

In 1979, the Sandinista guerrillas overthrew the 43-year Somoza dictatorship, which had been supported by the U.S., and assumed power.  The Reagan and Bush administrations made removing the left-nationalist FSLN government a centerpiece of their Latin American policies.  A U.S.-funded and directed group, the contras, fought a war of attrition from bases in Honduras and Costa Rica.  The U.S. also imposed an economic embargo on Nicaragua in the mid '80s.  After the U.S. blocked military aid from Western Europe, the FSLN received substantial amounts from the Soviet Union and Cuba.

In 1984, the FSLN won the first reasonably democratic elections in Nicaragua's history, according to observer groups from the British, Irish and Dutch parliaments.  In the 1990 elections, Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas were defeated by the United Nicaraguan Opposition coalition of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, which was supported politically and financially by the United States.

MSNBC spoke to Dr. Fiallos, a courtly man with a salt-and-pepper beard, at his office in the FSLN's Managua headquarters.  In the interview, conducted in Spanish, he talks about his plans for a foreign policy of non-confrontation and reconciliation.


What foreign policy will the Sandinistas pursue if they win the elections?


In the case of Everybody's Government [el Gobierno de Todos], which is the name of the future government of Nicaragua, headed by Daniel Ortega as President and Juan Manuel Caldera as Vice-President, the general line of our foreign policy is basically the line of non-confrontation.

That is to say, first, to seek relations with all the nations of the world.

Second, to avoid confrontations or clashes or conflicts with those countries with which we had them in the previous [Sandinista] government.  This means the United States, the countries of Central America.

We don't want to begin to go over what happened, who was at fault, who did this or that, bad or good, but simply to design a policy that does not bring Everybody's Government into conflict with the countries and the world around us.

This is easier now than before, because the confrontation of the Cold War has disappeared from the world.  And on the other hand, there is globalization.

So this approach is easier, and besides, it's impossible, at this point, to have a situation like that of the '80s.

This is the more general policy.

This is reflected in our domestic policy as well, which is complementary.  Within the country, the government proposes to form Everybody's Government.  As its name indicates, this government will make or is making arrangements or agreements with different social sectors.

First, the vice-presidential candidate is an agricultural producer, and therein lies one of the most difficult points for the future of Nicaragua: to increase production, particularly that of moderate-sized producers.

Then we have reconciliation with the contras.  This reconciliation with the contras is also reflected in the foreign policy, because the reasons for an internal war have disappeared.  And the reflection of U.S. policies that we saw in this have also disappeared.  So this is an element that helps to avoid a confrontation.


Do you think peace can be reached with Somocista elements in Miami?  Do you hope to achieve that with this strategy? [Somocista refers to supporters of the U.S.-backed Somoza dictatorship, which ruled Nicaragua from 1936 to 1979.]


The groups in Miami are not the important thing.  The important ones are those who are here in Nicaragua.  Those in Miami are important inasmuch as they help those who are here, or to the extent that they can influence powerful groups in the United States.  So in this sense, they are important.

Therefore, if we establish a policy of non-confrontation and friendship with the government of the United States, the government of the United States will continue its policy of recognizing the government that is elected October 20.

If the government of Nicaragua, from January 10 on, maintains good relations and meets the requirements of strengthening democracy and human rights, takes care of the pending problems of justice with respect to North American citizens, etcetera, then there is the possibility of having good direct relations with the United States government.

A Democratic triumph might possibly help, in the sense that it is groups of Republicans that are creating bigger problems because they have relations with the groups in Miami.  And inside Nicaragua, the people in Miami have relations with those people who are fighting here or who were fighting here.  And with the remnants of these groups. [the contras or Nicaraguan Resistance]

They are the ones with whom Everybody's Government has tried directly to reach an understanding.


It seems likely that Clinton will win, but perhaps Jesse Helms will still be there.

Look, of course the problem will still continue.  I'm not saying that it will disappear.  What we want is to establish a government which is not the source of the confrontation, Everybody's Government.

Rather, we want, one, to try to resolve the conflicts that exist, two, to not create any conflicts.


Can the problems around the properties be resolved?  Are the funds there to resolve them? [The Sandinista government confiscated properties owned by the Somoza dictatorship, by some of those close to it and by some other opponents during the '80s.]


No, the funds don't exist, but the will does to continue resolving the problems.  And just as this government has tried to resolve them for six years, the next overnment, Everybody's Government, the Sandinista government, will try to resolve them.


What about economic foreign policies?  I recall that in the '80s, there was a policy called the "four-legged stool" of trade with the United States, Europe, Japan and the Eastern Bloc.  Will there be a new incarnation of this policy of "diversifying dependency"?


What's happening is that we have little margin of action or of liberty in choosing our markets.  And there's the situation of the disappearance of the Cold War, of the blocs.  So in reality what we have to do is make deals and seek trade relationships of all types with all countries.


With Europe, for example?


We've always had contact with the European countries.  We've never stopped trading with them or with Japan or with the Central American countries.  The problem is to increase these relations.



[And the foreign debt?]


The foreign debt has been reduced under the present government, and the government that takes office January 10 will have to continue this task of reducing it.

Interview and translation from the Spanish by Peter Costantini for MSNBC News.