Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 3 | Fall 1983 (Seattle) /// Issue 5 of 24 /// Master# 53 of 73

headlights. Standing out in the blackness are the bright-colored signals of several militarymen motioning ustothesideof the road. We have been assured by our Nicaraguan guides that the army, several days prior to our journey, had secured this long highway leading to Jalapa. They have taken valuable personnel away from other posts to ensure our safety on the trip. This stop tells us that the secured portion of the highway begins here. Winding our way up and down this dark mountain road, we occasionally spot a lone Sandinista soldier standing guard along the side of the road. The reality of this war is exhibited to me by their young and determined faces. For the first time I am afraid. The real possibility that we will permit the destruction of these bright and hopeful young women and men appears in my mind. Many of the North Americans in our group, which also include delegates from Central and South America, and the Caribbean, have by this time contracted a fairly debilitation intestinal condition. A stop along the side of the road is thus called for, and we all quickly pile out into the silent night. We are soon joined by our Nicaraguan guide, Noel Corea, who has turned his minibus around to find out why our headlights have disappeared. He is worried about us sitting here next to our large white bus that sticks out in the darkness like a beached whale. While the contras rarely venture this far south, they have announced a massive invasion of the country to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Sandinista-led revolutionary triumph on July 19th. It is now July 17th. As the darkness begins to fade into the dawn, we get our first glimpse of the Nicaraguan countryside. Of Nicaragua’s 2.5 million people, the majority live in rural areas. The lushness of the terrain is startling when juxtaposed with what we have read of the rampant hunger and poverty of the majority of Nicaraguans prior to the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. For nearly 1,000 babies born in Nicaragua during Somoza's time, 102 did not survive past infancy. The deaths were caused by malnutrition, gastroenteritis, tuberculosis and other illnesses stemming from inhuman living conditions. Illiteracy for the country as a whole stood at 70 percent, but in rural areas was more than 86 percent. In 1972, only 16.1 percent of the Nicaraguan people had potable water, 8 percent had sewage service and 9 percent had indoor plumbing. Today, the small red-tiled peasant homes that dot the volcanic hillsides are virtually surrounded by lush green vegetation. Banana and other fruit trees, corn and other vegetables cover every available spot of land, regardless of the terrain. The scene bursts with life, like the colorful primitive-style paintings of the countryside being done today by young Nicaraguan artists. In our visit here, we have heard of the exciting changes occurring in the countryside. The literacy campaign, various health projects and food policies designed to enable everyone to meet basic nutritional needs have made tremendous improvements in the quality of life here. Even more important, the agrarian reform program has given peasants, most for the first time, land on which to grow food and the credit necessary to obtain seeds, fertilizer and tools. This is not to say that the problem in meeting even basic food, housing, health and social needs of the majority of rural campesinos has been solved. There are still shortages of many food, and equitable distribution is sometimes not realized, especially in areas where the lack of roads compounds transportation difficulties. While many of these problems can be attributed to the tremendous underdevelopment inherited by the Sandinista-led government, they have been further aggravated by the U.S. war against Nicaragua. The defense of this small and poor country costs untold dollars in equipment alone. Taking people out of the much-needed areas of food production and reconstruction for defense activities is a luxury Nicaragua can ill afford. Military defense is only one of the stresses being placed on the young Sandinista leadership. The U.S. covert war against Nicaragua is not solely confined to military activity. In every aspect of daily life, the United States is waging a war against the Nicaraguan people. Through the cutoff of all aid, loans and import quotas, the U.S. government is attempting to virtually strangle the Nicaraguan economy. The recent closings of the Nicaraguan consulates and the imminent blockade of the country are further attempts to isolate Nicaragua from needed communication and trade with the rest of the world. In other covert operations rePhotos taken in and near Jalapa in northern Nicaragua. vealed by the Nicaraguan government, the CIA has plotted to kill nearly every top Nicaraguan official, beginning with the recent unsuccessful attempt to poison foreign minister Father Miguel D’Escoto. And in the ideological arena, CIA-run radio stations in Honduras broadcast daily counterrevolutionary propaganda loud and clear to the Nicaraguan people. Pulling into the parking lot of the Frontera Hotel in Ocotal, Nicaragua, a small northern town situated at the end of the paved highway, we are greeted by a large contingent of Sandinista Army personnel. They have been waiting for us through the night, since we had been scheduled to arrive for the previous night’s dinner. The commander of the region, a young ex-university physics professor, is here to greet us. He is joined by the newly promoted sub-commander of the region, a friendly older man who enjoys having his picture taken. As the two soldiers prepare us for what’s ahead another hundred-plus miles north in Jalapa, a member of our group asks the subcommander whether we are permitted to take pictures. “This is a free country,” he answers with a smile. “You can take pictures of whatever you like.” In addition to several jeeps full of Sandinista Army officers, our caravan includes a truckload of popular militia members and one of cultural briga- distas. Dressed in neatly-pressed olive drab uniforms, the cultural workers, all musicians, are going to the border to entertain the soldiers and townspeople who are risking their lives on the frontlines. Here, we have also added three soldiers to our bus, who, with rifles aimed out the windows, scan the passing fields and hillsides for contra activity. As we slowly make our way up the sometimes washed-out mud road, we pass hundreds of identical red-tile roofed houses decorated with red and black FSLN (Sandinista Front for National .Liberation) flags, posters and banners proclaiming their continued support of the Sandinista Revolution. It is as if the entire nation has been told of our journey, since whole families are out on nearly every porch, smiling and waving to our camera-laden group. And far off on the distant hills we see the ‘‘For people with money, life isn’t better. But the majority of Nicaraguans are very poor and very simple people. It’s their revolution. Revolutions aren’t for rich people.” 30 Clinton St. Quarterly