Central America: Sandinista founder Tomás Borge dies aged 81
Sandinista founder Tomás Borge dies aged 81, as Guatemala kicks off health and education aid program and Chinchilla delivers State of the Nation speech.
Sandinista founder Tomás Borge dies aged 81
Nicaragua’s former guerrilla Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (Sandinista National Liberation Front – FSLN) was dealt a serious blow this week, as its historic founder and current Nicaraguan ambassador to Peru Tomás Borge died Monday.
Borge was 81 and had spent nearly a month in a military hospital in critical condition due to chest complications after undergoing surgery on 6 April, officials said.
Rosario Murillo, wife of current Sandinista leader and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega who also acts as a government spokesperson announced the death in a radio broadcast.
‘With great sorrow we announce that the earthly and fruitful life of the revolutionary and commander Tomás Borge has come to an end,’ said Murillo.
‘Tomás is of the dead who will never die,’ she added. ‘He will always be with us in the Sandinista Front and in the revolutionary process.’
President Ortega decreed three days of national mourning, suspending events planned for May Day and summoned the Sandinista leadership to the National Palace on Tuesday to pay tribute to Borge.
Described by one Sandinista congresswoman as a ‘relic’ of the revolutionary movement, commander Borge was the sole founder of the Sandinista Front to have survived the popular uprising lead by the FSLN against the bloody US-backed Somoza dynasty in 1979.
He was also arrested twice and tortured by the regime.
The right-wing dictatorship of the Somozas ruled Nicaragua, to quote The Guardian, as an ‘extended plantation’ for almost half a century. Economists estimate that they controlled 20 per cent of the country’s arable land, as well as banks, credit companies and other businesses.
Congressman Jacinto Suarez described Borge as ‘a transcendental figure in Nicaraguan history, not just for his founding of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, but for his fight to free the Nicaraguan people from Somoza’s dictatorship’.
However, Borge was himself accused of abuse of power, press censorship and several human rights violations when he held the post of interior minister during the elected Sandinista administration of 1985-1990.
Interviewed by a local news channel shortly before his death, Borge stated: ‘I will die with my head held high, because I fulfilled my duty and I remained loyal to my beliefs, to my comrades and friends, and to the [FSLN’s] red and black flag’.
Guatemala kicks off health and education aid program
In other news, on Monday Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina officially kicked off the financial assistance program ‘Mi Bono Seguro’ (My Secure Bond), which will benefit more than 757,000 families affected by poverty, officials said.
‘We are taking the steps to accomplish what we offered in the campaign, when we said that social programs would continue, but be transparent. The programs seek to benefit those who need it most,’ said Otto Pérez as he inaugurated the project in Santiago Chimaltenango, Huehuetenango department, some 332 km north of the capital.
Each qualifying family will be given 300 quetzals (nearly US$40) by the government, 50% of which should be invested in health and the rest in education.
In exchange for these funds, recipients are required to bring their children (under the age of six) to local health centers for growth control, development and to receive vaccines, whilst pregnant women are required to undergo prenatal care.
According to the Minister of Social Development Lucy Lainfiesta,’My Secure Bond’ will made available to 307 of Guatemala’s 333 municipalities and will aid a total of 757,765 families living in poverty.
The first municipalities to benefit from this program will be those most affected by poverty, namely San Juan Atitán, Santiago Chimaltenango, and Concepción Tutuapa.
Official figures indicate that 43 per cent of the 14 million people living in the Central American country live in poverty and, according to the UN, one in every two children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition.
Chinchilla delivers State of the Nation speech
Though her government’s party, the Partido Libertación Nacional (National Liberation Party – PLN) regained control over Costa Rica’s Congress on 1 May, President Laura Chinchilla’s reasons for self-congratulation in her State of the Nation speech seemed hard to fathom.
Chinchilla’s approval rating currently sits at 26 per cent, and the stateswoman’s reputation has been further marred by popular discontent regarding the crisis in the country’s Social Security System (Caja), recently proposed tax reforms, and corruption. That much was demonstrated by this week’s May Day protests in San José.
In an attempt to swim against the current, Chinchilla chose to focus on her government’s accomplishments in her annual speech on Tuesday.
The Costa Rican President highlighted such achievements as the creation of 90,000 jobs in 2011, a 40 per cent increase in foreign investment and a 12 per cent rise in exports, along with the lowest inflation in the past four decades (4.74 per cent).
Regarding security, Chinchilla commended the addition of 14,000 new police as a crucial contribution to lower crime rates. As for education, Chinchilla highlighted that that its budget reached 7 per cent of GDP.
Chinchilla was quick to dump the hot potato of the crisis in the Social Security System (Caja) on previous administrations, and on the issue of the country’s economy she praised her administration’s ability to avoid the global economic crisis, stressing a 4 per cent growth in the local economy.