During the mid-1980s, while doing research for my dissertation in northwestern Nicaragua, I became increasingly skeptical of Sandinista rhetoric. The use of imperial aggression as an excuse for the flaws, failures, and excesses of the government was rapidly turning anti-imperialism from a righteous cry against the obscenity of U.S. policy into the butt of popular humor. Similarly, Comité de Defensa Sandinista meetings typically ended with the phrase “Dirección Nacional ordene.” To my ears, nurtured in the antiauthoritarian ethos of the New Left, those words were deeply disturbing. The phrase, “Carlos Fonseca, presente!” also punctuated many rallies. Curiously, the figure of Carlos Fonseca resonated somewhat ambiguously with me and apparently with many others not directly tied to the Frente Sandinista de la Liberación Nacional. The anti-Sandinistas had a much harder time attacking the martyr Fonseca than they did with the all too human targets...

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