The Miami Herald
July 20, 1999

 Sandinistas show popularity with turnout at political rally

 Herald Staff Writer

 MANAGUA -- Torn by internal division and scandals, the battle-scarred Sandinista
 party proved it could still flex its muscles Monday, drawing 30,000 supporters to
 celebrate the 20th anniversary of the overthrow of Nicaragua's old Somoza

 The crowd -- which arrived in bus caravans from all over the country, some of them
 two miles long -- was much bigger than expected. Even party leaders seemed
 surprised and delighted.

 ``They say the people don't believe in the [Sandinista] revolution anymore,''
 shouted Tomas Borge, the party's only surviving founder, as the crowd cheered
 wildly. ``In that case, who are all these people here? Are you all ghosts? Is the
 foreign press hallucinating you?''

 Borge and two other men founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front in
 1961, a guerrilla insurgency intended to topple the Somoza family dynasty that
 began ruling Nicaragua in the 1930s.

 On July 19, 1979, two days after the last Somoza fled into exile, the Sandinistas
 marched victoriously into Managua to form a revolutionary government. But its
 Marxist leanings soon touched off another civil war, one that finally ended in 1990
 when the Sandinistas lost internationally supervised elections.

 Since then, the party has been buffeted by financial and sexual scandals that
 have steadily shrunken its support. But Borge dismissed the party's dissidents --
 who were holding their own rally across town, with a crowd numbering only about
 300 -- as ``the liars and the resentful.''

 ``There's no room for intellectual arrogance in the Sandinista party,'' Borge said,
 referring to the dissidents. ``The party won't be tamed by fear of its own decisions,
 nor by verbal terrorism of the latest lynch mob.''

 Former president Daniel Ortega got an even bigger response from the crowd with
 a long attack on the free-market economic policies of President Arnoldo Aleman's

 ``They've privatized health,'' Ortega said. ``They've privatized education. They'd
 even privatize God if they could.''

 Monday's rally didn't attract any of the luminaries of the international left who
 routinely attended during the 1980s when the Sandinistas were in power and the
 guest speakers included people like Cuban President Fidel Castro.

 But Sandinista officials nonetheless said that about 100 representatives from 30
 countries and leftist organizations around the world attended, including
 delegations from Cuba and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a
 Marxist guerrilla group threatening the Bogota government.