Being in the highlands (and especially after having come from Leon) the specter of the war haunts this land, although it is rarely discussed.
For some background, this wiki (which is flagged for a dispute but which I find remarkably balanced) would be a good place to start.
The Sandinistas who are currently in power and whose local Esteli office I passed on the way over to this internet cafe ruled from the revolution (1979) until 1990.
The article discusses how originally part of a broad movement of anti-Somoza elements, some middle class, business, even church and human organizations NGO type organizations, the Sandinistas began to seriously concentrate power in their hands. Particularly in inverse proportion to the degree that they were attacked by the Contra forces. Room for those who were anti-Somoza/anti-Contra but not pro total control of the Sandinistas was squeezed out. Particularly brutal was the law which allowed by the indefinite detention of suspected (counter)terrorists–sound familiar to anyone?
On the other hand the Sandinistas did inherit a totally destroyed country with no infrastructure all of which had been expropriated by the Somoza dictatorship over decades. The FSLN started the famous Literacy Campaign across the country as well as increased rights for women, unions, and improved health care. The 1984 election was considered fair by most organizations (other than those funded by the US essentially). Although with all these issues, fair is a sliding slippery scale. The Sandinistas no doubt used their government control to influence the election. So does the Republican and Democratic Parties in the US. And with the amount of voter disenfranchisement in the US (particularly bad in my hometown of Cincinnati) hard to make absolute calls on these issues.
On the 1990 election, in which (current and former President Ortega) lost to Violeta Chamorro in a major upset the following (again this was considered a fair election but fair is interesting when you consider this):
Due to factors such as natural disasters, the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (which stopped aid), state corruption and, inefficient economic policies, the state of the Nicaraguan economy declined. The elections of 1990, which had been mandated by the constitution passed in 1987, saw the Bush administration funnell $49.75m of ‘non-lethal’ aid to the Contras, as well as $9m to the opposition UNO – equivalent to $2b worth of intervention by a foreign power in a US election at the time, and proportionately five times the amount George Bush had spent on his own election campaign.. When Violetta Chamorro visited the White House in November 1989, the US pledged to maintain the blockade against Nicaragua unless Violeta Chamorro won. .
In August 1989, the month that campaigning began, the Contras redeployed 8,000 troops into Nicaragua, after a funding boost from Washington, becoming in effect the armed wing of the UNO, carrying out a violent campaign of intimidation. No fewer than 50 FSLN candidates were assassinated. The Contras also distributed thousands of UNO leaflets.
EIther way after the 90 election a process of total amnesty was begun. For all sides. This has been credited with preventing another further fighting in the last two decades. The country is now one of the safest in the Americas. But it has been wondered whether this has come at the cost of essentially suppressing memory of the war.
I would have no call on any of this as an outsider. There are interesting pics and video you can see of former Contras and Sandinistas hugging and chummy now a days. The country is quite young and many youth would be too young to essentially remember anything. Does healing come through forgetting? I have no idea. But now the country is on a long haul to anything resembling normalcy in economic terms. It is a very very very poor country. The policies of 1990s neoliberalism (as it would be called down here) certainly has opened up the economy and freer press but as with all these policies built as they are on the creation and concerns of an upper elite and technocratic middle, the inevitable swing back to rural sector interests (supposedly) and urban poor has brought Ortega back to power. To what end, who knows.
For one, Ortega is an incredibly corrupt dude. Kinda Nicaraguan version of Yassir Arafat who plays the part of the poor man of the people but actually has his hands in milliones. Ortega is rumored to have transferred to himself property that was seized and then nationalized from Somoza. Also like Arafat has held onto power within his party far too long and not allowed organic growth of younger generations to gain influence within the Sandinista movement (like Fatah).
Yesterday on my tour of the finca was the first day a Nica brought up Iran-Contra and the US meddling in this country and its adverse destructive murderous effects. He did it in a way that was not insulting to me or pinning the events on me (I was you know about 8 at the time) but there it was nonetheless. Don´t know what it means exactly, but I somehow thought it was telling.