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[Call for papers] N° 87 – Sandinismo 2.0: Neo-Authoritarianism, Oligarchy, and New Ideological Reconfigurations of the Political in Contemporary Nicaragua

Special issue guest edited by Maya Collombon (maîtresse de conférence, Sciences-Po Lyon, France) and Dennis Rodgers (Professor of International Development Studies, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands).

Abstracts to be sent by: February, 15th 2017.

Articles to be submitted by: May, 30th 2017.

Publication of special issue: spring 2018.


The Sandinista National Liberation Front’s (FSLN) return to power in 2006 has widely been interpreted as a Nicaraguan manifestation of the broader “Pink Tide” that characterised much of Latin America at the beginning of the 21st century [Dabène, 2012]. Following the electoral defeats of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela or the Argentinean Front for Victory, and resigning themselves to the forthcoming electoral defeats of the Bolivian Movement for Socialism and the Workers’ Party in Brazil, many commentators have pronounced the end of this period of political renaissance for the Latin American left. Nicaragua however constitutes an exception within this particular panorama, as the FSLN continues to display a strong grip on power, winning elections that are routinely declared to have been “free and fair”, enjoying substantial popular support, and having also institutionally consolidated itself [Marti i Puig, 2009].

The original Sandinista revolution of the 1980s remains the primary reference point of what might be termed “Sandinismo 2.0”, at least discursively, but even if the current FSLN government prides itself with having promoted a wide range of new poverty-reducing social programmes – the scope and effectiveness of which however remain rather opaque – and aligned itself closely with the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela – in exchange for cheap oil and an annual US$ 500 million subsidy… –, the last decade has arguably been marked most significantly by the reconstitution and consolidation of a new oligarchic order in Nicaragua, with most Sandinista leaders now fully integrated into the country’s traditional elite [Rodgers, 2008; Spalding, 2013], and FSLN governance based on multifarious forms of clientelist neo-patrimonialism, as well as a cynical political pact with the country’s principle opposition party, the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC).

Partly as a result – manipulated government statistics notwithstanding –, the country clearly remains extremely poor and – most ironically, given its revolutionary history and the major social advances associated with Sandinismo 1.0 in the 1980s – terribly unequal. The clearest symbol of this predicament is the transformation of Managua, the capital city, over the past two decades into a “disembedded” metropolis where rich and poor live side by side without ever interacting, and where consumerism rules [Babb, 2001; Rodgers, 2008]. But perhaps most significant is the FSLN government’s reconfiguration of the country’s economy around natural resource extraction, adding infrastructural mega-projects to the mix, the most emblematic of which is the grand project of building an inter-oceanic canal to rival Panama’s. A pipedream going back to Spanish colonisation, repeated rejected over the centuries as unfeasible and/or too expensive, the “Grand Canal” has been taken on by HKND, a Chinese media conglomerate, a factor that may well return the country to the fore of international geopolitical considerations, especially following Donald Trump’s election to the US Presidency.

Of course, this will only be the case if the canal is ever built, because clearly underpinning this surreal infrastructural initiative is another prize, one which is much more affordable for both Chinese investors and their elite Nicaraguan brokers: the country’s natural resources. Law 840 on the Grand Canal which made the concession of the project to HKND constitutional contains an article – article 12 – authorizing the unelected “Grand Canal Special Commission” to expropriate any land on the canal route. It thus offers ideal conditions for speculation and legalised accumulation through dispossession. More than the canal itself, it is this particular clause that arguably symbolises the state of 21st century Nicaragua, governed by an oligarchy that is ready to sell the country off, provided that they benefit materially, and willing to share the spoils with new international actors.

At the same time, in many ways the FSLN’s victory in 2006 must be read first and foremost as the victory of the party’s leader, Daniel Ortega. Following a long period of uncertainty in the 1990s that gave rise to various splinter Sandinista parties, Ortega consolidated his grip on the FSLN, building up a well-oiled machine centralised around him and his wife, Rosario Murillo, which has transformed the FSLN into the country’s unchallenged dominant political force. Certainly, giant posters of Ortega, more often than not accompanied by Murillo are ubiquitous in the country’s cities. The President and his wife are everywhere, omnipresent and omniscient thanks to the ubiquitous spread of the Murillo-controlled Citizen Power Committees (CPC) that have been established across Nicaragua in local communities both rural and urban [Collombon, 2015].

Indeed, the everyday reality of Sandinismo 2.0 is in many ways arguably that of an increasingly authoritarian state organised around the Ortega-Murillo duopoly. Certainly, the Ortega familial clan personally controls most critical state institutions – the Police, the Judiciary, the Supreme Electoral Council – as well as most key media outlets, and does not hesitate to use these in order to shut down party political opposition, as well as more grassroots protests such as those by peasants, indigenous communities, and environmentalists mobilizing against the Grand Canal project, feminists mobilizing against the blanket ban on abortion and the disregard of domestic violence, disenfranchised workers mobilizing against poor working conditions in the Free Trade Zones, or youth mobilizing for employment opportunities.

From a more structural perspective, the explosion of migration – often considered the only viable economic choice by the Nicaraguan poor in a context where sustainable opportunities are few and far between – as well as the rise of gang and drug trafficking violence – in a country that is often touted (spuriously) as “the safest in Central America” – both represent one way or another facets of the new Nicaraguan reality, and point to the current and future dynamics of the country potentially having profoundly dystopian and tragic resonances.

Seen from this perspective, thirty-eight years after the triumph of the original Sandinista revolution, and over a decade after the FSLN’s return to power in 2006, the time is clearly ripe for an evaluation of both the profound transformations undergone by Sandinismo as well as the reality of its impact on contemporary Nicaragua. This special issue will therefore explore both the nature of Sandinismo 2.0, as well as the specificities of a contemporary Nicaraguan political economy that is simultaneously increasingly exclusive and oligarchic in nature, remains integrated within the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), is considered a “model pupil” by the IMF, has become the site for major international infrastructural investments, is increasingly authoritarian, but is also the site of a diverse array of varied forms of social protests. As such, it hopes to explore the relationship between revolution, political mobilization, and global and local political economy, focusing in particular – but non-exclusively – on three key axes:

  • The (re)constitution of a strong Sandinista state, based on a powerful partisan political machinery operating across all levels of society, from the local to the national, which combines iconic social welfare programmes and large-scale clientelism, as well as the promulgation of widespread forms of “soft authoritarianism”;

  • The (re)establishment of an oligarchic economic model, based on low-rent extraction, the exploitation of natural resources, and the encouragement of foreign direct investment, whether in labour legislation-free Free Trade Zones or in the form of large-scale infrastructural mega-projects, that has fully adapted to the challenges of globalisation and neo-liberalism;

  • The multiplication of various forms of political and non-political resistance that operate at different scales, the rise of social conflict, migration, resurgent criminal violence, and corruption – in ways that all complexify an already highly conflictual social and political context.

Procedure for submission

Articles are welcomed from the whole range of social science disciplines (anthropology, economics, geography, history, political science, sociology, etc.), and may be submitted in French, Spanish, or English. Article submissions may contain:

  • name, lastname;

  • university or research center;

  • short CV with e-mail adress;

  • title of the article;

  • 350 words abstract of the article.

They must be sent to both of the special issue guest editors by February, 15th 2017 at the following e-mail addresses:

Authors will be informed within two weeks by the Editorial Committee of the Cahiers des Amériques Latines whether their abstract has been accepted.

Full articles (45.000 letters approximately, counting spaces, footnotes, bibliography, abstracts and keywords) are to be submitted by May, 30th 2017. All articles will be double-blind reviewed; final decision regarding acceptance lies with the Editorial Committee of the Cahiers des Amériques Latines.

Publication is expected in Spring 2018.

Please see the instructions for authors. All articles that are not up to those standards will not be considered.


BABB Florence, After Revolution: Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Nicaragua Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 2001.

CLOSE David, Nicaragua: Navigating the Politics of Democracy,  Boulder, Lynne Rienner, 2016.

COLLOMBON Maya, « Le Grand Canal, l’offrande sandiniste aux Nicaraguayens », Les Études du CERI: l’année politique de l’Amérique Latine 2015, n° 217-218, 20-24, 2015.

DABENE Olivier, La Gauche en Amérique Latine, 1998-2012, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2012.

MARTI I PUIG Salvador, « Nicaragua 2008: Polarización y pactos », Revista chilena de ciencia política: Clave, 29 (2), 515-531, 2009.

RODGERS Dennis, « Managua: la ville délocalisée », in Mike DAVIS et Daniel MONK (eds.), Paradis infernaux : les villes hallucinées du néo-capitalisme, Paris, Les Prairies ordinaires, 2008, p. 239-258.

SPALDING Rose, « Los empresarios y el estado en la Nicaragua post-revolucionaria: el reordenamiento de las élites y la nueva estrategia de colaboración », in Eric HERSHBERG (ed.), Las élites de centroamérica, vol. 3, San José, Flacso-Costa Rica, 2013.

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