Tomás Borge

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Tomas Borge Martinez.

Tomás Borge Martínez (13 August 1930 – 30 April 2012) (in American newspapers often spelt as Thomas Borge) was the last living co-founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua and was Interior Minister of Nicaragua during one of the administrations of Daniel Ortega. He was also a renown statesman, a writer, and politician.[1] Tomás Borge also held the titles of "Vice-Secretary and President of the FSLN", member of the Nicaraguan Parliament and National Congress, and Ambassador to Peru. Considered a hardliner, he led the "prolonged people's war" tendency within the FSLN, he upheld these ideologies until his death.

In 2010, he stated in an interview: "I am proud to be a Sandinista, to continue being faithful to the red and black flag of our party, to continue being faithful to our revolutionary organization; and to die proud of raising the front, and not having been disloyal to my principles, nor disloyal with my friends nor my companions, nor with my flag, nor with my cries of war."[2]

Biography[edit]

Tomás Borge Martínez was born in Matagalpa on August 13, 1930. His father, Tomás Borge Delgado, was one of Augusto César Sandino's deputy commanders during the United States occupation of Nicaragua that lasted from 1926 to 1932. From a young age, Borge integrated himself in the fight against the Somoza Family dictatorship, which had held hold of Nicaragua since the assassination of Augusto Sandino. In 1943 he began participating in revolutionary activities, and in 1946, at the age of 16, he was editing the newspaper "Espartako" against the regime of General Anastasio Somoza García.

Meeting Carlos Fonseca[edit]

After realizing his secondary education, Borge enrolled into the Law Faculty of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua-León in 1956. The following year he met Carlos Fonseca, with whom Borge would forge a strong friendship. Borge was six years older than Fonseca and this influenced Borge strongly. With Fonseca, Borge read the first few books that would forge their political philosophies: "Utopia" by Thomas More, some works of John Steinbeck, works by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as some works by Lenin.

He was imprisoned from 1956–1959 for knowledge of the plot by Rigoberto López to assassinate dictator Anastasio Somoza García. Part of that time was spent held in El Hormiguero prison in Managua. In 1959 he escaped to Honduras, where he was captured by the Honduran border patrol. Otto Castro arranged for Borge's release using his friendship with Honduran President Ramón Villeda. Borge then travelled to El Salvador using a false passport, and then went to Costa Rica.[3]

Foundation of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and the first failure[edit]

After the victorious Cuban Revolution, Fonseca, Borge and a few companions decided to use militant tactics to fight against the Somoza regime. They participated in the formation of a militia under the command of Rigoberto López to face-off against the National Guard of Nicaragua. The results were disastrous on July 24, 1959 when Carlos Fonseca was gravely injured. At this moment in time, Borge was in Costa Rica with Silvio Mayorga; they thought Fonseca had perished. Upon reuniting with Fonseca, the three left to Cuba and formed friendships with Che Guevara and Tamara Bunke, who had helped them with the guerilla.

In Cuba, Silvio Mayorga reunited with a group of young Nicaraguans from Venezuela and they formed what would later be the "Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional" (National Sandinista Liberation Front). The name was derived from Augusto Sandino, and the purpose of the naming was to convince Nicaraguans that Sandino's revolution was not dead, also the name Sandino was widely used to elicit strong emotion for the cause using the fallen leader's popularity. Fonseca traveled to Honduras to prepare the logistics that would permit the establishment of the group. On July 23, 1961, in Tegucigalpa, Tomás Borge, along with Carlos Fonseca, Francisco Buitrago, Jorge Navarro, Silvio Mayorga, José Benito Escobar, Noel Guerrero, and Germán Pomares, formed the FSLN, which would be the key to the downfall of the Somoza regime and the start of the Sandinista Revolution.

The FSLN was established in Honduras on the banks of the Patuka River. In 1962 the FSLN had 60 men in its ranks. Tomás Borge crossed into Nicaragua to recruit more members to the Sandinista cause.

The Insurrection[edit]

Between 1965 and 1966, Tomás Borge headed the Sandinista newspaper "The Republican Mobilization." The next year, he tried again to create an active guerrilla group in the mountains near the Pancasán region, which again was defeated. In 1969 the National Directorate of the FSLN, which Borge was a part of, named Carlos Fonseca as Secretary General.

In January 1969, along with Henry Ruiz, Borge was arrested for arms smuggling on the border with Costa Rica. Both are deported to Colombia; there begins a period of exile that took him to Cuba and Peru. In that time he also visited the base of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, passed by Mexico, and eventually returned to the ranks of the FSLN in Nicaragua.

On February 4, 1976, he was arrested again and sent to prison where he was tortured. While in prison, the FSLN suffered several defeats and heavy losses. Carlos Fonseca perished in Zinica (Waslala, North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua). At that time Thomas Borge was in prison in Matagalpa; a colonel in the National Guard told him the news of Fonseca's death, to which Borge said

"You are mistaken, Colonel, Carlos Fonseca, is among the dead who never die."

In August 1978, Borge was one of the highest ranking Sandinistas released from prison after the spectacular Sandinista raid (Operation Chanchera) on the Nicaraguan National Palace by 19 commandos, headed by Edén Pastora (Commander Zero) that took the entire Congress hostage.

The FSLN is divided into three factions and Tomás Borge lead the Prolonged Popular War fraction (GPP). On January 7, 1979, the FSLN came to an agreement on reunification, which was formalized in March, and Tomás Borge became one of the 9 members of the National Directorate. The triumphant guerrilla troops entered Managua on 19 July 1979. Days earlier, on July 11, Borge attended a meeting of the National Directorate along with Daniel Ortega, Sergio Ramirez and Miguel d' Escoto in Costa Rica at the home of President Rodrigo Carazo Odio in Puntarenas with William Boudlerom, representative of the U.S. Government. At that meeting Borge rejected the proposal to replace Somoza with Urcuyos Maliaños Francisco, President of the Congress, and as established in the Constitution of 1974 would take place in the absence of the president. Somoza flees on 17 July and was Urcuyos was named president. Not too long after, Urcuyos is overthrown and power is passed to the Joint Government of National Reconstruction.

Borge landing in Cuba off a C-130 Venezuelan Airforce plane on August 25, 1978, after being released as a political prisoner after the Sandinista hostage standoff operative at the National Palace in Managua, 3 days earlier.

The revolution[edit]

On July 19, 1979, FSLN troops entered Managua and proclaimed the Sandinista Revolution. Tomás Borge, reputed to be the most radial of the nine commanders of the Front, was a member of the National Directorate of the FSLN and takes charge of the Ministry of Interior (institution subordinated the Sandinista Police, the Prisons, Immigration, Directorate General of State Security and Fire), a position he maintained until the loss of the presidential election in February 1990.

His first task under his new command was the dissolution of the National Guard and the reviews of the cases of former Somoza government officials. He also attempted to eliminate crimes (moderate and minor), vagrancy, gambling and drinking.

Tomás Borge was part of the first revolutionary government delegation which visited the Soviet Union on March 17, 1990 . On that trip, Tomás Borge described the situation in his country as follows;

The Government of National Reconstruction, was a giant task to restore the devastated country, the need for international banks to pay a large external debt left by Somoza and his government. The country has high unemployment and poverty, the treacherous bourgeoisie - an ally of the most reactionary and aggressive circles of U.S. imperialism - show a complete disregard for its people.

July 19, 1981, in celebration of the third anniversary of the Revolution, Tomás Borge reiterated that national unity, pluralism and a mixed economy were designed to strengthen, not to destabilize the revolutionary process. It was another warning to the opposition and entrepreneurs. At the same time, he ordered the dismissal of any officer who abused his authority.

In 1982, Tomás Borge was elected vice president of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties in Latin America - an association of social democratic, socialist, liberal and nationalist parties on the continent.

After the defeat of 1990[edit]

After the electoral defeat of 1990, some members of the National Directorate abandoned politics and the FSLN underwent a transformation into the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS). Tomás Borge and Bayardo Arce Castaño with Daniel Ortega were the only members who remain in the FSLN.[4]

Between 1997 and 2002, he was a member of the Central American Parliament, Parlacén, and since 2001, a member of the National Assembly.

Return to power[edit]

In the presidential elections held on November 5, 2006, the Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega won with 38% of the vote. Tomás Borge increased his influence in the government. On March 22, 2007, at his request, he was appointed Ambassador of Nicaragua to Peru, where he served until his death. His appointment was seen as a retreat from political life.

His death[edit]

On April 6, 2012, Borge entered the Military Hospital Alejandro Dávila Bolaños in Managua where he underwent a video-assisted thoracic surgery for a lung condition which had been progressing (according to some unofficial sources, he had cancer because he traveled to Cuba without being treated first). On April 9, he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit after a respiratory complication developed while staying under medical supervision.[5] On April 30, Rosario Murillo, coordinator of the Communication and Citizenship Council, published news of his death, which had occurred at 20:55 PM that night.[6] At the time of his death, Tomás Borge was 81 years old and continued staying active in politics as ambassador in Lima (Peru).

Tomás Borge was the last survivor of the founders of the FSLN and one of its most important figures. Rosario Murillo said in reporting his death, Tomas Borge, as he said of Carlos Fonseca, is "among the dead that never die."

Official acts were performed in his honor at the National Palace of Culture, former National Palace, where the chapel once stood. Tomás Borge was buried in the mausoleum of Carlos Fonseca, at the Revolution Square in Managua and the government decreed three days of national mourning.[7]

Criticism of his Management[edit]

As head of the Interior Ministry in the revolutionary period, Borge put on the facade of the ministerial office the phrase "Sentinel of the People's Happiness". During the revolutionary period, Nicaragua suffered the aggression of war and destabilization, financed by the United States, resulting in groups known as Contras.

Tomás Borge was accused of exerting pressure against the Catholic Church hierarchy who was accused of siding with the Contras. Borge also established the censorship of the press, which was clarified after errors, as well as compulsory military service.[8]

The misquitos accused Tomás Borge, among others, of the displacement and killing of those who opposed the Sandinista government, as told by the President of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States(OAS), Marcos Carmona, to the FSLN and opposition in the context of an election campaign.[9] Another accusation against Borge is that he gave the order to kill 37 dissidents imprisoned in Granada during the first term of Daniel Ortega. He was charged, along with the rest of the Sandinista government, after the victory of Violeta Chamorro in 1990, of the "Piñata Sandinista", where they were accused of confiscating public properties. These charges were always rejected by Borge.

He created the Council of Sandinista Defense (CDS), like the Cuban's CDR, and the current Council of Citizen Power(?).

He founded the open prisons, where prisoners were without custody, and the women's prison "La Esperanza", a novelty in Nicaragua.[10]

In an interview with the newspaper Nuevo Diario of Nicaragua for the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, Tomas Borge said

We had come to power covered with an aura of holiness. We were 'the boys', heroes of the people we had released. But then came the war, the pressures, the economic crisis and mistakes, and the heroes we were became kings.

Private Life[edit]

His first wife, Yelba Mayorga, was killed in 1979 during the guerrilla struggle. She had a son earlier. Later he married Josephine Cerda, with whom he had several children. Then, in 2007, he married the Peruvian actress Marcela Perez Silva, with whom he had three children.[11]

Writings[edit]

Tomás Borge was the author of several works of poetry, essays and an autobiography. The Cuban poet Roberto Fernandez Retamar believes Borge's book "Carlos, el amanecer no es sólo un sueño", which he wrote in prison, is comparable in literary merit to the documentary prose of Gabriel García Márquez.

Some of his published titles are "The Patient Impatience", "A Grain of Corn", and "The Anticipated Ceremony".

  • fidel Castro, tomás Borge. 2009. Un grano de maíz: conversación con Fidel Castro. Editor Aldilá, 243 pp. ISBN 9992408759
  • tomás Borge. 1989. La historia de Maizgalpa. Tambor de Tacuarí. Editor Ediciones Colihue 22 pp. ISBN 9505816111 en línea

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]