Nicaragua Table of Contents
The two major groups of producers, the UNO-affiliated Cosep and the Sandinista-affiliated National Union of Farmers and Cattlemen (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos--UNAG), began distancing themselves from the political arena after the 1990 election and concentrating more narrowly on serving their members' economic interests. On opposite sides of the political scene during the Sandinista years, both unions had played important political and economic roles. Different political positions after 1990, however, brought them closer in their attitudes toward the country's economic situation.
Formed in 1978, COSEP acts as a coordinating council for commercial and agricultural organizations. Cosep was viewed during the early Sandinista years as the major force in the anti- -Sandinista opposition, trying in the early 1980s to engage in dialogues with the Sandinista government even as it adopted a highly confrontational stance. Cosep's position, however, was weakened in the mid-1980s by the flight of the middle class and by members' fears that their property would be confiscated, and in the late 1980s by pressure from the peace negotiations. Although one Cosep leader, Enrique Bolanos Geyer, had been a potential presidential candidate for the 1990 elections, Cosep supported Chamorro in the electoral campaign after she won internal elections within the UNO. Two Cosep members refused cabinet posts in the Chamorro government, however, protesting Chamorro's decision to maintain Humberto Ortega as chief of the army. The organization has continued to oppose decisions that allow the Sandinistas considerable influence in government, fearing that such a practice will produce an unfavorable investment climate.
UNAG is one of the Sandinista mass organizations; it was founded in April 1981 to organize small- and medium-sized farmers in support of the FSLN. Although always pro-Sandinista), UNAG tried to downplay ideology in the countryside in the 1980s and fought for nondogmatic, inclusive policies that would not alienate peasant property owners and would defend the interests of all efficient rural producers. After the Chamorro government took power, UNAG continued efforts to broaden its base. It sought to attract discontented, landless Contras to its ranks and to maintain its political influence by trying to develop joint positions on agricultural policy with Cosep and its large agricultural producers.
The two producers' groups continued to represent very different political, ideological, and economic positions. These differences were made clear during the Chamorro government's 1990 attempt to negotiate the economic and social national concertación. UNAG decided to participate in the negotiations even before the Sandinista unions agreed to do so. Cosep participated only after expressing objections that the result had been predetermined in previous discussions between the Sandinistas and the government. Cosep later refused to sign the final document, charging that the final agreement was unfair because the government had agreed to union demands that land and other confiscated and expropriated property should not be returned to former owners. The concertación opened a permanent breach between Cosep and the government.
Data as of December 1993