Last Thursday night, the 26th anniversary of the elections of February 25, 1990, Antonio Lacayo Oyanguren (1947-2015), one of the key figures behind the democratic transition that former president Violeta Barrios de Chamorro led in Nicaragua, was paid tribute to by ex-ministers of Chamorro’s government, who remembered him as an “atypical politician”, a statesman and a valuable human being.
Former government officials, friends, relatives business people and other personalities took part in the function, organized by ex-ministers of Chamorro’s cabinet, which looked back on Lacayo’s work as campaign chief for the National Opposition Union (UNO), the coalition that defeated the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) at the ballot boxes, and as minister to the president in the years that followed.
The Jesuit background that guided him in life, his love for Nicaragua and the enthusiasm he showed in each project he was involved in were some of Lacayo’s qualities which participants recognized as part of his political and human legacy and which former officials agreed are needed in the new leadership Nicaragua desperately requires.
“I wish Nicaragua could find another Antonio and a group of people like Violeta’s government put together, another Violeta, so that Nicaragua could be a republic once again,” said Juan Alvaro Munguia, former legal advisor to the president and former president of the National Development Bank, underscoring Lacayo’s virtues as a friend and businessman.
Munguia stated that, in the early 90s, “Violeta was the president of a vast company named Nicaragua and Antonio was her general manager,” a position he held “by putting the country’s interests first.” This, he added as his voice wavered, was the reason “his death was mourned by thousands and his burial attended by an immense crowd.”
Lacayo Oyanguren passed away in November of last year, after an accident involving a helicopter he was traveling in along with two US businesspeople, with whom he was visiting the orange plantations of TicoFruit (which he had managed since September of 2014).
An energetic and optimistic statesman
Pablo Vigil Icaza, former Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure and one of Lacayo’s childhood friends, stressed the “energy and optimism,” the “dedication and devotion” that characterized Lacayo.
Former Minister for Foreign Cooperation Erwin Kruger also stressed that Lacayo was an intelligent and patient man of profound Christian convictions, a courteous and tenacious person set on reaching his goals. “Methodical and systematic by training (…) pragmatic and wholly focused on his objectives.”
Kruger underscored that the Nicaragua the transition government received in 1990 was “total chaos” and that there were no manuals teaching officials how to get out of that situation, but that Lacayo managed to put together the group of experts that could make the dreamed-of republic a reality, spreading the love he and Violeta Chamorro felt for Nicaragua.
“A politician thinks about the next elections and a statesperson thinks about the next generations. Because of this, and his love for Nicaragua, which made him work for a better country, Antonio was no doubt a statesman,” Kruger stated.
Former Minister of Education Humberto Belli defined Lacayo as an “atypical politician” in Nicaragua’s political culture, because his work was aimed at de-politicizing the Armed Forces and the country’s institutions, as well as at national reconciliation, “because he never sought confrontation or revenge.”
He regretted, however, that the fruit of those years of work, stemming from “genuine love” for the country, are today threatened by the politicization of public institutions, and said that the “best way to honor Lacayo is to ensure his legacy, and the legacy of Violeta, aren’t lost in Nicaragua.”
Former Vice-Minister to the President Tomas Delaney recalled that one of the phrases Lacayo repeated the most before the members of Barrios de Chamorro’s cabinet was that it wasn’t enough to work to rebuild Nicaragua, that one also needed to work to “rebuild Nicaraguans.” Delaney said that “Nicaragua needs all its children to move forward.”
According to Delaney, in today’s Nicaragua, one must “capitalize” on the political legacy of Antonio Lacayo and look for inspiration from the work he did for Nicaragua under Violeta Chamorro.
This article has been translated by Havana Times.