Political Transition Drives Families Apart

GLENDA BLANDON, the plump matron at a local military hangout here, has not spoken with her parents in more than two months. It has nothing to do with Nicaragua's atrocious phone system. Ms. Blandon and her parents live just 10 yards apart.

Rather, it has to do with politics. For like many Nicaraguans, Ms. Blandon's family has been split by civil war.

Blandon and her sister are ardent Sandinistas. Two of her brothers were contras. And her father is chief of the political council for the right-wing National Opposition Union (UNO), which beat the Sandinistas at the polling booths on Feb. 25. Ever since that day, Blandon has become a pariah of the community.

``Nobody acknowledges us,'' she says, except when UNO activists sing taunting songs or threaten to confiscate her restaurant if she doesn't remove the Sandinista posters from the wall. A few months ago, she considered herself a popular woman in the neighborhood. But now, she says, ``we're surrounded by enemies.''

Her mother sent her one message through friends a few weeks ago: Move out or risk having your house burned down. ``How would you like to have your mother tell you to leave like that?'' she asks. ``If I had the money, I would go today.''

Blandon recently came up with a plan to raise enough money for the move. She knocked out a wall in her restaurant, borrowed some tinted lights and scratchy speakers, and opened the town's first disco. At the grand inauguration last Friday, she pulled in nearly $100 - much more than she earns for the greasy beans and beef she serves her customers during the day.

One problem: the pounding disco music kept guests at her parent's hotel wide awake until the early hours of the morning.

She laughs: ``I'm sure the complaint will be filed with the authorities today.''

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