Later, Costa Rican President Ãscar Arias succeeded in convincing the other Central American leaders to sign the Esquipulas Peace Agreement, which eventually provided the framework for ending the civil wars. In October 1979, just after the Sandinistas came to power in Nicaragua, growing discontent within the military brought about a regime change.  Rabbi Balfour Brickner, “What’s Jewish in Nicaragua” (Guest Opinion), Philadelphia Daily News, Dec. 1, 1984, 14. As if to prove the point, the U.S. conducted a surprise invasion of the tiny island of Grenada on October 25, 1983, removing a leftist government from power. The illicit activity in Mena, meanwhile, was covered up by Governor Bill Clinton who supported the Contras. President Richard M. Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger viewed the election of democratic socialist Salvador Allende as president of Chile in 1970 as yet another act of “Communist political aggression.” The Nixon administration first attempted to prevent Allende’s election through CIA covert action; failing that, the U.S. abetted a military coup on September 11, 1973, in which President Allende was killed (a subsequent investigation ruled it a suicide). Staff member David Dyson, an ordained Presbyterian minister, made ten trips to El Salvador during the 1980s, some of which involved looking for “disappeared” Salvadoran labor leaders. In February 2014, Salvadorans elected Salvador Sánchez Cerén, a former FMLN commander, as president. When the FSLN government called for national and international volunteers to assist the coffee harvest in the winter of 1983-84, it was up to the CNSP staff to recruit the internationalists and help make arrangements for their stay. Together with the original Contadora nations, the eight governments represented 85% of the population of Latin America. Officially, the U.S. role in El Salvador was to “professionalize” the army and police forces. Failing this, it simply ignored the stipulation that the U.S. end its support for the Contras. A Contra attack on a Sandinista military outpost in the Río Coco region near Honduras in December 1981 prompted the FSLN government to relocate some 8,500 Miskitos and Sumus into a resettlement camp fifty miles south of the border. In January 1991, only two months after signing the measure into law, President Bush restored the restricted aid. In 1931, President Jorge Ubico Castañeda assumed dictatorial powers and stifled all opposition. Ortega added, “We understand your concerns about El Salvador and we will not risk our revolution for an uncertain victory in El Salvador.”, Sergio Ramírez, noted Nicaraguan writer and Junta member (elected vice-president in 1984), perceived the situation differently. According to the historian Kathryn Sikkink, in 1982 alone, “the Guatemalan government killed or disappeared at least 17,953 Guatemalan citizens, most of them unarmed civilians and primarily rural indigenous peoples.” The government combined its “scorched earth” military campaign with a “Shelter, Work, and Food” program and a promise of democratic elections in the future. “Could there be any greater tragedy than for us to sit back and permit this cancer to spread, leaving my successor to face far more agonizing decisions in the years ahead?”, Many U.S. scholars of Latin America challenged the administration’s depiction of Sandinista Nicaragua. This limit coupled with national elections held in 1982 and 1984 enabled the administration to win Congressional approval for most of the aid it sought for the Salvadoran government through the decade. The FSLN directorate, being of mixed class origin itself, was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to reform. The visit was followed by a series of discussion meetings advertised as “The National Town Meeting on Central America,” sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Committee of Concern for Central America. In a memo dated August 13, 1983, regarding “allegations of a Contra massacre,” the ambassador informed the State Department that Nicaraguan newspapers were full of photographs and eyewitness accounts of a recent Contra ambush of a bus carrying eighteen civilians near the town of Jinotega two days earlier. By 1900, coffee accounted for 85% of Guatemala’s exports, and the coffee elite came to control the nation politically and economically.  Honduras, like El Salvador, was increasingly dependent on economic assistance from the United States. Upon learning of the manual, Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, commented, “The administration has launched an aggressive anti-terrorism campaign, and yet we seem to be engaged in the very same terrorist activities which we deplore elsewhere.”, In early March 1985, Reed Brody, former Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York, released a report documenting twenty-eight cases of Contra attacks on Nicaraguan civilians between September 1984 and January 1985, based on the sworn affidavits of 145 witnesses. Organized peasants demanded land reform; workers unions demanded higher wages; and Catholic Christian base communities advocated for the rural and urban poor. Daniel Ortega graciously conceded victory to Violeta Chamorro and her coalition. UFCO owned over 3,000,000 acres along with major utilities and railroads. . Assisted by the United Nations, representatives from different political parties, non-government organizations, and indigenous groups negotiated many issues associated with the war, including refugee resettlement and indigenous rights. Thomas Quigley, head of the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Office of International Justice and Peace noted that “people who disapprove strongly of U.S. efforts to overthrow the [Nicaraguan] government and fund the Contras can still be quite critical of the Sandinistas.”. His burial took place in Matagalpa on April 30, 1987. It includes a strong Christian element which may explain the very compassionate approach taken toward former enemies. The Kennedy administration, at the School of the Americas, located in the Panama Canal Zone (established in 1946), notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. had coordinated two major. Then in May 1984, Congress barred lethal military aid after CIA agents, acting in the name of the Contras, seeded Nicaraguan harbors with mines in violation of international law. Kennan’s suggestions seeped into U.S. policymaking mainly through U.S. support for Latin American military and police forces. The military regime rigged elections and kept itself in power, destroying hopes for electoral reform and alienating the masses from participating in political elections. Samuel K. Doe: Liberia: 1980–1990 : Chairman of the People's Redemption Council 1980-1984; President of Liberia 1984-1990. The catalyst for the demonstrations was a visit to Spain by President Reagan on May 6, 1985. On April 2, 1980, Congress approved Carter’s $5.7 million “non-lethal” aid package over the objection of critics who decried U.S. support for “gross violators of human rights.”, In January 1981, as the FMLN launched its so-called “final offensive,” the Salvadoran military and death squads killed 2,644 civilian noncombatants in that one month alone, according to the legal aid office of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of San Salvador. Lessons For Today From The U.S.-Japan Trade War Of The 1980s NPR's Audie Cornish talks with political science professor Kristin Vekasi about comparisons between the … Despite the superiority of government forces, insurgent attacks in the capital city of San Salvador increased from 36 in 1985 to 54 in 1986. Particular events and compromise packages tipped the balance one way or the other. On the other side of the adage, we should build on what has proven worthy and beneficial, such as human rights reforms and truth commissions. The Great Depression of the 1930s highlighted Guatemala’s dependence on exports. Following the coup, the Nixon administration offered full U.S. support for the right-wing police state formed under General Augusto Pinochet, providing grants and loans as the regime murdered or imprisoned thousands of Allende supporters.  “Handwritten Notebooks of Oliver North,” National Security Archive, The Contras, Cocaine and Covert Operations, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/index.html; Hahn, The Life and Death of Barry Seal, 286; Jon Roberts, American Desperado: My Life – From Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset (New York: Crown Publishers, 2011), 2, 493.  Susan Gzesh, “Central Americans and Asylum Policy in the Reagan Era,” Migration Information Source, April 2006, http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?id=384. In contrast to the dark, foreboding picture drawn of the Sandinistas, the administration painted the Contras in the bright colors of American idealism. The Sandinista Party was ousted from power by the very election machinery it had created. Bishop Romero, formerly a conservative critic of liberation theology, had become a champion of the poor and the oppressed after witnessing the death of so many innocent people. CIA assets in Honduras, which was used as a staging base for the Contra supply operation, also trafficked in drugs and the DEA was suspiciously given an ultimatum to close its office in Tegucigalpa. The entourage met with activists, opinion makers, politicians, and Hollywood celebrities. Administration officials grafted onto the Contras what many believed to be the global mission of the United States – to promote freedom and democracy. The exclusion of economic rights from the conceptual framework of “human rights” discussed by U.S. policymakers hindered their understanding of the struggles for reform in Latin America. Once again, the Reagan administration tried to sabotage the treaty.  See Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago, “The Culture and Politics of State Terror and Repression in El Salvador,” in Cecilia Menjívar and Néstor Rodríguez, eds., When States Kill: Latin America, the U.S., and Technologies of Terror (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009). The monument also lists over 200 massacres that occurred during the war. They warned that U.S. aid and advisers could lead to troop deployments and “another Vietnam,” an argument that resonated with the public. Three Nicaraguan priests associated with liberation theology, Miguel d’Escoto and Ernesto and Fernando Cardenal, served in the FSLN government. The Johnson administration also approved loans to the tyrannical governments of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in Haiti, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, and Somoza in Nicaragua. The economy grew by more than two percent annually (per capita Gross Domestic Product) between 1962 and 1978. The country’s illiteracy rate dropped from 50% to 13% of the population. Over 500,000 fled the country and another 500,000 were internally displaced out of a population of roughly 5 million. , Oliver North’s declassified notebooks, for example, point to his awareness of Contra drug smuggling operations and include the recording of a conversation between North and Secord in which Secord told North that $14 million used to finance weapons purchases from a Honduras warehouse came from drugs. Over the course of the decade, Congress vacillated between restricting the purpose of Contra aid, blocking it, approving it, and limiting it to “non-lethal” aid. Beyond this, the administration offered no explanation as to why the U.S. supported the dictatorial Somoza dynasty for more than forty years, but was now presumably intent on establishing democracy in Nicaragua. “There seems to be no crime to which the Sandinistas will not stoop – this is an outlaw regime,” declared Reagan in a televised address to the nation on March 16, 1986. Leftist guerrillas in El Salvador, on the other hand, were depicted as violent offenders of civilized order and the rule of law. Ambassador Solis also discussed the need to “strengthen information dissemination from Nicaragua,” as the Nicaraguan point-of-view had been pushed out of U.S. news. Following the mining of Nicaraguan harbors by U.S. covert agents in April 1984, Nicaragua brought suit against the United States in the International Court of Justice, or World Court. The Reagan administration had ample opportunity to resolve its security concerns through negotiation, but peaceful co-existence with Sandinista Nicaragua was not its goal. Denominational statements were issued by the American Baptist, American Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Church of the Brethren, Episcopal, Mennonite, Moravian, Presbyterian, Religious Society of Friends, United Church of Christ, Unitarian, and United Methodist churches, and the United Hebrew Association. The visit was followed by a series of discussion meetings advertised as “The National Town Meeting on Central America,” sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Committee of Concern for Central America. In Latin America as elsewhere, the close of World War II was accompanied by expectations, only partly fulfilled, of steady economic development and democratic consolidation. Somoza alienated all classes through his graft and election fraud. Recently, there has been a growing debate about the facilitys future. They had guaranteed that there would be no arms transfers from Nicaragua and called for joint border patrols; they had pledged not to allow any Soviet or Cuban bases on Nicaraguan soil; and they had refrained from importing Soviet warplanes. 40 (April 1994), http://www.nathannewman.org/EDIN/.mags/.cross/.40/.40salv/.40salv.html. In September 1988, the Center for Constitutional Rights obtained through the Freedom of Information Act 1,320 pages of documents on FBI activities from 1981 to 1985. Shultz succeeded in persuading Honduras to insist on adjustments to the treaty, which effectively destroyed it. Rumors swirled for a time before nine-page cover story in, The administration went beyond the law in propagating its views. In 1995, Guatemala held elections again, and Alvaro Arzú beat out Ríos Montt, then worked diligently to move the peace process forward. “Prospects for the treaty seemed excellent at first,” noted political scientist Peter H. Smith. Cuba’s subsequent misguided attempts to foment revolution in other Latin American nations provided the U.S. with an opportunity to expand its connections with military and police forces in the region. In 1996, Gary Webb published an exposé detailing how the Contras financed some of their counter-revolutionary activities through drugs including through connection with Los Angeles crack cocaine dealer “Freeway” Ricky Ross. The S/LPD was forced to shut down in late 1987 after an investigation by the General Accounting Office concluded that it had engaged “in prohibited, covert propaganda activities designed to influence the media and the public to support the Administration’s Latin American policies.”.  “Policy and Guidelines for Thursday Vigils, CUSCLIN,” Managua, no date. As in El Salvador, the government allowed the landed elite to take indigenous communal lands and establish forced labor systems. Central America, 1981–1993; The Reagan Administration and Lebanon, 1981–1984; Crisis in the South Atlantic: The Reagan Administration and the Anglo-Argentine War of 1982; The August 17, 1982 U.S.-China Communiqué on Arms Sales to Taiwan This limit coupled with national elections held in 1982 and 1984 enabled the administration to win Congressional approval for most of the aid it sought for the Salvadoran government through the decade. Several human rights groups denounced continuing army and police targeting of labor activists, union members, students, religious workers, political party leaders, and human rights advocates. As he told the New York Times (September 12, 1984), “I have great trust in that order. The historian Walter LaFeber responded with an op-ed article in the, The Reagan administration’s interventionist policy in Central America rested on an integrated set of ideological, institutional, rhetorical, and policy elements. The United States undermined constitutional systems, overthrew popularly elected governments, rigged elections, and supplied, trained, coddled, and excused barbarians who tortured, kidnapped, murdered, and “disappeared” Latin Americans…. Sister city projects had a number of desirable attributes for activists: they were locally organized, facilitated travel and interpersonal relationships, provided tangible benefits to the Nicaraguan people, and served to educate U.S. citizens. The guerrillas won over many Indian collaborators. Official Links Salvadoran Right to Priests’ Deaths,” New York Times, November 21, 1989, cited in Arnson, Crossroads, 248. “Nicaraguans voted for peace and for an end to the draft.” The FSLN nevertheless remained the largest single political party.  Gill, The School of the Americas, 83. The Reagan administration informed the UN that it would not recognize the jurisdiction of the court in the matter, but nonetheless attempted to defend itself in the court of public opinion by arguing that its actions were consistent with the established principle of “collective defense,” alleging Nicaraguan arms transfers to Salvadoran rebels. The Sandinista leadership did not expect a counter-revolutionary war at the outset, despite the fact that some 3,000 former National Guardsmen had fled to nearby countries in the last days of the revolution. A USIA survey in June-July 1984, for example, asked the citizens of four countries whether they approved or disapproved of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua. Victory in a wrong war does not make it right. Nicaraguan observer María López Vigil believed that the vote was largely a response to U.S. intimidation. The list includes President Daniel Ortega, Vice-President Sergio Ramirez, Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Tünnermann, Vilma Nuñez, and a dozen others.  Rep. David Bonior, telephone interview with Roger Peace, June 27, 2011; and LeoGrande, Our Own Backyard, 487. On December 24, 1992, President Bush pardoned Weinberger, Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams, Alan D. Fiers, Jr., and “Bud” McFarlane. Only a few days after the massacre, President Reagan certified to Congress that the Salvadoran government was making progress in “internationally recognized human rights.” Congress as a whole went along with the charade. In 1978, he and disgraced agent Edwin Wilson – later convicted of supplying explosive devices to Libya – negotiated a $650,000 deal with then Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza to “create a search and destroy apparatus” against Somoza’s enemies, which was the forerunner of the Contra army. During the 1980s, Palmerola was part of a sizeable tract of land, assigned on a de facto basis, which became known as the Nicaraguan Contras unsinkable aircraft carrier. Some peasants were also kidnapped by the Contras and forced to serve, fearing retribution against their families.. We were using the drug money to finance the gun running operation.”, In 1996, Gary Webb published an exposé detailing how the Contras financed some of their counter-revolutionary activities through drugs including through connection with Los Angeles crack cocaine dealer “Freeway” Ricky Ross. Several truckloads of Salvadoran soldiers arrived at the farming cooperative and, advised by spies, seized 20 young men and executed them on the spot. Two groups, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization and Veterans for Peace, organized truck caravans to Nicaragua, driving 4,000 miles to deliver tons of aid as well as the trucks. In April 1985, former CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner testified before a Congressional committee that the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan guerrillas, known as Contras, had engaged in numerous acts of “terrorism.”. ... globally inspiring demonstrations in 1970s and 1980s South Africa. It provided $20 million in emergency aid and economic assistance to the new Sandinista government, but at the same time secretly authorized covert aid to dissident political groups within Nicaragua.  Central America Resource Center, Directory of Central America Organizations, Third Edition, 1987 (Austin, TX: Central America Resource Center, 1986), Introduction. . And frankly, I’m inclined to think they’ve been getting a bum rap” (on human rights). South America 1900-2010 a timeline of major events.  Peter Kornbluh, “The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, National Security Archive Briefing Book Number 110,” February 3, 2004, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB110. A Computer-generated image of the sunken U-3523 submarine. In June 1980, House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-TX) traveled to Nicaragua at the behest of President Carter. As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to provide secret battlefield intelligence for Iran’s war against Iraq when the CIA had already provided Iraq with intelligence. The FSLN won 63% of the vote and 61 of 90 seats in the national assembly. In 1950, Assistant Secretary of State Edward Miller warned “the basic situation in the hemisphere is this. When, at times, negotiations progressed despite administration intransigence, U.S. officials fell back on the fail-safe argument that the Sandinistas could not be trusted to carry out.  Walker, Reagan Versus the Sandinistas, xiii. Fourteen parties were persuaded to join the National Opposition Union (UNO); four on the right, seven in the middle, and three on the far left, including the Nicaraguan Communist Party. The Honduran government officially denied the presence of the Contras, as this would make it subject to the very same charges that the U.S. was making against the Nicaraguan government – being a base of support for revolutionary groups. Alejandro Bandaña, an official in the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, put the matter succinctly: “The U.S. would support the results of a ‘free’ election only if its own side won.”. In April 1964, Brazilian military officers overthrew the constitutional government, instituting a military dictatorship. When the Contra revolution took off in the 1980s, Plumlee says he continued to transport arms south for the spy agency and bring cocaine back with him, with the blessing of the U.S. government. The net effect was to bolster repression in Honduras. Just as President Truman had sought to avoid being accused of “losing Vietnam” after allegedly “losing China” in 1949 (the U.S. began aiding the French recolonization of Vietnam in February 1950), so President Carter sought to avoid being accused of “losing El Salvador” after allegedly “losing Nicaragua” in 1979. President John F. Kennedy considered the dilemma of Cuba and decided to add economic incentives for moderate reform through the Alliance for Progress program, established in March 1961. “I realized,” she said, “there was a big difference between the position of the people and the government of the United States, because I was working with people that opposed their government’s policy toward Nicaragua.”, Dr. Gustavo Parajón, a Baptist minister, medical doctor, and director of the Nicaraguan Council of Protestant Churches (CEPAD), facilitated many international aid programs. The South African Border War, also known as the Namibian War of Independence, and sometimes denoted in South Africa as the Angolan Bush War, was a largely asymmetric conflict that occurred in Namibia (then South West Africa), Zambia, and Angola from 26 August 1966 to 21 March 1990. Central America, 1977–1980.  Cockburn and St. Clair, Whiteout; Nick Schou, Kill the Messenger: How the CIAs Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb (New York: The Nation Books, 2006). After years of FBI surveillance, no charges were brought against the organization. A number of transnational initiatives emerged from the U.S. side: More than 80 U.S.-Nicaragua sister cities and at least 17 U.S.-Salvadoran partnerships formed during the 1980s, facilitating local interest, travel, and humanitarian aid projects. ... People of the American Civil War by state; U.S. states in the American Civil War; Births by year ... 1980 by continent, Years of the 20th century in South America, 1980s in South America. President Clinton with Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen, Mar. Allende won the presidency in 1970 and became Latin America's first democratically elected leftwing leader. They received 30-year prison sentences, but their superiors remained free. The Reagan administration’s approach to diplomatic negotiations might well be labeled “scuttle diplomacy.” In February 1982, Mexican President José López Portillo proposed an agreement whereby the Nicaraguan government would agree to limit its military forces and halt any arms transfers to Salvadoran rebels, and the United States would agree to close the Contra camps and not invade Nicaragua. Labor unionists, indigenous groups, Christian Base Communities, and the Christian Democratic Party led efforts to effect political change, but without success. Their presence also may have deterred Contra attacks. A 1988 Congressional report titled “Bankrolling Failure” noted that only a small portion of U.S. aid to El Salvador addressed the endemic poverty and injustice that were the root causes of the war. They supported the diplomatic efforts of Latin American leaders to negotiate an end to the Central American wars and took note of the World Court decision in June 1986 that condemned U.S. aggression (see next subsection). The target of this propaganda was primarily the U.S. public. Advertisement in the New York Times, March 16, 1986, signed by over 200 religious leaders, With the covert war now overt, the amount of U.S. aid to the Contras was a matter of Congressional policy. The formula had been used in Vietnam and would be used again in Afghanistan (the Taliban) and Iraq (Saddam Hussein). The Salvadoran military responded with more repression. It is high time you recovered your consciences and obeyed your consciences rather than a sinful order.”, In Washington, Romero’s plea fell on deaf ears. The aid expanded from a trickle under President Jimmy Carter to a flood under President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989). The administration suspended further distribution of the $75 million aid package to Nicaragua pending an investigation. On September 1, 1986, Charles Liteky, George Mizo, Brian Willson, and Duncan Murphy, began a fast to protest $100 million in Contra aid approved by Congress in June and scheduled for release on October 24. Productive negotiations were unlikely as long as either side believed that military victory was possible and preferable to a negotiated settlement. It advised the guerrillas to avoid “explicit terror” against the general population in favor of the “selective use of violence” against Nicaraguan officials, judges, security officers, and others. At the second national conference in Detroit, held November 17-18, 1979 (after the Sandinistas took power), U.S. activists conferred with a blue ribbon panel of Nicaraguan officials and FSLN representatives, including Moisés Hassan Morales, a member of the Junta, Rafael Solis, Ambassador to the U.S., Victor Hugo Tinoco, Ambassador to the UN, and FSLN representatives Mónica Baltodano and Hilda Voldt.  “Archbishop Oscar Romero: The Last Sermon,” in Robert Leiken and Barry Rubin, eds., The Central American Crisis Reader: The Essential Guide to the Most Controversial Foreign Policy Issue Today (New York: Summit Books, 1987), 377. The FSLN remained small and ineffectual until the latter half of the 1970s, when popular opposition to the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle (nephew of the first Somoza) gained momentum. Quainton commented, “Incidents such as this in which unarmed civilians, including women and children, are victims provide invaluable grist for the Sandinista propaganda mill.  According to Lynn Horton, in Peasants in Arms, “Out of a population of approximately 3.5 million, 30,865 Nicaraguans were killed during the war” (page xv). Aided by U.S. intelligence and military personnel, Guatemala became a police state. Following a tour of Latin America, he wrote that “harsh government measures of repression may be the only answer; that these measures may have to proceed from regimes whose origins and methods would not stand the test of American concepts of democratic procedure; and that such regimes and such methods may be preferable … to further communist successes.”. FSLN leaders were intent on creating a socialist-oriented economic system that would meet the basic needs of the majority, but they did not regard the Soviet Union, Eastern bloc countries, or Cuba as appropriate economic models. Reform stirred the air in the mid-1970s. Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero, military president of El Salvador, 1977–1979, In November 1977, the Romero government enacted the Law for the Defense and Guarantee of Public Order, which eliminated almost all legal restrictions on violence against civilians. Many U.S. citizens were outraged that their tax dollars were being used to support murder and mayhem in Central America. Opposition to authoritarian governments and exploitative economic systems seethed below the surface, catalyzing reform movements, labor strikes, peasant revolts, and, when all else failed, revolutionary agitation. Government security forces also targeted labor union officials, The counterinsurgency war provided the right with cover for a murderous campaign against virtually all popular reform movements. The press accepted the report at face value at first, but within six months the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post had concluded that most of the administration’s claims were not backed up by the documents and that many of the documents were not authentic. The U.S. also provided the Salvadoran government with $22.5 million in military aid between 1946 and 1980. In 1981, the government instituted a new Agrarian Reform law, designed to redistribute land to over 100,000 campesinos (much of the land was expropriated from Somoza’s supporters who left the country). Pastoral letters were issued by five Catholic bishops and archbishops. Rabbi Balfour Brickner of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York, having twice visited Nicaragua, felt obliged to refute this claim in an opinion column in the, The Reagan administration’s public pronouncements that Sandinista Nicaragua must embrace democracy were all for show. Bill Gentile was a young freelance reporter and photographer in Central America in the 1980s. The geo-politics of the Cold War transformed Carter’s policies toward Nicaragua from what might have been straightforward support for democratic reform to a torturous balancing act. What exactly did the U.S. gain by attempting to expunge the left from Central America? In 1982 and 1983, the administration gained Congressional approval of $117.4 million in military aid; and in 1984, another $196.5 million. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts declared that “not a dime of military aid should go to El Salvador” until the armed forces were purged of human rights abusers. This was followed by a public health campaign consisting of sanitation measures, mass vaccinations, nutritional programs, encouragement of breast-feeding, the training of more doctors, and health education. Between February and July 1979, FSLN fighters increased in number from about 2,500 to 5,000, and proceeded to ‘liberate” towns and regions. The United States played a regrettable role in Latin America during the Cold War. In March 1953, the president signed NSC 144/1, quietly shelving the non-interventionist Good Neighbor Policy. This amalgamation of perceived threats led influential U.S. diplomat George Kennan to suggest in February 1950 that the United States should support repressive methods to meet the challenge. 19, Fall/Winter 1990, 3; and María Lopez Vigil, director of Envío magazine in 2006, comments at a meeting with a visiting group of U.S. citizens, Kairos House in Managua, June 19, 2006. The FSLN directorate, being of mixed class origin itself, was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to reform. The activists among them, including religious leaders, formed the Central America movement in 1980. “With many of these Latin American countries,” said FitzGerald, “our people have close emotional ties through the work of our priests and nuns and lay helpers there, who seek to relieve the poverty of the people and to give them back their dignity.”, Spain’s Foreign Minister, Fernando Moran, warned the U.S. in early 1985 that an invasion of Nicaragua would force Spain to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
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