Sanders, Sandinistas, Clinton, and Contras in Context

I did not see the March 9 Democratic debate, but I have seen clips of the exchange Clinton and Sanders had over Sanders’s support for the Sandinistas.
When I was an undergraduate, I spent a year researching and writing a ninety page thesis on Central American Solidarity activism–what Sanders is being maligned for participating in. As a result of this, I’d like to put Sander’s activism in a historical context.

Between the Sandinista revolution and 1986 100,000 US citizens visited Nicaragua as part of solidarity activism.

One hundred thousand.

That is a large number of U.S. citizens to visit any foreign country for politically motivated reasons.

It is especially impressive considering they did so at great personal risk. In 1985, 29 activists with Witness for Peace were kidnapped by the Contras. In 1987, U.S. solidarity activist Benjamin Linder was murdered by the Contras–with the full support of the Reagan Regime in Washington.

Fifty thousand Americas took a “Pledge of Resistance” to engage in civil disobedience should the Reagan Regime in Washington invade Nicaragua
Even if you don’t want to extrapolate from the number of people who were willing to take great personal risks to oppose U.S. foreign policy in Nicaragua, opinion polls from the time show that Reagan’s foreign policy in Central America was deeply unpopular–the most unpopular of any U.S. President up until that time. He received more letters to the White House about Central America than any other issue.

Benjamin Linder (1959-1987) was a U.S. Central American solidarity
activist, who at the age of 27 was murdered by the U.S. back Contras.
And the Reagan Regime in Washington blamed Central American Solidarity activists, especially those who had traveled to the region, for the unpopularity of their wars, including the Contra war. A State Department official noted they were losing the war of information, because in every town in the U.S. small or large they visited there was someone giving a presentation about what they had first hand witnessed in Central America. The Regan Regime tried to counter this by setting up the The Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean, which devoted its full time to providing correct information about the region. It was shut down by the Government Accountability Office for being an illegal form of domestic propaganda, but not before booking 1,400 speaking engagements in 1,000 U.S. towns.

And why were so many people so concerned?

The Contras were a terrorist organization.

They deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure like health clinics and adult literacy centers. The Reagan Regime had the wonderful idea that since the Sandinistas’s popularity rested in their promise of social programs that would improve the lives of poor people, if they violently eradicated those programs the Sandinistas wold be less popular! Oxfam called this the “fear of a good example.”

The Contras also, in addition to being just general murderers, routinely engaged in rape and amputation of body parts against civilians in a systematic way in order to terrorize them into submission.

The Sandinistas, for whatever their faults, stood in democratic elections in 1984, elections which the UN and most Western European governments found to be fair, elections which the Contras, on the advice of the Reagan Regime, refused to participate in.

And how did the the Sandinistas lose power?

They lost an election and left.

Some dictatorship.

So in short, there are no words in the English language, or probably any other, to describe the pure visceral rage I feel for Clinton’s attack on those who opposed the Contras.

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