We had two charlas in Managua today, the first one at the American embassy was a waste of time since the embassy spokesperson just repeated U.S. President Reagan’s position of alleged human rights violations by the Sandinistas. I felt like every word he uttered was measured and delivered like bullet points off a memo. The second charla was with journalist Mark Cook at the Latin American Historical Institute and was much more informative, interesting and relaxed. He struck me as a reliable source of information.
Following an overview of the country’s history, Mark surprised us with the news that Reagan is still trying to secure 100 million dollars in aid for the contras. This, despite the fact that Congress has forbidden this type of assistance. I don’t know how Reagan plans to get around the Congressional ban but if he manages to do it, it could be devastating for the Sandinista government.
|Fun Size History|
Around the same time that I was writing this entry, some interesting things were happening in the United States. President Reagan had authorized the CIA to begin financing, arming and training the Contras (or counterrevolutionaries), most of whom were the remnants of Somoza’s National Guard. During this time, a majority of Americans were opposed to funding the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. In 1982, Congress passed the Boland Amendment to prevent the U.S. from providing any military assistance to forces attempting to overthrow the Sandinistas, thus blocking Reagan’s funding for the Contras.
The Reagan administration sought to circumvent the restrictions. A clandestine plan was devised whereby arms would be sold via Israel to Iran, which at the time was subject to an arms embargo following their own Islamic revolution and overthrow of the pro-West Reza Shah Pahlavi. The illegal arms sale was presumably meant to facilitate the release of American hostages held by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini (although Ronald Reagan vehemently denied that there had ever been any arms for hostages deal.) With the help of NSA Lt. Col. Oliver North, a large portion of proceeds from the arms sales were diverted to fund the Contras. A Lebanese newspaper broke the story and The Iran-Contra Affair became a scandal for the Reagan administration. Ronald Reagan appointed the Tower Commission to look into the matter, but the investigation was impeded by withholding and deliberate destruction of evidence.
After Mark’s presentation, we broke off into small brainstorming groups. We face the daunting task of figuring out how a handful of freelance journalists and volunteers can provide an alternate narrative that will counteract Reagan’s propaganda machine. The journalists can quickly write an article and communicate with their readers. I don’t have that type of forum and I find it difficult to imagine how I’m going to turn this experience into something that can change people’s minds.
At night, we went out dancing at a place called Lobo Jack. It was very Americanized, lots of internationalists drinking a lot. I talked to Mark about the possibility of doing something with Comandante Gladys Baez. It would be great to have her visit the United States, meet women, and talk about her experiences in the revolution. I don’t know if I have what it takes to organize speaking dates for her. I still have a bad taste in my mouth after trying to organize that benefit for the Mexican earthquake victims. That one was so poorly attended, I felt embarrassed to hand the check to the Red Cross representative at the end of the night. What if we raise money to take Gladys out to California and people don’t show up? It was just an idea but I’ll have to think about whether it’s something I can deliver.
Accepting defeat before even attempting something is a lazy way out. It saves work but robs us of the opportunity to succeed and to challenge our perceived limitations or to fail miserably and thus learn from the experience.
Mark and I bonded quickly over music, he is a Buzzcocks fan and very easy to talk to, so I told him about my difficulty finding meaningful solidarity work.
“I heard about the bricks,” he said.
“Does everybody know?” I was so embarrassed.
Ignoring my question, he suggested that I might be more helpful doing something I’m good at and that I enjoy. What a good idea, why didn't I think of that? I’ll talk to the school about going back to the art collective to volunteer there when I’m not doing literacy.