Reflections on history, country and patriotism

My first impression of Nicaragua was neither loud nor brightly colored. It was ironically simple and sequential, folded neatly into the margins of a history book, sweat and struggle reduced to lifeless black font across the page. An easy introduction: I was the student and Nicaragua was the distant, untouchable story, a world separate from my own. But when I first visited Granada in 2010 on a trip with my university, the dusty backdrop of facts and names sprung to life.

I discovered that I was not the objective bystander I believed myself to be, but instead, unknowingly, had always been connected to this foreign land by the tangled threads of my own country’s history. The academic theme of the trip was globalization in Latin America, and most of our lectures were devoted to the history of U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. For those who don’t know the history, here is a brief summary of the things I learned, and for those who do know, a brief reminder:

Beginning in the 1930s, the United States supported the brutal 40-year Somoza family dictatorship. Many members of Somoza’s National Guard, best known for their ruthless killings of political prisoners, are trained in especially inhumane torture techniques at the U.S. School of the Americas. In 1979, the revolutionary Sandinistas overthrow the last Somoza in a popular uprising and launch a nation-wide effort to improve education and health services, as well as redistribute the land belonging to Somoza and his supporters.

Terrified by the idea of losing power in the region, the U.S. funds the Contra War against the Sandinistas throughout the 1980s. To circumvent Congress’ disapproval of an invasion, President Ronald Reagan secretly raises millions of dollars to aid the insurgents by illegally selling weapons to Iran. Among the Contras’ main targets are nurseries and agricultural cooperatives. The Sandinista government calls for mandatory military service to fend off the Contras, and countless young Nicaraguans are killed at war. Meanwhile, the U.S. implements a crippling economic embargo that leaves the whole country hungry, the stalks of rotted crops bowing their knees to the north as if begging for mercy. These actions are based on eradicating Soviet-supported governments in Latin America, but filed under the label “defending democracy.”

In 1984, the U.S. is charged in the International Court of Justice for illegal interference and illegal mining on Nicaragua’s shores. The U.S. never pays the reparations. In 1990, the Sandinistas are voted out of office by a country tired of drafts and dead sons. Violeta Chamorro, the newly elected president, is coincidentally the U.S.’ top choice for promoting its economic interests. Over the next 20 years, the U.S. continues to exert influence by covertly funding presidential campaigns and enforcing free-market economic policies that often favor foreign investors over Nicaraguan ones.

I felt betrayed. I was shattered to discover that my own liberty-loving country had repeatedly used democracy as the pretext for intervention on behalf of its own economic interests. On my first trip through Nicaragua, there was no sign of the sweet, golden first-world freedoms promised as a consolation prize by my country, the means dangling without ends.

Instead, I found a wounded dog chained to the train tracks and a country haunted by the chilling post-colonial howl of Spanish ghosts. I remember that trip as a jagged patchwork of images: hollow-eyed children addicted to the glue their mothers fed them to quell hunger, the waterless communities, the deafening silence of a bruise sprawled across the cheekbone.

The tenderness of my compassion was contrasted by the sharp edges of rage. I saw my country in all of these moments, and wondered what would have happened if history had been kinder, if the Sandinistas hadn’t been forced to channel all of their resources towards the war, if instead, they could have grown their own democracy, and broken the cold colonial chains of economic dependence to build a more sustainable, self-sufficient financial system on their own terms.

And so it came to be that my introduction to Nicaragua was also an introduction to myself, the other side of my country that I hadn’t met, a sinister self-portrait that stared back at me with its cold, unfriendly gaze.

When you first discover your country in bed with dishonesty, there are several possible reactions. The first is defense. Many people have justified U.S. intervention abroad by focusing on real, tangible threats, such as the confiscation of U.S. property by the Sandinistas. And while I understand the reasoning, I am stunned by the arrogance of such a claim. When did Nicaragua become an extension of the United States? Nicaragua is not ours, is not beachfront property to be bought.

This distinctly American superiority complex raises a few important questions: For whose freedom are we really fighting—our own? Freedom for U.S. multinationals to conquer whichever countries they choose? Or are we genuinely fighting for Nicaragua’s freedom from the economic dependency kindled by our narrow, neoliberal definition of “development?”

And while U.S. companies scrambled to save their land from the threat of expropriation all across Latin America, we were taught a “simplified” version of these politics at home: Communism is the antithesis of democracy. Democracy equals freedom. If we want to keep our freedom, we must eradicate communism. And it is our job, as the big brother of the twentieth century, to spread the glories of democracy to the poor and the oppressed.

This becomes the second reaction to irresponsible U.S. invasion: blind patriotism. People believed—and still believe—that it is our job, our right to intervene and provide democracy to corrupt and impoverished countries. However well intentioned, this rhetoric only continues to promote the abuse of the very values it attempts to defend. The Sandinistas were never communists. Their original commitment to public social services was built on the desperate need for basic education and health care neglected in the despotic whirlwind of Somoza’s reign.

I am embarrassed that, despite our excellent access to information, we are caught in the same primitive, uninformed political climate of which we accuse the countries we invade. The U.S.’ tragic misunderstandings of Nicaragua’s goals for a brighter future continue to haunt the country today.

The third and final response to U.S. invasions abroad greatly differs from the other approaches. In my fury, I did what most discouraged, liberal university students do: I tried to distance myself from my privilege. I tried to amputate anything that would link me to the empire, devouring history book of countries that were not my own. I studied abroad for my entire undergraduate education, trying on the loose-fitting costumes of other cultures. But this only left me with the (terribly embarrassing) false impression that I had somehow managed to crawl out of my American shell to become a liberated, enlightened world traveler. I floated aimlessly, suspended between cultures and time zones, searching for myself.

But in the last three years abroad, I have been forced to reconsider my identity as a U.S. citizen and to confront my freedoms and responsibilities as a “daughter of the empire.” I now realize that every aspect of my education, every plane ticket, insight or essay, is a product of the very privilege I spent so much time renouncing. I never used to consider myself as patriotic, as I viewed the term as a sly accomplice to dangerous political propaganda. But, thanks to the unexpected path of my education, I have learned many invaluable lessons about civic duty in this complex, globalized world.

True patriotism is not a fluttering flag or a defense strategy. Instead, it is a desire and commitment to improve your country. The United States is not an island. We are irrevocably connected to the world through immigration, economics, and the internet. As the borders of our country are warped by globalization, it is our patriotic duty to educate ourselves from both sides of the border, to not waste our privilege on ignorance. It our patriotic duty to read, to be well informed about the impact of our country on the rest of the world.

In addition to honoring the service of U.S. foreign officials, I believe it is our patriotic duty to criticize and challenge our foreign service. We must hold them accountable for their actions and ensure that the values we preach at home are upheld overseas.

It is imperative that we understand that each country has its own intricate history and cultural context, and that our narrow free-market definition of democracy is no longer—and never was—an acceptable excuse for intervention. Along with our privilege, we have to confront our national moral superiority complex. Instead of simply condescending to “backwards,” corrupt governments throughout the globe, we should use these opportunities to reflect on our own country: How has the U.S. contributed to the current poverty and corruption in Nicaragua? (Did U.S. support of certain presidential candidates influence the 1999 pact that helped to give President Ortega his current power?) On what premises were the interventions made and do we believe these actions were justified? What can we do to make sure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated? As educated and engaged citizens, it is our responsibility to place ourselves in the picture, and continue asking these questions.

Before I arrived in Nicaragua last September, curious acquaintances would ask me why I chose to come back to Nicaragua. I gave them empty-handed answers: for school, I would say, fumbling with my words. I was never sure how to condense a century of history into a single sentence, to flesh out the abstract complexities of my rage in the shallow basin of small talk.

As I return to Managua for my final semester abroad, I am much more sure of myself and of my reasons for returning. Everyday on my way to work, I pass the hill where Somoza’s National Guard pushed political prisoners into the lake to drown. I don’t cringe or cry; I am no longer the fragile, shocked student I once was. I feel that it is my patriotic duty to share these reflections with my fellow countrymen and women, to open up a conversation with those abroad and at home.

I want to introduce you to Nicaragua the way I have seen her: the afternoon symphony of rain on tin roofs, the crooked teeth of concrete jutting out from the busted lip of a side street. I want to share with you the stories of struggle and sacrifice, the tiny shards of hope planted like broken glass pieces on cement walls.

But most of all, I want to introduce you to your own country through the tangled threads of a distant history. Here is a twisted self-portrait. Be a responsible, well-informed tourist, student, missionary or businessman. Remember that it is impossible to study in another country as an objective outsider.

Read about Nicaragua. Share your opinions, but please, please read first. Don’t believe anything until you have heard the other side of the story. Care about the people here as you would care about your own, because, in the end, Nicaragua is a mirror image of your own country. I am sure you will find yourself here—be it in the soft creases of a beggar’s face, or the margins of history book. And if you don’t see your reflection staring back at you, well, then I suggest you look again.

 

Sarah Kaplan Gould is a student at LIU Global, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Global Studies with an emphasis on creative writing and foreign languages. She has spent her last three years traveling and studying in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and China. If you are interested, she has an awesome list of excellent books about Nicaragua she would like to share with you, email her at sarahkaplangould@gmail.com.

  • Jim Lynch

    Thank you Sarah. Occasionally, wisdom surprisingly springs forth when one least expects it. What a delightful few minutes I just spent. Please continue to write.

  • Ken

    To whom much is given, much is required. Sounds like you understand that core moral principle. Here though is where the journey gets tough. It will take all your talent and privilege to figure out how to make a responsible difference, and you will be frustrated by defeat many times over. But if you work as hard with your talents as the poor do with their lesser allotment, you will be on the right path. I wish you well.

  • Pedro Torres

    Sarah,

    Very well written and interesting article. I commend you on your travel to Nicaragua and your desire to see the world objectively, based on your own experiences.

    However, I would caution you to apply the same objectivity when speaking about the current political and economic situation in Nicaragua. It is tempting to blame all of Nicaragua’s current troubles on the legacy of Spanish colonialism and U.S. involvement in Central America during the Cold War. However, in your article you turn a blind eye to, or at least neglect to seriously account for, the effect of the inept governance, corruption and cronyism of the Sandinista-controlled quasi-dictatorship of Ortega/Murrillo. After several stolen elections, politically-spurred murders and vanishing democratic freedoms for Nicaraguans, it should be clear to you (a self-labeled student of Nicaraguan history) the true nature of this party and it’s leaders. You make the common mistake that many young Americans do when they study and travel in Nicaragua. You portray the Sandinista party as some kind of socialist, egalitarian movement that has the best interests of Nicaraguans at heart, locked in constant struggle with the imperialist designs of the yanqui empire. In fact, the same Sandinistas you commend in several passages of your article are more aptly described as greedy capitalists with little concern for democracy … the very characteristics you try to assign to current U.S. involvement in the country.

    You mention the the poor, drug addicted children of Nicaragua, an unfortunate and all to common sight on the streets of Managua. But ask yourself, are these children poor as a result of U.S. actions over twenty years ago? Or are they in fact poor because the corrupt, inept government is incapable of providing them basic health care and other social services, instead contenting themselves with robbing the nation’s coffers for personal gain? Several Latin American nations with similar colonial and Cold War legacies are developing rapidly. Why not Nicaragua?

    In your article above you have just scratched the surface of Nicaragua’s problems. I urge you to expand your research past the Revolution and the Contra War and study more current democratic and political events in Nicaragua. If your standard fall-back response is to blame your country for the social and political injustices you encounter in the world, I am afraid you will never truly understand them.

    Pedro

    • Sarah

      Pedro:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and respectful feedback. I agree with you entirely, and now understand the weaknesses of the piece, such as the complete glorification of the Sandinistas without mention of the current situation or the cruel abuses suffered by opposition groups.

      I am well aware of the current political situation in Nicaragua, and the faulty logic of blaming all of the world’s problems on the US. The intention of this blog was merely to present my first impressions of Nicaragua, and my first impressions of confronting my country’s role in the world, but I realize now my mistakes in presenting too narrow a scope of history.

      As this my first experience with publishing material online, I greatly value your comment, and will keep your suggestions in mind as I continue writing about my experiences in the future. Thanks!

      -Sarah

      • Robyn

        I traveled to Nica in May earlier this year. I was shocked at the disgust I felt for my own country. Not only for what the U.S. did, but for how biased our history books are. I agree with your “blind patriotism” statement. It is similar to the war in Iraq. I believe the U.S. government often sticks their noses in where it doesn’t belong and/or keeps it there way longer than necessary. Similarly, under the disguise of “helping,” the government has the hidden agenda of what our presence and “help” will gain for us. Sometimes I wish they would just be honest and say it is the intrest in oil. I mean, Uganda has been at civil for over 30 years and you don’t see our troops there “helping.” I have a strong feeling it has to do with the fact that we have little to nothing to gain by helping them.

        On a second note, I am in the health care field and I experienced quite a bit of that area when I visited. Saying the healthcare is sub-par, is a gross understatement, but what got me was the strength of the people. They live with so much less than we do, yet they don’t complain. People get so irritated having to wait in a doctor’s waiting room and we had people walk for miles and miles just to see us and get a few vitamins and few antibiotics(if needed). Some children don’t have shoes, but we feel lost without our cell phones. New mothers and their baby in the postpartum ward of the hospital often SHARE a bed with another new mom and her baby, and in our country, people find various faults with thier private rooms. In the second largest city of Nicaragua, Leon, there is ONE nursing home with 20 residents….yes, I said one. And yes, I said twenty…Take a minute to process that…. They take care of thier own. There are thousands in the States. It just puts into perspective how selfish and self-centered people can be in the United States. I don’t mean to be critical, I am guilty of it too. I don’t want “hate” mail so dont get me wrong people. In our defense: We aren’t confronted with the destitute poverty everyday and it is a second-nature thing to be frustrated when something isn’t perfect. We don’t think about it.
        Its ironic that I remember my parents saying, “There are starving kids in Africa, you better eat all your dinner.” But most of our parents that said that weren’t trying to teach us a lesson on being humble and thankful, nor did we feel sympathetic to those unimaginable, fictitous children in Africa. They were just trying to guilt us into eat our gross veggies and we ate them to avoid punishment. However, the concept is true. Seeing it first-hand does make a tactile impact on someone’s life.
        There is a meme going around of “first world problems,” and they are funny, but also point out how ridiculous some people’s complaints are.

        It’s a broken world out there, and in here.

    • geoffrey

      Reading Sarah’s story was so painful because she left out so much. The Soviets, East Germans and Cubans were deeply involved in setting up Nicaragua as a platform from which to expand into other countries in the region. Does the term proxy war ring a bell? Sadly, it was a geopolitical power play on the backs of the long suffering regular folk. Sarah’s exchange with Pedro settled me down considerably. It is always such a joy to see such civil discourse.

      I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to countless Nicaraguans over the years and one man told me his personal story. He owned a successful restaurant. “Tacho” Somoza himself ate dinner there and announced that he wanted to buy the restaurant. The owner declined to sell and the next day he couldn’t find a supplier willing to sell him any provisions. He had to close up the place. Somoza the gangster. But, the man continued with his story, when Tacho was in power the grocery stores were bulging with food for sale. When the Sandinistas “piñata” was put in place the grocery stores were empty. The Sandinistas were later shown the door, the piñata continued, but there was plenty of food in the shops once again. President Ortega has returned and is the legally elected custodian of that country’s hopes for the future. He’s still quite capable of a populist stem winder but welcomes respectful Americans with open arms, encourages investment, and doesn’t punish success.

  • John Shepard

    Well, a few of the facts are open to question. The US was the one who told Somoza he had to go, finally, and withdrew all support. Without that fortuitous event, the country might have fought to a standstill, similar to what happened in El Salvador.

    The Contra war started as a genuine civil war in response to Sandinista abuses in the campo. The US began funding the Contras in response to the 1; Marxist tilt of the Sandinistas, and 2; their export of weapons to El Salvador. US funding started about two years after the internal conflict started; it was not precipitated by the US. The Soviet arrival in Nicaragua during the Cold War was the icing on the cake, something the US, in it’s own self interest, could not ignore. The story has to be told in the context of the time.

    There were never US boots on Nicaraguan soil (although plenty in Honduras), and no US command and control of the Contras. Unfortunately, that lack meant no established rules of engagement, and a lot of innocents were affected. Hundreds of thousands of Nicas fled to the US for a better life. Some are slowly returning, and may be the best hope for democracy in Nicaragua.

    The Sandinistas were as brutal as the Contras, and they continued that brutality well after the peace process was put in place, seeking out former Contras and murdering them.

    Good news, that’s all history. Certainly not to be forgotten, but probably should not be spun to hide the truth either.

    Some of what you say is very true: It’s a beautiful country, gracious people, much potential yet to be developed.

    • Norma Cuadra-Morales

      Excellent clarification to a very heartfelt view… thank you

    • Erick

      “MIGHT” Nothing better then rationalization. (the clinical term)
      Panama,Costa Rica, Venezuela, Cuba among others helped the Sandinista Cause. By your logic there should have been a Contra style group in those countries. and in El Salvador it was the moral duty of any left nationalist group, to get rid of a brutal feudal system that still exist in our region Specially in Guatemala,Honduras El Salvador and Nicaragua.

  • nicafred

    The U.S.A., that dreadful, imperialistic hot-bed of savage capitalism, has afforded this young lady a good education and leisure time to pontificate. Had she been born in any number of other countries, she might have been forced to do something distastful- like getting a job.

  • Carlos Briones

    We must not “exploit…[Ms. Kaplan's] youth and inexperience,” but must commend her efforts to put Nicaragua in the best light possible.

    She appears to think that multinational businesses are imposed by the U.S. to the country in which they desire to work. This is a business absurdity. Nicaragua and its rules, laws and regulations allow for a multinational to operate in its soil. Not the U.S.

    Moreover, she seems to argue that American companies are in the business of conquering other countries by preventing them from becoming economically independent. This is also a distorted view. Multinational companies are in the business of making damn sure their investors are happy. They could care less whether a country is gaining its economic dependency or freedom, or is developing. If the country in which these businesses operate see fit to change a business relationship in which one has an unequal advantage over the other, it stands to reason that the host country can easily change its rules, laws or regulations and enforce the same in their own country to make the business relationship an even field.

    Since Ms. Kaplan appears to be well versed in China affairs, well, I ask: are we to place blame on the Chinese for becoming the World’s second largest economy largely on business practices that may appear unconventional?

    We all know the Chinese tell American multinationals to cough up their blue prints for products they intend on manufacturing in China. We know they manipulate their currency to make American products less desireable. We know they infringe on most, if not all, copyrights. Yet, they are America’s largest business partner, second to Mexico.

    So, Ms. Kaplan, should we blame China for unfairly and grossly hindering our efforts to become once again the world’s only economically dependent country?

    • Sarah

      Carlos:

      Thank you for your comment.

      You are right when you say that the US doesn’t dispatch multinats out to conquer the world. But I encourage you to think critically about WHY Nicaragua’s rules and regulations allow US multinationals to flourish. There is an undeniable link between US foreign policy and multinationals’ interests.

      In response to your claim that “it is easy for a host country to change it’s rules, laws or regulations…”:

      Although, of course, colonialism is not the only cause of problems in Central America, it MUST be considered when discussing current economic policies. After the exploiting of natural resources for export (first by Spain, and later followed by the US), Central America became locked in a vicious cycle of economic dependence, which prevented the region from finding a self-sufficient economic model. The US’s economic advantages coupled with the unsustainable export economy prove that there is no such thing as an “even field.”

      In the twentieth century, the US repeatedly intervened in Latin America on behalf of their multinationals’ interests. The Dulles brothers (one brother was the Secretary of State, and the other was the director of the CIA) were closely linked to the United Fruit Company. In 1954 when DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz threatened to expropriate land for the benefit of Guatemala, (threatening the United Fruit Company land), the US backed forced to topple his regime.

      This (among many other examples) is proof of the influence between business interests and foreign policy. In the twenty first century, the US hasn’t exerted much military aid or influence in the region, but continues to influence by economic means. CAFTA, the free trade agreement between the US and many Central American countries, is an example of this. To avoid more comments like those in response to my original article, I will add this: OF COURSE there are positive and negative effects of this free trade agreement and I am not claiming that it is entirely evil. I understand that increased employment and business opportunities are a good thing in a country with high unemployment. I am, however, claiming that there is no such thing as a “fair” agreement, due to the history of each country. But this continues to be the problem: these kinds of agreements are one-sided and short-sighted, leaving Central America with no sustainable economic system that they can develop on their own terms.

      As you state, “[businesses] could care less whether a country is gaining its economic dependency or freedom, or is developing.” This is precisely the problem. This lack of concern for the well being and development of other countries is exactly the danger of American exceptionalism that I tried to discuss in my article.

      The idea of Capitalism, that “the strongest will win,” must be understood in the context of Central American history: who is the strongest and why? How can an entire region robbed of it’s natural riches by colonialism compete with the economic power house of the US? I encourage you to read more about the history of the region, without social and cultural context, economics are just numbers.

      As far as China goes: I am by no means an expert, especially when it comes to issues concerning the economy. How I see it, the historical, social, and cultural context of China is incomparable to the issues we are discussing in this conversation. The US’s economic prosperity came at the expense of other countries, while China’s (pending) economic prosperity will come from the abuses of their own workers on their own soil.

      I see it this way: if you’re all for the free market, which it sounds like you are, let them do what they want.
      At some point, they will have to confront the sacrifice of human life and rights (I’m referring to working conditions and forced evictions/other rights abuses for lucrative public projects). Unfortunately, in the US, we never have to deal with the mess we’ve made or the lives that have been lost, because it’s all outside of our own borders. The sacrifice of human life for economic benefit is disgusting and disgraceful in any context.

      Hope this cleared things up a bit. Thanks!

      -Sarah

  • Frank

    Ms Kaplan, you need to read more books from different authors with different point of view and, less sandinista’s propaganda. I lived in Nicaragua back in the 80′s when Sandinistas keep us under the boot of communism. Not a single good memory from then: no food, no job, no freedom, no education, no healthcare at all, no nothing. Two or three generation of Nicaraguan youth were lost due to war and repression, we have to leave our own homeland in search of peace, job and freedom to United State of America, not to Cuba or Russia, but USA.
    Probably you are to young and inexperienced to approach such a topic in Nicaragua. History take more than few month of reading, and more reasoning than emotions.
    Thanks.

  • OEstrada

    I read your article in its entirety as you recommended before giving my opinion. From what I gathered, it sounds to me that you have a progressive/liberal view of the world, which in the context of discussing Nicaraguan history, in my humble opinion, is naive on anyone’s part. The history you read in textbooks and articles is biased because it comes from a strictly liberal/socialist point of view. This of course is the norm in most university settings whether you are studying in the US or Nicaragua. Since you’re currently a student I think it’s safe to assume the “university” is the source of most of your information. While in college I was exposed to the same misinformation, but fortunately, not to the extent of social majors do since I studied engineering in college both at the undergraduate and graduate level.

    When you have lived history, the way my family and I did during the 1980′s and prior when we helped the Sandinistas overthrow a dictatorship, we were told that we were fighting for freedom and a better future for everyone. It wasn’t until they had won through revolution of course; we came to the realization that the type of government the Sandinistas were interested in pursuing was a communist one. At the time the majority of the people of Nicaragua didn’t know what it was to live under a communist regime, but as I’ve gotten older and lived through such an oppressive, dictatorial regime as the Sandinistas have rooted themselves into, I do not consider a communist/socialist government a “good” for any society whether it’s Nicaragua or the USA. I bring up the US because what happened in Nicaragua in the late 70’s early 80’s is happening to the US today with the Democrats. I could write a book on the subject alone, but bottom line, what I want the reader of my comment to take away is that you can’t blame the USA for all the evils of the world which is what you appeared to do in your article.

    I want to leave you with some examples of how it is live under an oppressive, dictatorial government such as the one Sandinistas have instituted in Nicaragua; 1) you have no rights as human being, the government has the final say in all your personal affairs, 2) you work for the state so there is no such thing as income that you earn with great effort and hard work, 3) forget about owning the roof under which you live, property rights don’t exist in utopian communist societies. I could go on and on but I’ve made my point I believe. Nicaragua is poor not because of interventionism from the USA as your article may suggest, but from the corruption filled power hungry so called Sandinistas your article gives the impression to defend. You talk to any peace freedom loving Nicaraguan, and I assure you’d get a similar response. Finally, if you really want to help Nicaragua, I’d suggest you spread the word that the Sandinistas are dismantling and ransacking Nicaragua to the point where there want be much of country for future generations.

  • Alberto

    OESTRADA, I am a “peace and freedom Nicaraguan” and I disagree with you 100% and so did the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

    “In 1984, the U.S. is charged in the International Court of Justice for illegal interference and illegal mining on Nicaragua’s shores. The U.S. never pays the reparations.”

  • OEstrada

    Alberto,

    Of course, I meant to exclude Sandistas/Ortegistas propagandists like you. Case closed.

  • Nero

    OESTRADA, I agree with you 100%. You described exactly what happened to me and my family during 70′s and 80′s. We also supported the revolution only to see a oppressive communist regime imposed by Cuba take over my country. Im going to start skipping though these naive adolescent blogs. I know ND puts them out to get a rise out of its readers but I find them boring, predictable and not all news worthy.

  • Mela Pellas

    Sarah, you probably voted for Sheik Hussein bin Obama and his road to dismantle the once powerful USA. Given a few more years, your country (and mine) will have gone the way of Greece. We’ll see where you travel and write about then. Child, you’s a fool.

  • Federico

    I appreciate your honestty. I commend your efforts to acquire knowledge. You can tell you have a pure heart.

    However, do not be fooled by Sandinistas.

    First, Ortega is an illegitimate president. He is holding power illegally. Period. The Nica Constitution forbids a president to run three terms. He is an unconstitutional president. The Supreme Court deemed it inapplicable. Last time a Nica leader went through all measures to maintain power was Somoza. He is a dictator. (He has expressed he will run in 2016)

    Second, censorship. Go look into who owns most media and news oitlets in Nica. It’s Ortegas family. They own Multinoticias, canal 8, canal 12, and others. And teh radio. No one else sees the red flag? He has manipulated his own image in the public. Does this degree of propaganda not scare you?

    Third, the electoral process is a sham. Sandinistas will not disclose full information of 2006 and 2011 elections. The international community said the 2011 elections were “opaque, non transparent, irregular”. Furthermore, the municipal elections have been robbed as well. They even had the nerve to put deceased Nicaraguans as candidates.

    Fourth, sexual abuse allegations. His own stepdaughter has accused of him sexual abuse

    Fifth, he is a thief. Everhead of La Pinata? Between Ortega and Chamorro presidencies, Ortega confiscated private businesses, farms, islands, and houses, and handed them to his Sandinista buddies. Just ask the guy who used to own the house Ortega lives in now. That is stealing. He claims to be “Christian” and says anti-Orteguistas and anti-Chavistas are not true Christians. I am pretty sure Jesus would not have approved of la Pinata.

    Sixth, Ortega is a criminal. He went to jail in the late 1960s for robbing a bank.

    Seventh, he is a hypocrite. He preaches against capitalismo but him and his wife have shopped in New York and bought $300 pair of sunglasses. You know how many hotels, restaurants, construction that Sandinistas own?

    Eigth, he is a populist. He appeals to majority of the population by two principal ways: FIrst, he identifies himself with the poor by saying he is a proud dark indian mestizo. Second, he further solidifies that “us vs them” mentality by saying that the Nica rich, the Yankees, the capitalists, the Americans oppress the poor and cause the inequality. The only people getting rich and benefiting from this new regime is the Sandinistas. We traded one rich corrupt ruling class (Somoza) for another rich corrupt ruling class.

    Ninth, do not be fooled by the 4-5% economic growth in Nica. Ever hard of ALBA? Chavez sells oil cheap. Then Ortega sells it at market price. Rest of the funds goes into Ortegas private company. He has completely mixed private and public funds.

    People forget under Somoza Nica was the most prosperous country economically in Central America. This was at the expense of civil liberties. There was was no democratic process, there was censorship….

  • Daddy-yo

    Very poetic in spots, albeit naive overall. Your account of ‘history’ is simplistically one-sided. (Some of the corrective comments above are appreciated.)

    “When you first discover your country in bed with dishonesty,…” To Ms. Innocence Lost, perhaps you were absent during the Gulf-of-Tonkin-license to do Vietnam, but surely you were present for WMD into Iraq. And the endless election campaigns. Politicians have mangled the truth since before Aristotle defined man as the political animal. Learning to deal with liars is part of growing up. To amend an old adage for gringos struggling with guilt like yours: love it, or change it, or leave it & come to Nicaragua where politicians are no different. Surprise! Unfettered democracy is an illusion. Pure communism is a theory.

    As for studying history, find out what was accomplished in Nicaragua during the three centuries prior to US meddling? From ‘discovery’ early in the sixteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century, what was done beyond killing & enslaving aboriginals and shipping gold & silver to the homeland? Hint: a few landlords schemed & battled continuously for total control; the humble poor multiplied, served their lords & grew poorer but happy with cheap rum.

    Is it considered meddling if Nicas invest in US businesses? Or donate to US politico campaigns?

    It would seem you’ve learned in school to sing the Sandinista anthem that calls Yanquis “the enemies of humanity”.

  • Jan

    Thank you for this article Sarah. I am sorry that there are so many people taking you to task for your words and for your expressions of disgust with US policies over the years in Central America. Certainly the US has not been the only country to try to bend the countries of Latin America to their will but we have been the primary country to tout our belief in democracy and in the rights of others to their own beliefs while at the same time denying those benefits to others.

    Nicaragua long lived under the boot of the United States. There is a very long history of US intervention in Nicaragua – an intervention that began long before the advent of the Soviet Union or a Castro led Cuba. The first known dive bombing of a civilian population took place in Ocotal in northern Nicaragua in 1927 when US pilots dropped their bombs on the civilians supporting Nicaragua’s hero, Augusto Sandino, who fought against the occupation of his country by the US Marines.

    Here is just a brief list of US interventions in the sovereign state of Nicaragua.

    1894: Month-long occupation of Bluefields
    1896: Marines land in port of Corinto
    1898: Marines land at port of San Juan del Sur
    1899: Marines land at port of Bluefields
    1907: “Dollar Diplomacy” protectorate set up
    1910: Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto
    1912-33: Bombing, 20-year occupation, fought guerrillas
    1981-90: CIA directs exile (Contra) revolution, plants harbor mines against government

    When the Marines pulled out in 1933 they left the fully trained brutal National Guard that did the bidding of the US puppet Somoza who had been installed by Washington. A Nicaraguan friend of mine told me that before the overthrow of the Somoza government it was common for young women to be dragged off the street and raped by members of the Guardia Nacional. She was a teenager in those days and said that she and her friends feared that they too could be victims of the Guardia. Two of her friends were raped and beaten by Somoza’s thugs.

    The US never objected to the corrupt Somoza who owned almost all of the country while most of his people lived in abject poverty. President Roosevelt said of Somoza, “He is a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch.”

    It seems that as long as sons of bitches do the bidding of the US and keep their people under control they will find Washington to be their friend.

    What led to Washington finally being fed up with the Somoza regime was the deliberate murder by the Guardia Nacional of Bill Stewart, an American journalist who was covering the Nicaraguan revolution.

    The new government of Nicaragua hardly had time to implement reforms, to bring health care and education to a people starved for both when the newly elected Reagan regime decided that having a left wing government in Nicaragua went against US interests. The Reagan administration immediately began to recruit former members of the National Guard to form the “contras. Among the trainers of the contras were members of the Argentine military who had participated in the murder of 30,000 Argentinians during the so-called “dirty war.”.

    These “contras’ were tasked with blowing up schools, health clinics, coffee cooperatives and any other project initiated by the Sandinistas. They were also tasked with killing school teachers, health care workers, young literacy workers and, in fact, anyone who was working to make Nicaragua a better place for the poor.

    In spite of the depredations coming from Washington, in spite of US terrorism when the CIA blew up the port of Corinto, in spite of crippling sanctions the people of Nicaragua (with the exception of the well-to-do who had benefited under Somoza) struggled to build a better country.

    In 1985 I made two trips to Nicaragua. I spoke with many people in Managua, Leon, Esteli etc who were frightened by what the US had in store for them. I will never forget the 12 year old girl in Leon who asked me why my president wanted to kill her. I had no good answer for her even as I knew that Reagan wouldn’t have given a damn if this young girl died as long as the US could have its way. I also will not forget that the day before we arrived in Matagalpa the contras had murdered two young women school teachers not far from where we were staying.

    Yes, there are problems in Nicaragua today but for this poor country to be pointed out and scorned by some on this blog is hypocritical. I wonder how many of you condemned the death squad governments of El Salvador and Guatemala? How many of you point out the fact that poverty levels in Coumbia are among the highest in the hemisphere? How many of you are even aware of the massive human rights violations occuring in Honduras, one of the most unsafe places for journalists in the hemisphere? Over 20 journalists have been murdered since the 2009 coup that overthrew the elected government of Manuel Zelaya. Is that OK with all of you are decrying Nicaragua? Maybe so.

    One cannot look at Nicaragua today without looking into the background of the country. Nicaragua certainly has its problems but for a country that for years lived under the boot of the US, that lived with US backed terrorism, that still needs to consider the wishes of Uncle Sam, they are probably doing the best that they can. Do I wish that they would do better? Absolutely.

    Finally for those of us who live in a country where 45 million people lack health insurance, where some millions of kids go to bed hungry, where poverty is rampant in far too many quarters of this country, where the prison population is the highest per capita in the world, where the gap between the super wealthy and the rest of this is ever widening, where students graduate from college deep in debt, where busineses hire workers for 4 hour a day stints so they don’t have to give them benefits we have no right to talk about the struggles of a poor Third World country when we do nothing to help the Third World in our country.

    Once again Sarah. Muchas gracias y buena suerte.

    • Harold

      Jan,
      You must be a journalist, a history major or her teacher to preach and teach such leftist bias. You talk about the contras like terrorist, I have never seen or heard them do such horrible things as you describe. (I lived there) Why didn’t you give us dates of such acts too? Because you have no history of such acts, you though we would let you get away with all your non sense history jargons? Please don’t miss lead the girl? She is beginning to understand history and she needs to go into the right path.
      Thank you.

  • Harold

    Here is my cent:
    It amazes me how all these indoctrinated liberal travel around the world, but only to the so called democrat countries to enforce their belief. I found that petty. Each country has its own history and revolutions but they all come down to blame the U.S. isn’t that add? Who blames the Soviets? No one. Then they go on to dismantle and deviate history as they see it fit for their own doctrine and indoctrinate people around. So far they have taken the schools, the media, the blogs end there is no end. Maybe this is the beginning of the end of the human society as we know it.
    They have a mission to dismantle the conservative belief in any way they can and here is the proof with this article. Why they blame the US for everything that is has happened and it is still happening in the world? And yet they cannot live anywhere else but here in the US. Because here they have the freedom to say whatever they want, you think they would have that same freedom in those countries? These people fill them self with intellectual knowledge of history to reinforce their social group and transmit their ideals to the unintellectual mass. For them is like molding a corn of mass to whatever they want it to be. I have lived the communist side and I have seen their real propaganda in process so there is no way I would ever fall back again. Their system is so ruthless and so manipulative and utterly determined to hide the truth of their agenda. They’re so compelled to get rich from nothing they have ever worked hard in their life time.
    Here is a clear sample of the one sided negative propaganda at its best. In this blog this person describes a poor little girl who asks him why his president wanted to kill her. A 12 years old girl in 1985 would never ask such question to a foreigner. He must have been look to her like a journalist and maybe he has recorder her and must have gotten the fragment of that record but he takes a shut to the president of the United States Ronal Reagan. In 1985 all ages had only one thing in their mind, give us food and cloths because the Sandinistas were too busy with the Piñata.

    Thank you.

  • Jan

    Harold – When I am in Spanish speaking countries such as Nicaragua mi nombre es Juana. Just as you negated my gender you also negated the experience I had with the 12 year old girl. I was not a periodista but a member of a small delegation who traveled to Nicaragua to visit health clinics and schools. I did not record the girl but only wrote about her in my journal. I am sorry that you chose not to believe me. That is your problem and not mine.

    Finally I want to leave you with a quote from Major General Smedley Butler who operated for many years making countries such as Nicaragua “safe” for American interests.

    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

    • Harold

      My sincerely apology Juana. First, I did not negate your gender just a mistake of my own of not being able to identify you. However, if you noticed I wrote my first full name because I have no shortcut names and do not hide who I am. Second, I really do not care where you go what you do or believe. When I read blogs with negative left bias like this, I just express my conservative belief.

      You still get a shut to this great country with your quote and I get the impression that you hate it so much. You probably hate its way of living, its history and the capitalism mentality they have and so why live here? Here is my take from what the quote refers to; maybe what the general did was not enough for all and forgot to help people like you. Let me tell you this Juana; this country was founded with the mentality of capitalism not with the communist mentality. I think you all got it wrong and therefore you have not being able to adjust to it. You see? This is the only system that works. China figured that out already and it is only a matter of time before they switch to the new system.

  • Jan

    My real name is Jan just as your real name I suppose is Harold. I call myself Juana in Spanish speaking countries since Juana is easier to pronounce than Jan.

    That said, I cannot deny what my country has done to so many countries not only in Latin America but in other parts of the world. Have you forgotten what we did to the Phillipines where over 600,000 Filipinos defending their country were killed by US troops. There is an old photo in one of my books about this time in our history that shows an American Marine standing on a huge pile of skeletons of dead Filipinos.

    The US rarely went into a country to benefit the people living there. We overthrew governments as we did in Guatemala and well over 200,000 Guatemalans died over the years. We supported the death squad government of El Salvador, overthrew the democratically elected government of Chile which lead to years of the right wing brutal dictatorship of Pinochet. In 1965 When Lyndon Johnson was president he sent the Marines into the Dominican Republic just to ensure that the democratically elected president who was overthrown in a right wing coup would not be returned to office.

    If you think that we have the right to intervene wherever and whenever our leaders and the multinational corporations want. If you think that we have the right to invade a country or attempt to overthrow its government so as to make it more welcoming to those who want to target their resources then we have nothing further to discuss.

    The quote I gave you was from a very decorated American general who knew exactly what he did and was not proud of it. He knew that what he had done was commiting crimes not only for his country but for Wall St. and the corporations.

    I love my country but there is a lot that its leaders have done and still do to which I strongly object.

    • Harold

      You forgot the war in North Korea and Iraq and many more and so who are we to judge everything it happened around the world and specially this country? What about the wars in the ancient time the Romans the English I can go on and never end? So who are we to judge every country in the world? Lest blame human not just one country our entire human history is clog with all kind of wars and we are still going. Your rationality about all these war history is blinding you from the today’s reality, and lest not forget that wars happens for a reason. What is the main reason? We never get along. We humans are full of envy, egoist, selfish and I can go on and never end of how bad we are. But there is a lite at the end of the tunnel and we just have to find it and, get along.
      Thank you.

      • sayayuca

        Harold, your conservative belief badly covers your ignorance. People with your ideas is the one that has filled the world with wars and misery.

        • Harold

          sayayuca? that must be your synonymous name, right? can we get along Sayayuca?

        • Harold

          I don’t think is ignorance sayayuca on the contrary I see where you are going with this issue. What about if I send that statement back at you? Your left bias badly covers your ignorance. I only changed one word with two. Only strong people with strong belief and knowledge are conservatives. We do not belong to with the rest of the mass that gets shaped however you would like it to be.

      • Jan

        Harold – Iraq? For years the US supported Saddam Hussein even after he gassed the Kurds. He was our boy when Iraq invaded Iran and we supported him. Perhaps you never saw the photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam and telling him that he was off our lists of terrorists. And this was AFTER the gassing of the Kurds something that Bush and Clinton loved to bring up over and over again after Saddam invaded Kuwait.

        The crippling sanctions that the Bush and Clinton aadministrations leveled against Iraq should have been called war crimes. Our bombs destroyed their electric generators and their sewage systems. Reporters who went to Iraq during the sanctions said that the Tigris River ran brown with sewage.

        Iraq, before the sanctions, had one of the best medical systems in the Middle East. Our sanctions destroyed that as well when hospitals could not get necessary medicines. Even rubber gloves and asthma medicines were not allowed in.

        During this period at least half a million Iraqi children died. I will never forget when the horrible Madeliene Albright said on 60 Minutes that their death was worth the price.

        Today, after our bombing with depleted uranium, the number of children born with horrible birth defects has risen to levels never seen before in Iraq. Those children are victims of our weapon of mass destruction.

        Harold do a little background reading on what the US has done around the world in pursuit of its empire.

        Read up on our support of Panama’s Noreiga who was our boy until he refused to obey us by letting Panama be a staging ground for attacks on Nicaragua. The Bush administration didn’t mind his drug dealing but disobeying his bosses in DC made his country ripe for invasion. Our planes went into the poor areas of Panama where Noreiga had his support and we will never know how many Panamanians were killed as the US kept those numbers secret. The government that came after Noriega was corrupt but the did the bidding of Washington so we didn’t care.

        If being conservative or rather a right winger is to support all these crimes of empire I am really glad that I am not a right winger.

        • Harold

          Jan, as far as I am concerned, none of that relates with what a conservative should be. I can not recall history the way you do so well, so why bather arguing with you. All I know is we conservatives do not pursue wards the way you leftist do. Each individual has the right to pursue and be what ever they want and I will never try to enforce anyone with my beliefs that is your right to be, left or right, black or white or whatever. I do not think you understood my point of view it all. What I was doing is recalling how humanity has developed life as it is now and at price of wards. Your conflictive arguments are despicable and have no meaning for me.

          All arguments closed.

  • Mikael

    To be quite frank I find it ridiculous how many postings are bipartisan jargon. and this was posted in the OPINIONS section of the site. Inherently, there will always be an opinion leaning towards a Conservative or Liberal bias but it has gotten absurd to have comments on someones experience in traveling to this impoverished country be solely childish bicker saying things like “liberals are so naive” or calling someone a psycho path in either a childish tantrum or with a smug and ignorant voice. – Mikael Gurevitz