Nicaragua’s 1979 revolution is back in the news, at least in New York City. On September 23 The New York Times ran a front-page article on the decades-old Nicaragua solidarity activism of Bill de Blasio, now the frontrunner in New York’s November 5 mayoral election. Some two dozen other articles quickly appeared in the local and national press, most of them recycling old perspectives on the thousands of us who, like de Blasio, traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s to demonstrate our opposition to the Reagan and Bush administrations’ efforts to overthrow that country’s government. Journalists on the right naturally tended to repeat Cold War charges against the solidarity activists: We ignored atrocities allegedly committed by the leftist comandantes of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN); deluded by ideology and our government minders, we failed to hear the “whispered anguish” of Nicaraguans in the streets and the market places. Other writers were more balanced in their articles, but no less patronizing. We were “young,” they insisted; “fresh-faced,” “idealistic” and “more than a touch naïve.” The media consensus was clear: We were credulous communist dupes or else, at best, credulous but idealistic hippies. “Sandalista” was a favorite media putdown back in the 1980s. Young Idealists, Aging Cynics The Nicaraguan reality was far more complex and interesting than the picture the US press presented then and continues to present now. I visited Nicaragua in 1985 and 1987, both times as a volunteer with TecNica, a California-based organization that sponsored tours by North Americans who could provide technical assistance and training in fields like computer programming and machine repair. Some of the volunteers did seem to be young idealists, but at least half of us had reached middle age and many were veterans of the sectarian infighting that accompanied the decay of the 1960s student movement. “Disillusioned” or even “cynical” would describe us better than “naïve.” We were regularly on the lookout for party apparatchiks and Stalinist distortions. It wasn’t hard to find problems: We were free to go where we wanted and to talk to anyone who wanted to talk, as long as we stayed away from army installations and the zones where the US-sponsored “contra” insurgents were carrying out military operations.Read the rest of the article at Truth Out
Archive for October, 2013
- Consider that the principal opposition candidate in the 1984 election was a Contra leader, who withdrew from the race, at the insistence of U.S. handlers, at the last minute when his loss was certain, but who was otherwise free to run.
- The principal opposition candidate in 1990, who won, was the publisher of La Prensa, an opposition newspaper, and thus one can hardly say the press was “muzzled” as O’Grady claimed in the WSJ.
- The 1987 Constitution formally banned the use of the death penalty, and established a maximum prison sentence.
- The CIA worked with the Argentine military of “Dirty War” fame, and former Somocista’s to train the Contras, who began operations in 1981, crossing the border from Honduras into Nicaragua assassinating civilian political leaders, murdering doctors and educators, and blowing up infrastructure.
- The CIA blew up a Nicaraguan port at Corinto, a civilian target, for the sole purpose of creating economic hardship for Nicaraguans as part of the broader campaign to undermine Sandinista legitimacy.
- The CIA placed mines in Nicaragua’s harbors putting civilian shipping at risk.
- When Congress found out about these activities and suspended appropriations for the purpose of “overthrowing the Nicaraguan government,” the National Security Council over saw a secret operation, selling weapons to Iran in violation of U.S. law and then diverting the proceeds to fund Contra operations.
- The State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy was directed by the NSC during the 1980s and worked to plant false stories and misinformation in the U.S. media about Nicaragua in order to discredit the Sandinista government and generate support for Contra aid.
- The NSC oversaw the creation of slush funds used to discredit Contra aid opponents in Congressional elections.
- The Reagan administration ignored World Court rulings citing numerous breaches of international law and a finding to pay reparations to the government of Nicaragua.
…garment factory owners in Haiti routinely, and illegally, cheat workers of substantial portions of their pay, depriving them of any chance to free their families from lives of grueling poverty and frequent hunger. Tacitly complicit in this theft of wages are the major North American apparel brands and retailers, like Gap, Gildan, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart, that are buyers of garments from Haiti. Although most, if not all, of these firms are well-aware of this law-breaking, they continue with business as usual, profiting from the lower prices that they can obtain from factories that cheat their workers of legally owed wages. Despite the presence in Haiti, since 2009, of a factory monitoring program operated by International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and funded by both the U.S. and Canadian governments and major brands and retailers, themselves, the extent of wage theft in the country’s garment industry has only increased over the past few years. Earlier this year, this ILO-IFC monitoring program, termed “Better Work Haiti,” reported that every single one of the country’s 24 export garment factories was illegally cheating workers of pay by failing to comply with the country’s legal minimum wage.Read the full report here One of the facilities profiled in the report is the Caracol Industrial Park, which is the flagship project of USAID’s efforts to assist Haiti’s reconstruction post the 2010 earthquake. Caracol, an industrial park built far from where the earthquake did damage, on land seized from farmers, and an almost guaranteed environmental disaster, was handed over to SAE-A, a South Korean company, to manage. SAE-A has horrible record on labor rights. Indeed, the AFL-CIO lobbied the Obama Administration not to grant the management concession to SAE-A because of violations in Guatemala. The Administration ignored them. Stories of wage theft and other abuses emerged almost immediately upon the park opening. In the wake of the report, TransAfrica joined with the Workers Rights Consortium to circulate a letter to major U.S. brands that have clothing sewn in Haiti, encouraging them to take the necessary steps to reign in the subcontractor labor abuse. The Quixote Center signed onto this letter, and we will be taking action with others if the response is inadequate.