we learned that contras had blown up a truck with 22 young boys in it some six miles north of us. BUT, as inescapable as it is, the contra hand of death and destruction does not characterize Nicaragua. It only delays and burdens the social revolution taking place in the country. The government has responded to the contras by arming the campesinos, perhaps as many as 60,000 attesting to the popular support for the Sandinistas. A few days before our meal in Matagalpa, we had met with two contra leaders in Honduras, who clearly stated their intent to overthrow the Nicaraguan government with weapons “from wherever they come.” \(The American charge in Managua candidly admitted the “moral dilemma, contrary to our principles,” which many Americans would be facing, if indeed it were true which he refused to concede and which Reagan denies that the U.S. was financing a covert operation to bring Traditional U.S. allies, including the western European democracies and Latin American countries, are helping to minimize the contra scourge. The day before we left Nicaragua, for example, Denmark announced that it would reconstruct health clinics destroyed by the contras and spend $500,000 to rebuild demolished schools. Ireland is helping install modern solar operations in the rural areas of the Miskito Indians. Only in northern Nicaragua did we actually feel the contra war of terror. In Managua and the rest of the country, we moved about freely and saw few military signs. In fact, we felt more freedom and less repression there than in Honduras, which the U.S. embassy had described to us earlier as a “model democracy.” During our trip to Central America, Nicaragua shot down a Honduran helicopter inside Nicaraguan territory. Honduras then expelled the Nicaraguan ambassador. The World Court ordered the United States to cease its aggression against Nicaragua and condemned the mining of the harbors, which was followed by a barrage of international criticism of the U.S. We met with Sergio Ramirez \(a novelist and member of the threemember junta, which rules with the Vice-Foreign Minister Nora Astorga \(a charming heroine of the revolution, whose nomination as ambassador to Washington was recently rejected by of the three Electoral Commission members \(one of whom is a campesina who was sexually assaulted by the The Cultural Ministry and Electoral Commission are located in what were once palatial houses owned by Somoza. We were allowed to tape the comments of the government officials and went through no elaborate security mechanisms in order to meet them. This was in sharp contrast to our treatment in the American embassies in Managua and Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where we were not allowed to tape or photograph and had to pass through tight security. We also spoke with opposition political parties, with La Prensa \(the opposiantiPermanent Human Rights Commission, and with a Moravian church leader working with the Miskito Indians. We visited with non-aligned church organization leaders and with Jaime Balcasar, director of the United Nations Development Plan. We broke mid-day bread with three Supreme Court members, who pride themselves on having ruled against the government some 40 times in its first five years. \(The U.S. has no such similar are Sandinista party members although all claim to be “Sandinistas” and part of “el proceso.” DESPITE its current problems, Nicaragua is making enormous strides. It launched a giant literacy program with 190,000 high school students as teachers and reduced illiteracy to 12 % in five months, winning for Nicaragua the 1982 UNESCO literacy award, a prize never before given to a country. The literacy campaign did produce two material problems. Glasses had to be provided to 30,000 myopic persons who previously had not realized how bad their sight was. And with the ability to read came the increased demand for printed materials, further taxing the country’s shortage of newsprint because of the U.S. economic blockade. In 1977, only 85,000 people read newspapers. Now, there are almost 185,000 readers. Norway is about to open the first factory for school desks in Nicaragua. Three nationwide campaigns have virtually eliminated polio \(there were 4,000 cases in the last years of Somoza, but not one case in the last year and some 30,000 volunteers spread throughout the country so that 500,000 people received their third polio vaccine \(a total 6,000 were given smallpox shots. Infant mortality has dropped from a prerevolution -rate of 25 % for children under five years to a present day record of 2%. Jaime Balcasar, of the UN Development Office, argues that Nicaragua now has one of the least corrupt Latin American governments, with one of the best records on human rights, and has undergone the most dramatic change of any Central American country in 30 years. Nicaragua is dedicated to using technology to build its infrastructure in order to become self-sufficient. But it must still divert 20 %-25 % of its national budget to fighting the CIA contras. The strength of the Nicaraguan revolution lies in the national consensus. Many professionals \(dentists, lawyers, voluntarily surrendered lucrative practices for public service, admitting the need to help rebuild a society which earlier survived on the backs of the poor. While the ties of the Sandinista movement to the Church are strong, there is a clear and hostile division between the people and much of the Church hierarchy as there has been throughout Nicaragua’s history. A 75-year-old woman \(a member of proudly professed her faith that God had come to his people on July 19, 1979. Cultural Minister Cardenal denied that the government was a parallel “popular” Church and explained that for him being a poet and priest and revolutionary were all one. At the Misa del Campesino in Managua’s Santa Marra de los Angeles Church, Fr. Uriel Molina openly attacked the bishops’ Easter Sunday letter calling on the government to negotiate with the contras a letter which provoked a firestorm of reproach \(and drew a letter of criticism from some 300 The turmoil between the conservative bishops and the iglesia popular in Nicaragua is a microcosm of the struggle in the church generally as to its role in the revolutionary process sweeping Central and South America. This is not to say that the government THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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