OTHER AMERICAS A Few Scenes You Won’t Find in Oliver North’s Slide Show In Nicaragua Larry Hufford 0 N A SUNDAY in June, I sat in the home of two U.S. medical doctors, a married couple, in a northeastern town in Nicaragua. Joining the doctors were two other U.S. citizens who had worked with Benjamin Linder, the American volunteer killed by contras last May. The two doctors had performed the autopsy on Linder’s body. The young woman joining us for the interview had been working with Linder on a hydroelectric project. The doctors are working on a project supported by the Presbyterian Church. Out of concern that they might become targets of the contras, I do not use their real names. “Bill” leaned forward in his chair, saying, “Let me speak frankly about the environment within which we work. “Every aspect of our efforts to provide the most basic health care is frustrated by the U.S. organized and financed contra war. The paved road ends here. When you travel north of this town there is no paved road. The conflict zone begins just north of this town. When people travel north of here, they travel armed.” He told of a group of Nicaraguans going north to harvest corn who debated whether they should go armed or unarmed. They decided they would be seen as unthreatening if they left their weapons behind. “The result was a contra attack leaving 20 unarmed cooperative members dead. Following this attack people travel armed when going north.” The other doctor, “Nancy,” began to speak of Ben Linder. He had been in the village of El Cud with an American nurse, to assist her in a vaccination campaign. He was dressed as a clown riding a unicycle and juggling trying to convince the children of the village it would not be too painful to receive the measles vaccination. The indomitable American with the clown suit made a Larry Hufford is a writer in San Antonio who teaches at Incarnate Word college. 10 JULY 31, 1987 strong impression on the people of El Cud. Ben returned to San Jose de Bocay the Tuesday before he was assassinated to study the possibility of building a dam in the area. Someone in the village obviously informed a contra unit that an “international” was in the area working for the government. According to an interview with a U.S. embassy official in Managua, the contra unit which conducted the raid told investigators they had been informed that the “international” was Cuban. The embassy spokesperson also quickly added that the contras had stated “Ben was armed and was accompanied by armed and uniformed Sandinista militia men.” According to Bill and Nancy: “Ben was armed. He did travel armed for the reasons [of personal safety] we discussed. That is not the important issue in this case. “Ben Linder was targeted and killed for the crime of helping the poor and befriending the villagers of El Cud and San Jose de Bocay. He understood that one can do more good with hydroelectric dams than with bombs and violence. Ben was a humanitarian. He knew the risks involved in his work and accepted those risks. He was assassinated because of his engineering skills and his willingness to share them with the rural poor of Nicaragua. “As you have noticed in this discussion we have used the word `assassinated.’ We use it knowingly and intentionally. “First there was the question as to whether Ben was killed with a grenade. He was not! Ben had a bullet wound in his left arm from a rifle fired from long range. He also had wounds from grenades, but the evidence indicates that he was turning away from the line of fire, as these wounds were on the backside of his legs. “Ben died from a gunshot wound which entered his right temple. The weapon was a high power one as the bullet literally blew his brains out,” the doctors said. Furthermore, the doctors found evidence of “eight tiny stab wounds” in Linder’s face. While this was originally explained as the effect of Linder’s eyeglasses shattering, Bill and Nancy insist the wounds are not from glass. They suspect contra brutality accounts for the wounds. They also believe the contras knew Linder was an American, because contras who conducted the raid showed a New York Times reporter that they had kept Linder’s wallet and camera. Sister Jean Miller, a Catholic nun living in Managua, told me about a Ben Linder solidarity march with 70 U.S. citizens participating. The group of 70 Americans boarded two buses for the trip from Managua to Jinotega. In Jinotega they took trucks unpaved roads to the village of El Cud. This was the village in which Ben Linder lived and where he had directed the construction of a hydroelectric plant which brought electricity to El Cud for the first time. When the group arrived at El Cud, sundown was approaching. Villagers met them and requested that the group participate in the funeral of two young men from the village who had died a day earlier in a contra attack. That evening the residents conducted a “celebration of life,” with songs, dances and clowns. The clowns were a tribute to Ben Linder. In El Salvador Vic Hinterlang San Salvador NINE MONTHS AFTER the earthquake of October 10, 1986, thousands of citizens of this capital city who lost their homes continue to live in “temporary” housing made of rough lumber and sheets of aluminum provided by the city government and fashioned into ad hoc communities, largely by the desplazados themselves. One such community, consisting of approximately 350 people, exists on the slopes of a barranca, or deep ravine, that cuts through the heart of San Salvador. Most of the people living here were among the poor of this city before the earthquake, and are even poorer now. One man, sitting at the community store where basic foodstuffs are availa Vic Hinterlang is an Austin freelance photographer and writer now living in El Salvador.