Tag Archives: War in Nicaragua

Letter from Nicaragua

Periodically, I have written letters from Nicaragua to the U.S. through two made-up pen pals.  The correspondence is intended to reflect the views that a Nicaraguan might have about his/her own country, as well as the U.S..  What follows is the latest of these.

Mi Amigo:

Greetings from Nicaragua!  I hope that this letter finds you in good health and happiness; may God bless you with His enduring love.  I have not seen you now for many months so I will be pleased to receive any word you might send in response to this letter.  My family is in good health and our farm is producing well, though the heavy rains and recent violence have given us worry.

Of greatest worry is the state of our country.  You may be reading about the protests and demonstrations which have happened, and the government’s reaction.  The violence which has happened seems to be every night and reports of more deaths reach us in the countryside each day.  These are happening mostly in the cities, but we have had some troubles here with young people in cars yelling bad things.  We don’t know if the violence will spread but it makes us worry.

It is hard to know what is happening for real.  Some outside people have come here and said that our president has told lies.  Many people within Nicaragua have said so, too.  But the president and his people say that it is the protesters who have lied and that the violence comes from them.  Sometimes it is very confusing, these different statements that are made.  My son gave to me a report from a group called Amnesty International; maybe you have heard of them.  They were not supportive of our president.  They said that he has told lies.  But he is our president and it is hard to believe that a leader would openly do that.

I think in your country you have had some problems like this with your president, no?  We read here about some of the untrue things he says (like when he was elected and said that the number of people to watch him was the biggest ever) and I wonder how you react to them.  Is it OK for North Americans speak out about these?  Is it your duty?  I am very uncertain here.

What I do know is that there are families that have been torn apart by the government’s policies.  In some cases there have been arrests and even kidnappings and no answers about what has happened to the  people taken.  There have been more than 200 killed so far, mostly young people from the universities.  There are many mothers and fathers who are deep in grief.  I don’t know if I believe that university students have shot and killed one another, as the government claims.  But if they did not, then who did?

My brotherAlfredo has a nearby farm.  He says that what is happening in Managua and other large cities is nothing to do with us, that it is the university students and Daniel, and that we should not get involved.  He says this will all go away in time and things will go back to normal.  He does not want to get involved because maybe the party would do something to get even.  He thinks there is not much happening in our part of the country.  But twice we have had a hard time to get our harvests into the city to sell, with the roads being barricaded.  I have a small loan through the cooperative and I must be able to pay it back in order to receive a new one.  So these events are creating some problems.

The protestors are saying that the government has violated their rights and that is why they continue to protest.  I would like to ask you about human rights in your country.  I have read that the U.S. stopped being a member of a human rights organization that is world-wide.  Is that true?  Does this mean that the U.S. is no longer interested in what other countries do?  And does it no longer care what other countries think about its eagerness to support things like what are happening here?  I think this must be disappointing to the people here who have taken to the streets.

My hope is that there will not be another war.  Our country still feels the wounds of the revolution and the Contra War.  Maybe we are still a very poor country but at least we have been at peace.  But maybe there has been a price for that which now is being paid.  I know that you have planned to travel here once again and I would be happy with your visit.  But I know that this might be difficult at this time.  Do not forget that Nicaragua is not just the ones in authority, but mostly made up of good, peaceful people.

Meanwhile, I will send to you wishes for your health and that of your family!

Un abrazo grande,



What’s Past Is Present

I’ve spent a good deal of time over the past week or so preparing for a presentation to a Luther College class.  It’s a political science class about terrorism, what constitutes it, who uses it, what its consequences are.  The professor who teaches the class invited me to attend and talk about the experiences of Nicaragua in the 1980’s, during the time of the United States’ illegal war with that country.  The opportunity was an interesting one, but it has left me thinking about Nicaragua in the past tense, rather than in the present.  Stories of the war and its tragic consequences are difficult to re-live, maybe especially if one is a U.S. citizen trying to make sense of what our country did in Nicaragua.  As a result, I have experienced real difficulty in imagining what I should post here when my mind is still stuck in the 80’s and the shameful history of those years.

The drought on possible blog topics continued until this very day as I sat down once more to write.  And then the notion hit me: what I have been seeking in the way of a present topic has been in front of me for the entire past week or so as I prepared for the class.  Because in very real ways, lest any of us forget, Nicaragua’s past with the U.S. has shaped its present, despite the passage of years.

There are the obvious reminders.  Traveling across Nicaragua inevitably confronts one with citizens who were physical victims of the war.  The presence of amputees is evident in every community, in numbers that greatly exceed what might be expected in a more normal cross-section of a population.  There are cooperatives and associations which include in their names terms like “former combatants” or “ex-military”  or “mothers and war victims.”  I have even overheard occasional good-natured barbs traded between former adversaries, exchanges that both rekindle the memory of who these people were in the 1980’s and who they have become in this new millennium.

Less obvious direct results of the past are everywhere, as well.  The impoverished circumstances of Nicaragua are a result of many factors, but a major contributor was the war and its aftermath.  In this second-poorest country of the Western Hemisphere, a majority of its citizens survive on less than $2 per day; the majority of its Indigenous people, making up 5% of the total population, exists on less than $1 per day.  Half of the population is either unemployed or underemployed in the formal sector.  40% of its children do not complete primary school; one-third drop out by the third grade.  One in three Nicaraguan children are chronically malnourished.  It is ranked 129th of 187 countries in the Human Development Index.  Such are the latent bombshells of the war.

It is much easier to begin a war than to end it.  And even more difficult to repair the invisible consequences, those stains on the soul that can never be erased.”  (Carlos Powell.)  Deep within the hearts and memories of Nicaraguans old enough to have experienced the war are the still unanswered and troubling anxieties over what allowed the United States to take such an unwarranted and violent action.  While the fighting has been over for decades and the internal reconciliations have healed wounds, there is scar tissue that will never go away.  There was never an apology, an acknowledgement of wrong, no specific reparations made, and always in the rhetoric a stated antipathy for Nicaraguans’ rights for full, self-determination according to their own view of the world.  Many  Nicaraguans live with an ingrained mindset about the U.S., reflected in one young woman’s words from the book, Nicaragua: Surviving the Legacy of U.S. Policy by Paul Dix and Pam Fitzpatrick.  She observed:

“The intervention of the U.S. is terrible because many times I think they make war just to get richer, they make war to sell their weapons.  In addition, they aren’t thinking of the damage they are doing to so many people.  It is terrible to think that in a country like the U.S., for example, the young people who live there don’t know anything about what their own country does in other countries….  That is terrible, because the young people grow up thinking that their country is perfect.”     (Coni Perez.)  These reflections, too, represent  forgotten land mines of the war.

These are the kinds of doubts about U.S. intentionality and purpose which undermine not just hopes for a peaceful coexistence with a world superpower, but hopes for peace anywhere on earth, the “stains on the soul” as referenced above.  In my experience, Nicaraguans are quick to embrace their visitors from North America, but wary of the governmental “beast” that represents us.  The ill effects of that reality are substantial, lingering and difficult to measure as to their damage.  So while I find myself presently in the past, it’s the future that I have in mind as our country extricates itself from two current wars while at the same time engages in saber-rattling as to another.  The people of Nicaragua, I’m sure, would ask us to remember the outcomes of their past before engaging in another military initiative that destroys a future….