La Promisa

Everywhere I walked woodsmoke scented the night air...the night was darker than sin and no electricity anywhere except in the center of the small town from the Sandinista generator that powered the little police station in Bocana de Paiwas...Reagan's "freedom fighters," the Contras, had cut the electric wires a week before, after threatening to kill anybody caught helping the Sandinistas...since nearly everyone was helping the Sandinistas do the necessary things--build and stock schools, man health clinics, food centers, farming help, and some justice--which had been lacking since the Bolivarian other words, since the whole town stood to benefit from the Sandinsta program, helping it to emerge from a state of historic impoverishment, the whole town, excepting the Contra spies within, was on the hit list...nobody was safe.

I felt safe, however, being an American. If the Contra killed me, it wouldn't play well in the US Congress, and if the Sandinistas did it, it would be another "provocation," giving the United States even more reason--if "reason" entered into anything then--to continue the war. I had hitchhiked into the little town in the middle of Nicaragua, catching a distant boom of artillery from somewhere, and had even caught a ride on a six-by with 15 Sandinista soldiers, who were headed for the Front. (A "six-by" is a large military truck for transport of troops and supplies.)

People around the town in the wooded, hilly farm and ranch land had been tortured and thrown bound into the rapid Bocana River to drown. Their friends and relatives told me their stories and I believed them. I went there to hear the stories, but my Spanish was bad, and their English was only slightly better. I did it anyway and understood enough to believe what I heard...nobody lied about the small rancher who wouldn't hand over his 40 cows to the had taken him 40 years to accumlate they gang-raped his daughter and cut her head off and put it on a pole on the road...they also killed his son...then they tied the old fellow up and threw him in the rapid-flowing American man from Witness for Peace translated for me now and then...his group was all over war-worn Nicaragua, documenting, and trying to stop the killing and kidnapping, which the majority of Americans seemed to approve, since the victims supposedly were "communists," and communists weren't really people after all, but demonic, ignorant, evil and deluded sub-humans, who hated liberty, freedom, democracy, God, the American way of life, and the United States of America in particular: communists without good reason hated God's only Nation on Earth (besides Israel) and Ronald Reagan, the God of the Lunatic Right, who conducted His public relations.

Reagan had told a fairy tale about his "freedom fighters"--a bunch of filthy torturers, murderers and being the equivalent of our Founding Fathers...(it was true! ask the Indians!)...and a gullible American public--raised on the corny, romantic, untruthful Death Valley Days, and the even-cornier Leave it to Beaver--bought the story, but missed the irony. Americans, brainwashed to hate anything that contradicted capitalist doctrine, were ready to buy anything, after losing the disastrous Vietnam War, and feeling the excruciating pain of gas lines and gas prices going up a whole dollar, during the Jimmy Carter period. People who know something of the pain Nicaraguans were enduring scoffed at the whimpering and whining American public, brainwashed for 100 years to view leftist ideas as clownish or demonic. The Sandinistas were leftists, but Violetta Chamorro, the widow of the assassinated Pedro Chamorro, the editor of La Prensa, was herself a member of the Sandinista Directorate, and certainly was no communist; and the Directorate acted only after consensus had been achieved; no consensus, no action. This kind of unity had brought down Somoza, and launched the Sandinistas into power. It really is as simple as this: the US and other exploiters rule their subjects by dividing them against one another. Unity is the biggest threat to this system, and "a bad example" for adjacent nation, suffering also beneath what can only be truthfully called "imperialist domination."

The Contra were torturing, murdering bastards, and they were bossed by the worst of the dictator Somoza's terrorist army, the National Guardmen who escaped revolutionary justice...notably Enrique Bermudez, and by his CIA handlers, of course. Those Contra, who had managed to escape the country and connect with the CIA in Honduras and Costa Rica, intimidated, recruited, and kidnapped men and kids, and trained them to attack other Nicaraguans...terrorists by any reasonable criteria...they sowed terror with rape, theft, torture and murder. Ironically, after the war ended, many of these Nicaraguan Contra returned to their home villages only to find that other bands of Contra had done the same in their own villages to their own families and friends...whoever was a friend of the Sandinistas was fair game, and the Sandinistas had a lot of friends. I was one, and still am.

The Contra had to raid from over the borders of Honduras and Costa Rica, because there was no support or sanctuary for them inside Nicaragua. The Sandinista army swarmed them like hornets when they were detected, and the Contra always fled. The Sandinistas were armed with Soviet and US weapons, a few powerful .175 millimeter howitzers...some Cuban training, and a determined revolutionary spirit, that put their long-suffering country under the control, at least temporarily, for the first time in its history, of a true peoples' party, set on ridding the nation of United States dominance once and for all.

But the Sandinista vision was doomed to failure because Nicaragua, unlike Cuba, is not an island, and the character and temprament of the Cubans and Nicaraguans are very different. It is not unfair to say that Cuba's success had doomed the Sandinista Revolution. The US wouldn't be caught short again. Invasion was not only possible, but probable in Nicaragua's case. It would have been a cakewalk for American forces to establish military control of Nicaragua in a way that never could be accomplished in Cuba, where the Revolution has had nearly 50 years to dig in and establish itself, to educate Cuban youth to their true history vis-a-vis the United States, and to train the people for defense, and to make them more social and less selfish, to keep them lean and hard, and dedicate successive generations to Cuba's independence. Fidel's vision for socialism in Cuba was to make "a new man," unselfish, educated, community-spirited, and militant to defend the revolution.

The unfortunate fact for the United States is that Fidel Castro made public health his private obsession. Medical schools were expanded, clinics were established, technical help was sought from advanced countries, and health care, despite the lies of Wall Street and the other capitalist bastards who want Cuba to be a whorehouse again, is free for all. A few years ago, Cuba had 15,000 doctors and nurses treating the poorest people in Amazonia of South America. People come from all over the world to Cuba for free eye operations. Even the CIA will tell you that. In fact, if you are interested or want to be surprised, you might check out the CIA's website, and see what it says about Cuba, most of which is a direct contradiction to the daily litany of anti-Cuban propaganda that our compliant and cowardly Press blathers about.

Despite constant economic and military assaults against Cuba since President Eisenhower (Vice President Richard Nixon was in charge of this program), revolutionary spirit in Cuba remains high. But one Cuban soldier that I spoke to briefly--I had asked him if the Sandinistas were communists--told me, "They are infants compared to us." He meant as far as communism went. The Sandinistas were nationalists first and pre-communists second, but there were many opinions among the Nicaraguan people.

US assaults, sabotage, espionage, and economic blockade of Cuba had toughened and strengthened Cuba's armed forces, and the economic blockade had made lean the people, who, unsurprisingly to all but the Americans, never stopped making music and dancing under the most-harsh, most-dictatorial, most-communistic, most-tyrannical, and most evil dictatorship the world has ever known or heard of (and so on). But Nicaraguans were emerging with bent backs from centuries of colonialism, one of the most brutal dictatorships in the western hemisphere,(really) a devastating revolutionary war period, and a century of America's crippling "dollar diplomacy," which had robbed their resources, denied them education, corrupted their politics, impoverished and cowed the majority, vastly enriched a small minority, and empowered an organization of murdering, torturing thugs under the Somoza family, who ruled Nicaragua for 50 years with a Nazi hand, and with US money, arms and training.

It is an understatement to say the US government never met a capitalist dictator it would not cut a deal with. But there were no deals proposed to the Sandinista government, unless Secretary of State Shultz offered one, during a brief stopover from South America in 1985, when he met President Ortega and other officials at the airport. No one I know of has ever heard or read what Shultz said to Ortega, but it is not hard to imagine.

"Do what we say, or we are going to invade and kick the shit out of you," is what I imagine. Or maybe he only offered money for the Sandinistas to back off their principles, quit spreading literacy throughout the illiterate population, and stop building health clinics and schools. That sort of program, when successful, scares the hell out of the United States Government. Somehow, such programs get twisted around to mean, "communism." The magic word that causes millions of American knees to jerk so hard they slam their owners in the brainpan.

We'll probably learn what Schultz said to Ortega when we learn who really killed John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

I was waiting for an American clergyman of Bocana to return from the town of Bluefields so that I could interview him. One sunny afternoon, I was walking around the hilly town with my ex-brother-in-law's Nikon around my neck, climbing a very rocky street, when I noticed an old man standing in the doorway of a shack with a curtain for a door, waving for me to come in. I went in. The room was bare except for a small cot and a thin mattress, a small bedside table with a cloth over it, and a wooden box for a chair. He might have been 40 or 50 or 60. He was shirtless and shoeless and his pants were threadbare and torn. His frame was skeletal from malnourishment. His belly was as flat as a kid's. He motioned for me to sit. I sat. He reached beneath the cloth and brought out a tin plate of cooked red beans with a spoon, and offered it to me. I declined. He offered it again. I declined politely, and he put it back behind the cloth.

He spoke a mixture of halting English and Spanish, beginning with the word, "Por que?" Why? I made out that he wanted to know why the United States was making war on his town. "Por que la guerra?"

I told him that it was because the United States Government was a son-of-a-bitch to poor people everywhere, and that the United States Government did not like the Sandinistas, because they were helping the poor people. That was as well as I could explain what to me was the essence of a simple truth, and he nodded his head in agreement.

"El Presidente Reagan es uno hijo de bitche," I said. President Reagan is one son-of-a-bitch.

"Tell them that we are only poor people. We poor people, we do nothing to them, but they kill us, matar, por nada. When you go home. Solamente los pobres aqui." Only poor people here. "Tu hablas los Americanos, por favor." You tell the American people, please.

That, roughly, was how I translated it with my poor Spanish.

I promised that I would. We shook hands, and I departed. He patted my shoulder as I passed.

"Tell the United States people," he said.

I promised again that I would.

"Promiso," I said.

I have told this story so many times.


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