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Nicaragua: Fair Elections Versus an Unfair Press

SYNOPSIS: Contrary to U.S. media predictions, the November 4, 1984, Nicaraguan national elections were not rigged by the ruling Sandinistas nor were they the rubber-stamp of Soviet Communism.

News stories circulated before the elections suggested that the Sandinistas were staging the elections to promote the impression of democracy, while holding on to complete political control Further, there were reports of intimidation and military coercion at the voting booths.

In fact, as events were to prove, the election was the very model of fairness itself. More than 70 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, with a third of the votes going to opposition parties on both the political left and right. Further, had the Sandinistas wanted to "rig the election," they would have chosen the United States' version of representative democracy by using a "winner-takes-all" format that would have given the Sandinistas virtually all the seats in the assembly.

Instead, the proportional representation form of democracy was chosen, based on Western European models, in which the percentage of votes garnered translates directly into percentage of seats won in the National Assembly. This method actually favors the opposition by allowing them fair representation, and supports the means to form political power bases at a national level-something the American political system thwarts.

The election also revealed the fallacy of official U.S. claims of Soviet domination of Nicaraguan politics: total Communist Party votes accounted for only 3.9 percent of votes cast.

Finally, accounts of election day activities revealed no evidence of election fraud and no violence-except by the CIA-backed contras.


UPDATE: Despite the doomsayers in the wake of the Sandinista revolution Nicaragua could boast of a strong constitutional base of a free and fair democratic process as it approached the 1996 election year, according to John R. Hamilton, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs. He noted that following the free and fair regional election of 1994, the National Assembly approved an electoral law for the 1996 national elections. The Nicaraguan electoral law provides for a formal voter registration process with greater safeguards than before.

Thus, it was not surprising the election on October 20, 1996, went smoothly with Arnoldo Aleman, former mayor of Managua, handily defeating Daniel Ortega, former president and Sandinista leader (Los Angeles Times, 10/27/96).

Ironically, as The New York Times pointed out (10/27/96), "all three of the Central American countries [Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala] wracked by leftist insurrection throughout the 1970s and 1980s will be governed by right-wing presidents."



CIA and the Death Squads -- lmmoral and Illegal

SYNOPSIS: Even while President Ronald Reagan publicly condemned the Salvadoran Death Squads, a paramilitary apparatus responsible for the deaths of thousands of Salvadoran leftists and peasants, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) continued to train, support, and provide intelligence to forces directly involved in Death Squad activities.

We now know this involvement began as far back as 1964 and possibly earlier. Since the Kennedy Administration, U.S. officials from the CIA, the Armed Forces, and the State Department have been responsible for the following activities in El Salvador:

1) The formation of ORDEN, a paramilitary and intelligence network that grew into the Death Squads;

2) The formation of ANSESAL, the elite presidential intelligence service that relied on Death Squads as "the operative arm of intelligence gathering";

3) Enlisting Jose Alberto Medrano, founder of both ORDEN and ANSESAL, into the CIA;

4) Supplying detailed surveillance information on Salvadoran individuals later murdered by Death Squads;

5) Training ORDEN leaders in the use of automatic weapons and surveillance techniques, and carrying some of those leaders on the CIA payroll.

Due to public outcry, President Reagan publicly denounced the Death Squads, yet CIA support, in the form of personnel training and intelligence gathering, continued.

All this is in violation of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, which prohibits spending U.S. funds "to provide training or...financial support for...law enforcement forces of any foreign government, or any program of internal intelligence or surveillance on behalf of any foreign government." Not only were the CIA's ties with Salvadoran Death Squads immoral, they actually violated the letter of the law.


UPDATE: Human rights groups say right-wing death squads murdered about 40 000 of the 70,000 people killed during the 1980-1992 civil war in El Salvador. Today, death squads are still reported to be roaming El Salvador. On October 13, 1996, the Washington Post reported that paramilitary groups have become more visible with political kidnappings, extortion, two car bombings, and threatening communiqués like those of the death squads in the 1980s.

As to U.S. involvement with death squads, on July 16, 1996, the Atlanta Constitution belatedly editorialized: "Congress should prohibit CIA collusion with death squads." On January 27, 1997, the Baltimore Sun reported a newly declassified CIA training manual, entitled "Human Resource

Exploitation Training Manual-1983," that describes torture methods used on dissidents in Central America.



The Red Herring of "Left wing" Terrorism

SYNOPSIS: Since the closing days of World War II, the United States has attacked "left-wing" terrorism while supporting "right-wing" terrorism around the world as a means of fighting communism.

The Reagan Administration in particular consistently proved itself to be a political body that reviled the horrific specter of "leftist" terrorism and singled out the political left as the international source of brutal, fanatic terrorism. This is not quite the whole story as indicated by the following:

1) In Guatemala, a nation ruled by a right-wing military, one hundred people are killed or disappear every month;

2) El Salvador's right-wing death squads still operate with impunity;

3) The contras in Nicaragua routinely rape, torture, and murder women, children, the aged, and other "enemies of democracy,"

4) The nation of Chile, whose military dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte is frequently compared to Hitler, lives in a night mare of political torture, murder, and mutilation;

5) Right-wing European organizations like "Rose of the Winds" and its successor, "P-2," account for more murders and terrorist acts than leftist groups like the PLO and the Red Brigades;

6) Right-wing terrorists include Stefano Delle Chiaie, one of the principals in the terrorist bombing at the Bologna railway station in 1980.

Terrorism, whether from the left or the right, should be a target of all nations concerned with democracy and human rights; the press should reflect this rather than support the administration's red-baiting rhetoric.


UPDATE: The need to support "right-wing" terrorists as a means of fighting communism seemed to disappear or go underground with the end of the Cold War. At the same time, "left-wing" terrorism became less of a threat as the media spotlight focused on the actions of "right-wing" terrorists. Jane's Intelligence Review-Year Book reported (12/31/94), "The threat of ideological terrorism of the extreme left is no longer significant in France, Italy, Germany, and the Benelux countries...However, the threat of extreme right wing terrorism in Europe is far more serious." In America, the threat of "right-wing" terrorism became a reality as the public was belatedly informed of the cruel activities of "right-wing" death squads in Central America and Haiti. In 1987, a "Los Angeles Times investigative series first documented right-wing terrorism in Vietnamese communities in the United States" (The Quill, April 1996). Finally, the growth and activities of the U.S. militia movement, as well as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, also contributed to the national awareness of "right-wing" terrorism.



Myth of the Peaceful Atom -- U.S. and U.K. Break Nuclear Treaty

SYNOPSIS: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which the United States and the United Kingdom are signatories, calls for a clear distinction between civil and military nuclear technologies. Specifically, Article VI of the treaty forbids the use of civil nuclear byproducts, such as reactor wastes, in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Israelis used this provision of the treaty as an excuse for the bombing of a nuclear reactor in Iraq.

In 1958, the U.S. and U.K. signed a Mutual Defense Agreement. As part of this agreement, six to seven tons of plutonium from civilian reactors in Great Britain have been shipped to the United States for use in the manufacture of nuclear weapons-an open violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. U.S. Energy Secretary Donald Hodel has admitted that two to three tons of this plutonium have been made into nuclear warheads, some of which are currently deployed on Cruise missiles in England.

Dr. Ross Hesketh, a research physicist who began working with the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) in England in 1959, became concerned about the use of civil plutonium for military purposes and began to protest publicly in 1981. After a campaign of systematic harassment, Hesketh was fired in June of 1983; a subsequent storm of public protest resulted in his rehiring by the CEGB, tantamount to an admission of guilt by CEGB. Hesketh later resigned from the CEGB and later became director of the European Proliferation Information Center.

While the story of how the United States and the United Kingdom broke the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was well covered in England, it was not put on the national news agenda in the United States.


UPDATE: Despite the violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by key members United States and the United Kingdom, the NPT conference continued to exist. On May 11, 1995, the NPT was made permanent when conferees voted for an indefinite extension by acclamation. The next NPT review conference was scheduled for 1997 (Nuclear News, June 1995).

However, in apparent defiance of the international treaty, in late 1996, scientists at U.S. nuclear weapons labs were considering whether to conduct underground bomb tests that would stop just short of chain reaction explosions according to a report in the San Francisco Examiner (12/1/96). Some Third World leaders and anti-nuclear activists have warned that such tests would violate the spirit of the treaty, though clearly that has been done before.

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