Foreign Policy News Stories
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
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
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
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
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
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.