Nicaraguan priest: On Reagans bitter legacy

While most of the U.S. mass media have been presenting a rosy, revisionist history of the life of former President Ronald Reagan, who died on June 5, others have presented a more realistic view of Reagan and his political positions and actions. One of these is Miguel D’Escoto, a Catholic priest who served as Nicaragua’s foreign minister during the revolutionary government set up by the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1979 after the popular overthrow of the U.S.-supported dictator Anastasio Somoza, whose family had ruled this Central American country since 1936.

In a recent interview conducted by Amy Goodman for the progressive radio and television news program “Democracy Now!” D’Escoto called Reagan “the butcher of my people.” He accused Reagan of “having been responsible for the deaths of some 50,000 Nicaraguans.”

Reagan’s administration national security officials sold arms to the fundamentalist Islamic government of Iran from 1983 to 1985, despite a U.S. trade and arms embargo against that country, and used the proceeds to fund right-wing counter-revolutionaries (known as the “Contras”) fighting against the Sandinista government. While Reagan denied any knowledge of the efforts to aid the Contras, headed my Marine Colonel Oliver North, there is evidence, including North’s own testimony, to show that he knew. Reagan’s vice-president, former President George Bush, father of the sitting president, was also implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal in subsequent independent hearings.

D’Escoto said Reagan was “an international outlaw” because he “invented, and mounted and financed and directed the Contra War. … To Reagan, Nicaragua had to be re-conquered.” The revolutionary priest continued, Reagan “blamed [former president] Carter for having lost Nicaragua, as if Nicaragua ever belonged to anyone else other than the Nicaraguan people.”

Making a connection with the Reagan government and the Bush administration, D’Escoto said, “he lied to the people, as Bush lies to the people today ... thinking that the United States is above every law, human or divine.”

The former Sandinista foreign minister spoke about how his country took the U.S. to the World Court. The outcome was that “the United States government received the harshest sentence, the harshest condemnation ever in the history of world justice,” but unfortunately the Reagan administration and it successors “failed to heed the sentence and they still owe Nicaragua what by now must be between $20-$30 billion” in court-ordered reparations. He said that the effects of the damage done by the Reagan-Bush administration to Nicaragua “will go on for 50 years or more.”

D’Escoto called the current President Bush Reagan’s “spiritual heir,” adding that because of these administration’s foreign policies, “the world today is far less safe and secure than it has ever been.” He said that today’s Bush administration, just like the Reagan-Bush government, is “possessed by the demons of manifest destiny,” the policy of imperialistic control of the world. He said that Reagan’s foreign policies and cover-ups “convinced many around the world that the U.S. is a fraud, a big lie. Not only was it not democratic, but, in fact, the greatest enemy of the right of self-determination of peoples.”