¡Viva la Revolución!


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Leon, a city of revolution fever, where bullet holes pierced decaying cathedrals and adobe walls during the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. We visited Leon to gain an understanding of the history, culture, and traditions of our adopted country. We left with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made, and the impact of the controversial Sandinista Revolution. In one year, Nicaraguans went from being ruled by a strict right-wing Somoza dictatorship, to being controlled by left-wing idealistic revolutionaries.

On the western side of town is one of the Sandinista’s strongholds, a rather decrepit looking building that now houses the Asociacion de Combatientes Historicos Heroes de Veracruz, or better known as the Museum of Revolution. The building, which has not seen any renovations since the revolution, housed the former Palace of Communications of Somoza. Riddled with bullet holes inside and out, I felt as if I was walking through a recent battle site. The walls oozed smells of gunfire and the whispers of the wounded cried out from beyond their graves.

Our guide, Dionisio Meza Romero, a former Sandinista soldier, sorrowfully pointed out photos of friends with whom he had fought and who had died for the cause. In one old photo, he proudly pointed out his picture, as a very young and idealistic soldier smiling for the camera. Then, to our surprise, he lifted his t-shirt and showed us the shrapnel wound in his back. This was his badge of courage.

The intimacy of this first-person gesture and the passion he demonstrated for the revolution, made the experience REAL and unforgettable. It reminded me of the time I visited the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. Surrounded by twisted children’s lunch boxes and photos of charred bodies, I began to weep with uncontrollable sorrow. A young Japanese woman sensed my despair and silently wrapped her arms around me to comfort me. She whispered in my ear and patted me on the back until my tears stopped flowing.

We climbed to the third story of the building, out a window, and on the tin roof where we were greeted with a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Busy streets full of people, volcanoes in the distance, and cathedrals in all directions dotted the landscape. Where in the world can a person visit a museum and be treated to a roof top perch of the city?

Returning to street level, as another Sandinista soldier chased after us hoping we would  buy a painting of Sandino,  I was reminded why we chose Nicaragua as our adopted country.  Like the museum, it is raw, real, and passionately unforgettable.

Dan Kovalik: The Sandinista Revolution Continues!


Dan Kovalik: Nicaragua: The Sandinista Revolution Continues!.

Many people have asked me about the politics and government of Nicaragua. This article, written by Dan Kovalik, a human rights and labor lawyer from Pittsburgh, PA , explains it all. In my opinion, he speaks the truth.

Don’t Underestimate the Force!


What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we’ve been fighting to destroy?

PADME AMIDALA, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

It may seem rather strange to use a Star Wars quote to begin a piece on the death of Ben Linder, but I’ve thought about the forces at play that undermine a peaceful coexistence on our planet. Politically speaking, a peaceful coexistence among countries requires mutual trust, understanding, and the ability to negotiate rationally when resolving disputes. In order to coexist peacefully, all countries must recognize each others’ rights to choose the political and economic systems that meet their needs, whether they be socialism, capitalism, or communism.

The way I see it, the political “isms” were the downfall of Ben Linder. It was the classic battle of capitalism vs. socialism. The United States violated all aspects of a peaceful coexistence by ignoring the sovereignty and territorial rights of Nicaragua in the 1980′s. But, why did this happen? What were the forces at play that led to the senseless slaughter of 40,000 Nicaraguans and one young U.S. engineer, from which all weapons, land mines, and Contra soldiers were funded by the United States of America?

The sad truth behind the U.S. bullishness in Nicaragua, as well as many other countries, originates from the “ism” of capitalism. In my humble opinion, the major force at play was, and still is, greed. When Anastasio Somoza, the U.S. backed tyrannical dictator, was overthrown in 1979 by the Sandinista left-wing socialist party, the U.S. was terrified. For the first time, the Nicaraguans had a government that cared about its people and enacted successful reforms to abolish the inequalities among its citizens through land reform acts, socialized health care, and increased agricultural and educational opportunities.

The U.S violently protested against this new political model. “Back in 1981, a State Department insider boasted that we would “turn Nicaragua into the Albania of Central America” – that is, poor, isolated and politically radical – so that the Sandinista dream of creating a new, more exemplary political model for Latin America would be in ruins.” (Noam Chomsky) Under the threat of a good example, the U.S. terminated all projects and assistance to Nicaragua, President Reagan supplied the Contras with weapons to bring down the Sandinista Party to the tune of $30 million U.S. Congress apportioned funds,  and mined the Nicaraguan harbors.

In the 1984 case of the Republic of Nicaragua vs. the United States of America, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States of America and awarded reparations to Nicaragua. All 16 final decisions were based on the United States of America’s violations of contributing to a peaceful coexistence among countries on our planet. What did the U.S. do? They poo-pooed the entire verdict. “It’s not fair. It was done in self-defense. We don’t owe Nicaragua anything and we refuse to comply with this verdict,” they whined.

So, Ben Linder, a 27-year-old peaceful supporter of a new political model, a clown and avid unicyclist, a young engineer who’s only goal was to bring clean water and electricity to the peasants in the highlands of Nicaragua, was assassinated by U.S. funded weapons, gunned down, his brains splayed out on a rock near the small hydroelectric dam he was beginning, in the name of what? Greed? Fear of a new, maybe better “ism”?  I wish I knew.

Ben was honored by being buried in the local cemetery in Matagalpa. There is a foreign cemetery across the street, the only foreign cemetery in Nicaragua, built for the German immigrants who started the coffee cooperatives in the highlands of Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega gave a moving eulogy to thousands of mourners who lined the streets of Matagalpa.

In it he said, ” Ben did not arrive in a flight full of weapons, or with millions of dollars. He arrived in a flight full of dreams, which were born, in his belief that the ethical values of the American people were much greater than the illegal policy of the United States.” He quoted Earnest Hemingway’s, For Whom the Bell Tolls, recounting the names, occupations, and ages of 10 foreigners senselessly gunned down, and ended with ” May the blood of the innocents move the conscience of those who govern the United States, so that the bells no longer toll, so the aggression ceases, so that the military maneuvers end, so that dialogue with Nicaragua will be accepted. No to war! Yes to Peace. Benjamin Linder‘s blood cries out, so that the bells no longer toll in Nicaragua.”

Ben Linder’s grave..who is going to weed it?

Standing at Ben’s grave, I was haunted by the forces at play that undermine a peaceful coexistence on our planet. What will it take to end the evil forces that dictate domination, subjugation, and exploitation of our human race? What if Padme Admedala is right? What can we do so that the bells no longer toll, the blood no longer oozes an evil trail of “isms”, and peaceful coexistence exists in our troubled world? I only wish I knew!