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November 14, 1984 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-11-14

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4

OPINION

Page 4 Wednesday, November 14, 1984 The Michigan Doily
The working democrac in Nicaragua

4

By Peter Rosset
Much hay has been made recently of
the supposedly "farcical" nature of the
elections in Nicaragua. For example,
in the . editorial "Rejoicing in
Democracy" (Daily, Nov. 8), this paper
said "The contrast between this
nation's elections on Tuesday and Sun-
day's farcical elections in Nicaragua
should inspire a profound appreciation
of the American political system...."
As someone who lived the first 27 years
of my life in the United States and the
past two in Nicaragua, I beg to differ
and wish to point out some pertinent
facts.
BUT FIRST let me explain why I feel this
question is of utmost importance. The
United States at this very moment is
moving rapidly toward war with
Nicaragua. We have in recent days
violated Nicaragua's territorial waters
with warships, and violated her air-
space with aircraft. In order to avert
public outcry over further U.S.
escalations the Reagan Administration
has mounted a publicity campaign to
discredit Nicaragua's government and
to question its legitimacy. Because the
issue is so serious - do we want to go to
war, do we want college-age men to die
in Central America - we must
critically examine these claims rather
than blindly accept them.
Democracy - what is it? That is a
question that has been with man for
thousands of years. Does it mean elec-
toral politics? Does it simply mean
pulling levers in a booth? Or does it
mean the ability to participate in
decisions that affect your own life? For
the sake of argument I am going to
assume here that it means 'free elec-
tions' - but with the caveat inserted
that in reality mere elections do not
necessarily confer real power on

people. In our system, power is usually
conferred only by dollars.
In our elections we essentially had
two choices - Reagan or Mondale.
When you recall Mondale reversing his
previous position and supporting the
invasion of Grenada and when you
recall the dozens of ways he tried to
prove that he was as "tough" as
Reagan, you begin to see that the true
political spectrum spanned by our
choices was limited indeed. For exam-
ple there was no social democratic par-
ty, a movement which governs France,
Spain, and Greece amongst our allies.
And the press? It was "free" only to
the two parties with twenty million
dollars to spend on advertising. Par-
ticipation? Registration was far lower
that the 93 percent in Nicaragua, and
turnout far lower that Nicaragua's
more than 80 percent.
NOW LET us examine Nicaragua's elec-
tions. Originally ten parties were to
participate - three to the left of the
Sandinistas and six to the right. Vir-
tually all independent observers agree
that the primary objective of the not-so-
covert C.I.A. destabilization of
Nicaragua has been to "convince" the
right opposition to boycott the election
in order that they might be discredited, and
an invasion be justified. The C.I.A. did
succeed in getting three tiny opposition
parties to boycott - although their com-
bined membership by their own figures
barely topped 1,000 in a nation of three
million. Nevertheless every word ut-
tered by the opposition party candidate,
Arturo Cruz, has been trumpeted on the
front pages of every major U.S.
newspaper. That is akin to giving U.S.
CommunisthParty candidate Gus Hall
access to the New York Times front
page on a daily basis.
Three other parties (all larger than
those boycotting) to the right of the
Sandinistas remained in the running

Reagan line. That is quite a spectrum
when compared to the choice of
Republicrat or Demoblican we are
given every four years in this country.
All seven Nicaraguan parties were
given equal government campaign fin-
ancing, TV and radio time, and all cen-
sorship of non-military matters was
prohibited. Imagine parties to the left
and right of the U.S. government that
virtually advocate its overthrow, being
given federal campaign financing
equal to the "big two." And compare
Nicaragua's elections to those held by
our client regime in El Salvador and
trumpeted as a triumph of democracy.
Nicaragua's elections included the full
spectrum from left to right, while El
Salvador's only pitted the right against
the far right. Nicaragua had free press
coverage ranging from the ultra-left
Prensa Proletaria to the far right La
Prensa, while in El Salvador only two
extreme right papers remain after the
bombings and assassinations directed
against the opposition dailies forced them
to close down.
So which is more democratic -
Nicaragua, despite the covert war
being waged against her, or the United
States with its campaigns of manufac-
tured image and its client dictatorships
like El Salvador? And do we really
know why our country is about to go to
war in Central America? Shouldn't we
be asking before they start drafting our
friends and ourselves?
Rosset is a graduate student in
Biological Sciences and is co-editor
of a book, "The Nicaragua Reader:
Documents of a Revolution Under
Fire."

Associated Press
Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega was elected by a nation presented with a broad range of political choice, rather
than by a manipulated electoral process.

until one week before the elections. The
candidate of one, the Independent
Liberal Party, pulled out following a
three hour meeting with the U.S. Am-
bassador. His vice presidential run-
ning mate remained in the race,
however, and the party continued to

purchase full-page campaign ads
during the remaining days of the race.
SO WHAT choice were Nicaraguans ac-
tually given on November 4? Six and a
half parties, ranging from the ultra-left
maoist Popular Action Movement
which accuses the Sandinistas of

kowtowing to the U.S. imperialism, to
the oldest and largest right-wing party
(minus a small faction that walked
out), the Democratic Conservative
Party, which vows to roll-back the
revolution and expell all foreign
"Marxist-Leninists" as part of its pro-

Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Hunting for truth in Central America

By Magdalena Kiser

Vol. XCV, No. 60

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

A call for restraint

L AST THURSDAY, just two days
after Reagan's re-election,
University students and local groups
began to voice their fears that the
United States would soon invade
Nicaragua. Monday, the Nicaraguan
government began to voice similar
fears and declared a national alert to
prepare for a U.S. invasion. The
American public, and particularly
young Americans, should seriously
consider the role the Reagan ad-
ministration is pushing for in Central
America. For, if it comes down to the
use of military force - which the ad-
ministration has so far refused to rule
out - students at this University will
undoubtedly be called upon to fight.
Secretary of State George Shultz and
other State Department officials are
taking Nicaragua's fears too lightly.
Shultz has said that the Nicaraguans',
talk of an invasion was "based on
nothing, and I don't know why they are
doing this." But Shultz's statement
rings pathetically hollow considering
the administration's actions and
rhetoric.
Last week, administration officials
charged that a Soviet freighter
carrying MiG-21 jets had docked in
Nicaragua - a charge they were
later unable to support. In response to
this suspicion, the United States has
repeatedly flown spy planes over the
area to put increased pressure onthe
Sandinista government and the Navy
is currently shadowing Soviet ships. In
addition, U.S. officials are contem-
plating a series of military actions to
prevent the Nicaraguan government
from defeating U.S.-backed rebels
trying to undermine the Sandinistas'
leftist rule.
Instead of discussing the conflict
with Niornrann nfficials- Shultz ha

rhetoric, saying the United States must
"work in every way" to counter a per-
ceived buildup of Soviet arms in
Nicaragua. Washington's un-
willingness to recognize Nicaragua's
legitimate security concerns doesn't
bode well for the success of any
diplomatic solutions. In fact, it is
becoming painfully apparent that
Reagan's overwhelming re-election
victory has given the administration
added confidence in pursuing its-
aggressive policies in Central
America. Administration officials are
reverting to a militant view of
"Nicaragua as another Cuba" and
argue that the United States must
check the flow of arms into Central
America from the Soviet Union - even
if they cannot document any increase
in the flow of arms.
This defensive strategy represents
only a short-term solution that will
lead to heightened tensions in Central
America. The Contadora process,
which the administration rejected,
could have offered a long-term
remedy. But it seems the ad-
ministration wants to take a quicker
route - military force.
In the past, Congress has urged the
administration to understand that
working toward democracy in that
region can be better accomplished by
diplomacy, and not through the direct
use of force. Congress should once
again restrain the administration from
interfering improperly in another
nation's civil strife.
The United States can most effec-
tively influence its neighbors' actions
when it sits down at the negotiating
table. The administration has shown
an impatience with diplomacy that is
frightening. Congress should inter-

Facts are interesting critters. Like snipe,
They can change color as often as Central
American counties change governments.
"It is a fact," a friend of mine said, "That
the Sandinistas do not permit Costa Rican or
American journalists to enter the country,
and it is a fact that Nicaragua is receiving
MIGs from the Soviets."
"It is a fact," said another friend, "That the
world judges Nicaragua without realizing that
Nicaragua had no choice but to turn to the
Soviet Union for help because the United
States is breathing down the Sandinistas'
neck. The C.I.A. is all over Central
America."
For every Ronald Reagan who blames Cen-
tral American problems on communist
spread there is a Daniel Ortega who explains
the Central American "situation" in terms of
capitalistic selfishness. And thus, the un-
decided gringo who is trying to "averiguar"
what is really going on down here in Central
America will believe on Monday that com-
munism is an evil fungus that grows well in
the tropics and that this fungus is northbound
and U.S.-bent, but will believe on Tuesday
that the Sandinistas were forced to turn to the
Soviets for help when faced with "subtle"
forms of U.S. espionage and economic inter-
vention. And exhausted from hearing about
conflicting "facts", the weary gringo might
easily conclude that like snipe, facts really
don't exist in the Central American jungle.
But they do.
It is a fact that most people are family-
oriented, andtthat most of these families eat a
lot of rice and beans.
It is a fact that the concept of time is dif-
ferent here. "Ahorita" is an everyday word

that means "now", "in ten minutes", or
"never." When is the bus coming?
"Ahorita." The bus may come in five
minutes. The bus may come in an hour. The
bus may not come. And because of ahorita
sometimes important work just does not get
done in the tropics.
Fact: Most people can tell you about
Michael Jackson, because even poor families
own TVs. Only some people can discuss In-
ternational Monetary Fund payments. Not
everyone buys newspapers.
More facts: There is no clean water in
some parts. There are big bugs, and
ameobas. There are oxen that graze slowly.
There are people who run to hang out in door-
ways to watch the train, bus, or car pass
because vehicle-watching is a form of enter-
tainment. There are sturdy Catholic chur-
ches and trustworthy Padres who preach in
them. In short, it is a fact that there is life
here in the jungle. Life is what happens here
in Central America between headlines about
creeping communism and in spite of news of
an American invasion on October 15. There
are facts here. People live tranquilo and
they eat rice and beans. Life goes on.
But sometimes tranquilo is interrupted by
death squads. Sometimes horribly mutilated
bodies are discovered by small children.
Latins live tranquilo and life goes on in the
jungle, but there are also horrendous facts
here: malnutrition, starvation, alcoholism,
IMF payments, prejudice against Indian
populations, torture. And with all of this in
mind, perhaps the most horrendous fact of all
is that while these real problems beg
solutions, there are a lot of people from all
over the world running around Central
America snipe hunting. After all, tranquilo
can be dull at times. It is far more interesting

to root up evidence that the communists are
coming or that the United States is
capitalistically creeping into every pineapple
field than it is to deal in facts. Snipe hunting
is more fun than sitting down to discuss
problems with people you distrust.
Fact: There are people in Central America
who need clothing, nutritious food, shelter,
and the right to find their missing families
and friends.
Nonsense: Nothing can be done until every
Red is dead.
More nonsense: Nothing can be done until
the United States gets its paws out of the Cen-
tral American pie. A lot of folks are down
here and no one is in any great hurry to leave.
Whether Latino, Red, or Red, White, and
Blue, we all have facts to share. We might
even have solutions. When people from dif-
ferent parts of the world, who are never-
theless concerned about the same problems,
sit down to discuss - and argue - about
solutions, then progress is possible.
But fact-facing is less entertaining than
snipe-hunting because facts are really not like
snipe. Changeable snipe are interesting
because they belong to the world of the
pretend. Facts are really not like snipe.
Facts are boring because they are real and
because they stay the same.
Facts: hungry people, dirty water,
mutilated bodies, sick kids.
Central America.

Kiser attended the University and is now
a member of the Peace Corps in Costa
Rica.

LETTERS TO THE DAILY
The need to understand democracy

To the Daily:
The editorial, "Rejoicing in
Democracy" (Daily, November
8), provides a singularly shallow
and uninformed comparison of
the recent elections in Nicaragua
and the United States. It is unfor-
tunate that the Daily, along with
the rest of the American press,
has accepted the State Depar-
tment's propaganda regarding
this election as truth. On Novem-
ber 7, 1984, the Washington Post
reported on a secret memo which
discussed efforts by the State
Department to manipulate public
opinion about the Nicaraguan
election. The article said that the
briefing paper "outlines a plan to
convince Americans and the rest

swallowing the party line on this
issue.
Opposition parties, with
positions ranging from pro-
business Christian conservatism
to radical Marxism, were not
only allowed to run in the elec-
tions, but were given equal ac-
cess to television and radio ad-
vertising and money with which
to carry out their campaigns.
People who have visited
Nicaragua recently attest that
vitriolic attacks on the Sandinista
platform and performance ap-
pear daily on the pages of the op-
position newspaper, La Prensa. No
BLOOM COUNTY

political criticism was censored.
Impartial observers of the elec-
toral procedures, such as Willie
Brandt, former Chancellor of
West Germany, an American
delegation of lawyers, and other
European diplomats concluded
that the election rules themselves
were among the best in Latin
America and that there were no
serious irregularities on the day
of the election.
What does true democracy
consist of? What do the American
people have to rejoice about con-
cerning their recent election?
Forty-seven percent of eligible

voters stayed home, and even
among those who bothered to go
out and vote, many were ignorant
of the candidates' stances on the
issues, and still others voted for
candidates with whom they
disagreed on major issues. Con-
trast this to a turnout of over 80
percent in Nicaragua, and on
a populace that is passionately
involved in everyday politics. I
am tired of hearing Americans
speak so righteously of
democracy with so little apparent
understanding of the term.
-Thea Lee
November 9
by Berke Breathed

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