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July 28, 1989 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1989-07-28

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0The Michigan Daily

Page 7

Interview with Tony Avirgan:
How to stop future Iran-Contra affairs: abolish the CIA

On May 30, 1984, U.S. journalist
Tony Avirgan, along with about
thirty other journalists, attended a.
press conference in La Penca,
Nicaragua (just over the Costa Rican
border). Here Eden Pastora, contra
leader on the Southern Front, was
prepared to denounce the CIA for
transforming what he saw as a legit-
imate opposition movement into the
gang of ex-Somocista thugs who, in
Pastora's words, were "worse than
the Sandinistas." A bomb went off
shortly after the conference began,
killing a number of journalists and
injuring many others, among them
So began the long odyssey which
led Avirgan, along with his wife and
fellow journalist Martha Honey, to
file the suit against then-unknowns
such as Richard Secord and John
Hull which, in the fall of 1986,
would capture the. attention of the
world as the Iran-Contra scandal.
Eventually, that scandal would im-
plicate numerous U.S. government
officials in a byzantine network
through which the U.S. illegally
supplied the contras with weapons
paidfor by drug-runs into the United
States. This week, Avirgan talked
with Daily staff members Mike
Fischer and Liz Paige.
Daily: Could you tell us how
. your continuing investigation is go-

Avirgan: We've been turning up a Rica Louis Tambs, ex-CIA Costa they gave enterprising journalists
lot of good, hard information that is Rican station chief Joe Fernandez plenty of leads to follow if they had
going to put us in a much stronger and Richard Secord be banned for life been seriously interested in making
position when we do get to court from entering Costa Rica because of the connections between drugs, con-
than we would have been if we had their involvement in this network. tras, and the U.S. government.
gone to court before. Also, there has The report further recommends A virgan: Part of the problem is
been a complete turn around on the that John Hull [a U.S. citizen natu- the increasing influence of the busi-
part of authorities in Costa Rica; for ralized in Costa Rican, whose exten- ness side of journalism, broadly de-
the first time in five years the police sive properties became an important fined. An ever smaller group of
in Costa Rica are seriously investi- way-station for unloading arms and owners controls an ever larger share
gating the bombing. They are turn- picking up drugs for shipment to the of the media. And these owners don't
ing up important information that U.S.] be stripped of his Costa Rican give a damn about journalism, about
we can use. citizenship and that he be expelled the news. They're bottom-liners,
Moreover, a year ago the Costa from the country after he finishes his concerned with profit. And with
Rican Parliament formed a special legal problems [Hull was recently ar- them in control, there simply aren't
six member commission to look rested for these activities and has enough resources available for the
into drug trafficking in Costa Rica. since skipped bail and left the coun- kind of investigation Martha and I
They just came up with their final try]. are working on.
report last Thursday night. That re- Daily: What kind of reforms in As for the journalists, most of
port explained in detail how the CIA the U.S. government need to be them are careerists. They want to ad-
and the NSC [National Security made if we are to prevent a repeat of vance, which is understandable. They
Council] worked to set up a contra Iran-Contra? are people of integrity, but they
southern front in Costa Rica. The Avirgan: As an interim step, cit- want to keep their jobs. Look at
report demonstrates that they turned izens must demand the abolition of what happened to Stephen Kinzer in
to General Noreiga to supply pilots; the CIA and the National Security Managua [New York Times reporter
he supplied drug pilots. Act of 1948. It is one thing - and who wrote a very revealing book
Those pilots started moving drugs quite reasonable - for a government about the CIA-sponsored coup in
through that network and, when the to want to gather information about Guatemala; his writings have since
Boland Amendment was imposed what is going on in the world. But become much more conservative].
[prohibiting all aid to the contras covert activities - such as the kind When the climate turns conservative,
without Congressional approval] the that the CIA routinely engages in - it can have a really chilling effect.
CIA started using that drug money are another thing. Daily: Speaking of Managua,
to fund the contras. Now the contras Daily : Are you surprised that the could you close by giving your
are gone but the drug trafficking is media has focused so little attention assessment of the current situation
still there. The report recommends on your case? It seems that the in Nicaragua?
that Oliver North, John Poindexter, Congressional investigations were Avirgan: The field of battle over
former U.S. ambassador to Costa exercises in damage control, and yet the next few months will involve

Journalist Tony Avirgan.
the upcoming elections. The U.S. is
making a strong attempt to discredit
them, but it is fighting an uphill
battle. Our government's own
Library of Congress, having exam-
ined Nicaragua's election laws,
claims they are the most progressive
in Latin America.

Cuba: victory in the struggle against U.S. imperialism
by Sharon Holland

July 26th marked the internation- nomic problems caused by U.S. im- gressional system. Cuba's process of
ally recognized anniversary of the perialism and racial inequities inter- collectivity, however challenged,
Cuban Revolution. Thirty-six years nalized from years of colonizations. proves that change does not happen
ago, Fidel Castro led the rebel army At the start of the Cuban rebel- via postcards and phone-ins.
in an attack upon the Moncada lion, guerrillas living with peasants Also hidden from view by main-
Barracks in Santiago, Cuba, marking became aware of the gaping disparity stream media is the existence of a
the beginning of Fugencio Battistas' between city and countryside. Most strong women's movement in Cuba,
fall and eventual exile five years Cuban farmers earned 91 pesos per one which has been central to the
later. Since the triumph of the revo- year, compared to 374 pesos on av- Revolution ever since the First Latin
lution, Cuba has become an example erage nationwide. There were no American Congress of Women in
to other countries of successful schools, no medical facilities, and November of 1959, when Cuba's
flight from economic and military there was no land security. delegation of women numbered 77.
oppression at the hands of the U.S. In an abrupt move to create instant The Federacion de Mujeres Cubanas
government. parity between these divisions, the (FMC- Federation of Cuban
When most of us who are now revolutionary government abolished Women) organized a unified mass
college age recall Cuba, negative all land rents, giving tenant farmers organization of approximately
images of Castro and his comrades and sharecroppers title to the land 17,000 women from the existing
arise. Time after time mainstream they worked, while simultaneously women's groups in a few short
media focuses on what is wrong guaranteeing them fixed prices for months. Through their organizing
with Cuba's "revolution." But, it is their produce. Large estate farms women participated in repulsing the
important to see not only what is were converted to collectives and co- Bay of Pigs invasion, as well as
right with Cuba, but also the ways operatives, rather than divided and promoting a Literacy Campaign.
in which Cuba is an example for all given to individuals. Castro's gov- The FMC has enabled women to
struggling countries, since it has ef- emient initiated a process of reform speak to and participate in all aspects
fectively dealt with deep-set eco- that has constantly reviewed itself of the Revolution, not just as a lob-
and changed with input from those hying group - a role to which
Sharon Holland is an English most affected by such reforms. This women in the U.S. are constantly
graduate student and a member of the is a process of dialogue between the relegated in order to affect U.S. pol-
Latin American Solidarity people and the government that icy - but as participants in an on-
Committee. makes a mockery of the U.S. con- going revolutionary process.

Finally, one of the most striking
of Cuba's accomplishments in the
past 25 years is its complete over-
hauling of racial relations amongst
the people. Having seen a racial war
of 1912 in which thousands of
Blacks lost their lives, it seemed that
revolutionary Cuba was destined to
fail when it came to establishing any
kind of racial or class equality.
However, Castro, in a speech fol-
lowing the defeat of Battista, at-
tacked racism amongst Cubans, not
solely in practice, but also as a sys-
tem of beliefs, as "People's mental-
ity...conditioned by many prejudices
and beliefs from the past." Attacking
racism concretely, Castro called for
an end to racial discrimination in one
of its most debilitating forms - at
the work place. Measures which
equalized access to health and educa-
tion had an immediate effect upon
Black Cubans.
The revolutionary government's
primary goal was and still is to have
all Cuban children see themselves as
Cubans together - an experience
prevented in the U.S. by petty-
apartheid city zoning ordinances and

manipulations of governmental and
private funds for housing. Ironically,
the U.S. has moved away from, via
the recent Supreme Court and lower
court decisions on affirmative action,
attacking racism on a socio-eco-
nomic level.
Recent mainstream coverage of
Cuba again returns us to images of
Cuba as a brutal "communist"
regime bent upon persecuting its
people. This type of reporting is
deeply rooted in a kind of racism that
overtly proclaims people of color as
incapable of self-determination. It's
time to replace that diseased vision
with a picture that we can learn from
and criticize, without falling into the
racist tropes already provided for us.
Letters and articlesfor
the Perspectives page
should be sent to
Daily, 420 Maynard,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109.

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