Central American Solidarity in the Spotlight in NYC Mayoral Race
US-Central American solidarity and intervention is back in the public eye after a September 22 New York Times profile of NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's history of solidarity work with the Quixote Center in Nicaragua in the 1980s sparked controversy. A diverse group of professors, activists and historians have spoken out in recent days, defending the broad US-based coalitions that supported revolutionary movements like the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and denouncing the brutal and often illegal US interventions in the region during that period. In a September 23 letter to the editor in the Times, New York University Professor Barbara Weinstein criticized the article for presenting “this divisive issue as having no clear moral implications, with the Reagan administration denouncing the Sandinistas as ‘tyrannical and Communist,’ and liberals defending them as ‘building a freer society.’” Weinstein countered: “Yet we now have a mountain of evidence to show that the abuses of the Sandinista government in the 1980s were minor and sporadic compared with the extensive killings, largely of unarmed peasants, carried out by the armed forces in Guatemala and El Salvador, whose regimes had the staunch support of the Reagan administration. The policy adopted by the United States government toward Central America at that time was one of the most shameful chapters in our nation’s history, and no one need apologize for opposing it.” Alex Pareene agreed, responding on Salon.com that, “the piece is generally lacking in useful context, about the history of Catholic social justice movements, peace activism, or the U.S. government screwing around with Latin America.” Pareene added that de Blasio’s admitted “support for democratic socialism is not particularly controversial or unusual in most of the rest of the world and left-wing popular movements still enjoy a great deal of support in Latin America despite a century of American efforts to undermine and destroy them.” The New York Times’ bland and forgiving characterization of the US’s actions in Central America and scandalized portrayal of the solidarity work that fought against them is evidence of the successful hegemonic discourse that the US government sought to impose around the struggles for freedom in the region. But the debate that it has sparked also reminds us that there are many out there, including we at CISPES, willing to speak truth to power, to act in solidarity and vindicate these historic battles for sovereignty and justice.