Contradictions in Nicaragua

The Reagan administration is on the warpath in Nicaragua. U.S. troops may not yet be in the frontlines, but Washington is financing and directing a paramilitary campaign that is taking lives, ravaging communities, and deliberately inflicting suffering on innocent Nicaraguans.

Although the war is called "covert," the American public has known about this campaign for more than two years. Not since the press caught Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sending CIA operatives en masse to Angola a decade ago has an ongoing clandestine operation been so exposed in the media.

The administration has spent more than $50 million—and is currently seeking $21 million more from Congress—to create, train, and equip an army 15,000 strong, known as the contras, dedicated to overthrowing the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Dozens of U.S. intelligence officials have concentrated their activities in Honduras and Costa Rica, which now serve as sanctuaries and training grounds for the counterrevolutionaries; contras have also trained on American soil at boot camps located 20 miles from Miami International Airport and in southern California. And the semipermanent U.S. military "maneuvers" in Honduras have provided a cover for launching contra attacks against the Nicaraguan government.

During a recent visit to Nicaragua, we found that the not-so-covert war being carried out in the name of the American people is an ongoing tragedy affecting an entire nation. Almost daily the newspapers—pro- as well as anti-Sandinista—carry stories describing raids by the counterrevolutionary forces on small villages, the death of soldiers and civilians, the mining of harbors, or the destruction of oil depots and other economic facilities. Both supporters and detractors of the Sandinista revolution to whom we talked acknowledged that the contras are exacting a severe economic and human toll.

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