News Coverage of the Sandinista Revolution

News Coverage of the Sandinista Revolution

News Coverage of the Sandinista Revolution

News Coverage of the Sandinista Revolution

Excerpt

On July 19, 1979, a new government was proclaimed in Managua, and Nicaraguans danced in the streets. The bloody civil war was over. The repulsive dictator had fled.

North of the Rio Grande, Americans shared vicariously in the celebrations. Their joy that Nicaraguans were now free was, however, tinged with guilt at the close relationship their own government had long maintained with the fallen dictator. It was also tempered with concerns about the exuberant young revolutionaries who had led the fight against him.

The government of Jimmy Carter was determined to make things work between the United States and the new Nicaragua. Earlier, it had reversed U.S. support for the dictator Somoza, not only cutting off American aid but even blocking third parties from sending supplies to him. And it had withdrawn the U.S. ambassador as a means of pressing the old regime to capitulate. Now it hastened to dispatch him back to present his credentials to the new government, sending along a planeload of emergency supplies as a token of good will. For once, said the commentators, America would extend a hand of friendship to a revolutionary regime instead of making it our enemy. For once we would avoid the mistake of allowing our fears to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the months that followed, America jumped to the head of the line of foreign aid donors to Nicaragua. The civil war had paralyzed the economy, leaving thousands destitute and homeless and many wounded. American food and medicines saved many lives. Before long more than $120 million had been donated. Before long, too, however, Americans' anxieties about the new Nicaragua grew into fears, and then fear gave way to consternation.

America's gifts were accepted, but its hand of friendship was spurned. Nicaragua's new leaders turned sharply toward Cuba and the Soviet Union. The free elections they had promised were postponed indefinitely. The promise of amnesty for members of the vanquished National Guard was swept aside in a wave of imprisonments, irregular proceedings before "revolutionary tribunals," and . . .

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