Central America: Sanders and the Peace Movement
Mayoral administrations in the United States, as a rule, do not get involved in foreign policy matters. The reason, it seems, is two-fold: First, most mayors do not see foreign policy as being under their purview, since these issues supposedly don't affect localities and they have little, if any, jurisdiction over these matters, and second, they are too busy with the everyday tasks of running municipalities to get involved in such issues.
Not true for Sanders. A significant amount of his time and energy was devoted to national and international issues, and during his tenure as mayor, he addressed such issues as Reagan's social welfare budget cuts and increased U.S. militarization, wealth disparity in America, world hunger, nuclear disarmament, U.S.-Soviet relations ( Sanders set up a sister city relationship between Burlington and the Soviet city of Yaroslavl in summer 1988, which led to a visit from a Soviet delegation in fall 1988), the invasion of Grenada, the situation in South Africa, and U.S. policy in Central America, in particular, Nicaragua. The mayor made it very clear that he sees a connection between local concerns and national/international issues. At one point, Sanders remarked: "Military spending becomes a local issue because those billions of dollars are not available for schools, housing, medical services, street repairs and other services."1
The theme of this chapter will be Sanders, Central America, and the peace movement. Our goal will be to see how a socialist mayor grapples with U.S. foreign policy on the local level, and the contradictions it raises and opportunities it provides for peace activists in the community.