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'If Ortega Is Another Castro'

November 29, 1985

Dugger expresses a legitimate concern that the recent suspension of civil rights in Nicaragua by the Sandinista government may become permanent in the face of attacks by the contra army that is attempting to overthrow it. He points to Cuba and the Soviet Union to illustrate how civil liberties abroad have been betrayed.

The article begins with a thoughtful question: What should Americans do about the U.S.-financed contra war and the recent suspension of basic liberties? However, Dugger answers this question with a disappointing backhanded slap to the American left, by stating that the American public should find out if Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is "just another dictator" before, "once again, the American left betrays the cause of civil liberties abroad."

Anyone who is at all familiar with the long and sorry history of U.S. intervention in Latin America, and the massive amounts of financial and military aid that our government has sent in support of brutal right-wing dictatorships there, can only wonder why Dugger attempts to lay the blame for betrayal of civil liberties in that region of the world at the doorstep of the American left. And why is he silent on the denial of basic rights in countries ruled by non-Communist, right-wing dictatorships?

Were civil liberties not betrayed, in the name of freedom, in Chile when Gen. Augusto Pinochet and his right-wing forces smashed the longest-standing democracy in Latin America, or in Guatemala when a CIA plot ousted democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz in the 1950s, or in Nicaragua when the barbaric regime of Anastasio Somoza systematically denied those liberties until the Sandinistas ousted him and restored them?

Dugger's concern over the demise of civil liberties abroad is well taken. But, his attempt to place all of the blame on the Soviet Union, Cuba, the Sandinistas and the American left is an unfair distortion of history and a denial of reality.

As to what Americans ought to do about the tragedy unfolding in Nicaragua, we should urge the Reagan Administration to abide by international law, and cease immediately its obsessive, illegal, and immoral war of aggression against the impoverished but sovereign state of Nicaragua, which finds itself in a state of siege at the hands of the U.S.-backed and -trained contra army. Only then will we find out whether President Ortega is just "another Castro," or for that matter, another Pinochet, Somoza, Ferdinand Marcos, or Pieter Botha.


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