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C H A P T E R T E N
One fundamental goal of any well-crafted indoctrination program is to direct attention elsewhere, away from effective power, its roots, and the disguises it assumes. Thus to enter into debate over Vietnam, or the Middle East, or Central America, one is required to gain special knowledge of these areas, not of the United States. Rational standards are permitted for the study of Soviet intervention, which focusses on Moscow, not Kabul and Prague; for us, however, the problems lie elsewhere. Respectable commentators can even speak of "the tragic self-destruction of Central America," with the two superpowers playing a (symmetrical) background role (Theodore Sorenson). A similar comment about Eastern Europe would merely evoke ridicule.1
The serviceability of the doctrine is apparent. Those who hope to understand world affairs will naturally resist it. The February 1990 elections in Nicaragua are a case in point. The forces at work within Nicaragua are surely worth understanding,2 the reactions to the elections here no less so -- far more so, in fact, given the scale and character of U.S. power. These reactions provide quite illuminating insight into the topics addressed in these essays. They provide further and quite dramatic evidence that in the dominant political culture, the concept of democracy is disappearing even as an abstract ideal.
As a point of departure, consider a few reactions beyond the borders. In Mexico City, the liberal La Jornada wrote:
After 10 years, Washington examines with satisfaction the balance of an investment made with fire and blood..., an undeclared war of aggression... The elections were certainly cleanly prepared and conducted, but a decade of horror was behind them.While welcoming the electoral outcome, the right-wing daily El Universal acknowledged that
The defeated Sandinista Front does not have all of the responsibility for the disasters that have fallen upon Nicaraguans. Its lead role in the construction of Nicaragua in recent years cannot be denied, either. But the voters have made an objective use of the essential prerogative of democracy: to vote for who they believe can better their situation,surely George Bush's candidate, in the light of unchanging U.S. policies that are as familiar to Latin Americans as the rising of the sun.
The familiar background was recalled in the commentary on the elections by León Garcˇa Soler, one of the leading political analysts of the daily Excelsior. Taking note of the fraudulent democracy of Mexico itself, he discussed the elections conducted under U.S. threat in Nicaragua in the context of "the expansionism that led [the U.S.] to embrace the continent from ocean to ocean; of the Manifest Destiny which led it to the imperial wars, to the protectorates and colonies, to the endless invasions of the nations of our America." "The Nicaraguan people voted for peace," he wrote, "with the clear threat by the interventionists that they would never recognize the legitimacy of the elections if the Sandinistas won," and would simply continue the terrorist war and economic strangulation if the electoral outcome were not satisfactory to Washington.
In the Mexican weekly Punto, liberation theologist Miguel Concha wrote that
the elections in Nicaragua were won in the first place by the inhuman and criminal Low Intensity War of the imperialist government. The objective and subjective elements behind the winning coalition [are...] without any doubt the policy of the U.S. administrations, call them Reagan or Bush,... based on unrestricted and evident contempt for all norms of international law, with military aggression and economic blockade as the most important spearheads during the last decade. This heavily influenced the choice of the majority of Nicaraguans..., people desperately looking for peace, [a vital question] for a people so severely beaten by this whip, for a people which for ten years have seen their children die, after a revolutionary triumph which was seen as the solution to its problems, for a people that has been confronted by a fratricidal war, arranged by the blind, stubborn will of the "enemies of humanity" who, insisting on their power, seek to be immortal."The UNO triumph was legal," he concluded, "but not just."
For the independent El Tiempo in Colombia, passionately opposed to "frightening communism" and the Sandinistas who represent it on the continent, "The U.S. and President Bush scored a clear victory."3
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1 Sorenson, Op-Ed, NYT, Nov. 13, 1987.
2 For illuminating discussion, see the articles by Carlos Vilas and George Vickers in NACLA Report on the Americas, June 1990.
3 Jornada, Universal, Tiempo, cited in World Press Review, April 1990. Soler, Excelsior, March 4; Concha, Punto, Feb. 27, in Latin America News Update, May, April 1990.