The threat of a good example

More must-see viewing: a 1983 documentary by British journalist John Pilger on Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. (You’ll need RealPlayer installed to view it.)


If the situation in it looks strangely familiar, it should: One of Hugo Chavez’s many inspirations for his Bolivarian Revolution happens to be Sandinista Nicaragua–a broad-based, largely peaceful revolution with universal healthcare and education, a mixed economy, multiparty pluralism, democratic elections, and a firm opposition to imperialism and dictatorship.

This is what the United States armed, trained and paid the Contras–illegally–to overthrow. The reasons given were vague and various, but all to the effect that the Sandinistas represented a communist threat, connected with either Moscow, Cuba or both. You’ll hear one Nestor Sanchez (of the Pentagon) in the documentary, claiming in all seriousness that Nicaragua–which had neither a navy nor an air force–somehow posed a threat to the Gulf of Mexico, from where aid would flow to western Europe (and NATO) in the event that war should break out between it and the then-communist nations of the Warsaw Pact. (It’s to Pilger’s credit that he managed to keep a straight face while listening to all that. I’m having trouble doing the same for the ravings of present-day extremists.)

The real threat of the Sandinistas, though, was a different one altogether. It was not the threat of creeping communism, but, as Pilger found, that of a good example. Heaven forfend that what the Sandinistas accomplished in Nicaragua should spill over to, say, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc.–and that all these banana republics, with dictators installed and approved by various US administrations, should overthrow unjust and corrupt leaders in favor of freely elected candidates who actually care about the people! No, better to just stick in “our son of a bitch” and call it democracy. Better a lipstick-smeared pig than the threat of a good example.

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