Central American conflicts: more reading

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Ron Rizzo

Jan 16, 1986, 2:54:49 PM1/16/86
<Meshiagate, kudasai!>

Central American Conflicts: More Reading

I certainly don't doubt there's lots of "coverage" favorable to the
Sandinists (including the myopia dealt out in liberal publications
like The Nation, Commonweal, etc.: Latitudinarian Lobster could have
quoted quite a few more articles from these publications), but, I
repeat: it's of poor quality, certainly as evidence of Sandinista
goals, policies, realities.

(I'm aware of Leiken's slim volume on the Soviets & Latin America,
& have even read it in part. It didn't have much material either
recent or relevant enough for the topic "Central American conflicts".
On the other hand, Franqui's book isn't directly about Central America
or the present at all, but it's VERY suggestive of the future of
Nicaragua: the anatomy of Fidel's Cuba it provides shatters any
remaining distinction however slight we may hold between the old
& debauched Communisms of the "2nd world" (eg, USSR & satellites)
& the supposedly hybrid revolutionary regimes of the "3rd world", locating
"socialist Cuba" firmly in a kind of international "gulag archipelago"
of Orwellian states. If my selectivity seems arbitrary, well, if general
ignorance of much 20th century history--pardon my arrogance, but....--
weren't so great, my reading list could be more of a "professional"
bibliography, ie, narrowly limited as to topic & entirely consistent.)

For example, at this week's PEN conference in NYC (PEN's an inter-
national association of writers with a strong interest in moral
& political issues affecting literature & free expression), amid
a stellar collection of literary people (Mailer, Doctorow, Llosa,
many others), a Nicaraguan poet named Murillo, who also happens to
be Mrs. Daniel Ortega, the Sandinist First Lady, was warmly received
and mingled freely. Questions of relative talent aside, I suppose
Maxim Gorky would've received such a welcome in the West in the
1930s, even though by then he had an intimate knowledge of some
of the most brutal aspects of the Gulag yet remained more or less
silent (Gorky was probably murdered by Stalin in 1936, but there's
virtually no evidence). The more things change,....

The aim of a reading list for so confused & controversial a subject
as contemporary Central America should be the provision of CONTENT:
facts, critical analyses, tenacious investigation, and not merely
a sampling of competing views or political positions. I also don't
think that focussing a lot on US policy necessarily tells you much,
if anything, about, eg, neo-Sandinism; such a focus strikes me as
another form of ethnocentrism.

I invite netters to use both Lobster's & my lists, & decide for
themselves the relative worth of each.

Over the weekend I looked at Reader's Guide for most of 1985; the
only two bibliographies about Nicaragua listed there were both
heavily pro-Sandinist. They were:

"Letting Go of the Middle" by Margaret D. Wilde, The Christian
Century, 10/2/85, p 852-3.

Most of the brief article's devoted to NACLA publications. Wilde
claims NACLA has shed much of its earlier "uncritical advocacy
of internationalism & socialism" for more critical, "carefully
researched" articles. The NACLA brochures I've seen over the
years don't seem to me much different from the earliest ones; but
maybe NACLA's myopia now looks liberal, rather than leftist. At
the very end Wilde mentions the New Republic, Wall St Journal,
& even an American Enterprise Institute report as "informative
reporting from a perspective that gives more priority to economic
growth" !?!

"Reading Nicaragua" by Holly Sklar, The Nation, 9/7/85, p 185-9.

Sklar, coauthor of POVERTY IN THE AMERICAN DREAM (South End Press,
a local & prolific leftwing press that's published many titles by
Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, etc.), gives no quarter to fascists
& lists only sources favorable to Managua among her many items;
most of these are leftish or leftwing.

U Mass/Amherst sociologist & neoconservative Paul Hollander, whose
SOVIET UNION, CHINA, AND CUBA (1981; 1983 pb $8.95) was a witty
& damning catalog of gullibility & deception similar at many points
with the "witness" provided by pro-Sandinist pilgrims today, has
extended his book's coverage to Nicaragua via:

"The Newest Political Pilgrims" by Paul Hollander, Commentary,
August 1985, p 37-41.

Read it, & judge for yourself whether it's only neoconservative

Finally, the current (1/30/86) New York Review of Books contains an
exchange of good-sized letters about Robert Leiken's 12/5/85 article
on Nicaragua's 1984 elections (first of 3 articles by Leiken):

"The Nicaraguan Elections: An Exchange", letters from Larry Garber
(project director of Washington's International Human Rights Law
Group, IHRLG) and Robert Leiken, p 43-4.

Garber claims a report by official voting observers sent by the
Dutch gov't cited by Leiken does not support Leiken's conclusions.
Leiken replies Garber gives a misleading account of the report,
proceeds to quote from the report to prove the point, & quotes
from a report Garber wrote for IHRLG that contradicts Garber's
letter. Leiken ends by quoting yet another damning line from
Commandante Bayardo Arce's "secret speech" of May 1984 (see my
previous posting):

by approving the elections, he [Arce] said, liberals & social
democrats would provide "the arms" for "terminating this whole
artifice of pluralism....which has been useful up to now, but
has reached its end."

I've brought attention to these letters because they provide an
example of a widespread phenomenon: the less-than-honest behav-
ior of many seemingly politically-neutral groups whose findings
often favor the Sandinists despite contrary evidence, groups like
IHRLG, Americas Watch, even the ACLU, etc., "human rights groups
with a double standard", as some have dubbed them. I'll post an
article on this "Sandinista Lobby" in the near future.

I'll post more items to read as I find them.

So, gentle readers, if you want to find out what's (actually) happening
in Central America, you've got your work cut out for you! Good luck,
& good reading.

Better well-read than Red,

Ron Rizzo

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