When the New York Times revealed that New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio had been an enthusiastic supporter of Nicaragua’s communist Sandinista regime, old arguments from the 1980s were suddenly rekindled, with renewed debate over the nature of that regime. The left once again emerged from the woodwork to insist that the Sandinistas were never bad guys (or even communists) — quite the contrary. The Times quickly published letters-to-the-editor whitewashing the Sandinistas’ tyranny, and one Times’ blogger went so far as to publish a post declaring: “Whatever their failings, the Sandinistas did not impose a repressive regime on their impoverished Central American nation. There was no mass jailing of opponents nor mass execution of opposing soldiers.”
Gee, that’s good — assuming that it’s even true. Of course, it isn’t true.
To cite just once source, the Russian-born scholar, Dr. Jamie Glazov, who came to America as a child when the KGB forced him and his pro-democracy, dissident parents into exile, is among those who beg to differ. Glazov wrote:
The Sandinistas quickly distinguished themselves as one of the worst human rights abusers in Latin America, carrying out approximately 8,000 political executions within three years of the revolution. The number of "anti-revolutionary" Nicaraguans who disappeared while in Sandinista hands numbered in the thousands. By 1983, the number of political prisoners inside the new Marxist regime’s jails was estimated at 20,000. This was the highest number of political prisoners in any nation in the hemisphere — except, of course, in Castro’s Cuba. By 1986, a vicious and violent Sandinista “resettlement program” forced some 200,000 Nicaraguans into 145 “settlements” throughout the country. This monstrous social engineering program entailed the designation of “free-fire” zones in which Sandinista government troops shot and killed any peasant of their choosing.
Not long after the Times exposé, the New York Post published a column reminding New Yorkers of the Sandinistas' ugly anti-Semitism — another undeniable truth. That was too much for the old “Sandalistas” (the sandal-wearing Sandinista fellow travelers who haunt the halls of American academe). The Nicaragua Network, of which de Blasio was once a leading member, issued a press release warning its faithful followers that the “New York Post resurrects lies about Nicaraguan revolution!” The Nicaragua Network assured the faithful that the information about Sandinista anti-Semitism were (naturally) just a bunch of CIA fabrications, and urged them to “Send letters to the editor!”
That battle cry was sounded. Sandalistas, unite!
Fortunately, some of those who know better are speaking up. Leading the charge is the former leftist-turned-conservative and Cold War scholar Ronald Radosh. “In the wake of a short Post article noting that Bill de Blasio ignored (at best) the anti-Semitism of the rulers of Nicaragua during his 1988 visit there,” Radosh wrote, “his supporters have insisted the Sandinista junta wasn’t anti-Semitic. In fact, the record is clear — and ugly.” Radosh also notes that “The official Sandinista newspaper, Barricada, ran an editorial in January 1990 in which it attributed distrust of their country by the ‘Yankee bureaucracy’ to the ‘traditional "Jew-style" with which the U.S. Congress manages the taxes of the taxpayers.’”
That newspaper, Barricada, which made those anti-Semitic remarks (and they weren’t the only ones), had American subscribers. One of them was Bill de Blasio, who, the New York Times reports, spent time and energy “hawking subscriptions” to other New Yorkers. Barricada, as Paul Berman reminds us, “was the most hardline of the Sandinista publications,” and was controlled by Sandinista Ministry of the Interior, Tomás Borge.
American Spectator readers will remember that infamous name from the 1980s. Here is what Radosh reminds us about this character:
Borge had been from the start, even in the period of pretend moderation, the regime’s enforcer. He was made minister of the Interior. He named the building which housed state security — something that Orwell might have dreamed up in his novel 1984 — the “Sentinel of the People’s Happiness,” which was proclaimed in a loud banner over the building’s front.
In his post, Borge contracted with the East German government to send a team of Stasi — that country’s hated secret police — to come to Nicaragua to train his own ministry’s agents in the type of techniques they used to control the populace. From East Germany and other Communist regimes in Eastern Europe he obtained advisors, communications equipment, uniforms, and other supplies. But what interested him most was concrete advice on how to use his spies to help concentrate power and give the FSLN complete control of the country. East Germany’s Stasi chief sent him a specially selected group of agents who, he promised Borge, would give them the ability and know-how to crush potential civilian opposition to the Sandinista regime.
He also liked to show the press how adept he was at fooling gullible Western fellow-travelers. Borge met them as he did me at one time in the 1980s — in his would-be office, behind which was a display of Christian crucifixes and a Bible sitting at his desk. Many would remark when they wrote about him how the hated security chief was really a believing Catholic and a religious individual. When they left, Borge would retreat to his actual office, which is the site at which he worked and which had no visible religious symbols of any kind. Of course, Borge used his ministry to regularly attack the Church, to deport opposition priests, and to give his support to an officially sponsored liberation church whose clerics backed the FSLN.
Liberation Theology, so backed and pushed by the KGB that it was practically a KGB-invention, famously became the center of a major clash between the Sandinistas and Pope John Paul II. When the Pope visited Nicaragua in 1983, the Sandinistas organized a mob to harass him at an open-air Mass in a failed attempt to embarrass him. (The Pope deftly countered them with style and panache and truth.)
Bill de Blasio, not surprisingly, is a follower of Liberation Theology.
Of course, the academy has come out in full-throttle defense of de Blasio. He is their product; he’s one of them. He has a degree in Latin American studies, which is no surprise to the two of us. Both of us have rich experiences in dealing with Latin American Studies departments, so we automatically see a red flag. That’s something we could vent about for hours. But, alas, that’s another subject for another time.
A subject for the here and how, however, is Bill de Blasio — almost certainly New York’s future mayor — and his support of a repressive Marxist regime. That regime was a Soviet/Cuban proxy in America’s backyard.
Fortunately, despite the likes of Bill de Blasio and the Sandinistas’ fellow travelers in their American lobby, Ronald Reagan’s support of the Contras in Nicaragua worked. A democratic election eventually took place, and the Sandinistas lost, as communists always do when they dare to (rarely) hold elections. Communism was halted there, as it was elsewhere in Latin America in the 1980s, from Grenada to less-known places like Suriname.
While the people of Latin America rejoiced in their freedom, Bill de Blasio wept for their enslavers. New Yorkers, should take note — assuming they even care.