Chapter 13.

Communism and Nationalism in Central America

and the Caribbean.


To understand the development of communist governments in this area, we must bear in mind several key factors:

(1) Nationalism, which is traditionally anti-American, due to dominant U.S. political and economic influence in all these countries in the past.

2) Dominant U.S. influence in the region dates back to the late 19th century, i.e., to the U.S. victory over Spain in the war of 1898. Since then, U.S. policy here was based first on the perception that the area was vital strategically to U.S. security, second on U.S. economic interests, and thirdly on ideological concerns, i.e. the development of democracy, although this often gave way to concern with stability even if provided by dictatorships. In the past, as in the present, these vital interests pertained especially to the Panama Canal, opened in 1914. The canal was, and is under U.S. control, but the Panama Canal Treaties signed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and Gen. Omar Torrijos, decreed it would come under Panamanian control in December 1999. U.S. security interests also involve the Caribbean sea routes, vital to U.S. trade with South America, and finally all trade routes going in and out of U.S. ports in the Gulf of Mexico.

(3) The United States sought to safeguard its investments by maintaining stability in the area, i.e., the status quo. U.S. Marines were used to intervene whenever the U.S. government believed American economic interests had to be safeguarded. After 1934, Washington, though preferring democracy, generally accepted traditional dictatorships or military "juntas." These had the support of the local military, the landowners, and a conservative Catholic Church. However, U.S. economic interests always took second place to strategic/security interests.

(4) The social-economic structure of each country was based on one or two crops, which had their key markets in the United States, e.g., sugar, coffee, bananas, while the land was in the hands of a few landowners and/or U.S. businesses, e.g., United Fruit Co. ownership of banana plantations in Honduras and Guatemala. The majority of the population was made up of poor tenant farmers or sharecroppers. Furthermore, U.S. companies invested in, public utilities and frequently owned them .

In the 20th century, struggles to reform the economic-social-political system were spurred not only by ideology, but also by a rapidly growing birthrate. These struggles inevitably fused with anti-Americanism because the U.S. supported the status quo to safeguard U.S. strategic interests and/or investments.

(5) The need for social-economic reform and U.S. support for the native ruling classes which opposed reform, meant that even before World War II, revolutions and revolutionary movements were both socially radical and anti-American. The first such revolution took place outside Central America, in Mexico, in 1910-20. The Mexican revolution provided the model for later revolutions in Central American states.

(6) After World War II, communism began to make significant advances among the intellectuals, some of whom saw it as the best means of modernization and also of gaining independence from the U.S. This was especially true of projects for agrarian reform to help improve the life of masses of poor and landless peasants. When the Cold War began, the combination of communism with the drive for reform was often seen by Washington as a threat of Soviet influence, which the United States aimed to keep out of its "backyard." Thus, the communist-supported government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman (1913-1971) in Guatemala was overthrown with CIA support in 1954 (see Guatemala, below).

(7) Nonetheless, Fidel Castro (b. 1926) came to power in Cuba in January 1959, when the Eisenhower administration withdrew its support from the right-wing Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. (1901-1973) Castro then proceeded to establish the first communist government in the area and this led to a drastic change of U.S. policy toward him. Similar developments took place twenty years later in Nicaragua, where the United States helped the Sandinistas come to power in 1979, but turned against them when they adopted policies seen as hostile to the U.S.


I. Cuba.

1. Key Data.

Cuba is an island lying 90 miles south of Key West, Florida. It has an area of 44,218 sq. miles and an estimated population of 11,20,000 (mid 1995). Over 50% of this population is mulatto, about 37% is white, and 11% is black. About 85% were Catholics in 1959. The language is Spanish. Although Cuba has a traditional one crop economy, i.e., sugar, with tobacco coming in second, it also produces coffee and has good agricultural resources. It has large deposits of nickel. Its annual rate of population increase 1995 was 0.7%..

2. Fidel Castro.

Fidel Castro is the most charismatic leader in Latin American history. He was the architect of the Cuban revolution, and of Cuban communism.

Fidel was born on August 13, 1926, the son of a Spanish immigrant who had acquired a sugar plantation. He received a good education in Catholic (Jesuit) schools and then at the University of Havana, where he studied law and became involved in politics. Some historians believe that he became a Marxist at the University, but if he did, he kept it a secret.

On July 26, 1953, Fidel led a small group of followers in a daring attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba in an attempt to overthrow the dictator, Fulgencio Batista. The attack failed. Many were killed and others were arrested; of these some were killed later. Fidel used his trial to make a political demonstration. (see p.589 below). He was released with a few others after a short period in jail and went to Mexico, where he began to raise funds for another revolt. He also raised funds from Cubans living in the United States.

On December 2, 1956, Fidel landed with a small band of followers on the southern coast of Oriente Province. Many were killed, but the survivors went into the Sierra Maestra mountains and established a stronghold there for the next two years. Fidel avoided any mention of communism in his declarations, calling only for a just revolution to overthrow Batista, restore democracy, and carry out some popular economic reforms.

Fidel made sure of good press and TV coverage in the U.S. by welcoming U.S. correspondents, of whom the most prominent was Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times. While Fidel and his men had the support of Cuban students and peasants, he really owed his victory to gaining the support of the Cuban people as well as the sympathy of U.S. public opinion through the media, especially TV coverage. U.S. reporters expressed outrage at the cruelties of Fulgencio Batista and drew an idealized picture of Fidel. This media coverage led the Eisenhower administration to withdraw its support from Batista. U.S. efforts to replace him with a moderate government failed, and on New Year's day 1959, Cubans enthusiastically welcomed Castro and his "barbudos" (the bearded ones) in Havana. (1)

Just as it is impossible to think of Cuba without Castro, so it is impossible to understand the popular support he was given by his people without some knowledge of recent Cuban history, especially of the revolutionary movements before his time, on which he drew in propagandizing his movement.

2. Cuba to 1959.

As we know, Columbus discovered Cuba in 1492, along with other parts of the Caribbean. Cuba became a Spanish colony and remained so until 1898, although a struggle for independence began thirty years earlier.

The outcome of the Spanish-American War of 1898 was a U.S. takeover of Cuba. The country became independent in 1901, but it had to accept the Platt Amendment (March 2, 1901, named after Thomas C. Platt, 1833-1910), which stipulated the United States' right to intervene if its interests were threatened. Cuba also had to lease Guantanamo Bay as a U.S. Naval base for 99 years.

The United States used its right to intervene by landing U.S. Marines in Cuba in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. However, in 1934, after the overthrow of the dictator Gerardo Machado (1871-1939), President Franklin D. Roosevelt revoked the Platt Amendment as part of his "Good Neighbor Policy" toward Latin America. A year earlier, in 1933, Fulgencio Batista seized power. He ruled Cuba directly or indirectly with U.S. support until 1959.

In the 19th century, the Cuban economy came to be based on sugar and secondly on tobacco (cigars). These crops were grown on large plantations originally worked by African slaves. The United States bought most of the sugar even before 1898. Later, it also invested heavily in Cuba. U.S. business owned the key utilities and the oil refineries (for imported oil). In 1928, an American author, Leland Jenks, published a book entitled Our Cuban Colony. Indeed, that is how most Americans thought of Cuba - if they thought of it at all. It was also a tourist and gambling attraction for Americans.

3. Revolutionary Movements Before Castro.

The most famous Cuban revolutionaries before Fidel were Jose Marti (1853-1895) and Antonio Guiteras (1906-1935). Both were national heroes who inspired Castro and his generation.

a. Jose Marti.

Marti was the great leader of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain. He was a poet, philosopher, soldier, patriot, and finally, a martyr for the national cause. He made the connection between sugar and U.S. influence, when he said: "A people that wants to die, sells to a single country."

Marti became a revolutionary at the age of 16. He raised funds from Cubans living in the U.S. to launch an invasion of Cuba and wrest it from Spain. He landed in southern Oriente province but was killed in battle in 1895.(Castro was to land there in 1956, but he would win). Marti wrote a penetrating analysis of Latin American problems in his book Our America, published in 1891. This was a collection of essays criticizing capitalism and imperialism. Marti even said that Karl Marx should be honored for siding with the poor. Although Marti did not develop this idea and was not a Marxist, Castro was certainly influenced by him and coopted him into the Cuban communist hall of fame.

b. Antonio Guiteras.

Guiteras became a revolutionary in high school. He fought the brutal dictatorship of Gerardo Machado. On April 29, 1933, he led a small band of rebels in an attack on the army barracks at San Luis, on the edge of the Sierra Maestra mountains, near Santiago de Cuba. This was about 20 miles from the spot where Marti died in 1895, and near Castro's landing place in 1956.

In August 1933, Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant, led a revolt which overthrew Machado. This resulted in the creation of a provisional government. However, Batista overthrew it in September and made Dr. Grau San Martin President, though he kept the real power, i.e., the army. Grau San Martin was a professor of medicine and a liberal politician with radical leanings. He made Guiteras Minister of the Interior, War, and the Navy. Both men said that no Cuban movement could be revolutionary unless it was also anti-American.

Guiteras's program was named Joven Cuba, or Young Cuba. In many ways, it foreshadowed Castro's later revolutionary program. Guiteras' slogan was "nationalism, anti-imperialism and socialism." His program included the nationalization of mineral resources and public services, as well as agrarian reform, i.e., the expropriation of large estates and the establishment of cooperatives. He also talked of industrializing Cuba, of organizing labor, building public housing, developing public health and public education. Still, it was by no means a communist program.

Indeed, Guiteras was no communist. We must bear in mind that while these reforms were implemented in Soviet Russia by Stalin under a totalitarian communist system, the democratic socialist parties of Europe, Latin America, as well as the small American Socialist Party, also wanted to implement such reforms - but they wanted to do so only if they came to power in democratic elections. (For example, the Labour Party elected to power in Great Britain in 1945, and the socialist governments in the Scandinavian countries after World War II).

In Cuba, Guiteras' program marked a turning point because it had the support not only of the democratic socialists, but also of many liberals. Indeed, it became the program of the revolutionary "generation of the thirties." Therefore, after Guiteras was killed by Batista soldiers in 1935, it was natural for Castro to take over his program some twenty years later and make it his own. But he then cast it into a Marxist-Leninist mold, which was certainly not the goal of most of the supporters of his revolution in Cuba. They wanted both democracy and economic reforms. (2)

Furthermore, although Batista ruled Cuba directly or indirectly until the end of 1958, he allowed successive governments to develop programs for state control of the sugar and mining industries, also for land reform. While these programs were developed within an authoritarian political system, they gained wide support on their own merits from both radical and liberal intellectuals. Also, in 1940, a liberal constitution was introduced. It was not implemented, but it became a rallying cry for most liberal and radical opponents of Batista. Again, we must bear in mind that while most Cubans wanted a revolution which would bring democracy, social-economic reforms, and an end to Cuba's dependence on the United States, they did not want communism.

4. Fidel Castro's Revolutionary Movement.

As mentioned earlier, Castro failed to overthrow the Batista regime in his first attempt, i.e., the attack on the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953. At his trial, he delivered a long speech, later published under the title History Will Absolve Me. This was his official program before he came to power, so we should note its key points.

Castro stated that there were five "revolutionary laws:"

i. The restoration of the constitution of 1940 (this was the rallying cry of the opposition to Batista, and was always taken to mean Western style democracy).

ii. Full ownership of small farms by the tenant farmers who worked them; land was also to be given to sharecroppers and squatters. (Most Cubans wanted agrarian reform, and this would hit the wealthy landowners and U.S. business concerns).

iii. The workers and employees were to have 30% of the profits of all large industrial and mercantile enterprises, mines, and sugar mills. (This would hit both wealthy Cuban businessmen and U.S.-owned business).

iv. Agricultural workers on the sugar plantations were to get 55% of the value of the harvested sugar cane (same effects as above).

v. All property and wealth acquired through political graft and fraud were to be confiscated. (This was directed at Batista supporters).

Later, Castro also said that there would be a series of "fundamental reforms" in agriculture and education, as well as the nationalization of public utilities (which were owned by U.S. firms). Of course, agricultural reform would also greatly affect U.S. business interests.

Castro's trial speech marked the beginning of the "July 26 Movement." The official program entitled "Nuestra Razon" (Our Right), which was cast very much in the liberal-democratic mold, was written and published in late 1956 by Mario Llerena. But, as Llerena says in his book, Castro refused to be tied down by this or any other program. In fact, he oscillated between radicalism and conservatism, depending on the financial sponsors available. Most of the time, he claimed to support the traditional goals of the opposition to Batista, i.e., he voiced the program of the "generation of the thirties." (3)

After Castro imposed communism on Cuba, there was much discussion among American historians and political scientists on whether he was a Marxist before he declared himself to be one in December 1961, or whether he was pushed into Marxism and the Soviet camp by U.S. policy. Some historians believe that Castro was a Marxist since his student days. He even had a book by Lenin under his arm at his trial. Whatever the case may be, it was not public knowledge that Fidel's brother, Raul, was a communist, as was the Argentinian Che Guevara, and many of Castro's close friends. [4] Castro himself denied that he was a communist and avoided cooperation with the Cuban Communist Party. This was not surprising for the Party cooperated with Batista. (This cooperation began on Stalin's orders for a "united front" during World War II, and continued until Castro appeared on the scene).

Thus, most observers believed that Castro was not a communist, but a nationalist revolutionary with socialist leanings. However, at some point he decided that communism under his leadership was the way of the future for Cuba. Although Castro never said so, we may assume that he chose communism for four key reasons: a. because of its intellectual appeal as an explanation of past history as well as providing a program for the future; b. because the totalitarian communist party model seemed to offer the most promising tool for carrying out fundamental economic and social reforms; c. because these reforms meshed with the Guiteras program of 1933-35, which had been supported by Cuban socialists as well as many Cuban liberals; d. because a declaration of communism would likely gain Soviet support for Cuba . (We should note that these reasons applied, with local variations, to the choice of communism by political leaders in most underdeveloped countries). It is not surprising that Castro's policies brought him into conflict with the United States.

5. Castro: The First Three Years, 1959-1961.

A close collaborator of Castro's in these years, Carlos Franqui, later described how Castro hid his communism while he worked secretly with the so-called "Prague Group" -- Alfredo Guevera, Leonel Soto, Flavio Bravo, Raul Valdes Vivo and Osvaldo Sanchez. All of them were trained in Moscow and Prague. This fact is also fully documented by Tad Szulc in his biography of Castro. On the basis of oral interviews with Castro and his key followers -- both those who remained loyal and those who left him -- Szulc shows that Castro secretly worked with the communists listed above. After coming to power in January 1959, he organized a hidden government which he prepared to seize power when he judged the time was ripe. Castro followed this policy both in order to avoid internal opposition before he secured full control of the army and administration, and also to delay the confrontation with the U.S. until he had implemented his reform program.

One of Castro's first moves was to put his own trusted communists in charge of the labor unions, while ousting all leaders not personally loyal to him. This included both the old Cuban communists who tried to take over the unions, and the socialists who opposed communism. Castro also put his communists in leading positions in the army and the police. At the same time, he gradually subordinated the old communist party to himself, and then fused it with the new party under his own control.

While taking the steps listed above, Castro also confiscated the land from landowners and distributed it to peasant farmers. However, at this time, he devoted most of his energy to the "campaign for literacy" and to setting up a public health service.

These reforms gained Castro the support of the Cuban masses, as well as of Western liberals and socialists. Many of the latter made the pilgrimage to Cuba and sang his praises. They billed Castro as the hope of mankind, while some Protestant pastors even saw him as the new Christ. In their enthusiasm for his economic-social reforms, they overlooked such things as press censorship, the lack of elections, repression of criticism, and the regimentation of the Cuban people in government-controlled organizations -- all of which they vehemently attacked in right-wing Latin American governments. This uncritical adulation of Castro was similar to previous Western liberal and left-wing adulation of Stalin in the 1930s, and of Mao Zedong in the 1950's. [5]


In 1960, Castro proceeded to implement some of his planned reforms, which affected U.S. investments. In June, he nationalized some U.S.-owned cattle ranches and all sugar cane lands. In July, he nationalized most of the remaining U.S.-owned companies, including oil refineries, banks, and public utilities. (Nationalization was completed in 1968). [6]

At the time, many Western observers thought that the angry U.S. reaction to these measures drove Castro toward communism and thus into the arms of the USSR. However, now we know that in May 1959, after the passing of the Agrarian Reform Law, Castro had already set up the National Institute for Agrarian Reform, or INRA, and that this became the hidden government which he prepared to take power when the time came. At that time, he also intended to declare himself a communist. He made an official declaration to this effect on December 1, 1961. However, as early as 1960, he had established a unified party, The Integrated Revolutionary Organization, as well as Marxist-Leninist schools with crash courses for those destined to become the communist administrators of the new Cuba. [7]

While preparing all these measures, Castro cultivated his romantic revolutionary image in the United States. He did so during his visits there in the fall of 1959 and in 1960. In this, he had the help of sympathetic media coverage. The media did not seem to notice that he revealed some of his thoughts and intentions during his 1959 visit to the U.S.. At that time, he declared that there would be no elections until all Cubans were literate. Later he said that there was no need for "bourgeois democracy" because the Cuban people fully "participated" in the government of the country. In fact, they participated by applauding his speeches, as well as working in a great number of government-controlled organizations. He called this system "popular democracy." In fact, it resembled the government-controlled system developed and institutionalized by Stalin in the USSR, which was imposed after World War II on most of Eastern Europe. It was copied in Red China, North Korea, and communist Vietnam.

Cuban-Soviet Relations.

The Soviet government was wary at first, for Castro had not come to power with its support, and Tito had taught Moscow a lesson on what could happen in such a case. Moreover, the Soviets knew that Castro was purging and subordinating the old Cuban Communist Party to himself. Finally, Khrushchev was working to improve Soviet- U.S. relations, so he was careful not to provoke Washington.

Castro and Khrushchev met in New York in September 1960 -- when they both attended the U.N. Assembly -- but Cuban-Soviet relations had been established in February 1960. At that time, Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan arrived on a nine day visit to Havana and signed a trade agreement. The terms were modest; the Soviets committed themselves to buy about 1 million tons of Cuban sugar per year and grant Cuba $100 million in credits over the years 1961-64. When the U.S. government canceled its sugar purchases, Moscow agreed to buy more sugar from Cuba.

It was also in the spring of 1960 that Castro established full control over the Cuban press and other media. In the fall of 1960, he again attended the U.N. Assembly, when he met Khrushchev and other Soviet bloc leaders. The high point of this visit was Castro's four and a half hour speech in the U.N., in which he attacked the United States to the applause of a smiling Khrushchev. The Soviet leader, for his part, denounced the U.S. government for the U-2 spy plane affair. Castro flew home in a Soviet jet, because Cuban planes had been impounded in the United States as part payment for his confiscation of U.S. property in Cuba.

On October 13, 1960, Castro announced the expropriation of large industrial enterprises belonging to the Cuban "bourgeoisie," as well as all banks, Cuban and foreign, except those owned by Canadians. (He knew that Canada resented U.S. domination of certain Canadian industries and wanted to keep a door open for aid from Western sympathizers). As mentioned earlier, at this time Castro nationalized the remaining U.S.-owned enterprises (including the printing presses of Readers Digest, which were then leased to the owner). Six days later, on October 19, 1960, the U.S. government banned the export of all American goods to Cuba, except for non-subsidized foodstuffs, medicines, and medical supplies. Finally, after Castro had drastically reduced the U.S. embassy staff in Havana, President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961.


6. U.S. Policy Toward Cuba and the Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 1961; Castro, Khrushchev, and the Missile Crisis of October 1962.

The U.S. government suspected Castro of being a communist even before he declared himself to be one. The CIA began to organize covert operations against him, using Cuban exiles. Here we should note the opinion of Tad Szulc, who wrote the study of Castro mentioned earlier. In his view, the U.S.-Castro clash was unavoidable because Castro feared the U.S. would "steal" his revolution. So, he took over U.S. property in Cuba, constantly attacked the U.S. in his speeches, and accepted Soviet aid. Thus, it is not surprising that Washington saw him and his government as part of the Soviet threat to its vital strategic interests in the Caribbean. In these circumstances, one can agree with Szulc that "there was virtually nothing either side could have done to avoid the collision course within the parameters of what was then politically possible." [8] As for the CIA, it followed a pragmatic policy. It sent arms to anti-Castro forces which appeared in the Escambray mountains in late 1959. (They were mostly former Batista soldiers, wealthy farmers and some rightist ideologues and adventurers). However, this support ended when it became clear that these groups posed no real threat to Castro.

Meanwhile, Castro proceeded with his reforms and also began to build up a new army as well as a militia. Since Washington refused to sell arms to Cuba and pressed its allies and friends not to do so, Castro turned to the Soviet bloc. The first arms shipments began to arrive from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union in late 1960.

Castro expected the United States to launch an invasion of Cuba. Indeed, he expected it in the Bay of Pigs, which he knew like the back of his hand. He also kept an eye on the Escambray mountains. We know that President John F. Kennedy was not enthusiastic about an invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles, as planned by the Eisenhower administration, but he was misled to believe there was strong opposition to Castro inside Cuba and decided to go ahead. The landing took place on April 17, 1961. When Cuban exile pilots -- who flew in from airfields in Guatemala -- failed to knock out Cuba's minuscule Air Force, Castro used the few planes he had to sink the supply ships. At the same time, his troops had the advantage of fighting from prepared positions in the bay. Finally, Kennedy forbade American air support, because there was no sign of a national uprising against Castro. Moreover, he did not want to provoke the Soviet Union into a retaliatory seizure of West Berlin.

Thus, the emigre Cuban brigade was defeated and Castro emerged as the national hero of Cuba who had saved it from the American dragon. The United States lost face, particularly when an exile Cuban pilot landed in Miami and the U.S. government announced that he had deserted from Cuba. However, he proved to be a Cuban pilot based in Guatemala.

The Bay of Pigs invasion led logically to greater Soviet commitment to Cuba. There was much speculation at the time as to why Khrushchev decided to put nuclear missiles on the island. It was thought he might have been convinced that President Kennedy would not dare to risk war, or that he had decided to equalize the missile imbalance between the two powers. Since the Soviets were believed not to have ICBMS, while the United States had them, as well as bases for the shorter range Jupiters in Turkey, the speculation was that Khrushchev might have decided to press for their withdrawal, or to gain even greater concessions. At the same time, he would demonstrate Soviet support for Castro.

In his memoirs, Khrushchev made two separate points, without trying to reconcile them. Thus he claimed that: 1. The Caribbean crisis "was a test of our abilities at a time when we might have had to resort to the use of nuclear weapons," and 2. "We had no other way of helping them (the Cubans) to meet the American threat except to install our missiles on the island...Our intention was to install the missiles not to wage war against the U.S. but to prevent the U.S. from invading Cuba and thus starting a war. All we wanted was to give the new progressive system created in Cuba by Fidel Castro a chance to work." [9]

More light on the Soviet decision was shed years later by the revelations of former Soviet officials, including Anatoly Dobrynin (b. 1929), who was Soviet ambassador to Washington at the time . (He served for a total of 24 years: 1962-1986). He writes that five months before the missile crisis, in May 1962, the Soviet and Cuban leaders had reached a secret agreement. Aleksandr Alexeyev, counselor at the Soviet embassy in Havana as well as being a KGB official, was summoned to Moscow and named ambassador to Cuba. Khrushchev told him that he was to secure Castro's agreement to the placing of Soviet nuclear missiles there. He said the Soviet leadership had decided this was the only way of preventing a U.S. invasion.. Alexeyev said he thought Castro was not likely to agree, and if he did, the United States would isolate him from the rest of Central America. Thereupon, Khrushchev called a meeting of the Politburau in his "dacha," and suggested that the Soviet government should propose to Castro the placing of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. Khruschchev also said the whole action was to be carried out in secret, with no leaks, at least before the U.S. presidential elections of November 4, 1961. After that, he thought the Americans would be compelled to accept the situation, just as the Soviets had had to accept U.S. missiles in Turkey.

Dobrynin doubts that Khrushchev's decision was prompted only by his sincere desire to defend Cuba. He writes: "The move was part of a broader geopolitical strategy to achieve greater parity with the United States that would be useful not only in the dispute over Berlin but in the negotiations on other issues ." Castro agreed to stationing the missiles, though a formal agreement on this issue was never signed because the missile crisis arose. [9a]

It was not the U.S. spy in the KGB, Col. Oleg V. Penkovsky ,who alerted Washington to the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The crisis began when U.S. spy planes photographed the missile emplacements, and the photographs were so identified on October 15, 1962. President Kennedy fended off the military "hawks" who wanted to bomb or invade Cuba. (Excerpts from the Kennedy tapes of the discussion on Oct. 16, 1962, were printed in the New York Times, October 5, 1997, section WK, p. 7). On October 18, he met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko - who was in the U.S. to attend the U.N. session in New York - and complained of Soviet military supplies to Cuba. He did not, however, mention the U.2 photographs, even though they were in his desk drawer. He also responded favorably to Gromyko's proposal of a U.S.-Soviet summit meeting. Gromyko did not tell either Dobrynin or the Soviet ambassador the the U.N. of the Soviet missile build up in Cuba. [9b] On October 22, just as Gromyko's plane departed New York, Dobrynin was called to meet with Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The latter gave him a message for Khrushchev that the U.S. was going to impose a naval "quarantine" of Cuba that day. [9c] At the time, U.S. intelligence knew that Soviet ships carrying more missiles were on their way to Cuba and would reach their destination in a few days.

We also know that Bobby Kennedy saw Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin on Saturday evening, October 27th. He carried an "ultimatum," which the President expected to be rejected:

1. Immediate withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba;

2. A U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba;

3. U.S. agreement to withdraw its (obsolete) Jupiter missiles from Turkey, though this was to be separate from the Soviet withdrawal. [9d]

When Bobby left to see Dobrynin, the President conferred with Dean Rusk on what should be done if Khrushchev rejected these conditions, particularly the offer to remove the Jupiters from Turkey, which they did not want publicized.

In March 1987, Dean Rusk added some new information in a letter he sent to a conference being held in Florida to discuss the missile crisis. Rusk could not attend because of ill health. In this letter Rusk wrote:

There is a postscript which only I can furnish. It was clear to me that President Kennedy would not let the Jupiters in Turkey become an obstacle to the removal of the missile sites in Cuba because the Jupiters were coming out in any event. He instructed me to phone the late Andrew Cordier, then at Columbia University, and dictate to him a statement which would be made by U Thant, then Secretary General of the United Nations, proposing the removal of both the Jupiters and the missiles in Cuba. Mr. Cordier was to put that statement in the hands of U Thant only after a further signal from us. That step was never taken and the statement furnished to Mr. Cordier has never seen the light of day. So far as I know, President Kennedy, Andrew Cordier and I were the only ones who knew of this particular step.

As McGeorge Bundy, another member of Kennedy's 1962 Cabinet put it after reading Rusk's letter, it showed that Kennedy "was prepared to go the extra mile to avoid a conflict and absorb whatever political costs that may have entailed." [10]

Anatoly Dobrynin judges Khruschchev harshly:

Of course, the fatal miscalculation was made by Khrrushchev himself. He did not anticipate that his adventurous thrust would be discovered in time for Kennedy to organize a sharp reaction, including the threat of direct confrontation. He had no fallback plan to deal with such a reverse and was forced to improvise, awkwardly as it turned out, which cost him dearly by eventually cutting short his political career. He was so confused that that he did not play the one good card in his hand - Kennedy's agreement to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey.... he grossly misunderstood the psychology of his opponents. [10a]

More information on Soviet missiles in Cuba came out at a conference between U.S. and Soviet statesmen -- some of whom had participated in the crisis of 1962 -- which met in Moscow in late January 1989. The conference members included Robert S. McNamara, President Kennedy's Secretary of Defense, his Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, Andrei Gromyko, former Soviet Foreign Minister, Anatoly Dobrynin, the long-time Soviet Ambassador to the United States, members of the ruling Politburo, and Nikita Khrushchev's son, Sergei N. Khrushchev.

Sergei N. Khrushchev admitted that the Soviets had 20 nuclear warheads in Cuba. He said that though they were not actually attached to the missiles, this could have been done quite easily. The historian, General Dimitri Volkogonov, said that 20 more nuclear warheads were on the way to Cuba, when President Kennedy imposed the naval blockade, and that 20 more intercontinental ballistic missiles were available in the USSR.

In the Glasnost Tapes, published in 1990, which contains excerpts dictated by N. Khrushchev, but not published in the book that came out in the U.S. in 1974, the Soviet leader gave somewhat different information. He said it was decided in Moscow to send 42 missiles, each with a warhead of one megaton. (The SS-4 had a range of 900-1,080 miles, while the SS-5 had an estimated range of 2,100 miles). He also said that when the U.S. discovered the Soviet move in mid-October, the nuclear warheads had not yet reached Cuba. They were sent on Soviet ships under the Soviet flag, and the Americans did not touch them. He also claimed that all 42 missiles were installed in Cuba.

In the Moscow conference of January 1989, Sergei N. Khrushchev said that Soviet officers in Cuba did not have orders to use the missiles in case of an American invasion or air strike, but if they had been used, they would certainly have been aimed at American cities. In a TV interview with reporters, Sergei N. Khruschev said that Castro had pressed his father to fire the missiles at the United States, but retracted this in a subsequent interview. However, in the Glasnost Tapes, N. Khrushchev said Castro suggested that to prevent the missiles from being destroyed, the Soviets should launch a preemptive strike at the United States. N. Khrushchev said that Moscow had no such intention. This version of the story is confirmed by S. Khrushchev's close adviser and biographer, Fedor Burlatsky.

We now know that none of the nuclear capable systems in Cuba could be used without authorization from Moscow.

In January 1989, Anatoly Dobrynin confirmed Dean Rusk's version of his conversation with Bobby Kennedy on October 27, 1962, while Sergei N. Khrushchev explained that the two Soviet messages received in Washington -- first a positive and then a negative one --- were confused due to technical difficulties in transmission. (However, it is possible that the two messages might have reflected a change of mind by the majority of the Politburo, A.C). Dobrynin also cites his October 27 conversation with Bobby Kennedy in his memoirs. [10b].

The Moscow conference participants also learned of the reason for Castro's and Moscow's fear of a U.S. attack on Cuba. Recently declassified U.S. government documents, which were made public at the outset of the Moscow meeting, showed that top American officials had made plans to overthrow Castro and even considered sending American troops to Cuba. Robert McNamara said these were only "contingency plans," which would never have been implemented. Still, he admitted that ". . . it is perfectly clear now, that Cuban leaders and Soviet leaders at that time believed the U.S. was intending to invade Cuba."[11] Thus, we may assume that Soviet and/or Cuban intelligence had learned of these plans, as well as of Cuban exile soldiers being concentrated in a camp in southern Florida, also of U.S. soldiers and tanks going there by rail. From all the above, they probably concluded that the U.S. was about to invade Cuba.

As we know, N. Khrushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles, but claimed this was a Soviet victory because Kennedy pledged the U.S. would never invade Cuba. He also drew another conclusion, i.e., that the USSR must develop more ICBMs rather than a worldwide navy. [12] In fact, his successor, Leonid Brezhnev, managed to do both during the Soviet-U.S. "detente" of the 1970s.

The world came very close to a nuclear war because of Khrushchev's brinkmanship and Fidel Castro's recklessness. According to Franqui, Fidel actually pulled the trigger of a Soviet ground-to-air missile and shot down a U.S. spy plane to the horror of the Soviet officer in charge. Fidel said: "Well, now we'll see if there's a war or not." [13] However Kennedy refused to be stampeded into military action, so the only casualty of the crisis was Robert Anderson, the unfortunate pilot of the downed U-2 plane.


7. Castro and Cuba from October 1962 to the Present.

From 1962 to 1990, the Soviet Union subsidized Cuba to the tune of some $4 million per day. In the meanwhile, Castro nationalized everything, including shops and vendors' stands (1968). He backed away from this policy in the early 1970s, allowing some leeway to private enterprise. However, he abandoned this course in 1987, and reverted to total nationalization. He tried to diversify the Cuban economy, but failed, so he went back to intensive sugar production. Much of this was bought by Soviet bloc countries at prices above the world market. This was another form of Moscow's subsidies for Cuba.

Over the years, Castro imprisoned thousands of political opponents and dissidents, some of them for 20 years or more. In 1968, he clamped down completely on literature and the arts, blacklisting the best Cuban writers of that generation. This led to cultural stagnation until he began to ease up controls in 1976. [14] However, he also allowed the immigration of thousands of Cubans to the U.S. This was not a sign of liberalism, but a way of ridding himself of unwanted elements. Some 250,000 people -- mostly middle class -- left in the first three years, i.e., 1959-61. The largest one-time exodus, counting about 120,000 Cubans, took place in 1980 in the Mariel boat lift. (they are called "Marielitos").

At that time, 11,000 Cubans took refuge in the grounds of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana. After a few days, Castro allowed them, and all those who wanted to leave, as well as those he wanted to leave, proceed to the port of Mariel, and sail for the U.S. He played a trick on President Jimmy Carter, who had said he would welcome all Cubans with open arms. Therefore, the refugees consisted of all kinds of people, including criminals and the mentally ill. , U.S. authorities detained a few thousand, judged unacceptable, and imprisoned them; also imprisoned were those allowed to stay who had committed a crime. Many of the Cubans judged unacceptable languished for years in U.S. prisons, which was certainly a violation of human rights.

Finally, as far as foreign policy is concerned, Castro took a very active part in supporting communist insurgencies all over the world. His first moves were in Central and Latin America in the 1960s, but he did not have either Soviet or local support, so they ended in failure (Bolivia, Venezuela, Guatemala). Khrushchev, and especially Brezhnev, wanted to avoid conflict with the U.S. in the Western hemisphere when they were trying to establish friendly relations with Washington.

Castro was more successful in Africa, where he became active by giving support to Algeria and also established friendly relations with many African leaders. He went on to support the communist movement in the former Portuguese colony of Angola in 1974, where Cuban troops were sent to fight a rebel movement supported by South Africa, China, and the U.S. In 1976, Cuban troops were sent to support the communist regime in Ethiopia (see ch. 14).

In the 1970s and 1980s, Castro acted as adviser and arms supplier to revolutionary movements in Central America. He pressed for unity among the Sandinista factions in Nicaragua (between December 1978-March 1979) and then supplied some of the arms they needed. Whether in coordination with Moscow or on his own initiative, Castro exerted significant influence on the policies of the Sandinista government between 1979 and 1990, in particular on their policy toward the U.S. In the Caribbean, he supported the communist coup and then the government of John Bishop in Grenada (see below).

Castro was not eager to travel to Moscow in 1985 and 1986. He did appear together with Mikhail S. Gorbachev on the reviewing stand atop the Lenin mausoleum in Red Square in Moscow on November 7, 1987, for the celebration of the the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. However, he made it clear that he would not introduce "perestroika" and "glasnost" in Cuba. Indeed, in 1988, he banned the distribution of the Spanish-language editions of at least two Soviet papers, Moscow News and Sputnik.

Economic Problems, Internal Opposition, and Dissent.

Economic decline due to the reduction of Soviet aid sparked a political challenge. Thus, it appears that some Cuban generals were plotting to overthrow Castro. In any event, the popular General Ochoa, who had led Cuban troops in Angola, was arrested in summer 1989, given a Stalin-type trial and executed on charges of drug trafficking. Another General tried and executed was Colonel Antonio de la Guardia, a high official in the Ministry of the Interior.

In early 1990, some 15 dissident groups were said to exist underground in Cuba. In a speech Castro made in January 1990, he called all dissidents "cockroaches" in the service of imperialism, and said the Cuban people would crush them. [15]

Of course, the collapse of communist regimes in the former Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe in 1989, was a great blow to Castro. He must have been even more shocked by the Sandinista defeat in the Nicaraguan elections of February 25, 1990. Even worse, however, was the reduction and then elimination of Soviet economic aid to Cuba. Indeed, Moscow terminated a critical source of Cuban income, Soviet oil, the surplus of which Cuba used to sell for hard currency. Furthermore, Soviet Deputy Premier, Leonid Abalkin, visited Havana in April 1990 and said the Cuban debt to the USSR -- estimated at around 17 billion rubles -- would have to be repaid in dollars beginning in 1995. (The official exchange rate was: $1.60 for 1 ruble, but the real value of the ruble was much lower).

Castro reacted to this situation by imposing draconian austerity measures on his people; above all, he cut electricity and gasoline use to a bare minimum. [16] At the same time, he vowed to fight for the Cuban revolution to the end. He is fighting for it in various ways. He has permitted more private enterprize and has developed tourism. He has also succeeded in attracting western investment. The United States has replied with the Helms Amendment, which imposes sanctions on foreign business which takes over or uses former U.S. property in Cuba. This aroused so much protest from other NATO members that President Clinton suspended its implementation. When a hurricane devastated Cuba in October 1996, the U.S. sent medical supplies and food. However, the Cuban government refused to distribute food in containers bearing anti-communist slogans sent by Cuban exiles in Miami

The question is whether - and if so, in what form and for how long - communism will survive in Cuba.The consensus is that it will last as long as Castro is physically able to rule. After his death, Cuba can be expected to shed communism for some type of mixed economy, presumably with a democratic system but with some features of the socialist welfare state.


II. Nicaragua.

Key Data and Historical Background.

The country borders on Honduras in the north; in the northwest, it is separated from El Salvador by the Gulf of Fonseca, and borders on Costa Rica in the south. It has an area of 57,104 sq. miles and an estimated population of about 4,400,000 (mid-1995), of which about 69% is mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian), 9% black, 5% Indian, and 17% white. 95% of the population is Catholic and the language is Spanish.

The major crops are cotton, coffee, sugar cane, sorghum, rice, and beans, also cattle. The main industries used to be food processing, chemicals, metal products, textiles and clothing. Copper deposits have been mined since the 1960s and there is some lead. The main export used to be coffee, but by 1970 it was overtaken by cotton and wheat; this lasted until the Sandinistas seized power in July 1979. Socialist restructuring and a war economy led to a dreastic reduction of these exports.

The Spaniards settled western Nicaragua beginning in 1524. They ignored the Caribbean coastal area, which was under intermittent British control in the 18th and 19th centuries, after which it was replaced by U.S. interests. The country obtained its independence from Spain in 1821, and from Mexico in 1823. For a short time, it was a member of the Central American Federation, but became a separate state in 1838.

The social-economic structure was based on large estates or plantations owned by wealthy landowners. The labor force was first made up of Indians, then African slaves, and later peasants -- Indians and mixed -- who lived in great poverty. Slavery was abolished here in 1821.

Two political parties fought each other for power through the period 1838-1936 -- Liberals and Conservatives. The main difference between them was the Liberal opposition to church power in the state, and the Conservative support of that power.

In 1855, an American adventurer, William Walker (1824-1860) seized power, re-legalized slavery, made English the official language, and proclaimed himself dictator. However, he was forced out two years later by internal opposition and military threats from the neighboring states. (He was finally court-marshalled and shot in Honduras). In 1893, a liberal, Jose Santos Zelaya (1853-1919), established a dictatorship lasting until the conservative revolt of 1909, which, in turn, led to civil war.

The civil war led to the first direct U.S. intervention in support of the conservatives, because Washington opposed Zelaya's goal of uniting the whole of Central America under his rule. Also, his soldiers shot two Americans who aided the rebels. Therefore, President William H. Taft sent Marines to protect the rebel stronghold at Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast, and helped the rebels seize power in 1910. The Marines were sent in again in 1912, to support the conservative President Adolfo Diaz (1874-1964),who in return for a major loan, agreed to U.S. bankers' control of the Nicaraguan banks and customs, plus 51% of the railroads. (These were normal securities for major bank loans advanced to Central American and other underdeveloped countries at this time). Diaz remained in office until 1916, while the Marines intervened and stayed until 1933. Besides U.S. financial control of the country, half of its exports went to the U.S., which also provided 40% of its imports.

Until 1914, the key U.S. national-strategic interest in Nicaragua involved the possible building of a ship canal in the south, linking the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. After the Panama Canal opened in 1914, the U.S. wanted to make sure that no foreign power would build a canal through Nicaragua. Therefore, according to the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty of August 5,1916, (ratified by U.S. Senate February 18, 1916), the U.S. paid $3 million to maintain its option on the Nicaraguan canal -- which it had no intention of building -- thus excluding other powers. Furthermore, the U.S. obtained a 99 year lease on the Corn Islands, off the east coast of Nicaragua, and the right to build a naval base on the west coast, in the Gulf of Fonseca. This treaty was abrogated by President Richard Nixon in 1970.


1. Background to Revolution.

By the time of its fall in July 1979, the Somoza family had ruled the country for over 40 years, and enjoyed passive or active U.S. support almost to the end. While opposition existed at least since 1961, it did not really become widespread until after the Managua earthquake of 1972. It coalesced to include all sectors of society when the Somozas and their supporters blatantly used U.S. and other foreign aid to line their own pockets.

However, the situation did not come to a head until six years later, with the assassination on January 10, 1978, of Somoza's chief Conservative opponent, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal, the editor of the leading Nicaraguan newspaper and flagship of middle class Conservative opposition, La Prensa. The assassination was generally attributed to the ruling member of the Somoza dynasty, Anastasio (Tachito) Somoza Debayle. He denied it and arrested five men, who had allegedly been paid by a Cuban physician living in Miami. The new Sandinista government reaffirmed the charges, but the physician denied them and the Sandinistas did not ask for his extradition. [17]

The murder of Pedro J. Chamorro Cardenal mobilized most of the middle class against Somoza. Thus, the assassination was the spark that lit the fuse for a general explosion. This in turn led finally to general support for the Sandinista insurgency.

The Sandinistas took their name from a Nicaraguan patriot, Augusto Cesar Sandino (1893-1934). He was a Liberal Party general in the Liberal-Conservative wars in Nicaragua in the 1920s, and was famous for fighting U.S. Marine intervention. When he agreed to hold talks with the President of Nicaragua in 1934, he was arrested on leaving the presidential palace on the orders of Anastasio (Tacho) Somoza Garcia, who supported U.S. interests. Sandino was shot by Somoza's National Guard. Thus Sandino was the perfect symbol of national opposition to both the U.S. and the Somozas. However, he was no communist.

The Sandinista movement came into existence in 1961, with the establishment of the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN), i.e., the Sandinista Front of National Liberation. Its three founders had been student leftists in the 1950s, who then became communists. They were Tomas Borge (the only survivor of the original group, and a member of the Sandinista leadership after July 1979), Silvio Mayorga (killed in 1967), and the original leader, Carlos Fonseca, who had studied in the USSR. He published a book in 1958, titled A Nicaraguan in Moscow, in which he claimed that the Soviet Union had freedom of the press and freedom of religion. He was killed in 1976.

In its Historic Program of 1969, the FSLN leadership outlined a communist political-economic program, but did not identify with communism. The program included the end of U.S. interference -- including the expulsion of the Peace Corps, which was called a "Yankee military mission" -- and the aim of uniting all Central American peoples in one country. [18] Such a union had been the goal of some Central American revolutionaries in 1838, and we may assume the Sandinistas envisaged a union of communist states. The FSLN was not a unified movement until March 1979. It was made up of three groups: one supported a peasant revolution, the second supported an urban revolution, while the third, called "tercerista," or the third way, supported cooperation with all classes in a broad "national front."

The Sandinistas did not have much support in the 1960s and early 1970s, because of the general economic prosperity in Nicaragua. This prosperity resulted from capital inflow from the "Alliance For Progress," launched by President John F. Kennedy to help Latin American countries, but it petered out after his death. Also, while much of the aid given after the disastrous Managua earthquake of 1972 went into the pockets of the Somozas and their supporters, enough of it trickled down to help the people of the country as well.

The Sandinistas carried out a spectacular raid in Managua in December 1974, in which they took hostages, including a member of the Somoza family . Then they gave them up on the following conditions: a ransom of $1 million; the release of 14 imprisoned colleagues; the publication of a communique attacking Somoza; and free air passage to Cuba. This agreement was mediated by the Archbishop of Managua, Miguel Obando y Bravo. Nevertheless, the Sandinistas were almost destroyed by the Somoza National Guard in 1975.

After the bloodbath of 1975, the Tercerista faction emerged as the leader of the FSLN. It appealed for a united front with the middle class - but internally it proclaimed itself to be a Marxist-Leninist party aiming to seize power and then establish "socialism," i.e., Cuban-style communism. This was clearly stated in the FSLN 1977 program. Here it was said that the Sandinistas would use the initial "popular-democratic" phase of the revolution to consolidate their power by organizing the masses in order to move toward socialism. The program also stated that the FSLN cause was "the sacred and historical cause of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Sandino." The FSLN planned to enter into "tactical and temporary" alliances with the Nicaraguan masses, while preserving its "political hegemony." Finally, the FSLN pledged itself to follow the Leninist principles of political discipline, democratic centralism, etc. [19]

As stated earlier, by March 1979, Fidel Castro had persuaded the three Sandinista factions to unite. He also counselled them to work in cooperation with the middle class opponents of the Somoza regime, for their sons were already flocking to FSLN guerrilla units. This advice was based on Castro's own experience, for he came to power by preaching the alliance of all Cubans against Batista and proclaiming liberal goals.

Of course, it was already the policy of the leading FSLN faction, the Terceristas, to broaden its support base by alliance with other parties. In this respect, they had received another great boost in August 1978, when an independent, but allied guerrilla leader from southern Nicaragua, Eden Pastora - very popular and known as "Comandante Cero" (Zero) - led a spectacular attack on the National Palace in Managua. He captured about l,500 prominent politicians and officers and, again with the mediation of Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo, ransomed them for $500,000 and the release of FSLN prisoners, including Tomas Borge. The whole cortege proceeded to the airport through streets lined by cheering citizens, and flew off to Panama. It was clear that the Somozas' days were numbered.

In the last few months before the fall of the Somozas, the FSLN received military supplies from Cuba, Venezuela, Panama, and private sources in the U.S. Also, Sandinista guerrillas were allowed sanctuary in Costa Rica and Honduras. Most of the arms they received were shipped via Costa Rica. At the same time, the U.S. was not sending any arms to the National Guard, despite desperate pleas from the Somozas. In fact, President Carter suspended military aid because of the Somoza government's violations of human rights.

However, Israel supplied some arms to Somoza.

Despite the great popular support enjoyed by the FSLN in the summer of 1979, Humberto Ortega admitted that the key factors in the final campaign were the flow of arms and the possession of a broadcasting system to guide the insurgents. As mentioned earlier, the Sandinistas were helped greatly by the cutoff in U.S. arms supplies to the Somoza National Guard. The Sandinistas were also better organized after the unification of the FSLN in March 1979. [20]


2. U.S. Attempts to Mediate Somoza's Departure and Establish a Democratic Government, 1978-79.

President Jimmy Carter 's administration did not give high priority to Nicaragua. Carter had his hands full with mediating peace between Egypt and Israel, and trying to secure the release of the U.S. personnel imprisoned in their own embassy in Teheran in November 1979, by Ayatollah Khomeini's revolutionary "students". (This was really a militia, which included students). Carter also worked hard to improve relations with Red China. Finally, in late December 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, putting a great strain on U.S.-Soviet relations. Thus, it is not surprising that the memoirs of President Carter, his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, barely mention Nicaragua, while those of his Assistant, later White House Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan, do not mention it at all. However, Tony Lake, then a high level State Deparmtet official, wrote a book on the fall of the Somozas.

In any case, Carter believed the U.S. should follow a policy of non-intervention in Central and Latin America. At first, therefore, the Carter administration's policy toward Nicaragua was based on human rights. In 1979, the President tried to implement a mediated, peaceful transfer of power to a new, moderate, coalition government. Carter tried to achieve this goal through the Organization of American States (OAS), or at least some of its individual members. The aim was to persuade Somoza to enter into meaningful negotiations with the opposition and, by supporting the middle class opposition groups, to prevent the establishment of a communist or communist-dominated government in Nicaragua.

This policy ended in failure for the following reasons: (a) Somoza refused to leave until it was too late; (b) the OAS members did not want to be involved in any U.S.- sponsored policy of negotiating with Somoza; they thought only of getting rid of him and so gave all their support to the Sandinistas; (c) the liberal and conservative opponents of Somoza had the same short-sighted aim; they supported the FSLN because it had the armed force needed to overthrow Somoza and his National Guard; finally, (d) they believed the Sandinista promises of a democratic, coalition government and free elections. Therefore, the FSLN's "Broad Opposition Front" (FA0), led by "The Twelve," (Los Doce), had the support of "The Superior Council of Private Initiative (COSIP), as well as other organizations, and most of the opposition to Somoza. [21]

3. The FSLN in Power.

a. The First Phase, 1979-81.

In June-July 1979, the Sandinistas secured the tactical cooperation of the Liberal and Conservative opponents of Somoza by promising to establish a broadly-based, democratic government, an interim national legislature, and free elections. According to one source, on this basis, a 5 person junta including Daniel Ortega and Violetta. Chamorro was announced in San Jose, Costa Rica on July 11. Three days later, an 18-member Junta or Cabinet was formed there, of which only one member, Tomas Borge, was a known Sandinista. This quieted U.S. fears of a communist takeover, so the special U.S. negotiator in Costa Rica, William P. Bowdler, gave the Junta his blessing on the following day.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Ambassador in Managua, Lawrence Pezzulo, failed to persuade Somoza to negotiate with the Junta. The dictator fled just before the Sandinistas entered the capital together with the Junta on July 19th. They established the Government of National Reconstruction (GRN). The GRN consisted of five members, two of whom were conservatives.

The Carter administration suspected the Sandinistas of planning to seize power, but did not want to intervene. The decision was to continue to treat the Sandinistas as if they really would implement a democratic system. It was hopeed they would become what they pretended to be, i.e., patriots who would establish a democratic government together with other opposition groups. To this end, the Carter administration granted help and credits to Nicaragua on certain conditions. In particular, the new government was not to aid left-wing guerrillas in the neighboring states (Law of October 1979). U.S. aid amounted to some $118 million dollars before it was cut off.

President Carter received a Nicaraguan delegation in the White House on September 24, 1979. It consisted of Daniel Ortega, a known Sandinista leader; Sergio Ramirez, who then posed as a Liberal but later turned out to have been a Sandinista all along; and Alfonso Robelo, a prominent businessman. All were members of the Junta. At this meeting, Carter emphasized the three key U.S. concerns: (a) that Nicaragua follow a policy of nonintervention toward its neighbors, i.e., give no support to the communist guerrillas in El Salvador; (b) maintain a truly nonaligned status, i.e., not align with Cuba and the Soviet bloc; and (c) respect human rights and democracy, i.e., no communism. The delegation accepted these conditions. [22] However, the Sandinistas had no intention of observing them.

The Sandinista leaders immediately proceeded to outmaneuver their Liberal and Conservative allies. This was not surprising, for the secret 1977 FSLN program showed that they never intended to share power; therefore, their promises of democracy were purely tactical. This was, moreover, confirmed by a document drawn up at an internal FSLN conference in late September 1979, which fell into the hands of the U.S. Embassy in Managua. This document stated "we are an organization whose greatest aspiration is to retain revolutionary power"; and ". . . the first task is to educate the people to recognize . . . that the FSLN is the legitimate leader of the revolutionary process." At the same time, the document stated that the FSLN would consolidate its hold over the army, using political commissars to "purify" it, i.e., remove unreliable officers. Finally, FSLN cadres were to organize the masses by developing mass organizations under their control. [23] This document reached Washington when President Carter was grappling with the Iran hostage crisis and facing the question of how to react to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In the meanwhile, however, the Sandinistas did not show their true colors. They followed Castro's advice, i.e., "avoid the early mistakes we made in Cuba: the political rejection by the West, premature frontal attacks on the bourgeoisie, economic isolation." [24] Indeed, the Sandinistas wanted to use U.S. money for their secret aims. As Bayardo Arce, put it: "Our strategic allies tell us not to declare ourselves Marxist-Leninist (so that Nicaragua will be) the first to experience of building Socialism with dollars." [25]

The Sandinistas also refrained from openly aiding the Salvadoran guerrillas, who, however, had an office in Managua. Therefore, Carter certified that no aid was going to Salvador in order for Congress to pass the bill on aid to Nicaragua in October 1980. According to this law, U.S. aid was conditional on Nicaragua's observance of its promise not to aid the guerrillas in El Salvador. However, in January 1981, the FSLN decided to support what was expected to be the final offensive by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front - FMLN - in El Salvador. This was discovered by the U.S. government. Thus, it was not President Ronald Reagan, but President Jimmy Carter, who suspended U.S. aid to Nicaragua in his last days in office. As he later explained to Sandinista leaders, the law left him no other option. [26]

By this time, the Liberal and Conservative allies of the Sandinistas had become disillusioned. The FSLN had not only nationalized a great deal of private property, but also banking and foreign trade. At the same time, it had set up mass organizations on the Cuban model; demonstrated its control of the army and government; and showed no intention of holding free elections any time soon. Finally, the FSLN greatly expanded the army and organized an armed militia. Thousands of Cubans came to organize the army, police, education and health services. Delegations came from the Palestine Liberation Front and from Qaddafi's Libya. Finally, various experts came from Soviet Bloc countries, especially Bulgaria, to "advise" the Sandinistas on how to set up a "socialist" system.

In April 1980, after the Sandinistas had imposed their control on the State Council and refused to set a date for elections, Alfonso Robelo and Violeta Chamorro (Pedro Joaquin's widow and owner of La Prensa) resigned from the Junta. Four months later, on August 23, 1980, Humberto Ortega publicly declared that elections were "a counter-revolutionary threat," because their aim was to bring back to power the "exploiters and oppressors." Later, on October 15, he stated that elections would be held in 1985, but there was to be no political campaigning until 1984. He claimed the people had first to be "prepared for democracy," and that those elected to the legislature would be expected to carry out the FLSN program. Ortega also attacked U.S. elections, calling them a "sham." Thus, it was clear that the FSLN was closely following Castro's model, while accepting his advice to try and avert a direct conflict with the United States, which it saw as the greatest threat to the revolution. (27)

b. The Contras and the Reagan Administration's Policy toward Nicaragua.

Inside Nicaragua, the first to turn against the Sandinistas were the Misquito Indians on the Atlantic coast, who marched in protest against the government in July 1980. The next to protest was Jorge Salazar, a private farmer and business leader. Available evidence points to his deliberate entrapment, for he was contacted by an allegedly anti-Sandinista officer, who offered him arms. Salazar was assassinated by Security agents in mid-November 1980. [28]

Outside the country, former National Guardsmen began to organize military units in Honduras and obtained financial aid from Argentina. However, efforts to unite them with the group led by Jose Francisco Cardenal (a building contractor and former president of the Chamber of Construction), did not work out, so Cardenal and other civilian supporters established the Nicaraguan Democratic Union or UDN. Their motto was "Without Communism and without Somocism," and they organized military units. The UDN also obtained financial aid from Argentina.

The Reagan administration did not decide to support the Contras before trying to obtain a diplomatic solution, as claimed, for example, by Democratic Senator Richard Gephart in a televised campaign meeting on November 24, 1987. In fact, President Reagan sent the new Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Thomas O. Enders, to Managua in August 1981. Enders told the Sandinista leaders that the U.S. would resume economic assistance if they did the following: (1) withdrew from arms trafficking to the guerrillas in El Salvador; (2) slowed or ceased their own military buildup; (3) took steps to comply with their promises to allow political and economic pluralism; and (4) tempered their association with Cuba and the Soviet bloc. [29]

The Sandinistas found these demands hard to swallow. They did not reject them, but played for time. As it happened, it was also in August that Nicaraguan opponents of the FSLN met with some Argentinian officers in Guatemala and signed an assistance agreement. At the same time, they established the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, or FDN. It seems that shortly thereafter President Reagan approved a CIA plan for covert action against the Sandinistas. However that may be, the U.S. government was still interested in a diplomatic solution because Secretary of State Alexander Haig handed a proposal on Nicaragua to the Mexican Secretary of State Jorge Castaneda on March 14, 1982, to pass on to the Sandinistas.

A few hours later, however, Contra saboteurs blew up two bridges over rivers near the Honduran border. This was the first "contra" action of any significance. (The word "contra" means "against," and was coined by the Sandinistas for their active opponents). The Sandinistas declared a "state of emergency," which included censorship of the only free newspaper in Nicaragua, La Prensa. Nevertheless, the new U.S. Ambassador in Managua, Anthony C. E. Qainton, continued the negotiations with the FSLN begun in August by Enders.

As the war continued into 1982, Congress became worried by the Contra declaration that their aim was to overthrow the Sandinista regime. Therefore, in December of that year, it passed the Boland Amendment, named after Rep. Edward Boland, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who proposed it. This amendment prohibited the use of U.S. funds for overthrowing the Sandinistas. The House passed the amendment by a vote of 411 to 1. This vote reflected two key factors:

1. Public opposition to any, even indirect, U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. Some claimed that it would prove another Vietnam; others claimed that the FSLN was not communist because it had not imposed a communist system; yet others saw it as a profoundly Christian regime. Some claimed that President Reagan was a rabid anti-communist, who failed to see that the FSLN had the right to be communist if it wanted to, and that, in any case, Nicaragua, with its population of some 3 million could not pose any threat to the U.S.

2. The visible distaste of other Latin American states for U.S. support of the Contras, even though their governments were also disillusioned with the Sandinistas and wished to prevent the spread of this type of revolution to neighboring states.

Nevertheless, the significance and weight of opposition to the Reagan administration's support of the Contras was not as clear cut in the U.S. as it might seem. For example, in April 1986, after three years of extensive media coverage and Presidential speeches, an opinion poll showed that only 38% of the American people knew which side the administration was supporting. Furthermore, this knowledgeable 38% divided along party lines, i.e., 67% of polled Republicans supported intervention, while 64% of the polled Democrats opposed it. [30] We should add here that, according to a survey of geographic knowledge among U.S. high school students in 1988, most of them could not locate the U.S. on a map of the world, let alone Nicaragua, while other surveys indicated that most U.S. citizens did not know that Mexico is a neighbor of the U.S. (This state of ignorance continues because, unlike the rest of the world, geography is not taught in U.S. public schools).

Therefore, we should not evaluate the opposition to U.S. support of the Contras as dictated by the belief that the Sandinistas were non-communist national patriots, while the Contras were bloodthirsty fascists, or by the revelations about the CIA Iran-Gate affair. Opposition to U.S. involvement seems to have been motivated mainly by the traditional leaning of educated U.S. public opinion to conciliation and non-intervention. This was strengthened by the general desire to avoid another "Vietnam."

As for the dislike of U.S. policy by the Organization of American States (OAS), this stemmed from the view that Latin Americans should take care of their own affairs. However, these states also showed that they were unwilling to take any action of their own except in the diplomatic sphere.


In 1983, the guerrilla war heated up in El Salvador, where the U.S. administration was trying to safeguard the existence of the government of President Jose Napoleon Duarte. (1925-1990). He had to do battle not only against the communist-led guerrillas, but also against right-wing extremists in the army, who cooperated with right-wing political parties. Also, Sandinista military units were launching attacks on the Contra camps in Honduras. Therefore, President Reagan declared in April that Nicaragua was threatening Honduras and that the security of all of Central America was at stake. He then proceeded to reduce the Nicaraguan sugar quota imported into the U.S. It was worth about $18 million.

The CIA-sponsored mining of Nicaraguan harbors in 1984 created a furor both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. It was condemned by the World Court of International Justice, which also condemned Nicaraguan misdeeds. The U.S. government refused to recognize the Court's competence in a sphere of American vital interests, i.e., Central America. We should also note U.S. military involvement in Honduras and Costa Rica. Military bases were established in Honduras and an economic embargo was declared against Nicaragua in 1985.

Meanwhile, the leaders of some Latin American countries decided to seek a regional solution. The foreign ministers of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama, met on the Panamanian island of Contadora in January 1983. This meeting led to negotiations which resulted in the Contadora Plan put forward in mid-1984. This plan proposed the democratization of Central American states, reductions in armaments, and the departure of all foreign military advisers, but it did not include any enforcing mechanism.

The plan failed , and not only because of opposition from the Reagan administration. In fact, after a year's negotiation to remove U.S. objections and satisfy the concerns of four Central American governments, the Sandinistas first accepted the draft treaty -- which the U.S. rejected -- and then proceeded to reject it themselves in 1985. They justified their refusal by saying that since the U.S. supported the Contras, the dispute was really between the U.S. and Nicaragua, and not between Central American nations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress had voted in October 1984 to terminate all aid to the Contras, but promised to reconsider the matter in February 1985. This may have led the Sandinistas to agree to hold elections in November 1984, i.e., a few months before they were to have been held according to the Sandinista timetable announced in 1980.

It is possible that the key opposition leader, Arturo Cruz, was under U.S. pressure to withdraw his candidacy for the Presidency. However, he might well have made the decision himself because he was harassed when he did try to campaign, and feared for his life. In any case, conditions for free elections were lacking. The state of emergency remained in effect; except for the period of the campaign, and La Prensa was subject to censorship. Organized mobs (turbas) were used to break up opposition meetings; the CDs (Defense Committees) instructed people how to vote; and Sandinista leaders openly said that those who voted against the FSLN would be branded as "counter-revolutionaries." Finally, the FSLN lowered the voting age from 18 to 16, thus ensuring a large number of votes for itself from the very young, who were its most enthusiastic supporters. In these circumstances, it was clear that the elections were not free, and thus the opposition did not have a chance. Therefore, it can be argued that Arturo Cruz was justified in withdrawing from a race in which he could not have won a respectable number of votes, and in which his life was at risk.. [31]

The election results, i.e., a majority of 67% for the Sandinistas, with 29% for the right wing opposition and insignificant percentages for the rest, were generally presented by U.S. media and by most Democrats as a popular vote of confidence in the FSLN. The Republicans pointed out the negative factors, especially the harassment of the opposition. In any case, real power lay not with the legislature, where the opposition now had 30% of the seats, but with the Sandinista "Comandantes" (Commanders). [32]

Then, came the discovery of the CIA manual for the Contras, which was interpreted as condoning the assassination of Sandinista local leaders. There was great outrage at this in the U.S. media. At the same time, however, Sandinista misdeeds, which included the imprisonment of several thousand political opponents; brutal persecution of the Misquito Indians (thousands fled to Honduras); and the forced resettlement of thousands of peasants friendly to the Contras, did not get much the media attention.

In the summer of 1987, there were Congressional hearings of government officials implicated in the Iran-Contra Affair, notably of former National Security Adviser, Admiral John Poindexter and Colonel Oliver North, of the National Security Council. Later, North's superior, Robert McFarlane, was also investigated, and after his tenure of office was over, former President Reagan testified in a special interview. The Reagan Administration was shown to have been raising and supplying funds to the Contras. Democrats saw this as a violation of the Boland Amendment, while Republicans argued that it was not, since the funds involved were private.

Meanwhile, the Central American governments continued their efforts to develop a regional peace plan. In February 1987, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica came forward with a variation of the Contadora Plan. This was reworked and presented on August 7th as the Guatemala Plan, because it was signed in Guatemala on August 7th by the governments of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Before describing this plan, we should note that it was put forward independently of a new U.S. peace plan proposed two days earlier by Speaker of the House, James Wright, (D. Tex), and approved by President Reagan. This plan drew heavily on the earlier Arias plan, but provided for a negotiated rather than a declared cease-fire, which was to be verified by the OAS, or another international group. The Sandinistas would not have to negotiate directly with the rebels (which they had refused to do), but rather through representatives acceptable to them. These and other negotiations were to be completed by September 30. After the cease-fire agreement was signed, the Contras were to withdraw and the U.S. would cease supporting them, while also ceasing its military activities in Honduras. At the same time, Soviet-bloc military aid to the Sandinistas would be terminated. Finally, they would have to rescind the state of emergency; restore civil rights, set a firm date for new elections; grant amnesty to the Contras, and guarantee their right to participate in Nicaraguan politics.

The Wright Plan proposed a rather short deadline for the cease-fire, i.e., September 30, 1987. Therefore, although Wright was not only a Democrat, but also the Speaker of the House, the plan was immediately decried by many Democrats as a Reagan ploy to secure money for the Contras from Congress, on the assumption that no agreement was possible. [33] However, the Wright Plan was upstaged by the Guatemala Plan, which had been signed without U.S. consultation or participation. This new plan involved an amnesty, a cease-fire, dialogues between the governments of Nicaragua and El Salvador on the one hand, and the rebels on the other, i.e., the communists in El Salvador and the Contras in Nicaragua. Support for all rebels would end, and a "monitoring committee" was to help implement the agreement. Furthermore, unlike the earlier Contadora Plan, the new plan gave priority to the democratization of political life, i.e., the establishment of media freedom, freedom of association, public demonstrations, and freedom to organize political parties. There was also a timetable for the election of a Central American Parliament, and for Nicaraguan presidential elections, which were to be held in 1990 at the earliest. [34] While President Reagan rejected the Guatemala Plan in October 1987 and attached some stiff conditions, the Sandinistas also rejected it. They showed some interest in it only after learning the Reagan conditions (mainly concerning enforcement).

An FSLN delegation, headed by Daniel Ortega visited the U.S. in October, but insisted they would negotiate only with the U.S. government, not with the Contras. The Speaker of the House, James Wright, met with Ortega and and talks were helped perhaps by the latter's acceptance of Archbishop Obando y Bravo's mediation with the Contras. However, no agreement emerged from the negotiations which then took place in the Dominican Republic. It seems that the Sandinistas entered the negotiations with the goal of using whatever support they could gain from Congress and U.S. public opinion in order to secure the surrender of the Contras (amnesty). It was probably for the same reason that Ortega agreed to the eventual withdrawal of Soviet and Cuban advisers from Nicaragua, but only if the Contras accepted an amnesty, i.e., ceased to fight. Sympathizers of the Sandinistas claimed they were sincere in wanting peace, while critics saw the whole matter as an exercise in public relations, i.e., an attempt to prevent Congressional approval of more funds for the Contras. Still, the Sandinistas signed the Esquipulas II agreement in August 1987, and began to allow some democratization in Nicaragua. Furthermore, on March 23, 1988, they signed a temporary cease-fire agreement with the Nicaraguan Resistance (Contras) at Sapoa. This agreement was later extended.

However, the democratization process broke down in the summer of 1988. On July 10th, the government arrested 38 critics, who had demonstrated against it, closed down La Prensa, silenced the Catholic radio station, and confiscated the privately-owned San Antonio Sugar Mill. Finally, they expelled the U.S. ambassador and eight other U.S. diplomats on the charge that they had organized anti-government demonstration.

What happened? It seems the Sandinistas signed the cease-fire and allowed some democratization because they had virtually won the war. After all, in February 1988, the U.S. Congress voted against giving any additional support to the Contras. In March, the Sandinistas destroyed the main Contra base in Honduras. (But the Contras still had a signifia\cant base in Nicaragua). Both of these factors led to the cease-fire of March 23, 1988.

Meanwhile, the Sandinistas took measures to secure more popular support. First, they modified their agrarian policy by moving away from collectivization, i.e., they redistributed land to private farmers and small cooperatives. Second, they moved to pacify the Misquito Indians on the Atlantic coast by granting the region autonomy, with more participation in local government by the Indians.

However, these measures failed to counterbalance the severe economic crisis, which had already led to great unrest and a mass flight of peasants to the U.S. While the war was the primary cause of the crisis, it was aggravated significantly by mismanagement and overly ambitious, costly, social programs. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1985 was 37% below that of 1975, and fell even further by 1988. The urban workers suffered greatly, for their average salary in terms of purchasing power fell by 23% in 1985, by 63% in 1986, and by 50% in 1988. Finally, exports fell from $600 million worth of goods a year in 1978, to $200 million in 1987, and even less in 1988.

The most critical economic problem was hyperinflation. resulting from giant public expenditures; it reached 747% in 1986, 1,800% in 1987, and about 10,000% in 1988. The Soviet bloc's annual aid of $600 million was not enough to cure the economy, and in any case, it was clear from Gorbachev's policies that more aid could not be expected from this quarter. The Sandinistas' response to this situation was an austerity program, but this only made things worse. Prices rose even higher and many goods were only available at black market prices, well beyond the average citizen's pocket book.

At the same time, the political opposition did not believe the Sandinistas would ever allow real democracy. Indeed, in his annual May day speech in 1988, President Ortega said the Sandinista Front would never relinquish its control over the army and the police. Violeta Chamorro, owner of La Prensa, testified before the peace plan verification committee in 1987 that the paper -- and by extension, Nicaragua -- was "living under a precarious liberty, which the Sandinistas see themselves obliged to extend from time to time and which they can terminate at any moment." The same opinion was expressed by Leo Hernandez, head of the only independent Human Rights Commission in Nicaragua. [35]

In February 1989, President Ortega met in El Salvador with four of his Central American counterparts, i.e., the presidents of the host country, of Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica. These four agreed to remove 11,000 U.S.- backed Contras from their base camps in Honduras. In return, Ortega promised democratic reforms for the umpteenth time. What is most important - the Sandinistas also agreed to hold free elections, no later than February 25, 1990. [36] It is possible that, like the Polish Communists, he believed that the Sandinistas had both the money and the organization to win such elections.

President Ortega made some efforts to delay the elections. Thus, on November 1, 1989, he ended the 19 month cease-fire with the Contras. However, after the collapse of communism in Poland in June and the establishment of the first majority non-communist government there in mid-September, the communist regimes in Bulgaria, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania crumbled in November-December, along with the Berlin Wall.

This may have influenced Ortega in trying to delay elections. It is also possible that President Bush and Gorbachev agreed at the Malta meeting, in early December, that the Nicaraguan elections would take place as scheduled.

Meanwhile, in late November 1989, there was an airplane accident in El Salvador, which revealed that two Nicaraguan planes had been transporting arms to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. Shortly thereafter, the five Central American Presidents demanded the demobilization of the guerrillas in El Salvador and the disbanding of the Contras in Nicaragua.

It seems likely that the Sandinista leadership was pressured by Gorbachev -- or/and Castro (?) -- to carry out the free elections it had agreed to in February 1989. At the same time, as mentioned earlier, the Sandinistas may have believed that they would either win, or at least hold their own in a new government. Whatever the case may be, on February 25, 1990, the United National Opposition (UNO), led by Violetta Chamoro, defeated the Sandinistas by a comfortable margin. She won 55.2% of the presidential vote, while Daniel Ortega received 40.8%. [37].

After their defeat, the Sandinistas did all they could to make things as difficult as possible for the Chamorro government. They used the time between the elections and the installation of the new government in May, to give away large amounts of government property and declared immunity for all unprosecuted crimes committed in 1979-90. Later, they also organized demonstrations and sit-ins by government workers to protest rising prices and wage cuts.

Violeta Chamorro, for her part, tried to neutralize the Sandinistas by leaving the army under the leadership of Daniel's brother, Umberto Ortega, a move that was very unpopular among her own supporters. But the major problem was, and still is, the ruined Nicaraguan economy, which requires significant foreign capital investment and large scale restructuring, i.e., privatization.

In spring 1991, the Sandinistas still wielded considerable power through their control of the army, security forces, and the more aggressive labor unions. By the end of 1992, a key problem was property rights, i.e., who owned what. Landowners were returning to claim their estates, and running into stiff opposition from peasant farmers. Returning Nicaraguan capitalists were often fearful of losing any investments they might make, while the masses of the people were struggling to survive. (Shirley Christian, "This Land Your Land," New York Times Magazine, November 29, 1992, pp. 32 ff). At the same time, sporadic fighting went on between former Contras and former Sandinistas

In the 1994 edition of this book, I wrote: "In many respects, the problems of Nicaragua are very similar to those facing the new democracies of Eastern Europe today. Likewise, we may well see the return to power of some former communist leaders who promise the people the return of at least some of the welfare state benefits they once enjoyed. Above all, there must be a lasting solution of the land question, for the land is the source of life for most Nicaraguans." (p. 604). Indeed, Humberto Ortega re-emerged as a democratic leader but lost the presidential election of October 20, 1996 to the hand-picked liberal leader, Arnoldo Aleman - while the Sandinistas challenge the legality of the election.

At the same time, the main problem continues to be the question of who owns the land. According to Gerardo Salinas, president of Nicaragua's High Council for Private Enterprise: " Our largest single problem remains property. If our economy is to grow sufficiently to meet our needs, we will require foreign investment. But for that we need to secure property rights." (Howard LaFranchi, "Nicaraguans in a Turf Fight Over Just Who Owns the Land," Christian Science Monitor, October 19, 1996, p. 6). This problem bedevils economic recovery in the post-Communist countries in Eastern Europe as well as Russia and other former Soviet republics.


III. Grenada.

Grenada is a tiny Caribbean island, the southern member of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, with a population of about 100,000. (1995) It was discovered by Columbus in 1498 and had been a British colony for 200 years until it was granted independence in 1974. Its main source of income was, and is, the tourist trade.

There was a great deal of indignation among U.S. Democrats when President Reagan sent the Marines to Grenada on October 23, 1983. His action was seen as a repeat performance of traditional U.S. intervention in the Caribbean, used this time to prevent the development of an independent socialist state. However, the documents found in storage at the Grenada airport show that the island was well on the way to becoming a communist state and an outpost of the Soviet Union in this part of the world. To understand how this happened, a brief background is necessary.

After Grenada was granted independence by Great Britain in February 1974, the leftist New Jewel Movement (NJM) allied itself with the conservative Grenadian National Party and won the elections. But the NJM took over power by itself on March 13, 1979. Its leader, Maurice Bishop, was a good friend of Fidel Castro. It was not surprising, therefore, that the state sector of the economy grew very quickly, although a small private sector was allowed to exist.

Political repression affected the whole population. Soviet aid poured in via Cuba, and a Soviet admiral was appointed ambassador, thus indicating Soviet interest in a naval and air base. The airport that was being built by Cubans could have served not only as a tourist facility, but as a military one as well. Furthermore, Grenadian officers were being sent for training to the USSR and there is evidence the Soviets were planning to build a satellite station on the island. Indeed, the Soviet press called Grenada "a People's Democracy" - the term used for its East European satellites in the early post-war period, and the term it used for Nicaragua. In Soviet terminology a "People's Democracy" meant a country with a mixed economy, that is, a transitional stage to Soviet style socialism.

But there was a radical faction in the NJM, which was dissatisfied with what it considered slow progress toward socialism. This faction was led by Bernard Coard, who was an outspoken communist and wanted a Soviet-style system for Grenada. In September 1983, Coard's faction attacked Bishop for lack of radicalism. On October 19th, they arrested Bishop, but a crowd of some 10,000 people liberated him from prison and took him to Fort Ruppert for safety. Coard then led an attack on the fort, using Soviet-supplied armored personnel carriers. Bishop apparently told the people not to resist, so Coard's forces took the fort and shot Bishop along with his supporters. We do not know whether the Soviets supported Coard against Bishop, but we do know they seemed cool toward the latter, while he had the support of Castro. Indeed, Castro sent a letter to Coard pleading for Bishop's life, but to no avail.

When U.S. Marines landed in Grenada, they were enthusiastically welcomed by the population, but Castro ordered his Cuban construction workers at the airport to "fight to the death." (Perhaps he knew of secret documents stored at the airport?) However, they put up only a token resistance, were taken prisoner, and then flown back to Havana. Castro made the best of a bad situation by welcoming them as "heroes." Later, when he decided they had put up too little resistance, he demoted the commander.

President Reagan justified the action to the American people by the need to ensure the safety of American students at the Grenada medical school. There was, indeed, a mini civil war on the island, so the President may have feared they would be taken hostage by Coard's forces and used to obtain concessions from the U.S. But it is clear that the administration's real objective was to eliminate a potential Soviet base in the Caribbean. We should also note that the U.S. action had the full support of the governments of the neighboring islands, which have no armed forces and did not want to have a Soviet satellite, armed to the teeth, on their doorstep. [38]


IV. Restless Countries: El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

(1) El Salvador.

El Salvador is about the size of Massachusetts (8,236 sq. miles), with an estimated population of some 5,900,000 (1993) mostly of mixed Spanish-Indian descent, with a 72% literacy rate. The people are Catholic and the language is Spanish. The economy is based on coffee, which is mostly exported to the U.S. About 2% of the population ("the Fourteen Families") controlled much of the fertile soil and over half of all the land until the agrarian reforms of 1979-80..

The Spaniards conquered the country in 1525. It declared its independence from Spain in Sept. 1821, and was part of a federation of Central American states in 1838. Its history was then marked by revolutions and by wars with other republics in the region.

The civil war in El Salvador has been mentioned earlier in connection with Sandinista aid to the guerrillas. Castro was also very active there, and, just as with the FSLN in Nicaragua in 1978-79, so he pressed the various Salvadoran guerrilla factions to unite in the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or FMLN. The unification took place in 1979-80.

Farabundo Marti was a key communist leader in the 1920s and early 1930s. In January 1932, the Salvadoran Communist Party leadership tried to organize a revolt in the army. The revolt was crushed by the dictator, General Maximiliano Hernandez Martinez, who also crushed the peasant revolt that followed, drowning it in blood; some 30,000 peasants were killed. Marti and other captured communist leaders were shot.

The problems of El Salvador were, and are the same as in most Central American countries: a backward economy and masses of landless, mostly Indian peasants. Here we should note that increasingly violent clashes broke out between right-wingers and left-wingers in the 1970s. On October 15, 1979, a junta deposed the President, Gen. Carlos Humberto Romero, On December 4, 1980, four American nuns and a lay worker were ambushed and killed, clearly by soldiers. They had been warned not to work among the poor peasants, many of whom were known to support the FMLN. President Carter suspended all aid to the country pending an investigation.

In these circumstances, Napoleon Duarte, a Christian Democrat and a former victim of rightist regimes, became head of the government. He passed laws to expropriate large landowners and was turned out of office. However, he was elected President in 1984. The U.S. supported Duarte, but he had to balance between the extreme right-wing parties, who opposed reform, and the extreme left, i.e., the FMLN; therefore, his progress was slow. He had to step aside because of cancer (of which he died). An election was held in March 1989, and Alfredo Cristiani, a representative of the new Salvadoran middle class and leader of the Nationalist Republican Alliance Party [ARENA], was elected President.

In late February 1989, Salvadoran guerrilla leaders met in Mexico with the leaders of established Salvadoran political parties, to discuss peace. However, this meeting was primarily a public relations exercise by both sides, designed to influence the U.S. Congress and public opinion. In fact, President Bush pressured the established leaders to attend, but the left-wingers offered unacceptable terms. Thus, they offered to lay down their guns in return for a four-month postponement of the presidential elections scheduled for March 19th, an 80% reduction of the 56,000 man army, and the prosecution of politicians and army officers involved in human rights abuses, i.e., murder, torture, and the disappearance of political opponents.

Even Guillermo Ungo, the presidential candidate allied with the rebels, acknowledged that their proposal was offered without any hope of acceptance; he called it the climax of a political ping-pong game and a political dance. No wonder it was rejected by the ruling Christian Democrats as well as by the ARENA party. Also, the Salvadoran army showed captured guerrilla videotapes, claiming they proved the guerrillas planned a nationwide offensive in July and August 1989. [39]

The rebel offensive came, not in July-August, but on November 19, 1989, and not in the countryside, but on the outskirts of the capital, San Salvador, where it was least expected. The guerrillas occupied the working class district of Santa Marta, expecting the army would not shell it. However, the army had no such scruples and the rebels were defeated. They also lost whatever support they had formerly enjoyed among the workers of the capital, whose houses were destroyed in the fighting. Captured documents, as well as radio speeches, show the rebel leaders -- who belonged to the few committed Marxists left in the world -- deluded themselves that they would spark a popular rebellion against the government. They also deluded themselves that communism (which they called socialism) was winning all over the world, when, in fact, it was collapsing. There is no evidence that they acted with Soviet support. Finally, they lacked the crucial support of the Salvadoran middle class. These people, for their part, had proved very susceptible to the "Poland factor," i.e., the victory of Polish Solidarity in the elections of June 4, 1989, which led to the establishment of the first non-communist government in September that year (see ch. 8). As for the FMLN, it seems that its failed offensive was a desperate attempt to win leverage in forthcoming peace talks with the government.

However, the defeat of the FMLN did not mean that democracy was the victor in the struggle in El Salvador. Unfortunately, President Cristiani did not control the army, which was financed by the U.S. (with bipartisan support in Congress), mainly as a counter to Sandinista support for the FMLN. Many army officers were as rabid in their right-wing fanaticism, as were the rebels in the their left-wing fanaticism. There were long lists of atrocities on both sides.

It is clear that right-wing officers were involved in the brutal murder on November 16, 1989, of six Jesuit priests, who taught at the university in San Salvador. To understand this atrocity, we should bear in mind that the priests had been sympathetic to the suffering of the people and some were in touch with guerrilla leaders. In fact, we may assume that like many clergy in Central and South America, they had been influenced by the "Liberation Theology," i.e., the teaching that the church must always be on the side of the poor. It is likely that they were in contact with the guerrilla movement. (Pope John Paul II teaches that the church must always help the poor, but he forbids churchmen and nuns to involve themselves in politics).

However, at least one of the murdered priests, Father Ellacuria, had published an article in August-September 1989, giving guarded praise to President Cristiani, though he deplored ARENA's market economics, which he saw as making the poor ever poorer. In the right circumstances, Ellacuria might have played the role of an intermediary between the guerrillas and the government. As it was, his death and that of the other five priests, envenomed an already tragic situation. [40]

In 1991 a U.N. sponsored peace agreement was signed by the government and the FMLN. In 1992, the ageement was ratified and the FMLN became a political party. As in most other Central American countries, we may assume that only large infusions of capital and the restructuring of the economy, along with necessary social reforms, will bring about a better life for the people. The end of the Cold War should facilitate the achievement of this goal, though the process is bound to be slow.

(2) Honduras.

This country is about the size of Louisiana (43,282 sq. m.) with a population of about 5 million, 90% of whom are Mesitzos ( racially mixed) plus Indians. and at least 60% illiterate. The religion is Catholic and language is Spanish. Its economy depends on banana and coffee exports, mostly to the U.S.

Columbus discovered the country in 1502. It was ruled by Spain until it declared its independence in 1821, after which it was a member of the Central American federation and became independent in 1838..

Honduras is the original "banana republic," for the Standard Fruit Company and United Fruit have had a predominant influence there since 1900. U.S. Marines intervened in 1903 and 1923. Significant revolutions were put down by force in 1931, 1932, and 1937. In July 1969, El Salvador invaded Honduras because the latter's landowners had deported thousands of Salvadoran peasants. The Organization of American States forced El Salvador to withdraw.

The U.S. professionalized the army and General Oswaldo Lopez seized power in 1972. He tried to deflect unrest by passing labor laws, imposing minimum wages, and controls on foreign-owned mining. He even proposed a major land reform program. However, these efforts were cut short by right-wing landowners and business groups. When the U.S. showed little interest in helping the country after the disastrous hurricane of September 1974, these groups attacked Lopez and overthrew him in 1975. They then proceeded to check land reform. A conservative army group seized power under General Policarpo Paz Garcia in August 1978.

The Sandinista seizure of power in Nicaragua in summer 1979 led to increasing U.S. military aid for Honduras and to the stationing of U.S. military advisers in the country. As mentioned above, the Nicaraguan Contras had base camps in Honduras. Washington supported reforms in the country, but its strategic position and need for support against the Sandinistas made the U.S. chary of exerting strong pressure in this direction. Despite a new constitution and elections in November 1981 and November 1985, which returned Liberal Presidents (Roberto Suazo Cordova and then Jose Azcona Hoyos), the army continued to rule through the Superior Council of the Armed Forces.

Furthermore, the General Domestic Product declined and 25% of the work force was unemployed as of 1989/90. This was the result of a decline in export revenues in 1987, reflecting the fall of coffee and sugar prices. The budget deficit that year stood at $487 million. A minimum of economic stability was maintained thereafter thanks to U.S. aid. Apart from military aid, loans to the civil government averaged about $80 million a year. However, due to a further fall of prices for agricultural products in 1988, the government talked of suspending payment on its foreign debt, to which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) responded by pressing for austerity measures and new taxes. The Azcona government took a dim view of these suggestions; instead, it imposed a stiff tax on luxury imports and a 5% tax on common consumer items.

Human rights' abuses were frequent, though the U.S. was, and is, pressing for their observance. Military officers have been engaged in drug trafficking, although there is an anti-drug element in the officer corps. One of the most prominent traffickers, Col. Rigoberto Regalado Lara, half-brother of the armed forces chief and former ambassador to Panama, was arrested at Miami International Airport in May 1988 with 26 lbs of cocaine in his luggage worth about $2 million. He was prosecuted and pleaded guilty. The most sensational drug case involved Juan Ramon Matta Ballestros, who was kidnapped on April 5, 1988, by special forces and flown to the Dominican Republic. There, he was seized by U.S. narcotics agents and taken to the U.S. This sparked riots and an attack on the U.S. embassy two days later. The office building two blocks away was burned down before the police arrived, two hours late. Later, bombs exploded in places frequented by U.S military personnel, wounding a total of six. The radical Marxist group calling itself the "Cinchoneros People's Liberation Movement," claimed responsibility. [41].

The civil war finally wound down in Honduras in 1992-93, but much financial aid is needed to improve the country's economy.

(3) Guatemala.

This country is about the size of Kentucky, with an area of 42,031 miles. It has a population of about 9 million, the largest in Central America. About 50% of are Indians, and 60% are illiterate. 42% of the population is made up of Mestizos, i.e. of mixed Spanish-Indian descent. Most people are Catholic, but about 20% are Protestant. The official language is Spanish, but about 40% speak Indian languages (there are 18).The economy depends on coffee, banana, and cotton exports, mostly to the U.S.

The Spanish conquest took place in 1524. The country became an independent republic in 1839. Government was mostly by military dictators who, until the 1950s, ruled with the support of conservative officers, landowners, and the church. As in most Central American countries, the middle class became much more powerful from the 1950s onward.

General Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was unusuall in leading a government in the early 1950s, which had a radical reform program. His main achievement was the land reform law of 1952. However, communists were in control of implementing land reform, which worried both the landowners and the U.S. Furthermore, in 1953, Arbenz expropriated some land held by the United Fruit Company, which then launched a massive lobbying campaign in Congress for U.S. intervention. In 1954, Arbenz imported some Soviet arms. Finally, he did not give in to right-wing and U.S. pressure to drop communist ministers from his government.

The climate of the Cold War did the rest. The CIA gave its support to Arbenz's opponents and trained their troops in Honduras. Their commander was Col. Carlos Castillo Armas and they invaded Guatemala on June 18, 1954. Arbenz might have had a chance if he had either created a worker-peasant militia or cultivated army support. As it was, Castillo Armas won and ruled the country in the old style, until he was gunned down by a member of his own presidential guard in 1957.

Like most of Central America, the country has experienced a drawn-out economic crisis. This began with the drop in coffee and sugar prices in the late 1970s. It is true that oil drilling began on a big scale in the early 1980s and there is some income from tungsten and nickel mines. But these industrial developments drove most of the local population, which was mostly Indian, off the land, thus provoking guerrilla resistance. A terrible earthquake shook the country in 1976. Guerrilla activities revived on a large scale in 1978, and met with brutal repression, as did attempts to form unions and the organization of labor strikes in the cities.

The Carter administration condemned President Lucas Garcia's death squads after 1977. In reply, the Guatemalan government rejected U.S. aid on the pretext that Washington was interfering in Guatemala's internal affairs. The Guatemalan establishment had the support of Mexico. The latter also gave support to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, but did not want any revolution in neighboring Guatemala. The situation in the country seems to be improving. In December 1996, the guerrillas signed an agreement with the government on the lines of the Arias Plan of 1987 (see Nicaragua)..


Concluding Remarks.

Economic backwardness, social injustice, and political repression in Central America and the Caribbean, have been the basic ingredients of revolution in the region.The U.S., which had predominant influence in most of the area, would have preferred democracy but generally supported the status quo as the best safeguard for U.S. strategic and economic interests. The combination of these factors produced socially radical national revolutions and revolutionary movements, which were simultaneously anti-American. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, the first such revolution, which served as a model for many others, began in a country that is geographically part of North America, i.e., Mexico. The Mexican revolution began in 1910, and though the fighting ended in 1920, it did not play itself out until 1940.

However, neither Castro's brand of communism in Cuba, nor Sandinista policies in Nicaragua could solve the basic economic problems facing the countries of this region. It is true that the poorest segments of the population benefitted at first from communist policies, especially in public health and education. However, the economies of these countries, and hence their peoples, came to suffer the effects of the mismanagement, waste and inefficiency typical of the Stalinist system in the USSR and other communist countries. At the same time, as in those countries, so in the communist or semi-communist regimes of Central America and the Caribbean, individual freedoms were severely restricted or abolished. Finally, both Castro's regime in Cuba and the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua were completely dependent on Soviet aid, which began to peter out even before the collapse of the USSR in late 1991.

U.S. policy still remains the dominant factor in regional affairs. With the onset of the Cold War in the late 1940s, Washington's policy toward Central America and the Caribbean must be seen in the context of rivalry for influence with the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War should lead to a U.S. policy that will help thsee peoples emerge from grinding poverty and persecution into a new era of freedom and prosperity. But the road to this goal will be long and difficult.


1. For Castro's early career, as well as his period in the Sierra Maestra, see Tad Szulc, Fidel. A Critical Portrait, New York, 1986 (also in paperback). The book is based on long and solid research, including numerous interviews with Castro and leading Cubans over the period 1959-85. Robert E. Quirk's book, Fidel Castro (1993) is more comprehensive, since it includes coverage of the years 1985-91. For Castro's propaganda and careful avoidance of tying himself to any one program, see the book of a former supporter and Castro representative in the U.S, Mario Llerena, The Unsuspected Revolution. The Birth and Rise of Castroism, Ithaca, New York, 1978.

2. On Guiteras and his generation, see Louis E. Aguilar, Cuba 1933. Prologue to Revolution, Ithaca, New York, 1973.

3. For the text of "Nuestra Razon," see Llerena, The Unsuspected Revolution, Appendix C; see also ch. 5, "The Manifesto that was not."

4. See Carlos Franqui, Family Portrait with Fidel, New York, 1984. Franqui is an ex-communist; he edited the paper Revolucion, but became disillusioned with Castro.

5. See Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims. Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, 1928-1978, New York and Oxford, 1981; see also David Caute, The Fellow Travellers. Intellectual Friends of Communism, revised and updated edition, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988 (ch. 12 is about Cuba).

6. See "U.S. Properties Expropriated or Intervened in Cuba," in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Claims of U.S. Nationals Against the Government of Cuba, Hearings before the Sub-Committee on Inter-American Affairs, 88th Congress, 2nd Session, 1964, pp. 41-44.

7. See Szulc, Fidel, pp. 493-94, 475.

8. See Ibid., p. 479.

9. See Khrushchev Remembers. The Last Testament, Tr. and ed. by Strobe Talbott, Boston, 1974, pp. 509, 511, see also note 10 below.

9a. See Anatoly Dobrynin, IN CONFIDENCE. Moscow's Ambassador to America's Six Cold War Presidents (1962-1986), New York, 1995, pp. 71-73.

9b. See ibid. Pp. 76-78.

9c. See ibid., pp. 78-79.

9d. See ibid., pp. 82-83.

10. See J. Anthony Lukas, "Class Reunion. Kennedy's Men Relive the Cuban Missile Crisis," The New York Times Magazine, August 30, 1987, sec. 8, pp. 58-59, and Dean Rusk, As I Saw It, New York, 1990, pp. 240-241; for the memoirs of another Kennedy cabinet member, see George Ball, The Past has Another Pattern. Memoirs, New York, ch. 20; see also Charles E. Bohlen, Witness to History, 1929-1967, New York, 1973; on the Cuban missile crisis, see Herbert S. Dinerstein, The Making of a Missile Crisis: October, 1962, Baltimore, 1976, Raymond Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis, Washington, D.C., 1987, and Tad Szulc, Fidel, pp. 549 ff. For more recent reports, see note 11 below.

l0a. See Dobrynin, In Confidence, p.79.

10b. See ibid., 86-87.

11. See Bill Keller, "Atom Warheads Deployed in Cuba in '62, Soviets Say," New York Sunday Times, January 29, 1989, sec. 1, p. 1. Also, Khrushchev Remembers. The Glasnost Tapes, Boston, 1990, pp. 170-177, and Fedor Burlatsky, Khrushchev and the First Russian Spring. The Era of Khrushchev Through the Eyes of His Adviser, New York, 1991, ch. 9, "The Cuban Missile Crisis"; for a summary, see Fedor Burlatsky, "Castro Wanted a Nuclear Strike," New York Times, October 23, 1992, sec. 4, Oped page.

12. See Khrushchev Remembers, 1974, p. 512.

13. See Carlos Franqui, Family Portrait, p. 193.

14. See Tad Szulc, Fidel, p. 567; for the repressive treatment of one writer, see Herberto Padilla, Self-Portrait of the Other: A Memoir, New York, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1991.

15. See Susan Kaufman Purcell, "Cuba's Cloudy Future," Foreign Affairs, vol. 69, no. 3, summer 1990, pp. 113-130.

16. See Howard W. French, "Cuban Defector Tells of Soviet Cuts," New York Times, September 13, 1990; Russel Warren Howe, "Going Without in Castro's Cuba," Washington Post National Weekly Edition, July 5-11, 1993, p. 24.

17. See Shirley Christian, Nicaragua. Revolution in the Family, New York, Vintage Books, 1988, pp. 54-55.

18. For the text of the Sandinista 1969 program, see Jiri Valenta and Esperanza Duran, eds., Conflict in Nicaragua. A Multidimensional Perspective, Boston, 1987, Appendix B, pp. 319-330.

19. See Valenta and Duran, Ibid., pp. 11,12; the text of the 1977 FSLN platform is in Appendix A, pp. 285-318.

20. See: Ibid., p. 13.

21. See Christian, Nicaragua, ch. 7; the most detailed account of U.S. policy by an insider is to be found in Robert A. Pastor, Condemned to Repetition. The United States and Nicaragua, Princeton, New Jersey, 1987, chaps. 7-9; the author was Director of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs in the National Security Council in the years 1977-81.

22. See Pastor, Ibid., p. 206.

23. See airgram from U.S. Embassy, Managua, December 27, 1979, titled "The 72 Hour Document: A FSLN Blueprint," printed in U.S. Department of State, The 72-Hour Document: The Sandinista Blueprint for Constructing Communism in Nicaragua, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1985; see also Christian, Nicaragua, pp. 129-30 (hardback ed. 1985), and Pastor, Condemned to Repetition, p.199.

24. Cited in Pastor, Ibid., p. 192.

25. See U.S. Department of State, Comandante Bayardo Arce's Secret Speech Before the Nicaraguan Socialist Party, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1985.

26. See Pastor, Condemned to Revolution, pp.227-28.

27. See Christian, Nicaragua, p. 198.

28. See Ibid., ch. 12.

29. See Ibid., p. 199.

30. See opinion polls cited in Pastor, Condemned to Repetition, p. 260.

31. See Christian, Nicaragua, p. 301; for a different report, see New York Times, January 8, 1988.

32. See Eldon Kenworthy, "United States Policy in Central America: A Choice Denied," Current History, March, 1985, p. 106.

33. See Susan Kaufman Purcell, "The Choice in Central America," Foreign Affairs, vol. 66, no. 1, Fall 1987, p. 115; also press comments, August 6-8, 1987.

34. For a description of the Arias and Guatemala plans, see note 33 above.

35. See Dario Moreno, "Peace and the Nicaraguan Revolution," Current History, December 1988.

36. See Newsweek, February 27, 1989, p. 43.

37. See New York Times, February 26 - March 8, 1990. See also Julia Preston, "The Defeat of the Sandinistas," New York Review of Books, April 12, 1990.

38. On the development of communism in Grenada and on the papers found there, see Jiri and Virginia Valenta, "Leninism in Grenada," Problems of Communism, vol. XXXIII (33), July-Aug. 1984, pp.1-23. See also The Grenada Papers, edited by Paul Seabury and Walter A. McDougall, San Francisco, Institute of Contemporary Sciences, 1984.

39. See Lindsey Gruson, "So Far, El Salvador's Negotiators are not Interrupting Their War," New York Sunday Times, February 26, 1989, "The Week in Review," p. 2.

40. See Julia Preston, "The Battle for San Salvador," New York Review of Books, February 1, 1990; I am grateful to Professor Charles Stansifer of the Department of History, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, for drawing my attention to the "Poland Factor" in El Salvador.

41. See Thomas P. Anderson, "Politics and the Military in Honduras," Current History, December 1988.


Select Bibliography.

I. Overviews of the whole region

Hector Perez-Brignoli, A Brief History of Central America, translated by Ricardo B. Sawrey A. and Susana Stettri de Sawrey, Berkeley, California, 1989.

Franklin D. Parker, The Central American Republics, London, New York, Toronto, 1964, republished 1965.

Walter LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions. The United States in Central America, New York, 1983 (useful, but unremittingly critical of U.S. policy).

Ralph Lee Woodward, Central America: A Nation Divided, Oxford, new ed. Michigan, 1986.

II. For Castro's Cuba, see the bibliography in Tad Szulc, Fidel and Robert Quirk, Fidel Castro. See also Jacobo Timerman, Cuba. A Journey, trans. by Toby Talbot, New York, 1990 (devastating book by an Argentinian journalist, fighter for human rights).

On the Cuban Missile Crisis see end notes to text pages 594-99.

III. For further reading on Nicaragua, see the bibliography in Jiri Valenta & Esperanza Duran, Conflict in Nicaragua.

See also Joshua Muravchik, News Coverage of the Sandinista Revolution, Washington, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988 (shows favorable U.S. press reports on the Sandinistas between July 1978 and July 1980).

IV. On communism in Central America, see:

Robert J. Alexander, Communism in Central America, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1957.

Robert Wesson, ed., Communism in Central America and the Caribbean, Stanford, California, Hoover Institute, 1982.

V. On Soviet policy in the region, see:

Cole Blasier, The Giant's Rival. The USSR and Latin America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1983.

Dennis L. Bark, ed., The Red Orchestra. Instruments of Soviet Policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, Stanford, California, Hoover Institution, 1986.

Raymond Duncan and Carol McGiffert Ekedahl, Moscow and the Third World under Gorbachev, Boulder, Colorado, 1990, (part 9).

William H. Luers, "The Soviets and Latin America: A Three Decade U.S. Policy Tangle," in Robbin F. Laird & Erirk P. Hoffmann, eds., Soviet Foreign Policy in a Changing World, New York, 1986.

Nicola Miller, Soviet Relations with Latin America, 1959-1987, Cambridge, England and New York, 1989.