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Reagan on “democratic” regime change

I picked up a $10 DVD this evening called Ronald Reagan: An American Journey from Enduring Freedom Productions. While watching it, I was struck by an excerpt of a presentation given on May 9, 1984, in which President Reagan addressed the nation concerning his administration’s policy concerning Central America. For those of you who study history (or have long memories), you will remember that there was a lot of trouble in Nicaragua and El Salvador in those days due to the attempt to spread communism in that region in the late seventies/early eighties.

The reason I was so stricken was due to the situation in Egypt as of this writing, in which protesters have taken to the streets of Cairo calling for the abdication of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the establishment of a new government pending new elections. This of course led to Mubarak resigning his dictatorship and the current martial rule, which has seemingly delighted everyone in the mainstream media and U.S. government. Unfortunately, the possibility of a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terror group, is quite a downer on all the “yay democracy” crowd.

The connection between this and the Islamic Revolution in Iran have been made by talk radio hosts over the past two weeks, but what President Reagan had to say about the Sandinista regime in 1984 (and mirrored here) might well prove at least as, if not more, insightful. Here’s the correlation: replace “Nicaragua” with Egypt, “Sandinista” with the Muslim Brotherhood, “Communists” with “Islamists”, “Israel” with “Israel” (the more things change…), “Somoza” with Mubarak, “El Salvador” with the other moderate Arab nations, “Soviet Union” with Iran, “Cuba” with Iran’s cat’s paws Hezbollah & Hamas, and “PLO” with the miscellaneous Islamist terrorist networks…and you’ve got the current situation in Egypt.

By the way, emphasis is mine:

I want to tell you a few things tonight about the real nature of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.

The Sandinistas, who rule Nicaragua, are Communists whose relationship and ties to Fidel Castro of Cuba go back a quarter of a century. A number of the Sandinistas were trained in camps supported by Cuba, the Soviet bloc, and the PLO. It is important to note that Cuba, the Sandinistas, the Salvadoran Communist guerrillas, and the PLO have all worked together for many years. In 1978 the Sandinistas and elements of the PLO joined in a “declaration of war” against Israel.

The Cuban-backed Sandinistas made a major attempt to topple the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in the fall of 1978. They failed. They were then called to Havana, where Castro cynically instructed them in the ways of successful Communist insurrection. He told them to tell the world they were fighting for political democracy, not communism. But most important, he instructed them to form a broad alliance with the genuinely democratic opposition to the Somoza regime. Castro explained that this would deceive Western public opinion, confuse potential critics, and make it difficult for Western democracies to oppose the Nicaraguan revolution without causing great dissent at home.

The Sandinistas listened and learned. They returned to Nicaragua and promised to establish democracy. The Organization of American States, on June 23, 1979, passed a resolution stating that the solution for peace in Nicaragua required that Somoza step down and that free elections be held as soon as possible to establish a truly democratic government that would guarantee peace, freedom, and justice. The Sandinistas then promised the OAS in writing that they would do these things. Well, Somoza left, and the Sandinistas came to power. This was a negotiated settlement, based on power-sharing between Communists and genuine democrats, like the one that some have proposed for El Salvador today. Because of these promises, the previous U.S. administration and other Western governments tried in a hopeful way to encourage Sandinista success.

It took some time to realize what was actually taking place, that almost from the moment the Sandinistas and their cadre of 50 Cuban covert advisers took power in Managua in July of 1979, the internal repression of democratic groups, trade unions, and civic groups began. Right to dissent was denied. Freedom of the press and freedom of assembly became virtually nonexistent. There was an outright refusal to hold genuine elections, coupled with the continual promise to do so. Their latest promise is for elections by November 1984. In the meantime, there has been an attempt to wipe out an entire culture, the Miskito Indians, thousands of whom have been slaughtered or herded into detention camps, where they have been starved and abused. Their villages, churches, and crops have been burned.

The Sandinistas engaged in anti-Semitic acts against the Jewish community, and they persecuted the Catholic Church and publicly humiliated individual priests. When Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua last year, the Sandinistas organized public demonstrations, hurling insults at him and his message of peace. On this last Good Friday, some 100,000 Catholic faithfuls staged a demonstration of defiance. You may be hearing about that demonstration for the first time right now. It wasn’t widely reported. Nicaraguan Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega recently said, “We are living with a totalitarian ideology that no one wants in this country” — this country being Nicaragua.

The Sandinista rule is a Communist reign of terror. Many of those who fought alongside the Sandinistas saw their revolution betrayed. They were denied power in the new government. Some were imprisoned, others exiled. Thousands who fought with the Sandinistas have taken up arms against them and are now called the contras. They are freedom fighters.

What the Sandinistas have done to Nicaragua is a tragedy. But we Americans must understand and come to grips with the fact that the Sandinistas are not content to brutalize their own land. They seek to export their terror to every other country in the region.

I ask you to listen closely to the following quotation: “We have the brilliant revolutionary example of Nicaragua…the struggle in El Salvador is very advanced: The same in Guatemala, and Honduras is developing quickly…very soon Central America will be one revolutionary entity….” That statement was made by a Salvadoran guerrilla leader in March of 1981.

Shortly after taking power, the Sandinistas, in partnership with Cuba and the Soviet Union, began supporting aggression and terrorism against El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. They opened training camps for guerrillas from El Salvador so they could return to their country and attack its government. Those camps still operate. Nicaragua is still the headquarters for Communist guerrilla movements. And Nicaraguan agents and diplomats have been caught in Costa Rica and Honduras supervising attacks carried out by Communist terrorists.

The role that Cuba has long performed for the Soviet Union is now also being played by the Sandinistas. They have become Cuba’s Cubans. Weapons, supplies, and funds are shipped from the Soviet bloc to Cuba, from Cuba to Nicaragua, from Nicaragua to the Salvadoran guerrillas. These facts were confirmed last year by the House Intelligence Committee.

And they’re getting a great deal of help from their friends. There were 165 Cuban personnel in Nicaragua in 1979. Today that force has grown to 10,000. And we’re being criticized for having 55 military trainers in El Salvador. Manpower support is also coming from other parts of the terror network. The PLO has sent men, and so has Libya’s dictator, Qadhafi. Communist countries are providing new military assistance, including tanks, artillery, rocket-launchers, and help in the construction of military bases and support facilities.

Nicaragua’s own military forces have grown enormously. Since 1979 their trained forces have increased from 10,000 to over 100,000. Why does Nicaragua need all this power? Why did this country of only 2.8 million build this large military force?

They claim the buildup is the result of the anti-Sandinista forces. That’s a lie. The Sandinista military buildup began 2 1/2 years before the anti-Sandinista freedom fighters had taken up arms.

They claim the buildup is because they’re threatened by their neighbors. Well, that, too, is a lie. Nicaragua’s next-door neighbor Costa Rica dosen’t even have an army. Another neighbor, Honduras, has armed forces of only 16,000.

The Sandinistas claim the buildup is in response to American aggression. And that is the most cynical lie of all. The truth is they announced at their first anniversary, in July of 1980, that their revolution was going to spread beyond their own borders.

When the Sandinistas were fighting the Somoza regime, the United States policy was hands off. We didn’t attempt to prop up Somoza. The United States did everything to show its openness toward the Sandinistas, its friendliness, its willingness to become friends. The Carter administration provided more economic assistance to the Sandinistas in their first 18 months than any other country did. But in January of 1981, having concluded that the Sandinistas were arming the Salvadoran guerrillas, the Carter administration sent military aid to El Salvador.

As soon as I took office, we attempted to show friendship to the Sandinistas and provided economic aid to Nicaragua. But it did no good. They kept on exporting terrorism. The words of their official party anthem describe us, the United States, as the enemy of all mankind. So much for our sincere but unrealistic hopes that if only we try harder to be friends, Nicaragua would flourish in the glow of our friendship and install liberty and freedom for their people. The truth is, they haven’t.

We’re in the midst of what President John F. Kennedy called “a long twilight struggle” to defend freedom in the world. He understood the problem of Central America. He understood Castro. And he understood the long-term goals of the Soviet Union in this region.

Twenty-three years ago, President Kennedy warned against the threat of Communist penetration in our hemisphere. He said, “I want it clearly understood that this government will not hesitate in meeting its primary obligations which are to the security of our nation.” And the House and Senate supported him overwhelmingly by passing a law calling on the United States to prevent Cuba from extending its aggressive or subversive activities to any part of this hemisphere. Were John Kennedy alive today, I think he would be appalled by the gullibility of some who invoke his name.


This on-again, off-again, would-be commentator proves that attitudes are contagious, and that some can even kill. To this end, every written word is weighed carefully to ensure the precise delivery of the author's intent while inflicting blunt force trauma to the psyche of the reader.

2 thoughts on “Reagan on “democratic” regime change

  • Awesome article. I have been studying up on the Iran-contra affair ironically this week as that was Reagan’s biggest scandal, if you want to call it that. I call it doing what needed to be done while youve got a congress of limpbacked democrats. Democracy can be a tenuous word or idea for that matter, ex. Hitler was elected. Thanks for the article.

  • Yup…further proof that a democratically-elected representative republican government can be dangerous due to poor choices on the part of the democratic constituency. Another example: the 2006 mid-term election 😛

    Iran-Contra was illegal, no question. But it was to have accomplished four things: 1) keep the Iranians occupied fighting Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, 2) destabilize the Iranian regime by strengthening moderate opposition (later found not to be the case), 3) save hostages held captive by Hezbollah, and 4) after it began, funnel money to anti-communists in Nicaragua.

    It didn’t work as planned, but the only reason it was illegal was because appropriations bills in the early eighties were loaded with Democratic amendments aimed at stopping the funding of the Contras. They ran counter to the Monroe Doctrine and our national interests, so while illegal I have a hard time getting upset over the cover-up.

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