We go to Managua, Nicaragua to speak with Fr. Miguel D’Escoto, a Catholic priest who was Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister under the Sandinista government in the 1980s. [Includes transcript]
The 8 years Reagan was in office represented one of the most bloody eras in the history of the Western hemisphere, as Washington funneled money, weapons and other supplies to right wing death squads. And the death toll was staggering–more than 70,000 political killings in El Salvador, more than 100,000 in Guatemala, 30,000 killed in the contra war in Nicaragua. In Washington, the forces carrying out the violence were called "freedom fighters." This is how Ronald Reagan described the Contras in Nicaragua: "They are our brothers, these freedom fighters and we owe them our help. They are the moral equal of our founding fathers."
- Fr. Miguel D’Escoto, a Catholic priest based in Managua, Nicaragua. He was Nicaragua’s Foreign Minister under the Sandinista government in the 1980s.
FATHER MIGUEL D’ESCOTO: First of all, let me start out by saying that, of course, Reagan is now dead. And I, for one, would like to say only nice things about him. I’m not insensitive to the feelings of many U.S. people mourning president Reagan, but as I pray that god in his infinite mercy and goodness forgive him for having been the butcher of my people, for having been responsible for the deaths of some 50,000 Nicaraguans, we cannot, we should not ever forget the crimes he committed in the name of what he falsely labeled freedom and democracy.
More perhaps than any other U.S. President, Reagan convinced many around the world that the U.S. is a fraud, a big lie. Not only was it not democratic, but in fact the greatest enemy of the right of self-determination of peoples. Reagan, as you mentioned just a few minutes ago, was known as the great communicator, and I believe that that is true only if one believes that to be a great communicator means to be a good liar. That he was for sure. He could proclaim the biggest lies without even as much as blinking an eyelash. Hearing him talk about how we were supposedly persecuting Jews and burning down non-existent synagogues, I was led to believe really, that Reagan was possessed by demons. Frankly, I do believe Reagan at that time as much as Bush today was indeed possessed by the demons of manifest destiny.
Of course, as I say this, I’m quite aware that to the people of say for example, Project for a New American Century, that is counted as a big plus. Because of Reagan and his spiritual heir George W. Bush, the World today is far less safe and secure as it has ever been. Reagan in fact was an international outlaw. He came to the Presidency of the United States shortly after Samosa, a Dictator that the U.S. has imposed over Nicaragua for practically half a century; had been deposed by Nicaraguan Nationalists under the leadership of the Sandinista Liberation Front. To Reagan Nicaragua had to be re-conquered. He blamed Carter for having lost Nicaragua, as if Nicaragua ever belonged to anyone else other than the Nicaraguan people. That was then the beginning of this war that Reagan invented, and mounted and financed and directed, the Contra War. About which he continually lied to the People. Helping the United States people to be the most ignorant people around the world. I said ignorant, I don’t say not intelligent. But the most ignorant people around the world about what the United States does abroad. People don’t even begin to see — if they did, they would rebel. And so, he lied to the people, as Bush lies to the people today and as they push on, thinking that the United States is above every law, human or divine. And we took the United States, Reagan’s United States, his government to court, the World Court. I was Foreign Minister at that time here in Nicaragua. I was responsible for that. And the United States government received the harshest sentence, the harshest condemnation ever in the history of world justice. In spite of the fact that the United States since the early 1920’s has been proclaiming to the world that one of the proofs of its moral superiority as compared to other countries around the world is the fact that it abides by the international law and was obedient to the world court when the United States was brought to the world court in Nicaragua and received the condemnation that the United States failed to heed the sentence and they till owe Nicaragua by now must be between 20,000 and $30,000 million at the time when we left government that the damages caused by that Reagan war was over $17 billion, and this, according to very moderate estimators of damage, people from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, people from Harvard University and from Oxford and from the University of Paris basically this is the team that was pulled together to estimate the damage. The United States was ordered to pay for the damage. Bush never even wanted to talk to me about it. I said, "Well, let’s have a meeting so that you comply with your sentence of the court." He said to me in two different letters that there was nothing to talk about.
So, Reagan did damage to Nicaragua beyond the imaginations of the people who are hearing me now. The ripple effects of that; criminal murderous interventions in my country will go on for what, 50 years or more.