Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Red December" Sandinistas and Ortega Accused of War Crimes

I found this story, courtesy of A.M. Mora y Leon over at Publius, and here is a quick synopsis from EFE:

Complaint on crimes against humanity reinstituted vs. Ortega
Managua, Aug 1 (EFE).- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reinstituted an old complaint regarding crimes against humanity against former Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and other Sandinista leaders, a legislative source said here Monday.

Legislator Miguel Lopez Baldizon, of the Azul y Blanco congressional caucus, told EFE that the IACHR in Nicaragua brought out from its archives a complaint against Ortega concerning alleged crimes against humanity committed in 1983.
The "Red Christmas" complaint refers to supposed crimes committed during the Sandinista army operation to remove some 8,500 Indians from their communities on the banks of the Coco River, along the border with Honduras, and relocate them in five camps to prevent them from giving logistical support to the Contra insurgents.
Indigenous groups have complained that hundreds of their people died during the operation.

Today's La Prensa has a very good editorial about the whole issue.

I am still amazed at how cynical the Sandinista's were. They called the relocation centers Tasba Pri, which in Miskito means, "Promised Land". Unfortunately, these events became one of the most under-reported stories in this war. Part of that was due to the strict censorship the Sandinista's imposed in the country. And, since the Atlantic area was so remote, the Sandinista's could control access to foreign media. I remember being in Managua, and hearing about the relocation 'efforts', which the goverment was doing to protect the "Miskito People", and watching footage of smiling Miskito kids happy in their new home.

For the Sandinistas the entire East Coast region was key, it had the ports where Cuban and Soviet goods came in, and the roads were they were shipped to Managua, and in the north it bordered Honduras. They began militarizing the region early in the Revolution, bringing in Cuban military advisors, setting up well-armed military posts, and putting their Stasi-trained State Security in place to take care of the locals. In their usual heavy-handed manner the tried indoctrinating the locals into Sandino-Leninism, while also asserting control over food distribution. The very religious East Coast residents, including the Miskito, resisted this right from the beginning.

From disturbances in Bluefields to actual shoot-outs, things kept on getting worse from 1980 to 1981. Armed resistance by the Miskitos started, and rumors of dead Cubans and Sandinistas started spreading in Managua. Eventually, the presence of 'Counter-Revolutionary elements' in the East Coast, started appearing in the state-controlled media. But this had nothing to do with the Somocista holdouts operated out of, this was on the other side of the country. And we know now, that this was a spontaneous movement that started independent of Reagan's Presidential findings calling for aid to anti-Sandinista elements.

And this clash ended up being rather one-sided, since the Sandinistas were the ones with the gunships and Cuban advisors. They quietly shipped more troops to the region. When that didn't work they tried the age-old remedy of forcibly relocating an entire Indian population from their land.

Funny how the left avoided the issue, and some even went along Sandinista "apologies", saying it was a mere "error".


This has brought back some memories. We got an inkling that something was going on, when family friends and acquaintances in the Army - hardcore veterans of the Civil War, trained in Cuba and/or Soviet block countries - ended up sent to the region, first indicating that there was an significant military buildup there. And when they came back with war stories, it was clear something was definitively up.

To this day, two people stand out in my mind. One was a committed Sandinista, a foreigner who had fought in the Southern Front with Pastora, and afterwards was a Captain in the Sandinista Army. I saw him when he was on leave sometime in 82, when he enthusiastically told us how they "kicked the shit out of the counter-revolutionaries" in the Costa. I remember sort of freaking when he said it, because nice guy as he was, in his mind he could do no wrong if it was in defense of the revolution. The second guy, had been just as dedicated, and was a fairly high-up cadre in the Frente's urban front, and spent some time in Somoza's dungeons. Also in the Sandinista Army, something in him snapped when he went to the Costa. All we heard from his sister was that he became greatly disillusioned and shocked by what he saw in the East Coast, she wouldn't go into details. The Sandinista's ended up throwing him in jail. When a guy this 'committed' snaps like that, you know something is up.
And to put this all into proper perspective, 'Red December' was in 1981 and 1982, before even Eden Pastora had announced he was going to fight the Sandinistas. This was straight-up repression, there was no external threat in that part of the country. The Sandinistas brought this all upon themselves, and it was all a result of their ideology and hunger for power. What they did that December and January, particularly the killings, is not different from what Pinochet is being prosecuted for today. On a smaller scale, it is on par with what the Salvadoran Army did in El Mozote. Some might even call it a form of ethnic cleansing, (ideological cleansing?) forcibly relocating 8,000 people, and causing 25,000 more to flee the region for Honduras. I hope Ortega, Borge, Lenin Cerna and those other guys responsible for these misdeeds do go on trial. The very least they can do is explain why they did what they did.


Flor de Cana said...

Oye Jodido!

How's about the rest of the Sandinistas?

Anyone from El Doce? Cardenal? d'Escoto?

Richard Aubrey said...

I visited the area in 1987.

It was an "error", but an honest one, and, said one Miskito we talked to in Managua, a good one since things were better.
She was one of the permanent exhibits on the peace freak tour.
None of the professionally incredibly wonderful in our group seemed to mind.
It's not the piles of dead peasants.
It's who killed them. That makes it an atrocity or a non-happening, depending.
I've been a grunt and a fraternity man and played smash-mouth sports. But I thank God I don't have the stomach to be a peace activist.

A.M. Mora y Leon said...

You're getting noticed, Boli-Nica:


lenie said...

I visited the area in 1989 as part of a college course. I was a naïve student. The trip changed my politics. I am sure that was not the intention of my professor. Nicaragua was over run with “peace” activists western do-gooders who never challenged any of the rhetoric of the Sandinistas. In fact the official translators, who were westerners, often were very selective in what they translated. None of peace activists bothered to talk to ordinary Nicaraguans in uncensored encounters because when you did you got a different story. Furthermore, you really did not need to be a covert spy to quickly discover the country had more than their fair share of “Eastern European” advisors, mostly East Germans. The hotels were filled with them. Fortunately I had not been completely brainwashed and recall quickly concluding what in the world could East Germany be exporting other than a police state.

Anonymous said...

Heh. I met a Cuban in St. Petersberg in 1998, who claimed to have fought for the Sandanistas. He was bragging about crushing "counter-revolutionaries" among the Indians. I laughed and told him the only thing a sleazy old man like him could kill was brain cells (he was in his mid-40's and I was a strapping young buck). I didn't take him seriously, until he started screaming and tried to pull out a knife clipped on inside his belt.

Long story short, at the end of the night, I had worked the idiot over. Another American who wandered up had worked him over. The bartender had worked him over and tossed him. And I was drinking vodka with the "cops" on the street and discussing Hoboken while they took turns working him over.

A true hero of the revolution.

Anonymous said...

Cuba was the reason for US involvement in that Contra war. The Cubans were all over the place. Somehow it escaped the mainstream media's notice, but that was a real problem. And they were shipping guns to El Salvador's Marxists, too. It's such a sad thing that Nicaragua's freedom fighters never got their story told. They were painted as killers by the sandalistas who fed that information to the msm. There was no blogosphere to kick butt and set the record straight. It was a darn shame. But there is a blogosphere now, so we can try at this late date to get the truth out.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, good information, well-written. So *please* correct your misuse of the apostrophe -- don't let your message be undercut over silly punctuation errors.

Boli-Nica said...

Yeah, the American and European 'tontos utiles', were true pieces of work. Amazing how some seemingly sophisticated people, could put on moral blinders, and be so narrow minded. People in the U.S. who were the first to bitch about police brutality and censorship, would throw softball questions - if any- at the pro-Sandinista tour guides, and assorted Sandinista PR types. They would sometimes cross over to Costa Rica, and would not bother going to refugee camps full of Nicaraguans fleeing the regime.

mjh said...


I love your blog! I plan to visit Nicaragua in January, and am so glad to find this topical site.

Richard Aubrey said...

While we were spending a few days in Managua, one of our peaceandwonderfulness folks thought she needed to have the requisite revolutionary orgasm at the big statue of the bare-chested peasant brandishing an AK.
It was quite some walk from our location and, there being a rule that women shouldn't go out without men, I got picked to accompany her. Going there was downhill and not too bad, given that she smoked like a chimney and had the physical conditioning of a tapeworm.
Coming back, later in the morning, was a real chore. We went from shaded place for her to sit to shaded bench, waiting at each for her to recover.
I waved handsful of Nicaraguan currency, and then dollars, at empty cabs. Got nothing but a couple of birds in return.
The locals knew the Sandalistas and knew we were there to schmooze with their oppressors.
If we died of heatstroke or something, that would be an improvement, seemed to be their view. Can't say I blame them.

A.M. Mora y Leon said...

I always think it's useful to compare the sandalistas to corporate dumpers. They both operate on the same principle. Whenever Nestle or someone gets a load of baby milk that doesn't meet regulations or they somehow can't sell to the locals in Europe, off they go to innocent countries like Nicaragua to offload the stuff. Similarly, the sandalistas, who cannot win elections in the states due to the odiousness of their ideas and the wittingness of American voters, take their wares and pack up and head for Nicaragua as well. To shove off what they cannot sell to voters in America. It's a really disgusting, but correct, parallel.

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Viva La Contra said...

Great post. The piris slaughtered mass numbers of Miskitos during "Navidad Roja" and Ortega squelched the investigation many times. He admitted guilt when desperate for election in 2006.

That scumbag Ortega had these concentration camps set up from Boaco in north to Nueva Guinea in south and they would burn houses and shoot occupants in many cases.

You might like some of my pics from my time spent with Frente Sur commandos during the war.

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