Unnoticed in the clatter of broken china and the chatter of automatic weapons in Gaza were the opening salvos in a campaign to vilify the Cold Warriors who defeated Cubas surrogates in Central America in the 1980s and derail their appointments to key foreign policy posts. The targets are John D. Negroponte, President Bushs nominee to be ambassador to the U.N., and Otto Reich as assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere. If Central American countries are now free under democratic governments, it is due, in no small measure, to the efforts of public servants like Mr. Negroponte and Mr. Reich.
The apologists for the Marxist-led Sandinista regime in Nicaragua throughout the 1980s and other flacks for Marxist guerrillas in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, are now the pot calling the kettle black. The pro-Sandinista lobby in the U.S., and its allies in the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES),” led a major disinformation campaign to portray the Reagan Administrations allies in Central America as “fascists.”
For them, America was the imperialist, racist exploiter of the downtrodden masses of Central America, and the Marxists were the liberators. They tarred and feathered the U.S.-sponsored anti-Marxist Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua with a drug running brush.
The late Thomas Enders, then assistant secretary of state for Latin America, testified before Congress in February 1981 on the size and scope of Cuban subversion in Central America. His testimony was almost totally ignored by the mainstream media. A month later he went back to the Hill with more intelligence about what the Cubans were up to and was again subject to censorship by omission. On Jan. 10, 1981, four high-ranking Cuban officials were indicted by Atlee Wampler, the U.S. attorney in Miami, on drug-smuggling charges. That too, was given the silent treatment.
This reporter has known John Negroponte since 1966 when he was a young, promising diplomat in Saigon. He has performed brilliantly throughout his career, as many of his colleagues will attest, serving as ambassador to Honduras (1981-1985), the Philippines and Mexico. The pro-Sandinista “disinformers” have never forgiven Mr. Negroponte for the way he oversaw the first Contra operations from his post in Tegucigalpa. Los Angeles Times Associate Editor and columnist Frank Del Olmo recently called Mr. Negroponte “a warmed-over Contra paymaster” and linked him to “a CIA-funded death squadron by the Honduran military during the Contra war.”
As head of the Office for Public Diplomacy during the Nicaraguan conflict, Otto Reich became the bete noire of the leftist Central American lobby. His assignment was to counter Cuban and Sandinista disinformation, which had begun to influence the media and public opinion. In Managua, in the early 1980s, Sandinista officials had recruited Bianca Jagger as a propagandist for their Marxist cause. She became the mascot of the local American media contingent, dining with them nightly and organizing flights to Potemkin-like villages in Mesquito country designed to show how happy the persecuted native Indian minority was. Hardly a day went by without stories about Contra human-rights violations. Nicaraguas Marxist dictatorship was always given the benefit of the doubt when there was no doubt. The blatantly pro-Sandinista bias of one U.S. correspondent became too much for his editor. He was transferred out of Managua.
Since the end of the Cold War, Mr. Reich has lobbied hard to strengthen the embargo against Cuba by supporting the goals of the Helms-Burton act. Rejecting all evidence to the contrary, Mr. Reich continues to deny that the embargo has failed to weaken Fidel Castros regime. Proponents of lifting the embargo would appear to have logic on their side. They argue that since the Soviet Union collapsed, ending Moscows multibillion-dollar subsidy to Cuba, Mr. Castro could not long survive the juggernaut of American capitalism. Cuban-born Mr. Reichs position, while defying logic, will guarantee Mr. Helms support and confirmation. This, rather than Mr. Reichs role in helping defeat Cubas surrogates in Central America, is what Hemisphere governments, from Canada to Argentina, are objecting to at least in private.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for The Washington Times and for United Press International.