This week the Reagan Administration took what its Nicaragua-obsessed leaders apparently think are firm and decisive steps against that country’s Sandinista government.
On Tuesday President Reagan signed a proclamation that will prevent most Nicaraguan government officials, other than diplomats, from entering the United States. On Wednesday, in an action that State Department spokesmen said was not related to the President’s proclamation, an entry visa was denied to Nicaragua’s former minister of culture, Ernesto Cardinale, who had been invited to this country to make a lecture tour of several colleges and universities.
Both actions were taken under provisions of the U.S. immigration laws that allow the government to exclude from this country any foreigners whose entry would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” But precisely how it would be detrimental for Americans to hear lectures by Cardinale, a soft-spoken former priest and poet, was not explained by the State Department.
And it could be more detrimental for this country to exclude present Sandinista officials than it would be to allow them in. After all, the basis for the Administration’s latest temper tantrum involving Nicaragua is that the Sandinistas are deliberately being slow in allowing several U.S. diplomats into their country to staff the American Embassy in Managua. Those American diplomats should be allowed into Nicaragua, and certainly the Sandinistas are being petty in delaying their diplomatic visas. But what is accomplished by being petty in response? At a time when relations between Washington and Managua are tense, any communications are better than none. Allowing Nicaraguan officials into this country could provide the United States with information about what is going on in their homeland.
Administration officials want to look tough in dealing with the Sandinistas, but in fact they look petulant and childish.