While reading Fred C. Ikle’s column (“Sell-Out in Central America,” Op-Ed Page, Feb. 26), I was sadly reminded that although the Reagan Administration is now thankfully out of office and its functionaries are now safely dissipated throughout the country, its myths and myopic visions still linger.
Ikle laments the “unraveling” of eight years of U.S.-backed democracy-building in Central America, citing “today’s majority view in Congress” as the culprit behind setbacks in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. But what he fails to admit is that there was little in these countries to unravel in the first place, since the Reagan Administration truly did nothing to promote democracy in Central America.
Ikle’s entire argument rests on one very flawed assumption, promoted throughout Reagan’s eight-year tenure--namely, that “free” elections equate to democracy. Was El Salvador nearly a true democracy because its peasants were forced to vote in “free” elections? Was Guatemala becoming equally democratic because its indigenous population was being relocated to re-education camps?
There can be no denying that the economy in Nicaragua is a shambles (due mostly to Reagan’s obsessive war against that small nation), and that the Sandinistas have yet to solve this disastrous problem. And, admittedly, certain restrictions on freedom of speech persist in Nicaragua.
However, there is also no denying the fact that the Sandinistas have not waged a repressive war against the people of their nation, murdering hundreds of suspected insurgents and dislocating thousands of peasants.
It infuriates me that people like Ikle expect Nicaragua to prove to the world that it is moving toward democratic reform, while these same people would have us complacently believe that El Salvador and Guatemala are burgeoning democracies going awry, thanks to a Democratic Congress.
Nicaragua has a long road ahead if it is to acquire a buoyant democracy. But, if the models of El Salvador and Guatemala are to serve as examples, it is obvious that Reagan-style reforms are not the answer.