Network sponsors panel discussion on Nicaragua

By Fred Heuschel

A panel discussion on the upcoming Nicaraguan elections and United States intervention in Central America drew a crowd of about 50 people Sunday night.

The event was sponsored by the DeKalb Area Interfaith Network and featured panelists Michael Gonzales, director of the Center for Latin American Studies, Sondra King, an assistant professor in the human and family resources department and Rev. Fred Morris of the Malta United Methodist Church.

Monique LeMaitre, an NIU associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, moderated the discussion.

The meeting began with Interfaith member Eric Dale reminding people of the conflict in El Salvador and petitioning the group for money to aid orphans in Nicaragua.

Gonzales talked about the history of the United States involvement in Nicaragua. “Our foreign policy in Nicaragua has been to institute government that is sympathetic to American economic aims,” he said.

Gonzales also explained the origin of the Sandinistas and their leader Daniel Ortega. “The term Sandinista is a derivation from the name Sandisto. Sandisto was a great leader of the Nicaraguan people who initiated the revolt against the American intervention in Nicaragua’s affairs.”

American intervention in Nicaragua has stifled the attempts of the Sandinistas to institute economic reforms, Gonzales said. “The majority of young men are out fighting the war against the American funded contras rather than producing in the economy,” he said.

He also said elections were held in Nicaragua in 1984 but the U.S. refused to acknowledge their validity. “They refused to acknowledge the elections despite the fact that delegations from Ireland, Canada and the Netherlands were present and they all said the elections were fair and conducted legally.”

Fred Morris then went on to say that elections in Nicaragua this year had been planned since 1986. “So U.S. claims that the Sandinistas were forced into free elections by the Contras are ludicrous,” he said.

Morris gave statistics on the number of Nicaraguans who have been killed as a result of the war with the contras. “Twenty-eight thousand people have died since Reagan initiated the war upon the Nicaraguan people. That’s comparable, percentage wise, to 2.1 million people in our population,”he said.

King closed the panel discussion by talking about her recent trip to Nicaragua and the family that she lived with.