That Was Miami, This Is Managua

If Daniel is going crazy, it would certainly be understandable. First he lost an election to a housewife who, by all accounts, has the political instincts of a clam. Then there was the matter of his memoirs. With his Washington mouthpiece, Paul Reichler, Daniel went to New York last year, installed himself in an elegant Upper East Side mansion, and announced he would receive publishers interested in bidding on his autobiography (provided, of course, that they brought gifts for his entourage). The process was supposed to culminate in an auction where the minimum bid would be $300,000 and $1 million the expected sale price. The auction was held -- but the venal capitalists of the publishing world, unswayed by Daniel's vision of "a literary book that transcends politics" as opposed to one containing actual facts, failed to offer a single minimum bid. Daniel went home empty-handed.

And to top it all off, his Middle Eastern peace mission failed rather spectacularly. For weeks last winter Daniel crisscrossed Europe, Asia, and the Middle East in an attempt to quell the unpleasantness between George Bush and Saddam Hussein. (No one seems to know who picked up the tab.) Listen to me, Daniel kept saying, I understand the gringos. And perhaps he did. He left Baghdad for the last time the day before the bombs started to fall.

The Guy the Sandinistas Hate Most
That would be Arnoldo Aleman, the mayor of Managua. A hard-drinking, foul-mouthed politician of the old Nicaraguan school -- that is, the only thing more important than passing out patronage to your friends is screwing your enemies -- Aleman is a quick man with a needle. One of his first acts as mayor was to repaint the giant initials the Sandinistas had placed on a mountainside overlooking the capital. The Sandinistas' Hollywood-style logo, which had faded considerably over the years, boasted the Spanish abbreviation for Sandinista National Liberation Front, FSLN. Aleman changed it to FIN, Spanish for "the end." A few weeks later, he erased the letters altogether. He followed that up by whitewashing several elaborate socialist-realism murals that Sandinista artists had painstakingly painted on the walls of government buildings. But those were mere warm-ups for Aleman's next maneuver. Claiming there was no money in the budget, he cut off the gas to the eternal flame that burns over the tomb of Carlos Fonseca, founder of the Sandinista party.

Part Three
All this inspired Enrique Dreyfus, the foreign minister, to take down the colossal portrait of Nora Astorga that had hung in the ministry's main lobby. Astorga's portrait was there ostensibly because of her service as Nicaraguan ambassador to the United Nations in the mid-Eighties. Actually the Sandinistas canonized her for enticing one of Somoza's generals to her bed and then helping a hit squad cut his throat, chop o his penis, and put it in his mouth.

Dreyfus was trumped, in turn, by the 159 residents of Los Garreadores, a village about twenty miles southeast of Managua. In April they held a meeting and agreed to change the name of the village to Ronald Reagan. "That ex-president helped us a lot," explained the 68-year-old mayor, Raul Espinoza. "Because of him, the nation lives in democracy."

What Do You Do With a General? (Part II)
"Come in, come in," the former contra leader said eagerly, welcoming me to a Spartan office in a small building on a barren edge of Managua. "What's going on in Washington? I hear Cliff is singing like a canary. Can that be true?"

"Cliff" is the name by which the contras knew Alan Fiers, former head of the CIA's Central American Task Force, who pleaded guilty this summer to a charge of lying to Congress and is now cooperating with the Iran-contra special prosecutor's office. The contras were always divided about Fiers's skills as a spy, but they unanimously agreed that he had the finest collection of Arab cutlasses they had ever seen.

But it seems like another lifetime now, most of the former contra leaders say, since the days when they were frequent visitors to the White House and knew their way around the halls at Langley. About the only time they talk about it is when a journalist from the old days visits Nicaragua. The rest of the time they are too busy trying to rebuild lives that were put on hold for ten years for the war.

"I've had my picture in the New York Times and Time magazine and all over the world, and so what?" Adolfo Calero, one of the top contra politicians, told me. "I'm still a beginner here. I'm a lot poorer, a lot less established, a lot less everything than I was in 1982 when I left the country."

Calero, who still has a house in Kendall, works as the Managua representative of an Italian construction company and he's trying to start a small fruit-juice bottling company. (In the old days, he was general manager of the local Coca-Cola bottler.) He's staying out of politics in favor of making money, at least for the time being. But not all the former contra politicians chose that route. Many of them hold government positions. Frank Arana, manager of the contras' clandestine radio stations and one of the rebels who was closest to the CIA, moved from Miami back to Nicaragua and is now Violeta Chamorro's chief spokesman. Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the president's son and a former member of the contra political directorate, bought his family a house in Kendall but is now Nicaragua's ambassador to Taiwan. Lest that sound like a nepotistic sinecure, let us note that the Nicaraguan "embassy" in Taipei is Pedro Joaquin's one-bedroom apartment. The only reason it exists at all is that Taiwan offered the Chamorro government $60 million to break relations with China and recognize the Nationalist regime.

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