President Reagan was sometimes accused by the liberal press of getting his facts wrong. But we found some whoppers in stories about his record. An article by Paul Harris in a British newspaper, The Observer, said Reagan had a policy of supporting rebels in Nicaragua “who were fighting that country’s duly elected Marxist government.” But that Marxist government, backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba, was never duly or freely elected. It took power through violence in 1979. The Reagan policy is what forced the Marxists, known as Sandinistas, to hold free elections that they lost.
A Washington Post story by Glenn Frankel and Kevin Sullivan smeared Reagan as responsible for the war in Nicaragua, when his policy was a reaction to the imposition of a communist dictatorship there. The Post quoted one observer in Nicaragua as saying that “Reagan’s financial and military support for anti-government rebels ’caused a lot of damage in our country, a lot of suffering, a lot of death and destruction?'” The source of this statement was said to be Carlos Chamorro, “a journalist and political analyst, whose mother, Violeta Chamorro, became president in elections in 1990 that ended the rule of the Marxist-led Sandinistas.”
The Post failed to make it clear that those elections were the result of the Reagan policy of supporting the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, dubbed “rebels” by the Post. Chamorro’s mother would never have been given a chance to compete for the presidency of Nicaragua were it not for the Reagan policy. Those “Marxist-led Sandinistas,” as the Post described them, were hard-core communists with ties to the Soviet Union and Cuba. But the Sandinistas tried to conceal their communist philosophy before they took power.
Frankel and Sullivan reported that, “The U.S.-backed war killed at least 20,000 people,” as if Reagan was to blame for a war that resulted when the Sandinistas themselves set about creating a communist regime and posing a strategic threat to the United States. Blaming Reagan for the damage, suffering, death and destruction in the country is factually wrong and a smear of the former president.
Frankel and Sullivan went on in their article to say that, “Reagan’s legacy was more admired in Eastern Europe, where many expressed gratitude for his help in ending the Cold War and causing the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.” But the battle against communism in Eastern Europe, like the battle against communism in Central America, was part of the same legacy. It was a war against the “Evil Empire.”
The Post’s bias against the Reagan policy in Central America is something that we witnessed at the time. Karen DeYoung, then the correspondent for the Post in that region of the world, said that most journalists looked on left-wing guerrilla groups as “the good guys.” That label included the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN in neighboring El Salvador. But their campaign of terrorism collapsed after the Sandinistas were forced out of power. Thanks to Reagan, Central America is free today. Senator John Kerry opposed the Reagan policy every step of the way.