Ivan's Place
In honor of the greatest moralist who never lived
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Becker

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The International March for Peace in Central America
December 10, 1985 — January 24, 1986

Nicaragua — Farewell

Return to Introduction and La Marcha Table of Contents.

Even though la marcha, as such, was not allowed into Honduras or El Salvador, some of us did get into these countries as individuals to participate in peace actions carried out by the committees there. On the Salvador and Honduras pages, I will present what information I have, both from my notes, and recent material from Peter Holding and Sonja Iskov.

Guatemala has signaled that we can enter, but not as the peace march per se. The plan is to fly into Guatemala City as "tourists" in small groups, and my notes indicate that January 8th and 9th were pretty much dedicated to buying tickets.

My notes indicate too that Aurora was already in Guatemala City, learning what was possible for us, and probably also arranging lodging for la marcha's first arrivals, the leadership group. I will provide more details on our entry into Guatemala on the Guatemala page.

On the 10th, Theresa and I were hitchhiking back to Managua—possibly from obtaining our "tourist" visas at the Guastemalan embassy—when we were picked up by a man in a 70s-vintage, brown Volkswagon bus. He was well-dressed, spoke good English, and told us that he was a Salvadoran businessman, recently put in charge of a very large and profitable U.S. enterprise in Managua. He said that he had replaced another, very well known businessman who had taken on other responsibilities related to President Reagan's contra war. I did not get his name.

He volunteered an opinion about the conflict in his own country, El Salvador. It was not a civil war—it was a class war. The poor were caught between the extreme right and the extreme left.

I asked: "Didn't the extreme left arise because of the refusal of the oligarchy to grant the poor any benefits whatsoever?" "Yes," he answered.

(Relevant to this honest answer is the fate of a member of the Salvadoran oligarchy who had come out in favor of benefits for the working poor. I don't have his name, or the exact time period, but I believe that he had been elected to office, and was promoting his more progressive vision in the Salvadoran legislature. Ond day his bullet-riddled body was found in a field. It was understood by all that he had been killed by his wealthy friends, for whom exploitation of the poor was a God-given right. As always, I will be grateful for information on this episode in El Salvador's extremely brutal history.)

"I'm not a leftist—I'm right," the businessman added. But I believe in these people [the Sandinistas]." It was clear that he did not fear the nationalization of the enterprise he managed. If, as I would bet, under the Sandinistas his enterprise had to treat the help with a bit more consideration than the previous management did; or the enterprise had to plow back into the Nicaraguan economy a bit more of its profits than it did previously, he was clearly not upset about that either.

We parted on friendly terms, and I hope that this gentleman will someday recognize himself on this page and send me his current opinions of that era.

On our last evening in Nicaragua as a coherent group, we shared our considerable talents with each other.

I sang a bit myself, and for some reason, on our one night in Costa Rica, I had jotted down the words to a baritone aria from Andrea Chenier which I had memorized. Perhaps I had thought to charm our Costa Rica Libre attackers with my (very) modest operatic talents. Nevertheless, in spite of the warm vibes all around, tonight I decided not to perform.

  Thursday, January 9.

Francisco plays and sings for us.

  Blase sings.

  Kirsten from Denmark, traveling with the U.S. contingent. I was smitten by Kirsten.

  The Danes

  I don't know the name of this dance performed by our Spanish friends, but they are enjoying themselves so much I have to show both pictures I took.

  Dianne from Canada.

  Here, Tom from Minnesota holds up (probably) the day's issue of La Prensa, semi-official organ of the U.S. government in Nicaragua.

The back page headline says that Cotnadora is preparing for its first meeting in 1986. This is the direct result of the peace march—the Contadora peace process had been dead in the water, and in fact, we had spurred, perhaps even shamed, the member countries into asserting themselves.

I think that Guatemala's new president, Vinicio Cerezo, was a leader in renewing the effort to craft a regional peace plan.

There is also a headline about "another Nicaraguan protest to Honduras about a contra attack."

  This and the following three pictures show a skit depicting the all-to-common extra-judicial killings of progressives and leftists by right-wing security forces, most likely intended as those of the U.S.-client states in Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

I can't explain the precise plot line based on these few photos, but the general idea is clear.

  The Minnesota contingent. A dynamic, creative group, and just plain fun, too.

  Two shots of a Honduran marcher.

  Finally, a Nicaraguan band wraps up the show.

This concludes the Nicaraguan leg of La Marcha.

Return to Introduction and La Marcha Table of Contents.

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