Right from the Middle: Nicaragua and the leadership of Reagan and Tip O’Neill
Former Congressman Bill Lipinski looks back at President Ronald Reagan’s efforts to undermine the communist rise in Nicaragua and how Communism continues ot upward growth threatening the West and America today
By William O. Lipinski
Back in the nineteen eighties when I was in Congress and President Ronald Reagan was in the White House military aid to the Contras was quite a controversial issue in the US House of Representatives.
The Contras were Freedom Fighters in Nicaragua opposing the Communist Sandinista led by Daniel Ortega who were ruling Nicaragua at the time.
President Reagan being a strong anti-Communist sense his days working in the Motion picture industry did not believe we should tolerate another Communist government in the Western Hemisphere, the other being Castro’s Cuba.
President Reagan’s very first request for Military aid to the Contras passed easily in the US Senate, but the house had defeated the request four times in six month. The opposition to Reagan’s request in the house was led by Speaker Thomas P “Tip” O’Neil.
Tip as everyone called him was a very popular leader. Besides being Speaker of course, he was also the leading Democrat in the house, he was a very easy-going down to earth person who would help individuals in both parties.
He was the only speaker I served with that, every afternoon when the house was in session, would come out of his office and sit on the floor for a couple hours for members of both parties to speak directly to him. Nevertheless he was a very strong partisan liberal Democrat from Massachusetts.
His position on the situation in Nicaragua was greatly influenced by the left wing of his Democratic party and his sister, who was a Marynoll Sister working with the poor in Nicaragua.
They believed the Sandinistas were not Communist but were simply leftist trying to better the life of the poor in Nicaragua and other Central American countries.
Then, the House position turned around because of very heavy personal lobbying by President Reagan and the fact that after the fourth defeat of the legislation to aid the Contras Daniel Ortega the head of the Sandinista government traveled to Moscow to meet with his friends in the Kremlin.
This finally enabled the house to pass legislation giving $100 million dollars of military and humanitarian aid to the Contras to overthrow the Communist Sandinistas government.
A very personal notes at this time I am very proud to say I supported every piece of legislation put forward by President Reagan to remove the communist government from Nicaragua.
In fact, I supported President Reagan’s overall policy to confront communism around the world and defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
President Reagan and the Pope won the Cold War. Very unfortunately shortly after legislation giving military aid to the Contras was passed the Iran Contra scandal broke, severely Limiting the US aid impact in Nicaragua. Because of this scandal the years since the nineteen eighties has seen the Sandinistas in power in Nicaragua for all but a couple of years.
Ortega today rules Nicaragua with an iron fist, having been elected once again last year with 75% of the vote.
The Sandinistas are the only party allowed to count the votes. He steamrolled his way to reelection by eliminating all vocal opposition.
Seven individuals who opposed Ortega and said they were going to run for president were locked up several months before the election.
Three Catholic priests, two seminarians, and a deacon were locked up several months before the election because of their vocal opposition to Ortega.
The clergy are not the only ones being oppressed by the Sandinistas, over 35 individuals that we know of, have been imprisoned by the Sandinistas for their vocal opposition to Ortega.
President Reagan was right in the 1980s when he said Ortega was not interested in uplifting the poor, he was only interested in power and money for himself and his friends.
The Sandinista’s friends today are China, Cuba, Russia, and Venezuela. Very, very unfortunately no one in the American government cares anymore about Nicaragua, they have too many other problems.
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