- Frames of debate
- List of newspaper articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post on the Central America movement, 1980-1989 (chronological)
- Annotated list of books, articles, and dissertations on the Central America Movement (alphabetical)
- Bibliographical essay
- U.S. government hearings and reports related to Central America activism (chronological under Congress, State Dept., and U.S. Information Agency)
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I. Frames of debateCentral America movement activists and intellectuals sought to raise public awareness and win the political debate by:A. Arguing that the root cause of revolutionary ferment lay in poverty, injustice, and long-standing U.S. support for repressive regimes in the region (e.g., Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua), rather than “communist subversion” from without, as the Reagan administration claimed;B. Highlighting the human rights abuses of the Salvadoran and Guatemalan government and associated “death squads,” as well as the “terrorist” nature of Contra attacks on Nicaraguan civilians (which led to Congressional hearings in the spring of 1985);C. Raising the issue of “another Vietnam” in Central America, warning that U.S. aid to the Salvadoran government and Nicaraguan proxy forces could lead to direct U.S. military intervention (Congress limited the number of U.S. troops in El Salvador and President Ronald Reagan was obliged to declare that U.S. combat troops would not be sent to Central America, notwithstanding U.S. military exercises and a large military base in Honduras);D. Stressing Nicaragua’s right of self-determination under international law (Nicaragua won its suit against the U.S. in the International Court of Justice in June 1986, but the Reagan administration ignored the court ruling);E. Supporting peace negotiations initiated by Latin America leaders (which led to the signing of the Esquipulas Accords by five Central American presidents in August 1987);F. Warning against the “imperial presidency” in the U.S. (foreign policymaking by executive fiat), an issue that took center stage with the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings in Congress (the Reagan administration illegally sold arms to Iran and used the profits to illegally supply weapons to the contras at a time when Congress had banned such transfers);G. Explaining the benefits of the Sandinista socialist-oriented reform program along with the dire need for socioeconomic reforms in El Salvador and Guatemala.
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II. Newspaper articles on the movement, 1980-1989All articles in the New York Times are available online. For Washington Post articles, access to a search engine such as ProQuest is needed, available through most libraries.Introduction to news articles on the Central America movementMedia coverage of Central America movement activism in the U.S. was not extensive on the whole. The movement had no central spokesperson or group to whom the media could readily turn for information. The movement itself was complex, diversified, and decentralized. There were occasional profiles of local groups and activists (see, for example, Patricia Squires, “Aiding Contras Opposed,” New York Times, March 16, 1986). In terms of movement activities, what interested the media most was the political debate in Washington and attempts to influence members of Congress, followed by public activities such as demonstrations, vigils, fasts, and civil disobedience actions (arrests). Transnational activities – tourism, study tours, sister cities, humanitarian aid projects, work brigades, and “accompaniment” delegations – provided another angle of interest, as activists and local communities engaged in their own “citizen diplomacy.”Articles in the New York Times and Washington Post (only) – in chronological order (1980 through 1989)Valente, Judith. “D.C.-Area Hispanics Collect Funds to Spread Revolutionary Information.” Washington Post, Feb. 25, 1980, A20.
De Onis, Juan. “Catholic Bishops Ask End of Arms Aid to El Salvador.” New York Times, Nov. 9, 1980, 15.
“Bodies of 4 American Women Are Found Slain in El Salvador.” New York Times. Dec. 5, 1980, A3.
Phelps, Timothy. “For Two Nuns, Needs of Poor Hid the Danger.” New York Times. Dec. 7, 1980, 9.
Bonner, Raymond. “Protests on Salvador Are Staged across U.S.” New York Times, March 25, 1981, A3.
“Congress Mail Heavy on El Salvador Issue: Legislators Receiving Hundreds of Dollars a Week Opposing U.S. Dispatch of Military Help.” New York Times, March 26, 1981, 7.
Timothy Phelps, “U.S. Role in El Salvador Protested.” New York Times, April 19, 1981, 26.
De Onis, Juan. “Capital Rally Assails Arms to Salvador.” New York Times, May 4, 1981, A3. [Approximately 20,000 demonstrators in Washington, DC.]
“80 Arrested in Protest at White House.” New York Times, July 4, 1981, 7.
Crossette, Barbara. “Groups Trying to Sway Latin America Policy.” New York Times, Nov. 18, 1981, A24.
“Rally at Fort Benning Deplores the Training of Salvadoran Troops.” New York Times, Jan 25, 1982, A4.
Briggs, Kenneth. “U.S, Catholic Bishops Opposing Administration’s Salvador Policy.” New York Times, Feb. 21, 1982, A1.
Asner, Edward. “We’re on the Wrong Side in El Salvador” (opinion). New York Times, Feb. 20, 1982, 23.
“Salvador Policy Protest is Staged in New York.” New York Times, Feb. 21, 1982, A21.
Harmetz, Aljean. “Screen Actors Panel Stands By Asner.” New York Times, Feb. 26, 1982, C11.
Taubman, Philip. “Salvadorans’ U.S. Campaign: Selling of Revolution.” New York Times, Feb. 26, 1982, A10.
“Dear Citizen: Listen to today’s reports from El Salvador: They’re eerily reminiscent of Vietnam 15 years ago” (advertisement sponsored by the ad-hoc Committee to End U.S. Intervention). New York Times, Feb. 28, 1982, E20.
Roberts, Steven. “A Majority in Poll Want U.S. to Stay out of Salvador War.” New York Times, March 2, 1982, 1.
Shaw, Terri. “Mimeographs Roar in Propaganda War.” Washington Post, March 7, 1982, A1.
Fitch, Stona. “El Salvador Dispels Apathy at Princeton.” New York Times, March 16, 1982, sec. 11, p. 16.
Murphy, Caryle. “Critics of U.S. Policy in El Salvador to Rally.” Washington Post, March 27, 1982, A22.
Tolchin, Martin. “Thousands in Washington March to Protest U.S. Policy in Salvador.” New York Times, March 28, 1982, A18. [Between 23,000 (police estimate) and 50,000 (organizers’ estimate) people participated.]
Suplee, Curt. “Protest From The Poets.” Washington Post, June 15, 1982, B11.
“U.S. Criticized on Nicaragua.” New York Times, Aug. 13, 1982, A3. [Moravian missionaries working in Nicaragua called on Christians in the U.S. to lobby the Reagan administration to halt the arming and training of Nicaraguan dissidents.]
Austin, Charles. “300 Church Leaders Protest U.S. Policies in Central America. New York Times, Nov. 28, 1982.
Mintz, John. “126 Arrested at State in Protest Of El Salvador Rights Finding.” Washington Post, Jan 25, 1983, B1.
Weinraub, Bernard. “U.S. Catholic Conference Asks Shift on El Salvador.” New York Times, March 8, 1983, 7.
Mohr, Charles. “Reagan Receives Bishops’ Protest.” New York Times, March 10, 1983, A7.
Weinraub, Bernard. “U.S. Is Condemned over Salvadorans: Refusal to Grant Them Asylum Stirs Protest in Congress and by Church Groups.” New York Times, March 21, 1983, 5.
Herbut, Paula. “Four Salvadorans Fast To Protest U.S. Policy.” Washington Post, March 26, 1983, B3.
Volsky, George. “U.S. Churches Offer Sanctuary to Aliens Facing Deportation.” New York Times, April 8, 1983, 1.
“No Vietnam war in Central America!” (advertisement promoting a demonstration in Washington, DC, on July 2). New York Times, May 1, 1983, E3.
“Death of German Prompts Protests.” New York Times, May 4, 1983, A9. [The death of a West German doctor in Nicaragua at the hands of the Contras prompted demonstrations against U.S. policy in Frankfurt and West Berlin.]
“The Embassy of Nicaragua Informs U.S. Citizens Traveling to Nicaragua.” New York Times, July 3, 1983, E6. [In response to the U.S. closing six Nicaraguan consulates, making it difficult for Americans to obtain visas, the Nicaraguan Embassy announced that U.S. citizens would enter the country without visas.]
Peri, Peter, and Caryle Murphy. “Opposing Groups Air Latin America Views at Vietnam Memorial.” Washington Post, July 3, 1983, A1.
Hyer, Majorie. U.S. Policy on Central America Opposed by Mainline Christians. Washington Post, July 3, 1983, A2.
Gelb, Leslie H. “Nun sees a ‘big truth’ in Nicaragua.” New York Times, July 4, 1983, 8. [Lisa Fitzgerald.]
Austin, Charles. “L.I. Bishop Asks the End of Salvador Aid.” New York Times, July 19, 1983, 2.
Gruson, Lindsey. “Poll Reveals Fear of El Salvador as a New Vietnam.” New York Times, July 24, 1983, 15.
Coffin, William Sloane. “Nicaragua Is Not An Enemy” (opinion). New York Times, July 31, 1983, E19. [Rev. Coffin, the senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City, recently visited Nicaragua.]
Drozdiak, William. “Europe Concerned Over Central America’s Impact on Alliance,” Washington Post, Aug. 10, 1983, A16.
Shipp, E. R. “3 in Hunger Strike over Salvadorans at U.S. Base.” New York Times, Aug. 16, 1983, 9.
Austin, Charles. “More Churches Join in Offering Sanctuary for Latin Refugees.” New York Times, Sept. 21, 1983. 18.
“If President Reagan Can Get Away with the Invasion of Grenada, What Next?” (advertisement announcing a march on Washington November 12). New York Times, Nov. 6, 1983, E22.
Pear, Robert. “Washington Rally Draws Thousands.” New York Times, Nov. 13, 1983, 17. [U.S. Park Police estimated the size of the crowd at 20,000. The rally opposed U.S. intervention in Central America and the Caribbean – following the U.S. invasion of Granada.]
Murphy, Caryle. “20,000 Protest Against U.S. Policy.” Washington Post, Nov. 13, 1983, B1.
Hyer, Marjorie. “21 Leave Here for Nicaragua To Be ‘Human Shield,’” Washington Post, Dec. 1, 1983, A34. [First group of Witness for Peace volunteers.]
Bird, David. “Kissinger’s Office Site of Protest.” New York Times, Jan. 13, 1984, A8. [New York City.]
“Vietnam? Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America” (advertisement). New York Times, Jan. 22, 1984, E6.
“U.S. Volunteers Help Nicaragua with the Harvest.” New York Times, Feb. 16, 1984, A4.
“Connecticut Journal.” New York Times, March 4, 1984, 3. [Report on New Haven’s new sister city relationship with León, Nicaragua.]
Briggs, Kenneth A. “Episcopal Bishop Calls U.S. Latin Policy ‘Illegal and Immoral.'” New York Times, April 23, 1984, A9. [Bishop Paul Moore, Jr., Episcopal Diocese of New York.]
Feinman, Barbara. “Nicaragua Holiday.” Washington Post, May 29, 1984, C1. [Study tour packages to Nicaragua.]
Taubman, Philip. “In From the Cold and Hot for the Truth.” New York Times, July 11, 1984, B6. [Former CIA analyst David MacMichael said that “the administration and C.I.A. have systematically misrepresented Nicaraguan involvement in the supply of arms to Salvadoran guerrillas.”]
Omang, Joanne. “Catholic Groups Differ With Pope Over Nicaragua.” Washington Post, July 23, 1984, A1.
Omang, Joanne. “Pacifists Plan Protest if U.S. Attacks Nicaragua.” Washington Post, July 26, 1984, A10.
Taubman, Philip. “The Speaker and His Sources on Latin America.” New York Times, Sept. 12, 1984, B10. [Speaker Tip O’Neill noted the influence of Maryknoll nuns on his views of Central America.]
“Election Draws Many U.S. Observers.” New York Times, Nov 4, 1984, 21. [Members of the Latin American Studies Association were official observers of the Nicaraguan national elections.]
“U.S. Groups Conduct Interviews.” New York Times, March 7, 1985, A12. [Concerning an investigative report authored by Reed Brody, former Assistant Attorney General of New York, on contra atrocities against civilians.]
Omang, Joanne. “Inquiry Finds Atrocities By Nicaraguan ‘Contras’.” Washington Post, March 7, 1985, A14.
Rohter, Larry. “Nicaragua Rebels Accused of Abuses: Private Group Reports Pattern of Attacks and Atrocities.” New York Times, March 7, 1985, A1.
Baker, Donald P. “A Long Road to Sanctuary.” Washington Post, March 25, 1985, B1.
Burnham, David. “F.B.I. Questions Visitors to Nicaragua.” New York Times, April 18, 1985, A3.
Omang, Joanne. “Contra Aid Fight Nears.” Washington Post, April 15, 1985, A1. [Pro- and anti-contra groups involved in the political battle.]
Burnham, David. “Foes of Reagan Latin Policies Fear They’re under Surveillance.” New York Times, April 19, 1985, sec. 2, p. 20.
Weil, Martin, and Margaret Engel. “Reagan Policies Protested.” Washington Post, April 21, 1985, B1. [Estimated 26,000 in Washington, DC, and 50,000 in San Francisco.]
Engelberg, Stephen. “Thousands Join Protest in Washington.” New York Times, April 21, 1985, 22.
Barker, Karlyn. “More Than 300 Arrested in White House Protest. Washington Post, April 23, 1985, B1. [Civil disobedience action following the previous legal protest.]
“Latin America Policies Are Protested in U.S.” New York Times, May 8, 1985, A16.
“300 Seized in San Francisco in Nicaragua Protest.” New York Times, May 9, 1985, A6. [Pledge of Resistance protests result in hundreds of arrests in San Francisco, New York City, Boston, and elsewhere.]
“San Francisco Harbor ‘Mined’ by Protesters.” New York Times, May 31, 1985, A17.
“Nicaraguan Rebels Are Said to Abduct 29 U.S. Activists.” New York Times, Aug. 8, 1985, A8. [Witness for Peace volunteers and members of the press on the Rio Coco.]
“Group Sought to Deter Rebel Attacks.” New York Times, Aug. 8, 1985, A8.
Kinzer, Stephen. “29 U.S. Activists Reportedly Freed in Nicaragua.” New York Times, Aug. 9, 1985, 8.
Kinzer, Steven. “Freed U.S. Activists in Nicaragua Town.” New York Times, Aug. 10, 1985, 3.
“Clergymen Assert Abduction Wasn’t Staged.” New York Times, Aug. 15, 1985, A3.
Shaw, Terri. “Americans to Testify Against U.S. in Nicaraguan World Court Case.” Washington Post, Sept. 8, 1985, A17.
Henry, Neil. “Inside the Revolution.” Washington Post Magazine, Sept. 29, 1985, 6. [International brigadistas aiding Nicaraguan coffee harvests.]
Matthews, Jay. “On Trial in Tucson: Law vs. Conscience.” Washington Post, Oct. 25, 1985, A4.
“Serrin, William. “Labor Resolution Criticizes U.S. Role in Central America.” New York Times, Oct. 30, 1985, B6.
Kinzer, Stephen. “Contras’ Attacks on Civilians Cited.” New York Times, Feb. 20, 1986, A7.
“Contra Atrocities” (advertisement for a Witness for Peace film showing in New York City). New York Times, Feb. 28, 1986, B4.
“Religious Figures Protest Contra Aid.” New York Times, March 5, 1986, A4.
Apple, R.W. “Mudslinging Over Contras: Aid Issue’s Subtleties Get Buried in Epithets.” New York Times, March 12, 1986, A5.
Hiatt, Fred. “Governors wary of Sending Guard Troops to Honduras.” Washington Post, April 5, 1986, A1.
Toner, Robin. “They Who Beg to Differ on Aid to Nicaragua.” New York Times, March 14, 1986, A14.
Squires, Patricia. “Aiding Contras Opposed.” New York Times, March 16, 1986, 695. [A profile of the New Jersey Central America Network.]
“Sandinista Makes His Case on a Brooklyn Church Visit.” New York Times, July 28, 1986, A2. [Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega spoke at the Park Slope Methodist Church.]
“Veteran Returns Medal to Protest U.S. Policy.” Washington Post, July 30, 1986, B3. [Vietnam veteran Charles Liteky.]
“U.S. Bars an Oxfam Shipment of Farm Tools to Nicaragua.” New York Times, Sept. 4, 1986, A25.
“Foreign Volunteers Ordered to Quit Nicaraguan War Zones–Move Follows Contra Attacks on West European Workers,” Washington Post, Sept. 21, 1986, A21.
“War Medals Returned to Protest U.S. Policy.” New York Times, Oct. 10, 1986, A22.
Brinkley, Joel. “Four Veterans Ending Fast on Policy in Nicaragua.” New York Times, Oct. 17, 1986, A16. [Charles Liteky, George Mizo, S. Brian Willson, and Duncan Murphy.]
Franklin, Ben A. “Polyglot Protest Planned Today.” New York Times, Oct. 25, 1986, 1.
Pressley, Sue Ann. “2,000 March Here in Protest of U.S. Policies.” Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1986, A27.
Schneider, Keith. “Pattern Seen in Break-Ins at Latin Policy Group.” New York Times, Dec. 3, 1986.
Clendinen, Dudley. “Friends and Foes of Contras Rally at Florida Base.” New York Times, Dec. 14, 1986, 20.
Lehrich, Tamar. “Nicaragua Visited to Learn and Help.” New York Times, Jan. 25, 1987, sec. 13, A10.
Chavez, Lydia. “Nicaragua Is Aided by Sister City Projects.” New York Times, Feb. 1, 1987, E6.
Franklin, Ben A. “Contra Aid Protesters Found Guilty.” New York Times, Feb. 16, 1987, 9.
Wald, Matthew L. “Amy Carter Tells Court She Sat in Road to Alter C.I.A. Policy.” New York Times, April 14, 1987, A17.
Wald, Matthew L. “Amy Carter Is Acquitted Over Protest.” New York Times, April 16, 1987, A17.
Omang, Joanne. “U.S. Groups Counter Contra Aid With Private ‘Quest for Peace;’ Multimillion-Dollar Effort Includes Medicine, School Supplies.” Washington Post, April 19, 1987, A20.
King, Wayne. “Thousands Protest U.S. Policy in Central America.” New York Times, April 26, 1987, 32. [Between 75,000 and 100,000 demonstrators, many representing churches and organized labor, marched through the streets of Washington to protest U.S. policies toward Central America and southern Africa.]
Gaines-Carter, Patrice. “Thousands to Protest U.S. Foreign Policy; Labor, Religious Groups to Converge on City.” Washington Post, April 23, 1987, D5.
Hockstader, Lee. “560 Arrested at CIA Headquarters: Throng Protesting U.S. Foreign Policy Snarls Traffic in McLean.” Washington Post, April 28, 1987, A1.
Kinzer, Stephen. “Nicaragua Says Contras Killed American Civilian.” New York Times, April 29, 1987, 3. [Ben Linder.]
Kinzer, Stephen. “American Died in Rebel Ambush, Nicaragua Says.” New York Times, April 30, 1987, 12.
Sciolino, Elaine. “U.S. Groups Lay Blame for Killing of Volunteer on Administration.” New York Times, April 30, 1987, A12.
Branigin, William. “Americans in Nicaragua Undeterred by Killing: Linder’s Death Spotlights Volunteer Brigade.” Washington Post, May 3, 1987, A21.
Bole, William. “Religious Activists Display ‘Reparations Shipment’ to Nicaragua.” Washington Post, July 18, 1987, G12.
Schneider, Keith. “A Liberal Group Makes Waves with Its Contra Lawsuit.” New York Times, July 20, 1987, 16.
Hyer, Marjorie. “Church Groups Lobby Congress – Catholic Social Justice Leaders Urge End to U.S. Aid to Contras in Nicaragua.” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 1988.
Boyd, Gerald M. “Bush Debates With Brother Of American Slain by Contras.” New York Times, Aug. 1, 1987, 1.
Rosenthal, Andrew, “Campaign Formed Opposing Contras: Political and Religious Groups Seek Funds to Fight Drive by Conservatives.” New York Times, Aug. 14, 1987, 8.
“Arms Protester Injured by a Munitions Train.” New York Times, Sept. 2, 1987, 10. [S. Brian Willson.]
Bishop, Katherine. “Protesters, Angered by Injury, Return to Arms Site.” New York Times, Sept. 3, 1987. 22.
“R.O.T.C. Building is Stormed over Maiming of a Protester.” New York Times, Sept. 4, 1987, D15.
Courtney, Marian. “Three People Who Chose to Work in Nicaragua.” New York Times, Sept. 6, 1987, Sec. 11, p. 10.
Courtney, Marian. “New Jersey Group Seeks Answers in Nicaragua.” New York Times, Sept. 6, 1987, sec. 11, p. 1.
“Maimed Protester, 46, Vows He Will Continue.” New York Times, Sept. 12, 1987, 7.
“A.F.L.-C.I.O. Urges Aid Cut.” New York Times, Jan. 8, 1988, 3. [Opposition to U.S. aid to the Salvadoran government.]
“Rebellion by Mayors.” New York Times, Jan. 21, 1988, 7. [39 U.S. mayors signed an anti-contra resolution.]
Shenon, Philip. “F.B.I. Faces Review over Surveillance of Foes of Policy: President Concerned, He Orders an Internal Inquiry into Watch Put on Critics of the Administration.” New York Times, Jan. 30, 1988, 1.
“F.B.I. Director Defends Spying on Political Groups.” New York Times, Jan. 31, 1988, 29.
Johnson, Julie. “Opponents of Aid to Contras to Start Broadcast Campaign.” New York Times, Jan. 31, 1988, 16.
Johnson, Julie. “Freshman Is Tugged by Rival Sides on Rebel Aid.” New York Times, Feb. 2, 1988, A18. [Rep. Bob Clement, Tennessee Democrat.]
King, Wayne. “F.B.I. Stand Is Contradicted On Surveillance of Policy Foes.” New York Times, Feb. 14, 1988, 34.
“American Volunteer Is Seized by the Nicaraguan Guerrillas.” New York Times, Mar. 5, 1988, 3.
Kinzer, Stephen. “Contras Say They’ll Free Captured American.” New York Times, Mar. 10, 1988, A5.
“Reagan Action in Honduras Stirs Demonstrations in U.S.” New York Times, Mar. 19, 1988, 20.
Applebome, Peter. “Talks over Convoy Reach Dead End.” New York Times, June 15, 1988, A6. [The Veterans Peace Convoy, attempting to bring humanitarian aid to Nicaragua, was stopped at the Mexican border by U.S. Customs.]
Applebome, Peter. “Aid Convoy Is Turned Back at Border.” New York Times, June 16, 1988, A8.
“Police Seize Eight in Convoy Carrying Aid to Nicaraguans.” New York Times, July 10, 1988, 20.
“Convoy Member is Arrested.” New York Times, July 12, 1988, 14.
“Supply Convoy to Nicaragua Crosses Border.” New York Times, July 16, 1988, 6.
“Convoy Delivers Supplies.” New York Times, July 30, 1988, 6.
Shenon, Philip. “F.B.I. Word Due on Penalty In Surveillance of Policy Foes.” New York Times, Sept. 13, 1988. A22.
Shenon, Philip. “F.B.I. Chief Disciplines Six For Surveillance Activities.” New York Times, Sept. 15, 1988, A20.
Shenon, Philip. “F.B.I. Is Willing to Erase Names From Its Records: Chief Restricts Access to Data on Reagan Foes.” New York Times, Sept. 17, 1988, 5.
Belkin, Lisa. “Judge Rebuffs U.S. for Blocking Convoy of Aid to Nicaragua.” New York Times, Oct. 1, 1988, 54.
Bates, Steve. “Activists Plan Pentagon Protest.” Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1988, A23. [Part of national activist campaign called “El Salvador: Steps to Freedom.”]
Priest, Dana, and Steve Bates. “1,000 Protest Role Of U.S. in El Salvador; 215 Arrested in Blockade at Pentagon.” Washington Post, Oct. 18, 1988, B1.
“200 Arrested near Pentagon in Protest of Salvador Policy.” New York Times, Oct. 18, 1988, A8.
“Dukakis Loses Appeal on National Guard.” Washington Post, Oct. 26, 1988, A14.
Luther, Sara Fletcher. “At Managua Embassy, Contra War Protested.” New York Times, (letter). Feb. 23, 1989, A22.
“1,200 Hold Rally in New York against U.S. Role in Salvador.” New York Times, March 19, 1989, 3.
Duggan, Paul. “D.C. Demonstrators Protest El Salvador Election.” Washington Post, Mar 20, 1989, A27.
Brozan, Nadine. “160 Demonstrators Are Arrested in U.S. for Salvador Sit-Ins.” New York Times, March 21, 1989, 8.
“150 Arrested In Protests Over Aid to El Salvador.” Washington Post, March 21, 1989; A5.
Barker, Karlyn. “Refugee’s Arrest at D.C. Church Incites Protests.” Washington Post, March 29, 1989; B07.
“The CISPES Investigation (Cont’d.).” Washington Post, July 18, 1989; A22.
Harris, John F. “Hundreds Protest Aid to El Salvador; 95 Arrested at Rally Near White House.” Washington Post, Nov. 19, 1989; C1.
“El Salvador Aid Protested in San Francisco.” Washington Post, Nov 22, 1989; A20. [Demonstrators in San Francisco demanded an end to US aid to El Salvador in the wake of the slaying of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter.]
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III. Books, articles, and dissertations on the Central America Movement(alphabetical order)
Of the many books, articles, and dissertations written about the Central America wars of the 1980s, only those that address Central America activism in one form or another are included below. For authors with multiple, similar studies, only the latest or most comprehensive is noted.
Amanda Collective. Revolutionary Forgiveness: Feminist Reflections on Nicaragua. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1987. Stories of thirteen U.S. Christian women who participated in various solidarity activities in Nicaragua.
Arnson, Cynthia J. and Philip Brenner, “The Limits of Lobbying: Interest Groups, Congress, and Aid to the Contras.” In Richard Sobel, ed., Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy: The Controversy over Contra Aid. Lantham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993. Discusses pro- and anti-Contra aid groups in the battle over Contra aid in Washington in 1985-86, and assesses their overall influence.
Atlee-Loudon, Jennifer. Red Thread: A Spiritual Journal of Accompaniment, Trauma and Healing. Washington, DC: EPICA Task Force, 2001. A long-term Witness for Peace volunteer in Nicaragua recounts her experiences and asks soul searching questions.
Barns, Bob. Nicaragua Notes: A Collection of Newsletters from a Peace Activist. Nevada City, NV: Friendship Press, 1987. Bob Barns lived and worked in the war zones of Nicaragua for eight and a half months in 1986.
Battista, Andrew. “Unions and Cold War Foreign Policy in the 1980s: The National Labor Committee, the AFL-CIO, and Central America,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Summer 2002): 419-451. Examines the role of the National Labor Committee in Support of Democracy and Human Rights in El Salvador.
Bau, Ignatius. This Ground is Holy: Church Sanctuary and Central American Refugees. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985.
Becker, Mark. “Walking Through the New Nicaragua: Thoughts, journal entries, and other writings from a term with Witness for Peace in Nicaragua.” Peace Studies Internship paper, Peace Studies Dept., Bethel College, August 1986. Online: http://www.yachana.org/reports/nicawfp. Journal reflections during his Witness for Peace tour in 1985-86 and subsequent activities.
Becker, William. “The Home Front.” Online: http://www.williamgbecker.com/HomeFront.php. A collection of photographs and descriptions of Central America protests and activities in the Los Angeles area during the mid-1980s.
_____. “Nicaragua Election 1990.” Online: http://www.williamgbecker.com/nicaragua_1990.php. William Becker’s journal account of his trip to Nicaragua as an election observer, with accompanying photographs.
Beckman, Daniel. “War by Open Secret: Making and Unmaking the News in Honduras, 1979-93.” UCLA dissertation, 2023. ProQuest ID: Beckman_ucla_0031D_22110. Merritt ID: ark:/13030/m5jb4s4m. Online: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9hr939pv. A detailed examination of the methods used by the Reagan administration to prevent news stories in Honduras about the Contras; includes a sophisticated analysis of ideology; notes the efforts of activists to break through the fog of official propaganda.
Bickel, Beverly, and Philip Brenner and William LeoGrande. Challenging the Reagan Doctrine: A Summation of the April 25th Mobilization. Washington, D.C.: The Foreign Policy Education Fund, October 1987. A rare scholarly critique of the planning and implementation of the largest Central America demonstration during the 1980s (April 25, 1987).
Blanke, Svenja. “Civic Foreign Policy: Human Rights, Faith-Based Groups and U.S.-Salvadoran Relations in the 1970s. The Americas 61, no. 2 (2004): 217–44. Online through JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4144527. Examines the influence of U.S. religious activist groups on U.S. foreign policies related to Central America, especially in working toward human rights and peace.
Brentlinger, John. The Best of What We Are: Reflections on the Nicaraguan Revolution. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1995. Personal account by an U.S. citizen living in Sandinista Nicaragua.
Brett, Edward T. “The Attempts of Grassroots Religious Groups to Change U.S. Policy toward Central America: Their Methods, Successes, and Failures.” Journal of Church and State, vol. 36, no. 4 (August 1991): 773-794. Describes the activities of fifteen U.S. religious organizations involved in Central America activism.
_____. The U.S. Catholic Press on Central America: From Cold War Anticommunism to Social Justice. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2003.
Brody, Reed. Contra Terror in Nicaragua: Report of a Fact-finding Mission: September 1984-January 1985. Boston: South End Press, 1985.
Butigan, Ken. “The Pledge of Resistance: Lessons from a Movement of Solidarity and Nonviolent Direct Action.” In Marc Pilisuk and Michael N. Nagler, Peace Movements Worldwide: Players and Practices in Resistance to War. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011: 231-42. The former national Pledge coordinator discusses the development of the Pledge campaign and its significance as a nonviolent social change movement.
Butler, Judy. “On the Solidarity Trail.” Envío 74 (Aug. 1987), http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/3207. An engaging and witty critique of the Central America movement by a veteran activist on a speaking tour through the U.S. during the month of April 1987.
Central America Resource Center. Directory of Central America Organizations, Third Edition 1987. Central America Resource Center: Austin, TX, 1986. Comprehensive directory of 1,075 organizations working on Central America campaigns.
Chilsen, Liz, and Sheldon Rampton. Friends in Deed: The Story of U.S.-Nicaragua Sister Cities. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua, 1988. Relates the development of U.S.-Nicaragua sister cities from the U.S. side, describing their purpose, origin, and activities; offers advice on how to start one.
Chinchilla, Norma Stoltz, and Nora Hamilton and James Loucky. “The Sanctuary Movement and Central American Activism in Los Angeles.” Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 36, No. 6, SOLIDARITY (November 2009): 101-126.
Clark, Jeanne. “Prophetic Rhetoric and the Sanctuary Movement.” PhD dissertation. Univ. of Arizona, 1988.
Clements, Charles. Witness to War: An American Doctor in El Salvador. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1984. Clements was a prominent speaker in the Central America movement.
Cohen, Joshua, and Joel Rogers. Rules of the Game: American Politics and the Central America movement. Boston: South End Press, 1986. Examines the Central America movement in the context of progressive social change organizing.
Cortright, David. Peace Works: The Citizen’s Role in Ending the Cold War. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993. Recognizes the contribution of the Central America movement to the larger peace movement of the 1980s.
Coutin, Susan. “The Culture of Protest: Religious Activism and the U.S. Sanctuary Movement.” PhD dissertation. Stanford Univ., 1990.
Crittenden, Ann. Sanctuary: A Story of American Conscience and Law. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1988.
Cunningham, Hilary. God and Caesar at the Rio Grande: Sanctuary and the Politics of Religion. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1995.
Davidson, Miriam. Convictions of the Heart: Jim Corbett and the Sanctuary Movement. Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 1988.
Dean, Paul Thomas. “Unusual Campaign: NGO’s Long Battle to End Contra Aid.” PhD dissertation. Washington State Univ., May 2011. Recounts the congressional battle over Contra aid, utilizing the papers of Rep. David Bonior (Wayne State Univ.) and describes the efforts of nongovernmental organizations in the Countdown ‘87 lobbying campaign.
Dixon, Marlene, ed. On Trial, Reagan’s War Against Nicaragua: Testimony of the Permanent People’s Tribunal. San Francisco: Synthesis Publications, 1985. Documents testimony of U.S. and Nicaraguan intellectuals and activists at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, Oct.7-9, 1984.
Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne. Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003. A personal account of her experiences and meetings with numerous parties in Nicaragua.
Early, Alexandra, and Jan Morrill. “Sister Cityhood is Powerful Learning From Twenty-Five Years of Solidarity, Struggle, & Tortilla-Making in El Salvador,” Social Policy 41, 2 (Summer 2011): 36. The writers are associated with the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities Network, which represents seventeen pairings.
“El Salvador – Presente!” Crossroads Magazine #40 (April 1994). Online: http://www.nathannewman.org/EDIN/.mags/.cross/.40/.40salv/.40salv.html. Articles examine various kinds solidarity activism related to El Salvador:
• Green, Diane. “The CISPES Solidarity Model.” Critique of the Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
• Gosse, Van. “Radical, Pragmatic, and Successful.” Critique of CISPES.
• Meyer, Julie. “Breaking Many Taboos.” Women’s roles and struggles in the El Salvador solidarity movement.
• Magara, Aquiles. “The Heart, Soul, and Engine.” Salvadorans in the U.S. and their role in the solidarity activism.
• Swedish, Margaret. “The Religious Roots of Solidarity.” The breadth and depth of faith-based solidarity work.
• Kenney, Kathleen. “Physical Solidarity.” Religious accompaniment activities in El Salvador.
• Wheaton, Philip. “Sanctuary: People Before the Law.” Sanctuary activities in the U.S.
• Dyson, David. “Labor Takes the Field.” Role of labor unions in the Central America movement.
• Zielinski, Mike. “Solidarity Without Borders.” State of solidarity as of 1994.
Envío team. “Internationalist Caught in War.” Envío 60 (June 1986), http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/3507. The Jesuit editors of this Nicaraguan journal discuss the dedication and sacrifice of internationalists aiding Sandinista Nicaragua.
Everett, Melissa. Bearing Witness, Building Bridges: Interviews with North Americans Living & Working in Nicaragua. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1986. Forward by Congressman Bruce Morrison. Interviews with seventeen North Americans committed to helping the Nicaraguan people.
_____. Breaking Ranks. Philadephia: New Society Publishers, 1989. Chapters focus on key critics of the Reagan administration and participants in the Central America Movement, including veterans Jerry Genesio and Charlie Liteky, and CIA agents Ralph McGehee and David MacMichael.
Falcoff, Mark. “Revolutionary Tourism.” Public Opinion 9 (Summer 1986): 6-8. Jaundiced view from the right of Americans traveling to Central America.
Fisher, Steve. “The Nicaraguan Revolution and the U. S. Response: Lessons for Appalachia.” Appalachian Journal, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Fall 1986): 22-37. Critiques U.S. foreign policy and draws a parallel between the Sandinista Revolution and efforts to improve the Appalachia region of the U.S.
García, Mario T. Father Luis Olivares, a Biography: Faith Politics and the Origins of the Sanctuary Movement in Los Angeles. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018. Combines the story of a social justice-minded priest with the story of providing sanctuary to Salvadoran and Guatemalan (illegal) refugees in Los Angeles.
Gelbspan, Ross. Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central American Movement. Boston: South End Press, 1991. Describes FBI harassment of Central America activist groups.
Genesio, Jerry. Veterans for Peace: The First Decade (Falmouth, ME: Jerry Genesio, 1997). Recounts the establishment of Veterans for Peace in 1985 and the activities of military veterans.
Gettleman, Marvin E., and Patrick Lacefield, Louis Menashe, David Mermelstein, and Ronald Radosh, eds. El Salvador: Central America in the Cold War. New York: Grove Press, 1981. An early intellectual contribution to fostering a critical public discourse on El Salvador.
Glick, Brian. War at Home: Covert Action against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It. Boston: South End Press, 1989. Investigates government spying on Central America activists.
Golden, Renny, and Michael McConnell. Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1986.
Goodfriend, Hilary. “A Demand for Sanctuary,” Jacobin, February 17, 2017, online: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/02/sanctuary-movement-central-america-el-salvador-trump-deportations. Reviews the Sanctuary Movement in light of the Trump administration’s immigration proposals.
Gosse, Van. “Active Engagement: The Legacy of Nicaragua Solidarity.” NACLA Report on the Americas, March-April 1995. The historian-activist Van Gosse discusses the contributions of leftist, religious, and peace sectors to the Central America movement and sees a growing maturity on the part of the left in opting for pluralism over sectarianism. Download scanned article from http://www.vangosse.com/scholarly-writing.html.
_____. “‘El Salvador is Spanish for Vietnam’: A New Immigrant Left and the Politics of Solidarity.” In Paul Buhle and Dan Georgakas, eds., The Immigrant Left in the United States. Albany: State University of New York, 1996: 302-30. Download scanned article from http://www.vangosse.com/scholarly-writing.html.
_____. “’The North American Front’: Central American Solidarity in the Reagan Era.” In Michael Sprinker and Mike Davis, eds., The Year Left, Vol. 3: Reshaping the U.S. Left: Popular Struggles in the 1980s. New York: Verso, 1988. Download scanned article from http://www.vangosse.com/scholarly-writing.html.
_____. “Review of Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement by Christian Smith.” Peace and Change 23, 1 (January 1998): 103-106. Gosse criticizes the omission of leftist groups from Christian Smith’s analysis of the Central America movement.
Griffin-Nolan, Ed. Witness for Peace: A Story of Resistance. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991. An engaging account of the origins and activities of Witness for Peace by the former WFP media coordinator in Nicaragua.
Guatemala Commission for Historical Clarification, Guatemala — Memory of Silence: Report of the Commission for Historical Clarification: Conclusions and Recommendations. Guatemala: Historical Clarification Commission, 1999. Includes testimony from victims of state brutality and human rights abuses, belatedly validating reports of such by Central America activists.
Hamilton, Nora, and Norma Stoltz Chinchilla. Seeking Community in a Global City. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 2001. Examines the struggles of Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees arriving in Los Angeles during the 1980s.
Hannon, James. “Identity and Participation in a Social Movement Organization: The Boston-Area Pledge of Resistance.” PhD dissertation, 1991. As a “participant observer,” Hannon examines the nonviolent activist sub-culture that permeated the Boston Pledge of Resistance.
Hegg, Manuel Ortega, and Günther Maihold. La Cooperación Intermunicipal e Intercomunal y Los Hermanamientos de Ciudades en Nicaragua 1980-1990. Managua: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 1991. The authors discuss and analyze the rise of Nicaraguan sister cities, first with Europeans then with North Americans, and provide insight into motivations and attitudes on the Nicaraguan side.
Hildreth, Anne Marie. “Collective Action, Individual Incentives, and Political Identity: The Sanctuary Movement.” PhD dissertation. Univ. of Iowa, 1989.
Hoyt, Katherine. 30 Years of Memories: Dictatorship, Revolution, and Nicaragua Solidarity. Washington, DC: Nicaragua Network Education Fund, 1996. A moving account of her life in Nicaragua until 1983 and her subsequent work with anti-intervention groups in the U.S.
Inter-religious Task Force on Central America (IRTFCA). Peacemaking II: U.S. Religious Statements on Central America. New York: IRTFCA, July 1984. Statements of over twenty mainline religious denominations and ecumenical organizations against U.S. policies toward Central America.
Jones, Jeff, ed. Brigadista: Harvest and War in Nicaragua: Eyewitness Accounts of North American Volunteers Working in Nicaragua. New York: Praeger, 1986. Stories of more than sixty people who participated in solidarity brigades and other activities in Nicaragua.
Kavaloski, Vincent C. “Transnational Citizen Peacemaking as Nonviolent Action,” Peace and Change 15 (April 1990): 173–194. Describes how U.S. sister city pairings with both Nicaraguan and Soviet cities served “to undermine ‘enemy images’ and thus to help build a global peace culture beyond the often adversarial nation-state system” (174).
Keeley, Theresa. Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020. Uses President Reagan’s contemptuous remark that the four American nuns murdered by Salvadoran security forces in 1980 were probably carrying guns for the rebels to embark on a general inquiry into the Catholic Church’s conservative-versus-liberal divide on Central America policy.
Koll, Karla Ann. “Presbyterians, the United States, and Central America: Background of the 1980s Debate.” The Journal of Presbyterian History, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Spring 2000): 87-102.
Kruckewitt, Joan. The Death of Ben Linder: The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999. Kruckewitt captures the chaos and excitement of Sandinista Nicaragua, and the tragedy of Ben Linder‘s death.
Leahy, Margaret. “The Harassment of Nicaraguanists and Fellow-Travelers.” In Thomas Walker, ed., Reagan Versus the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War on Nicaragua. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.
LeoGrande, William M. Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1998. A comprehensive and thorough review of Congressional debates and diplomacy related to Central America, although it says little about grassroots activism.
Lorentzen, Robin. Women in the Sanctuary Movement. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1991.
MacEoin, Gary, ed. Sanctuary: A Resource Guide for Understanding and Participating in the Central American Refugees’ Struggle. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.
Mahoney, Liam, and Luis Enrique Eguren. Unarmed Bodyguards: International Accompaniment for the Protection of Human Rights. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press, 1997. Drawing on the experience of Peace Brigades International in Sri Lanka and Guatemala, this book presents the theory and practice of human rights protection through international accompaniment of those whose live in areas threatened by state violence.
McCarger, James. El Salvador and Nicaragua: The AFL-CIO Views on the Controversy. Washington, D.C.: AFL-CIO, 1985.
McDaniel, Judith. Sanctuary: A Journey. Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1986.
McGinnis, J. Solidarity with the People of Nicaragua. New York: Orbis Books, 1985. McGinnis describes numerous solidarity projects and their benefits to the Nicaraguan people.
Membreño Idiáquez, Marcos. “Whither Solidarity with Nicaragua?” Envío. No. 189, April 1997. A Nicaraguan view of international solidarity activities.
Menard-Warwick, Julia, and Peter Menard-Warwick. Letters Home: A Year in Nicaragua. Enterprise, OR: Pika Press, 1989.
Moreno, Dario. “Thunder on the Left: Radical Critiques of U.S. Central America Policy” (review of six books). Latin American Research Review, Vol. 26, No. 3 (1991): 226-34.
Mosley, Don, and Joyce Hollyday. With Our Own Eyes: The dramatic story of a Christian response to the wounds of war, racism, and oppression. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1996. Mosley discusses his spiritual motivation and practical efforts to aid the Nicaraguan people through a new “Walk in Peace” program, which provided Nicaraguans maimed by Contra landmines with artificial limbs.
Munkres, Susan. “Being ‘Sisters’ to Salvadoran Peasants: Deep Identification and Its Limitations.” In Jo Reger, Daniel J. Myers, and Rachel. L. Einwohner, eds., Identity Work in Social Movements, 189-212. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
National Security Archive. See Iran-Contra collection and Nicaragua collection for documents that show how Reagan administration agencies and officials viewed the Central America movement.
Nepstad, Sharon Erickson. Convictions of the Soul: Religion, Culture, and Agency in the Central America Solidarity Movement. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004. Nepstad examines the culture of religious solidarity in the U.S. through a sociological lens, describing how activists were emotionally moved by the human suffering they encountered in Central America, by the “martyr stories” they shared, and by the anger evoked from “President Reagan’s misrepresentation of Central America” (121).
_____. “Creating Transnational Solidarity: The Use of Narrative in the U.S.-Central American Peace Movement,” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 6, 1 (Spring 2001): 21-36; reprinted in Jackie Smith and Hank Johnston, eds., Globalization and Resistance: Transnational Dimensions of Social Movements. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002: 133-49.
_____, and Christian Smith. “The Social Structure of Moral Outrage in Recruitment to the U.S. Central American Peace Movement.” In Jeff Goodwin, James M. Jasper, and Francesca Polletta, eds., Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, 158-174. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
_____. “Nicaragua Libre: High-Risk Activism in the U.S.-Nicaragua Solidarity Movement.” PhD dissertation. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, 1996. Nepstad interviews American “brigadistas” who aided Nicaraguan coffee harvests, exploring their personal and ideological motivations.
Otter, Elma L., and Dorothy F. Pine. The Sanctuary Experience: Voices of the Community. San Diego: Aventine Press, 2004.
Ovryn, Rivera, Rachel. “A Question of Conscience: The Emergence and Development of the Sanctuary Movement in the United States.” PhD dissertation, City Univ. of New York, 1987.
Peace, Roger. A Call to Conscience: The Anti-Contra War Campaign. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, June 2012. A comprehensive history of the anti–Contra War campaign and its Nicaraguan transnational connections. Analyzes competing frames and arguments of the Reagan administration and the anti-Contra War campaign, the decentralized structure of the campaign, official U. S. and Nicaraguan perspectives on international solidarity, and the Nicaraguan governmental structure for managing solidarity activities. The study includes case studies of four local organizing initiatives and two state organizing initiatives, along with short biographies of U.S. and Nicaraguan participants.
_____. A Just and Lasting Peace: The U.S. Peace Movement from the Cold War to Desert Storm. Chicago: Noble Press, 1991. Places the Central America movement in the political context of other progressive foreign policy movements during the 1980s, including the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, South Africa divestment movement, and budget priorities efforts.
Perla, Héctor. “Sí Nicaragua Venció, El Salvador Vencerá: Central American Agency in the Creation of the U.S.-Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement.” Latin American Research Review 43, 2 (2008): 107-35. Perla takes issue with the exclusion of Central American actors in the works of sociologists Sharon Nepstad and Christian Smith. He argues that “much of the growth and success of the CAPSM [Central America Peace and Solidarity Movement] is attributable to the Central American revolutionaries’ efforts” (138-39), although his definition of revolutionaries is quite broad.
_____. “Transnational Public Diplomacy: Assessing Salvadoran Revolutionary Efforts to Build U.S. Public Opposition to Reagan’s Central America Policy.” In Kenneth A. Osgood and Brian C. Etheridge, eds., The United States and Public Diplomacy: New Directions in Cultural and International History, 166-91. The Netherlands: Koninkhiijke Brill NV, 2020.
_____, and Susan Bibler Coutin. “Legacies and Origins of the 1980s US-Central American Sanctuary Movement.” Refuge 26, no. 1 (2009): 7-19.
Porpora, Douglas V. How Holocausts Happen: The U.S. in Central America. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1990. Porpora examines how “publics are lulled into acceptance of murderous policies” (12) in both Nazi Germany and the U.S. (related to U.S. intervention in Central America). He cites “the weakness of the American will to truth” (179) and outlines steps to counter this, but gives only faint recognition to the efforts of the Central America movement in this direction.
Power, Margaret, and Julie A. Charlip. “Introduction: On Solidarity.” Latin American Perspectives 36, no. 6 (2009): 3–9. Online through JSTOR: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20684682. Defines solidarity between Latin Americans and North Americans and provides a brief overview of key studies.
Ramírez, Sergio. “U.S. Working People Can Stop Intervention in Central America” (March 4, 1982). In Nicaragua: The Sandinista People’s Revolution: Speeches by Sandinista Leaders (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1985).
Rampton, Sheldon. “Central America Activism: Getting Personal.” In John Tirman, ed., Annual Review of Peace Activism (Boston: Winston Foundation for World Peace, 1989): 52-58.
Reuben, Debra, and Sylvia Sherman. “Ten Years of Solidarity: A Nicaragua Network History.” Nicaraguan Perspectives, No. 17 (Summer/Fall 1989): 6-9, 51.
Ridenour, Ron. Yankee Sandinistas: Interviews with North Americans Living & Working in the New Nicaragua. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1986. Ridenour interviews nine U.S. citizens working to support the Sandinista social transformation in Nicaragua, probing their motives and discussing their experiences.
Riley, Keith. “Solidarity and the City: U.S. Municipal Politics and Salvadoran Revolution,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 46, No. 5 (Nov. 2022): 901-28. Investigates transnational solidarity activism, especially by Berkeley city council members, to aid and support popular groups in El Salvador aligned with revolutionaries and repressed by the government.
Roberts, Donovan. Stubborn ounces–just scales: With Witness for Peace in Nicaragua: a gringo’s reflections, observations, and sermons. Lima, Ohio: Fairway Press, 1991.
Ryan, Charlotte. “Framing a Message: Nicaragua Comes to New Bedford.” In John Tirman, ed., Annual Review of Peace Activism (Boston: Winston Foundation for World Peace, 1989): 47-51. Examines how a Nicaragua sister city program in New Bedford, MA, framed its educational messages and managed its local media relations.
_____. Prime Time Activism. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1991. Ryan expands on the above work, positing lessons useful to activists and elaborating on social movement organization (sociological) theories.
Sampson, Cynthia, and John Paul Lederach. From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000. The authors describe their experiences in assisting peace mediation projects in Honduras and Nicaragua in the late 1980s.
Scallen, Pat. “The Other Americans: U.S. Solidarity Workers in Sandinista Nicaragua.” MA thesis, Tulane Univ., 1992. Interviews Americans living and working in Nicaragua, providing insights into their lives and motivations. Well-written.
Secrest, Donald, and Gregory G. Brunk and Howard Tamashiro. “Moral Justifications for Resort to War with Nicaragua: The Attitudes of Three American Elite Groups.” The Western Political Quarterly 44, 3 (Sept. 1991): 541-59.
Smith, Christian. Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement. University of Chicago Press, 1996. This is the only book-length study of the Central America movement as a whole. Smith, a sociologist, examines the moral outrage of activists, protest and lobbying activities, competing frames of public discourse, governmental harassment, and internal movement struggles. He focuses on a few religious-based groups — Sanctuary groups, Witness for Peace, and the Pledge of Resistance — and argues that “religion served as a primary factor in the negotiation of the movement’s collective identity” (380). Smith takes a critical view of leftist groups, when mentioned, despite the increasing cooperation between religious and secular left sectors, facilitated in part by liberation theology.
Stoltz Chinchilla, Norma, and Nora Hamilton and James Loucky. “The Sanctuary Movement and Central American Activism in Los Angeles.” Latin American Perspectives 36, no. 6 (November 2009): 101-13.
Stout, Angela. “Sanctuary in the 1980s: The Dialectics of Law and Social Movement Development.” PhD dissertation. Univ. of Delaware, 1989.
Stuelke, Patricia. “The Reparative Politics of Central America Solidarity Movement Culture.” American Quarterly 66, no. 3 (September 2014): 767-90.
Surbrug, Robert. Beyond Vietnam: The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974-1990. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2009. Surbrug places the Central America movement in Massachusetts in the historical context of previous and co-existing movements: the anti-Vietnam War movement, anti-nuclear power movement, and Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. He argues that the overall effect of these movements was to cultivate and reinforce a liberal-left political consciousness in the state.
Swedish, Margaret, and Marie Dennis. Like Grains of Wheat: A Spirituality of Solidarity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004. Swedish, the founder of the Religious Task Force on Central America, and Marie Dennis, the director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, employ religious rather than sociological language in examining the faith-based solidarity movement they helped to create, writing that Central America solidarity is not “just a political project intent on changing government policies,” but “a sign of God’s redemptive healing action in our human history” (213). As with studies by Nepstad, the authors focus only on the U.S. side of the solidarity relationship.
Todd, Molly. Long Journey to Justice: El Salvador, The United States, and Struggles against Empire. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2021.
Discusses El Salvador-United States sister city relationships in a wider sphere of organizations involved El Salvador campaigns.
_____. “‘We Were Part of the Revolutionary Movement There’: Wisconsin Peace Progressives and Solidarity with El Salvador in the Reagan Era.” Journal of Civil and Human Rights 3, no. 1 (2017): 1–56. Discusses the transnational solidarity movement among Wisconsinites and Salvadorans in rural areas under government duress.
Tomsho, Robert. The American Sanctuary Movement. Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1987.
United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador. From Madness to Hope: The 12-Year War in El Salvador. San Salvador and New York: United Nations, 1993. Although this important “truth commission” report is not about Central America activism, it records the stories of the victims of the Salvadoran government and validates the arguments made by activist concerning the brutal tactics of the Salvadoran government and its paramilitary rightist allies.
Valencia, Ricardo J. “The Making of the White Middle-Class Radical: A Discourse Analysis of the Public Relations of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador between 1980 and 1990,” PhD dissertation, University of Oregon, 2018.
Weber, Clare Marie. Visions of Solidarity: U.S. Peace Activists in Nicaragua from War to Women’s Activism and Globalization. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006. Examines the transition from anti-Contra War activism to economic and women’s issues in two key groups, Witness for Peace and the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua. Criticizes the alleged failure of Witness for Peace to combat racial discrimination and economic exploitation in the U.S.
_____. “Women to Women: Dissident Citizen Diplomacy in Nicaragua.” In Nancy A. Naples and Manisha Desai, eds., Women‘s Activism and Globalization: Linking Local Struggles and Transnational Politics (New York: Routledge, 2002): 45-64.
Webre, Stephen. “Central America and the United States in the 1980s: Recent Descriptions and Prescriptions” (review of seven books), Latin American Research Review, Vol. 21, No. 3 (1986): 179-91.
Westerman, WIlliam. “Reciprocity and the Fabric of Solidarity: Central Americans, Refugees, and Delegations in the 1980s.” In Robert Perks and Alistair Thomason, eds., The Oral History Reader, 495-505. London: Routledge, 1998.
Williams, Virginia S. “Grassroots Movements and Witnesses for Peace: Challenging U.S. Policies in Latin America in the Post-Cold War Era.” Peace & Change 29, 3-4 (July 2004): 419-430. Examines the continuity of the “U.S.-Latin American peace movement” from the end of the Cold War until 2004.
Willson, S. Brian. Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson. Oakland, CA: PM press, 2011. Willson recounts his civil disobedience protest at the Concord Naval Weapons Station in California and his motivation and commitment to nonviolent social change since witnessing the effects of U.S. aerial bombing in Vietnam. (See also, “The Vigil at the Tracks” (1988), 27-minute video produced and directed by Mark Coplan,)
Wiltfang, Gregory L., and Doug McAdam. “The Costs and Risks of Social Activism: A Study of Sanctuary Movement Activism.” Social Forces, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Jun., 1991): 987-1010.
Witham, Nick. The Cultural Left and the Reagan Era: U.S. Protests and the Central American Revolutions. London: I. B. Tauris, 2015.
Witness for Peace Documentation Project (Santa Cruz, CA):
• Bitter Witness: Nicaraguans and the Covert War, a Chronology and Several Narratives (1984), 172 pages.
• The Story of Felipe y Mery Barreda of Esteli (1984), 28 pages.
• Kidnapped by the Contras: The Peace Flotilla on the Rio San Juan, Nicaragua (August 1985), 48 pages.
• What We Have Seen and Heard: The Effects of the Contra War against Nicaragua (1985), 16 pages.
• What We Have Seen and Heard in Nicaragua: Witness for Peace on-the-scene Reports (1987), 16 pages.
• Nicaragua: Civilian Victims of the U.S. Contra War, July 1986-January 1987 (February 1987), 44 pages.
• “Slender Wooden Crosses: The War Continues in Nicaragua” (24 minute video). Durham, NC: Witness for Peace, 1989.
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IV. Bibliographical EssayThis essay identifies the major areas of study related to the Central America Movement along with controversial issues.Domestic influences on U.S. foreign policymaking. The eight-year political debate in Congress over Central America policies is superbly told in William M. LeoGrande’s Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977-1992 (1998), which weaves together administration strategy, international diplomacy, party politics, and congressional debates over El Salvador and Nicaragua. Richard Sobel’s edited volume, Public Opinion in U.S. Foreign Policy: the Controversy over Contra Aid (1993), offers a comprehensive account of U.S. public opinion on the Contra War over the course of the 1980s. A chapter in the above volume assesses the influence of interest groups, pro and con, in the congressional debates of the mid-1980s. In “The Limits of Lobbying: Interest Groups, Congress, and Aid to the Contras,” political scientists Cynthia Arnson and Philip Brenner judge that the pro-contra groups had an edge over their opponents due to presidential support, ideology, and financial backing, but that anti-contra groups had more energy, grassroots involvement, and religious support. Moreover, they note, Congress “was far more responsive to anti-contra groups than it had been to anti-Vietnam War organizations” (213).Grassroots activism in the United States. Historian Edward T. Brett, in an essay titled “The Attempts of Grassroots Religious Groups to Change U.S. Policy toward Central America: Their Methods, Successes, and Failures” (Journal of Church and State, August 1991), describes the activities of fifteen U.S. religious organizations in the Central America movement. “The greatest accomplishment of the religious grassroots organizations,” he writes, “was their ability to make so many American people aware of the unjust conditions in Central America and the part U.S. policy played in their perpetuation. . . . Moreover, once people’s consciousness had been raised, the religious groups were able to draw large numbers of previously politically inactive individuals into the movement” (793-94).Historian Van Gosse brings leftist groups into the picture in two succinct essays, “‘The North American Front’: Central American Solidarity in the Reagan Era” (The Year Left, Vol. 3, 1988), and “Active Engagement: The Legacy of Central America Solidarity” (NACLA Report on the Americas, March-April 1995). Like Brett, Gosse regards the consciousness-raising aspect of the Central America movement as most important. “Already thousands of people, hardly consciously Left, understand in the most visceral way the role our country plays in the world, and why, and have committed themselves fully to the side of the victims” (Year Left, 43). In both essays, Gosse recognizes the contributions of religious, peace, and leftist sectors of the movement. He sees the left in particular as growing in political maturity during the 1980s, opting for pluralism over sectarianism.Three scholarly studies examine local and state initiatives in the United States, ironically all within the state of Massachusetts. Sociologist Charlotte Ryan, in Prime Time Activism: Media Strategies for Grassroots Organizing (1991), examines how a Nicaragua sister city program in New Bedford framed its educational messages and managed its local media relations. Ryan seeks to bridge the academic-activist divide in this study, positing lessons useful to activists and elaborating on sociological theories pertaining to social movement organizations. James Hannon, in his sociology dissertation, “Identity and Participation in a Social Movement Organization: The Boston-Area Pledge of Resistance” (1991), focuses on the nonviolent activist sub-culture that permeated the Boston Pledge of Resistance. As a “participant observer,” Hannon examines the motivation of participants, their life histories, the affinity group system, the tactics and philosophy of nonviolent direct action, various organizational problems, and perceived deficiencies. This study adds rich detail to the history of the anti-Contra War campaign as developed in one city. Robert E. Surbrug, in Beyond Vietnam: The Politics of Protest in Massachusetts, 1974-1990 (2009), devotes two chapters to the Central America movement in Massachusetts, placing it in the historical context of previous and co-existing movements: the anti-Vietnam War movement, anti-nuclear power movement, and Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. He argues that the overall effect of these movements was to cultivate and reinforce a liberal-left political consciousness in the state, such that elected officials were encouraged to speak out against the Reagan administration’s Central America policies. Surbrug’s study includes in-depth interviews with four activists, a brief description of the activist networks that propelled the Central America movement forward in the state, and vignettes on a number of public activities.My own scholarly study, A Call to Conscience: The Anti-Contra War Campaign (2012), provides a comprehensive overview of U.S. organizing efforts and transnational activities related to Nicaragua. Chapter Four, “Organizational Dynamics of a Decentralized Campaign,” includes two case studies of state organizing – New Jersey and Florida – and four case studies of local organizing – Rochester and Buffalo, NY, Portland, OR, and Tallahassee, FL. Also woven through the book are short biographies of activists.The single book-length scholarly study of the Central America movement is Christian Smith’s Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement (1996). Smith, a sociologist, examines the moral outrage of activists, protest and lobbying activities, competing frames of public discourse, governmental harassment, and internal movement struggles. He focuses mainly on religious-based groups – Sanctuary groups, Witness for Peace, and the Pledge of Resistance – and argues that “religious groups facilitated the movement‘s growth through network chains of communication and bloc-recruitment. In turn, religion served as a primary factor in the negotiation of the movement’s collective identity” (380). Van Gosse, in a review of Smith’s study (Peace and Change, 1998), strongly criticizes the omission of leftist group contributions, arguing that it creates an inaccurate portrait of the Central America movement. While there is much of value in Smith’s study, it fails to appreciate how religious and secular left activists often worked together toward common goals and how liberation theology narrowed the philosophical differences between them.A few books with single chapters on the Central America movement place it in historical and political contexts. David Cortright’s Peace Works: The Citizen’s Role in Ending the Cold War (1993) recognizes the contribution of the Central America movement to the wider peace movement of the 1980s. “The Central America solidarity movement and the disarmament movement were linked in many ways,” writes Cortright. “Both movements were working toward the same general goal – preventing war and creating a more peaceful world – and it was only natural that they would draw support from the same constituency” (234). Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers, in Rules of the Game: American Politics and the Central America Movement (1986), view the Central America movement as part of a broader progressive movement. Written in the middle of the 1980s, they appeal for greater cooperation among activist groups in order to present a more coherent alternative to rightist policies and ideological formulations. My own earlier work, A Just and Lasting Peace: The U.S. Peace Movement from the Cold War to Desert Storm (1991), places the Central America movement in the context of other progressive foreign policy campaigns.Potpourri. The largest Central America demonstration of the decade on April 25, 1987, is the subject of a sixty-page report, “Challenging the Reagan Doctrine: A Summation of the April 25th Mobilization” (1987), written by scholars Beverly Bickel, Philip Brenner, and William LeoGrande. The authors provide a chronology and engaging critique of the planning and implementation of this demonstration, suggesting lessons for future organizers. The issue of FBI harassment and surveillance is discussed in three studies: Ross Gelbspan’s Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central American Movement (1991), Brian Glick’s War at Home: Covert Action against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It (1989), and Margaret Leahy’s “The Harassment of Nicaraguanists and Fellow-Travelers” (in Thomas Walker et al., Reagan Versus the Sandinistas: The Undeclared War against the Sandinistas, 1987). In a lighter vein, Judy Butler, who moved to Managua in 1983 and returned to the United States for a speaking tour in the spring of 1987, offers a witty and insightful critique of Nicaragua activist groups in “On the Solidarity Trial” (Envío, August 1987).A few studies focus on particular organizations involved in the Central America movement. Jerry Genesio recounts the origins and development of Veterans for Peace along with his own personal transformation into a peace activist in Veterans for Peace: The First Decade (1997). Ken Butigan, in “The Pledge of Resistance: Lessons from a Movement of Solidarity and Nonviolent Direct Action” (Peace Movements Worldwide, 2011), discusses the development of the Pledge campaign and its significance as a nonviolent social change movement. See also the “Inventory of the Pledge of Resistance Collection,” Online Archive of California (Berkeley), https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt7c60424f/entire_text. Andrew Battista focuses on the formation and activities of the National Labor Committee in his scholarly essay, “Unions and Cold War Foreign Policy in the 1980s: The National Labor Committee, the AFL-CIO, and Central America” (Diplomatic History, Summer 2002). Brief information on more than 1,000 organizations involved in the Central America movement can be found in the Directory of Central America Organizations 1987 published by the Central America Resource Center in Austin, Texas (1986). More extensive information can be found in archival collections located at Swarthmore College (Peace Collection), the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley, the Benson Library at the University of Texas at Austin, and the AFSC national office in Philadelphia.The Sanctuary Movement. The Sanctuary Movement, often viewed as a subset of the Central America movement, aided Central American refugees streaming into the U.S., mostly illegally. An estimated one million Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing repression in their native lands made the journey across Mexico and entered the U.S. clandestinely during the 1980s. Sanctuary projects developed independently in California and Arizona, and spread across the country. By mid-decade, hundreds of religious congregations and communities had declared themselves “sanctuaries,” offering material and legal assistance. Dozens of books have been written on the Sanctuary Movement alone, authored by by Ignatius Bau, Ann Crittenden, Hilary Cunningham, Miriam Davidson, Renny Golden and Michael McConnell, Robin Lorentzen, Gary MacEoin (editor), Judith McDaniel, Elma L. Otter and Dorothy F. Pine, Dick Simpson and Clinton Stockwell, Robert Tomsho, and others; also dissertations by Jeanne Clark, Susan Coutin, Anne Marie Hildreth, Rachel Ovryn-Rivera, and Angela Stout. For additional resources on the Sanctuary Movement, see Classify: An Experimental Classification Web Service: “Sanctuary Movement,” http://classify.oclc.org/classify2/ClassifyDemo?ident=1104801.Transnational activism. A large segment of studies focuses on transnational activism, also known as “transnational advocacy networks,” “transnational citizen peacemaking,” “transnational resistance,” and “citizen diplomacy.” Sociologist Sharon E. Nepstad has been a major contributor in this area. Her dissertation, “Nicaragua Libre: High-Risk Activism in the U.S.-Nicaragua Solidarity Movement” (1996), explores the motivations of thirty-two U.S. volunteers who worked in Nicaragua as brigadistas. In two other works, “Creating Transnational Solidarity: The Use of Narrative in the U.S.-Central America Peace Movement” (Mobilization: An International Quarterly, Spring 2001) and Convictions of the Soul: Religion, Culture, and Agency in the Central America Solidarity Movement (2004), Nepstad examines the culture of religious solidarity in the U.S., describing how activists were emotionally moved by the human suffering they encountered in Central America, by the “martyr stories” they shared, and by the anger evoked from “President Reagan’s misrepresentation of Central America” (Convictions, 121). Margaret Swedish, founder of the Religious Task Force on Central America, and Marie Dennis, director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, similarly focus on the religious solidarity network in the U.S., but employ religious rather than sociological language and concepts. In Like Grains of Wheat: A Spirituality of Solidarity (2004), the authors write that Central America solidarity is not “just a political project intent on changing government policies,” but “a sign of God’s redemptive healing action in our human history” (213). Swedish and Dennis describe the faith-based solidarity community they helped to create as “a project that is brimming with the divine . . . making the world what God intended it to be” (170).El Salvador. Political scientist Héctor Perla, in “Sí Nicaragua Venció, El Salvador Vencerá: Central American Agency in the Creation of the U.S.-Central American Peace and Solidarity Movement” (Latin American Research Review, 2008), takes issue with the exclusion of Central American actors in both Nepstad’s and Smith’s sociological studies, and also focuses on solidarity with Central American revolutionaries, a controversial issue in the movement. Perla views Central Americans “as the purposive agents behind the movement” and argues that “much of the growth and success of the CAPSM [Central America Peace and Solidarity Movement] is attributable to the Central American revolutionaries’ efforts” (138-39). He posits a “signal flare theory,” in which Central Americans gave direction to North American activists by signaling their needs or intentions. Whether or not Central American “revolutionaries” issued explicit signals, transnational connections and communications were a two-way street.Charles Clements’ Witness to War: An American Doctor in El Salvador (1984) provides an up-close, down-to-earth at one U.S. citizen’s attempt to ameliorate the conditions of war. After serving in the Air Force in the Vietnam War, he became a doctor and dedicated his life to nonviolence and healing, ultimately tending to the wounded behind rebel lines in El Salvador. Historian Molly Todd discusses transnational activism between U.S. and Salvadoran activists, citizens, and communities more broadly, focusing in particular on sister city programs and delegations, in the Long Journey to Justice: El Salvador, the United States, and Struggles against Empire (2021).Nicaragua. Studies of transnational connections between U.S. and Nicaraguan activists, groups, and communities are more numerous in large part because the Sandinista government welcomed such contacts and support (see Peace’s A Call to Conscience, Chapter Six, “The Politics of Transnational Activism”). The most well-known organization involved in transnational “accompaniment” in Nicaragua was Witness for Peace (WFP). The history of this organization is superbly told in Ed Griffin-Nolan’s Witness for Peace: A Story of Resistance (1991). Griffin-Nolan served as WFP media coordinator in Managua from 1985 to 1988. Writing with journalistic flair, he describes WFP’s origins and development, the moral and spiritual motivation of WFP volunteers, the interaction between U.S. activists and Nicaraguans, dramatic encounters with the contras, and the efforts of WFP volunteers to impress upon their fellow citizens in the U.S. the human costs of the Contra War. His story also includes an account of how Sixto Ulloa of the Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua (CEPAD) helped WFP gain approval from the Sandinista government for the program. Personal accounts of WFP participants can be found in reflective works by Mark Becker, Donovan O. Roberts, and Jennifer Atlee-Loudon. Another program mixing accompaniment with labor brigades assisting coffee harvests and other activities was conducted by Nicaragua Network and various socialist-oriented solidarity groups in Europe. This story is told in Jeff Jones, ed., Brigadista: Harvest and War in Nicaragua: Eyewitness Accounts of North American Volunteers Working in Nicaragua (1986) and Ron Ridenour, Yankee Sandinistas: Interviews with North Americans Living & Working in the New Nicaragua (1986).The sincerity and moral commitment of U.S. volunteers in Nicaragua is apparent in a number of published memoirs, biographies, and journalistic interviews with U.S. activists living and working in Nicaragua. Joan Kruckewitt‘s The Death of Ben Linder: The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua (1999) captures the chaos and excitement of Sandinista Nicaragua, and the tragedy of Ben Linder‘s death. Other works in this genre include the following: Bob Barns, Nicaragua Notes: A Collection of Newsletters from a Peace Activist (1987); John Brentlinger, The Best of What We Are: Reflections on the Nicaraguan Revolution (1995); Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War (2005); Melissa Everett, Bearing Witness, Building Bridges: Interviews with North Americans Living & Working in Nicaragua (1986); Katherine Hoyt, 30 Years of Memories: Dictatorship, Revolution, and Nicaragua Solidarity (1996); J. McGinnis, Solidarity with the People of Nicaragua (1985); Patrick McManus and G. Schlabach, Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America (1991); Julia and Peter Menard-Warwick, Letters Home: A Year in Nicaragua (1989); Don Mosley and Joyce Hollyday, With Our Own Eyes: The Dramatic Story of a Christian Response to the Wounds of War, Racism, and Oppression (1996); and Pat Scallen, “The Other Americans: U.S. Solidarity Workers in Sandinista Nicaragua” (1992).Liz Chilsen and Sheldon Rampton, in Friends in Deed: The Story of U.S.-Nicaragua Sister Cities (1988), relate the story of U.S.-Nicaragua sister cities, their purposes, origins, and activities. The authors highlight the humanitarian mission of sister cities and civic bonds – helping “friends in need” – but understate the political mission of organizing against the Contra War. The political mission was more clearly identified by Nicaraguan authors Manuel Ortega Hegg and Günther Maihold in La Cooperación Intermunicipal e Intercomunal y Los Hermanamientos de Ciudades en Nicaragua 1980-1990 (1991). They discuss the development of Nicaraguan sister cities with their European and North American counterparts, practical projects, political connections, and ideological orientations. Philosophy professor Vincent C. Kavaloski, in “Transnational Citizen: Peacemaking as Nonviolent Action” (Peace and Change, 1990), takes a bird’s eye view of the sister city movement, writing that U.S. pairings with both Nicaraguan and Soviet cities served “to undermine ‘enemy images’ and thus to help build a global peace culture beyond the often adversarial nation-state system” (174).The continuation of transnational relationships after 1990 is the subject of Virginia S. Williams’s essay, “Grassroots Movements and Witnesses for Peace: Challenging U.S. Policies in Latin America in the Post-Cold War Era” (Peace and Change, July 2004) and Marie Claire Weber’s Visions of Solidarity: U.S. Peace Activists in Nicaragua from War to Women’s Activism and Globalization (2006). Both describe the transition of activist organizations from antiwar to economic justice missions in the 1990s. Weber also discusses the shift in the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua and Witness for Peace to women’s empowerment projects.
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V. U.S. government reports related to Central America activismListed chronologically under each government agency.U.S. CongressHouse Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, “Statement of Adm. Stansfield Turner, Former Director of Central Intelligence,” April 16, 1985. In U.S. Support for the Contras, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Ninety-Ninth Congress, First Session, April 16, 17 and 18, 1985. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), 1985. [Adm. Turner testified at the hearing (page 4), “I believe it is irrefutable that a number of the Contras’ actions have to be characterized as terrorism, as State-supported terrorism.” Although not intended to help anti-Contra groups, it validated their documentation of Contra attacks. The statement verified the work of groups such as Witness for Peace which documented Contra attacks and casualties in rural Nicaragua.]House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, Break-ins at sanctuary churches and organizations opposed to administration policy in Central America: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, first session, February 19 and 20, 1987. Washington, DC: GPO, 1988. [Investigations into Sanctuary Movement activism.]House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. United States volunteers in Nicaragua and the death of Benjamin Linder: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One hundredth Congress, first session, May 13, 1987. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1987. [Investigation into the killing of U.S. engineer Ben Linder by the Nicaraguan Contras. This one-day hearing contains testimony from Ben Linder’s parents and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, on the one hand, and administration spokesperson Elliott Abrams, on the other.]House Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Investigations. Concord Naval Weapons Station train incident: Hearing before the Investigations Subcommittee of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, first session, November 18, 1987. Washington, DC: GPO, 1988. [Investigation into a civil disobedience action in which activist and veteran Brian Willson was run over by a munitions train, after which both his legs were amputated.]House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary. CISPES and FBI Counter-Terrorism Investigations: Hearing before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, Second Session, September 29, 1988. Washington, DC: GPO, 1989. [Investigation into government spying on the Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador, 1988.]United States Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence. The FBI and CISPES: Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence, July 14, 1989. Washington, DC: GPO, 1989.U.S. State Department, Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (S/LPD)The State Department created the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (S/LPD) in 1983 for the purpose of persuading the American public to support administration policies toward Central America. The reports noted below invariably cast the Central American Movement in a negative light but nonetheless acknowledge its influence on public opinion and Congress. See linked essay: “The Politics of Transnational Solidarity: Washington Versus Managua.”• “Rebutting Common Misperceptions of Our Central America Policy.” Memorandum to Charles Hill, May 2, 1983 (8 pp.). National Security Archive (NSA), ES03963.
• “Public Diplomacy Strategy Paper: Central America,” May 5, 1983 (26 pp.). NSA, No. IC00096.
• “Central America: Next Steps Public Diplomacy Action Place,” Memorandum, Nov. 1, 1983 (11 pp.). NSA, IC00224.
• “Public Diplomacy Strategy Paper: Central America,” March 19, 1984 (8 pp.). NSA, IC00369.
• Shultz, George, Secretary of State. Memorandum for the President, “News Coverage of Central America,” April 15, 1984. In Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne, eds., The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History (New York: The New Press, 1993), p. 34.
• “Purchase Order Contract for William Perry.” Memorandum, July 11, 1984 (9 pp.). NSA, IC00479.
• “Payment for Services for the Period September 1 Through December 31, 1984,” Memorandum regarding S/LPD contract with Francis D. Gomez, International Business Communications, Aug. 1, 1984 (2 pp.). NSA, IC00519.
• “Contract Purchase Order to Pay J. Michael Waller – Resume Attached.” Purchase Order, August 3, 1984 (5 pp.). NSA, IC00524.
• O’Leary de Macias, Geraldine. “Sandinista Disinformation.” Public Diplomacy Office Review, Sept. 1, 1984 (50 pp.). NSA, NI02192.
• S/LPD Summary Report, Dec. 1, 1984 (7 pp.). NSA, IC00639.
• Perry, William, and Peter Wehner (Institute for the Study of the Americas). “The Latin Americanist Establishment: A Survey of Involvement; An Interpretive Report,” Jan. 1, 1985. Public Diplomacy Office Review copy. NSA, IC00683.
• Jacobowitz, Col. Daniel. “Public Diplomacy Action Plan,” March 12, 1985 (9 pp.), NSA, IC00934.
• “Public Diplomacy Action Plan; Support for the White House Educational Campaign” (8 pp.), March 12, 1985.
• Otto J. Reich. “Public Diplomacy Plan for Europe.” Memorandum to Walter Raymond, Jr., July 29, 1985 (4 pp.). NSA, IC01369.
• “Freedom Fighters” Spot Television Program Memorandum (Lobbying Strategy Proposal Using Television Advertisements to Target Swing Congresspersons), Dec. 9, 1985 (43 pp.). NSA IC01974.
• “Ninety-Day Plan.” Revision 5, Dec. 17, 1985 (List of S/LPD Events, Speeches, Publications Attached, 12 pp.). NSA, IC02006.
• Miller, Richard R., IBC president. “Central America Freedom Program.” Memorandum to Carl R. (“Spitz”) Channell, NEPL president, Feb. 16, 1986 (13 pp.). NSA, IC02354.
• Kagan, Robert, S/LPD director. “Public Diplomacy Plan for Explaining U.S. Central American Policy to the U.S. Religious Community.” Memorandum to Walter Raymond, Jr., Sept. 18, 1986 (7 pp.). NSA, IC03439.U.S. Information Agency surveys of European and Latin American opinion – interpretive essayResistance by Western European leaders to following the Reagan administration’s line on Nicaragua was underpinned by public opinion in the various Western Europe countries. The administration was well aware of this, as the United States Information Agency (USIA) regularly took surveys of Western Europe on publics. Otto Reich, director of the newly established Office of Public Diplomacy blamed the Sandinistas and their “allies” abroad – peace, justice, and solidarity groups and religious leaders in the U.S. – for turning Western European publics against U.S. Central America policies, refusing to consider that the policies themselves were to blame. The first surveys of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua were taken in Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Ireland in the fall of 1983. The surveys found widespread ignorance of U.S. policy, but in no case was support more than five percent.1 A separate USIA-sponsored opinion survey taken in Spain in November 1983 found that almost twice as many Spaniards distrusted the U.S. (49%) than trusted it (25%); and that more Spaniards trusted Cuba (30%) than the U.S. (25%).2Western Europeans reacted strongly to revelations in April 1984 regarding the U.S. role in mining Nicaraguan harbors and the Reagan administration’s declaration that same month that it would not recognize the World Court’s jurisdiction in the Nicaragua case (this was made official in January 1985). According to a USIA report on April 25, 1984, there was a “strong negative press reaction” in Western Europe to the mining; and, “Condemnation was unanimous when the U.S. said it will not accept the World Court’s jurisdiction.”3The general inclination of Western Europeans to favor international law and diplomacy over military action was revealed in another USIA-sponsored opinion survey on an issue unrelated to Nicaragua. Conducted in February 1984, pollsters asked Western Europeans how their governments should respond to any hostilities in the Persian Gulf region. The overwhelming favorite choice was “diplomatic pressure,” supported by 62% in Germany, 70% in Great Britain, and 80% in Italy, which far exceeded the other four options of making “a show of force,” “direct military action,” “do nothing,” and “do not know.”4 Statements by Western European leaders in support of the Contadora process were thus in line with this majority sentiment. In Canada, meanwhile, a USIA opinion survey conducted in late 1984 found, “U.S. policies and actions towards Nicaragua are disapproved by half (51% to 24%) of the Canadian public and those towards El Salvador by a plurality (45% to 31%).5USIA opinion surveys taken in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain in June-July 1984 found that a plurality perceived the U.S. to be the major source of trouble in Central America, as compared to Cuba or the Soviet Union. “Opinion is divided on whether the sources of conflict in Central America lie in economic and social conditions or in interference by outsiders,” stated the summary. “But when interference is blamed, more see the U.S. than the Soviet Union as the guilty party. Very few accuse Cuba of meddling.” In Great Britain, 30% of citizens blamed the U.S. for interfering in Central American conflicts, as opposed to 19% who blamed the Soviets, and 4% who blamed Cuba. In the Netherlands, the corresponding figures were 56% blaming the U.S., 18% blaming the USSR, and 5% blaming Cuba.On a separate question of whether one approved or disapproved of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua, the results were as follows: in Britain, 14% approved and 44% disapproved; in the Netherlands, 9% approved and 40% disapproved; in Italy, 22% approved and 50% disapproved; and in Spain, 6% approved and 44% disapproved. This survey furthermore found that those who were better educated and more informed about Central America issues were more likely to oppose U.S. policies in Central America. “By large margins, those with an opinion disapprove of current U.S. policies in both El Salvador and Nicaragua.” noted the report. “The informed public in each country is even more critical of U.S. policies than the general public.”6Western European views of U.S. policy in Central America remained much the same in 1985. A USIA summary report of a five-nation survey, dated May 10, 1985, stated that, except for West Germany, “where opinion is divided, more see the U.S. as a threat to peace and stability in Central America than as a positive influence for change.” The question asked was, “On balance, do you think the United States is more of a positive influence for change in the region, more of a threat to the stability and peace of other countries, or has little influence one way or the other – or haven’t you heard enough to say?” Once again, not only did a larger number of respondents indicate that the U.S. was a threat to stability, but the more knowledgeable respondents thought so by a larger proportion. In Great Britain (January 1985), 28% of the “total public” viewed the U.S. as being a threat to stability, as compared to 19% who viewed the U.S. as a positive influence; among the “informed public,” 41% viewed the U.S. as a threat and 29% viewed the U.S. as a positive influence. In West Germany (February 1985), the corresponding proportions were 19% negative, 17% positive for the “total public,” and 26% negative, 25% positive for the “informed public.” The Netherlands had the highest proportion of negative responses. The two other countries surveyed, Ireland and Denmark, were somewhere in-between the Netherlands and West Germany.7A USIA examination of 148 West European editorials and 143 Latin American editorials written between February 14 and May 9, 1985, concluded, “More than twice as many editorials and by-line commentaries during the examined period were critical of U.S. policy than the Nicaraguan government and its policies.”8 As seen by USIA analysts, views of Western Europeans on specific U.S. foreign policies funneled into an overall assessment of the U.S. and its role in the world. This overarching assessment was the most critical to maintain, especially in comparison to overall views of the Soviet Union. If the U.S. were to win the ideological Cold War, went the thinking, it must be seen as the better nation, a morally superior and more benevolent nation whose power could be trusted to serve the general welfare rather than narrow self-interests. Along these lines, the USIA took a set of surveys in three of the most important countries to the U.S. – Great Britain, West Germany, and Italy – between December 1982 and June 1984. The central question was whether the citizens of these nations viewed the U.S. as morally superior to the Soviet Union. Results showed that a plurality, but not a majority, in each country regarded this as being so. But the U.S. was also “notably low on an aspect of international behavior of special relevance to public diplomacy – ‘the spreading of lies to attain one’s ends,’” according to an interpretive report written by Leo P. Crespi, dated September 19, 1984. Crespi was disturbed by this as well as the finding that “the more influential [citizens] in the countries surveyed tend to be least convinced of U.S. moral superiority over the USSR.” This had profound implications for USIA programs, he judged: “Such a pattern of findings suggests that the absence of judgments of higher U.S. than Soviet moral standing is not a simple matter of ignorance of the facts that support such a judgment. . . . This means that views of U.S. political morality as compared to the USSR are not likely to be improved merely by information programs. More intensive efforts will be required in the direction of argumentation and persuasion.”9Crespi did not recommend any re-evaluation of policies, as such, but only that the USIA come up with new and better arguments to persuade Europeans of America’s moral superiority. Three years later, the USIA Office of Research decided to promote “four themes likely to strengthen West European confidence in the U.S.” These themes, based on surveys and analyses of public opinion in Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany over the previous two years, were stated as follows: (1) the U.S. protects the interests of West European allies; (2) the U.S. is a reliable ally, (3) the U.S. is making a genuine effort to achieve an arms control agreement with the Soviet Union, and (4) “President Reagan, personally, is an effective world leader who can be trusted.”10 The latter two themes appear to be responses to recent polls that showed most Western Europeans crediting Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev rather than U.S. President Ronald Reagan for progress in arms control talks; the proportions were 72% to 9% in West Germany, 63% to 13% in Great Britain, and 45% to 16% in France.11 Gorbachev, it seems, was winning the peace race.The opposition of Western European leaders and publics to U.S. policies in Central America belied the Reagan administration’s attempt to paint itself as the leader of the Free World. Joined with opposition from Latin America and the non-aligned nations of Africa and Asia, it is clear that the efforts of U.S. groups to stop the Contra War and aid Nicaragua were in line with world opinion.ENDNOTES1. Otto J. Reich, “Public Diplomacy Plan for Europe,” Secret Memorandum to Walter Raymond, Jr., July 29, 1985 (4 pp.), 1, NSA, Iran-Contra collection, IC01369; and USIA Office of Research, “West European Opinion on Central American Issues,” November 29, 1983, NARA, RG 306, Regular and Special Reports of the Office of Research, 1983-1987.2. USIA Office of Research, “Spanish Public Predominantly Disapproves American Policy in Central America,” Research Memorandum, April 25, 1984 (20 pages), p. 8, ibid.3. USIA Office of Research, “West European Press Reaction to Mining of Nicaraguan Ports,” April 25, 1984, ibid.4. Kathleen C. Bailey, Acting Director, USIA Office of Research, “Memorandum for Mr. Ronald Hinkley, Director, Special Studies, Crisis Management Center, National Security Council. Subject: ‘Foreign Opinion and the Gulf War Situation,’” May 18, 1984, ibid.5. Dept. of State Briefing Paper, “Canadian Public Opinion,” May 9, 1985 (2 pp.), p. 1, ibid.6. USIA Office of Research, “West Europeans Critical of U.S. Central American Policy” Research Memorandum, August 30, 1984 (23 pp.), pp. 1, 4, 5, ibid.7. C. Ritchey Sloan, USIA Office of Research, “West Europeans remain detached but critical of U.S. policy in Central America,” May 10, 1985, Research Memorandum (17 pp.), pp. 1, 11 (table), ibid.8. Steven K. Smith, USIA Office of Research, “Latin American and West European Press Generally Critical of U.S. Policy Towards Nicaragua,” May 17, 1985 (9 pp.), p. 2, ibid.9. Leo P. Crespi, USIA, “West European Views of U.S. Versus Soviet Moral Standing in International Behavior,” Sept. 19, 1984 (17 pp.), pp. 1, 6, ibid., Crespi noted, “This is not an Agency research report but a thinkpiece representing the views of the author.”10. USIA Office of Research, “Four Themes Likely to Strengthen West European Confidence in the U.S.,” Oct. 16, 1987, p. 1, ibid.11. USIA Office of Research, “European Publics Increasingly Credit Moscow, Narrowing U.S. Lead over Soviets: Perceptions of Arms Control Effort Crucial.” July 9, 1987 (3 pp.), p. 1, ibid.Sources: The United States Information Agency (USIA), Office of Research; records at National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), RG 306, USIA Regular and Special Reports of the Office of Research, 1983-1987 (reports and analyses of public opinion in Europe and elsewhere):• “Voice of America Audiences around the World, 1983.” Report, March 17, 1983.• Uribe, Ernesto, and David Varie, USIS Managua Radio Section. “Distribution of VOA Broadcast Material to Domestic Radio Stations in Nicaragua.” Memorandum, July 18, 1983.• “West European Opinion on Central American Issues,” November 29, 1983.• “Polls in Latin America on U.S. Action in Grenada Reveal Different Degrees of Approval/Disapproval,” March 1, 1984 (6 pp.).• “Spanish Public Predominantly Disapproves American Policy in Central America,” April 25, 1984 (20 pages).• “West European Press Reaction to Mining of Nicaraguan Ports,” April 25, 1984.• Bailey, Kathleen C., Acting Director, USIA Office of Research. “Memorandum for Mr. Ronald Hinkley, Director, Special Studies, Crisis Management Center, National Security Council. Subject: ‘Foreign Opinion and the Gulf War Situation,’” May 18, 1984.• Skoczylas, Elehie N. “USIA Programs and Projects and Communications Development: An Inventory, 1981-1982,” May 31, 1984 (59 pp.).• Millard, William J., American Publics Branch. “Opinions About Central America and the United States in Three Contadora Countries: Mexico, Colombia, and Panama,” June 1984 (35 pp.).• “West Europeans Critical of U.S. Central American Policy,” Aug. 30, 1984 (23 pp.).• Crespi, Leo P., USIA director. “West European Views of U.S. Versus Soviet Moral Standing in International Behavior,” Sept. 19, 1984 (17 pp.).• “Canadian Public Opinion.” Dept. of State Briefing Paper, May 9, 1985 (2 pp.).• Sloan, C. Ritchey. “West Europeans remain detached but critical of U.S. policy in Central America,” May 10, 1985 (17 pp.).• Smith, Steven K. “Latin American and West European Press Generally Critical of U.S. Policy Towards Nicaragua,” May 17, 1985 (9 pp.).• Smith, Steven K. “Latin American Press Begins to Criticize Nicaraguan Repression,” Aug. 11, 1986 (5 pp.).• Bigler, Gene E., and William J. Millard, American Republics Branch. “Opinions about Central American Conflict in Eight Latin American Countries,” August, 1985 (39 pp.).• Millard, William J. “U.S. Policy in Central America Generally Opposed by Mexicans, but Supported by Central American Publics,” USIA Briefing Paper, Dec. 16, 1985.• “Four Themes Likely to Strengthen West European Confidence in the U.S.,” Oct. 16, 1987.• “European Publics Increasingly Credit Moscow, Narrowing U.S. Lead over Soviets: Perceptions of Arms Control Effort Crucial,” July 9, 1987 (3 pp.).
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