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Post Nicaragua's Caleros (from Gary Moore)
Created by John Eipper on 06/16/19 5:12 AM

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Nicaragua's Caleros (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 06/16/19 5:12 am)

Gary Moore writes:

The harrowing story of two Nicaraguan immigrants crossing the US border (one was wounded in their people-smuggler's van by either Mexican police or cartel turf enforcers) brings up a question for Timothy Brown: their surname is Calero.

This conjures many memories of Adolfo Calero, the Contra leader, who Tim probably knew well. The two recent Caleros, hailing from Matiguas, Nicaragua--in the insurrectional highlands Tim also knows well--are father and son, Bernardo and Grisber (as spelled in the reports). They said they had been forced to flee Nicaragua after leading protests against Daniel Ortega's regime, with the father, Bernardo, being prominent because he was a Matiguas city councilman. The son, meanwhile, was on the flagstone barricades as if the ancient cycles of Under Fire didn't end with Nick Nolte or the Sandino bandanas. Today's version of the Sandinistas were said to have burst into the Caleros' home as the family fled, making it clear they better keep running.

So is this a sequel to a story not ended by the 2012 death of FDN leader Adolfo Calero at age 80? It surely must spark many images for Tim.

JE comments:  Adolfo Calero was responsible for the Contras' finances.  I checked the WAIS archives, and his name has never come up.  In addition to Tim Brown, I invite our colleague in Managua, Moisés Hassan Morales, to join this conversation.

It just so happens that my current reading project is Moisés's La maldición del Güegüense.  Moisés has been both a witness and a protagonist in Nicaragua's history over the past five decades.  It's a massive work (609 pages), written with the flair of a natural storyteller.  I'll report back to the WAISitudes when I finish it.


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  • Adolfo Calero of the NDR (Timothy Brown, USA 06/16/19 4:33 PM)
    I knew Adolfo Calero quite well, although I never met his family. He was one of number of officials of the civilian Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance (NDR) with whom I dealt. Adolfo was one of the more active members of their members, alongside others. I cite him five times in my PhD dissertation, published by the Oklahoma University press in 2000 with the title The Real Contra War: Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua.

    In 1987 I was suddenly pulled out of Martinique, FWI, where I had been Consul General for four years, and sent to Tegucigalpa as the senior USG officer in Central America to head a unique compartmentalized State Department office charged with oversight of the Contra programs in Central America. From 1987 through 1990 I was the SLO (Senior Liaison Officer) in Central America to the NDR and ERN (Ejército de Resistencia Nicaragüense) on one side and the activities of all USG offices supporting them in the region. For the first two years, 1987-88, I was charged with oversight of all support of the Resistance, clandestine 1987-88 and 1989-90 AID support of them.


    I was not aware of the specific event mentioned by Gary Moore (June 16th). But after I finished my PhD I spent years actively supporting human rights efforts to minimize the Sandinista vendetta that launched against the former "Contras."


    To put it mildly, the public "history" of events in Nicaragua is almost entirely based of inaccurate and often false information. Just one example. There were five different "Contra" armed resistance forces, not just one, each with a different base. Assertions that they were almost all former Somoza Guardia contradict the facts.


    More later--if anyone is interested.


    JE comments:  Tim, I'm fascinated.  Could you give us a couple of specific memories of working with Calero?  I just learned he was head of Coca-Cola in Nicaragua during the Somoza era.  Does this mean he was more of a pragmatic businessman than an ideologue?

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  • Nicaragua's Struggle (from Moises Hassan Morales) (John Eipper, USA 06/19/19 4:43 AM)

    Moisés Hassan writes from Managua:



    The harrowing story of the Caleros, shared by Gary Moore on June 16th, is but one of a number of consequences of the brutal repression unleashed by dictator Ortega against those who dare challenge his corrupt, inept and autocratic manner of ruling Nicaragua.


    Since April 18, 2018, he has murdered over 500 persons--among them many young students--wounded several thousands, and arbitrarily thrown into jail and tortured over one thousand. Some 60,000 people have had to flee their homes in order to preserve their freedom and physical integrity, most of them to Costa Rica, our friendly neighbor, to whom all decent Nicaraguans ought to be thankful.


    As to some remarks by Timothy Brown, I fully agree that: "the public history of events in Nicaragua is entirely based of inaccurate and often false information." This was precisely my motivation to write my book. Of course, this distortion is by no means accidental. It responds to the necessity of hiding treacherous deals involving purported political adversaries whose final aim is to share power and grant impunity to loot our impoverished country.


    Moreover, I absolutely support Mr. Brown's statement referring to the Contras: "assertions that they were almost all former Somoza Guardias contradict the facts." In reality, most of them were disappointed peasants defending their dignity, traditions and, in no rare cases, properties. "Formers" were not absent in this group, but this refers primarily to former fighters against the Somoza regime. Last but not least, workers from the cities, students and young professionals also joined the ranks of the Contra.


    Nicaragua's ongoing struggle for freedom, decency and democracy deserves close attention and help from the international community!


    Finally, many thanks to John Torok for his kind words.


    JE comments: Moisés, I'm captivated by your book La maldición del Güegüense. It's a political exposé told with a novelist's skill and a poet's sensitivity.  Most importantly, you get to the heart of the Nicaraguan "character."  If I may pry on a delicate issue, has your fearlessness in naming names and telling the truth led to unwanted attention from the Ortega regime?

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    • A Political Dissident in Managua (Moises Hassan Morales, 06/29/19 3:52 AM)

      [JE:  WAISer Moisés Hassan Morales in Managua sent me the following e-mail, which I translate and publish with his permission]:



      Many thanks, John, for adding your friendly comments to my post on the past and present situation in Nicaragua (June 19th).


      Regarding the question you raised, when I resigned from the Sandinista Front, they went to great efforts to defeat me. They made it difficult for me to find work, and later, as I describe in my book, there were at least three attempts on my life, of the kind that they try to make look like traffic accidents. In recent years, after I published my book (2016), they have decided to ignore me and make me invisible. I do from time to time receive anonymous threats on the phone, but not one word from the authorities on my book or its contents. Their partners/adversaries connected to Violeta Chamorro and Arnoldo Alemán, whom I also criticize in my book, have acted in the same way.


      On March 16th of this year they put me in jail for several hours, for having taken part in a protest march against the regime. But this was nothing personal against me; I was part of a group that was arrested en masse and indiscriminately.


      We shall see, when the water level rises to their necks, if they decide to "deal" with certain critical individuals like me. I deeply appreciate your concern and kind words, and send you a strong embrace.


      JE comments:  I've received two takeaways (thus far) from Moisés Hassan's excellent book La maldición del Güegüense.  First, the cliquish nature of Nicaraguan politics.  Despite surface details like party affiliation and ideology, the ruling elites stick together to serve their own interests.  (Hence Moisés's reference above to "partners/adversaries"...political frenemies?)  Second, I am awestruck by Moisés's bravery in expressing the truth, as well as his absolute loyalty to his nation and people.  Despite Nicaragua's many flaws and the personal risks, Moisés resolutely refuses to leave.  This is an example for us all.


      Moisés, what can you tell us about the younger political class in Nicaragua?  Do you sense that your message is getting through to possible leaders in a post-Ortega era?


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