300,000 reasons for tramping down the dirt

Remembering those who died as a result of the Thatcher government foreign policy – statement by Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign, April 15 2013

Among the torrent of news coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s death there has been little mention of the deadly consequences of her policies on countries of the South. When Ronald Reagan died in 2004 Margaret Thatcher applauded her great friend and fellow ideologue by commenting that he was ‘responsible for winning the cold war without firing a shot”. Behind this world view, uncluttered by facts, lies the reality of the deaths of millions of people.

In Central America alone an estimated 300,000 people lost their lives as the Reagan administration attempted to drive ‘communist’ influence out of its ‘backyard’- aided and the abetted by the special relationship that Thatcher enjoyed with Reagan.

In the case of Nicaragua, the Thatcher government was the key European ally in US attempts to destroy the Sandinista government.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan set about destroying the Sandinistas – who came to power in a popular insurrection to oust a US-backed dictator – by unleashing a war on all fronts: paramilitary, political, diplomatic, ideological, economic and psychological. This included arming, funding and training a mercenary force known as the “contras”. For Reagan, the means – however illegal, murky and morally reprehensible – justified the ends. Former CIA director Stansfield Turner testified to Congress that the actions of the contras “have to be classified as terrorism, state-sponsored terrorism”. Neil Kinnock in a speech to Labour Party conference in 1986 stated: ‘How can a president who is rightly the enemy of terrorism sponsor the terrorism of the contra in Central America?’

In 1986 the Iran contra scandal erupted: the Reagan administration illegally sold arms to Iran and used the proceeds to fund the contras during a period from 1984-86 when Congress had imposed a ban. The Tower Commission report into the scandal revealed UK involvement in a network providing arms to the contra through KMS, a London based security firm.

In 1986 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found the US guilty of breaches of international law including arming and training of an illegal paramilitary organisation, mining Nicaragua’s harbours, and imposing a trade embargo. The US refused to accept the jurisdiction of the Court or to pay the estimated $17bn damage to the country’s infrastructure. Although the UK had accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, when Nicaragua called on the US to abide by the ruling in the UN Security Council and Assembly the UK abstained. The British representative to the UN accused Nicaragua of using the Court for ‘narrow political ends’ and added that the crisis facing Nicaragua was ‘largely of its own making.’

Throughout the 1980s the Thatcher government supported the US strangulation of the Nicaraguan economy by dramatically reducing or cutting aid and trade. A document leaked from the Overseas Development Administration – now the Department for International Development – dated 12 October 1984 reveals the voting policy of UK in international lending institutions: ’we continue to oppose proposals for Nicaragua by finding technical reasons for doing so’.

As Margaret Thatcher’s funeral takes place in London this Wednesday our thoughts are with the tens of thousands of Nicaraguans who suffered the consequences of US foreign policy – aided and abetted by the Thatcher government.


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