[Debate] (Fwd) Thomas Borge RIP (Daniel Kovalik)
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Wed May 2 20:16:33 BST 2012
May 02, 2012
Reflections on the Death of the Sandinista Leader
The Personal Revenge of Tomas Borge
by DANIEL KOVALIK
I just read the news that on Monday, April 30, 2012, Tomas Borge had
passed away at the age of 81 in Managua, Nicaragua. Tomas Borge helped
found the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1961, and,
through years of arduous struggle, helped lead the rag-tag Sandinista
guerillas to victory against the heavily-armed Somoza dictatorship -- a
dictatorship armed and supported until the bitter end by the United
States which had installed it in the first place in the 1930's.
In the 1980s, Tomas Borge was a household name, revered by those of us
on the left who saw him as a conquering David against Goliath, and
vilified by, well, Goliath, in the form of the U.S. and its
then-President Ronald Reagan. It was Reagan's voice who was heard the
loudest in this country on the subject of Borge and the Sandinistas.
Reagan demonized Borge as a Communist menace to justify the U.S.'s own
acts of real menace -- the mining of the Nicaraguan harbors (found to be
illegal by the World Court) and the arming of the Nicaraguan
counter-revolutionaries, known as the Contras, who were led by the
brutal National Guardsmen of Somoza who were ousted by the Sandinistas.
As some will recall, Reagan continued to arm the Contras -- who never
controlled one inch of Nicaraguan territory, but who engaged in acts of
terror against the Nicaraguan population such as destroying hospitals,
schools and electric power plants -- even when the U.S. Congress
outlawed such support. To do so, Reagan turned to a group of unsavory
characters such as Oliver North who funded the Contras through the sale
of cocaine as well as illegal arms sales to Iran. This came to be
known as the Iran-Contra Scandal.
One of the most chilling accounts of the Contras I ever heard came from
former CIA agent John Stockwell, whose speech a friend and I listened to
many times on a tape cassette during college. Stockwell explained:
"I don't mean to abuse you with verbal violence, but you have to
understand what your government and its agents are doing. They [the
Contras] go into villages, they haul out families. With the children
forced to watch they castrate the father, they peel the skin off his
face, they put a grenade in his mouth and pull the pin. With the
children forced to watch they gang-rape the mother, and slash her
breasts off. And sometimes for variety, they make the parents watch
while they do these things to the children."
In order to justify such crimes, Reagan claimed that the Sandinistas --
who in fact were greatly improving the standard of living of the
Nicaraguan people -- were enslaving the Nicaraguan people with their
own brand of Marxism-Leninism. Reagan singled out Borge above all
other Sandinistas as the most pernicious and authoritarian figure.
And, if you read the obituaries of Borge, you will see the influence of
this slander, with him described as "ruthless" and as the Sandinista
In fact, Borge was a brave soul who took his Christian faith, and its
demand for the forgiveness of one's enemies, seriously --- first and
foremost by joining in the decision to abolish the death penalty after
the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in 1979. Of course, the U.S.
would cynically exploit this act of forgiveness and kindness by
organizing the National Guard, many of whom might have been put to death
by a less benevolent revolution, into the Contras which would go on to
terrorize Nicaragua for the next decade.
Borge had his own personal enemies among these National Guardsmen, a
circumstance which truly put his ability to forgive to the test.
During his years of struggle against the U.S.-sponsored Somosa
dictatorship, he was arrested and subject to unspeakable acts of torture
by the National Guard. This torture included the Guardsmen's rape and
murder of Borge's wife before his very eyes.
The story I was told about this in 1987 when I was in Nicaragua was that
Borge had vowed revenge against those who had tortured he and his wife.
And, when the Sandinistas took power in 1979, Borge exacted this revenge
on one of his torturers who he learned was in prison. Borge went to the
prison, swung the door of the torturer's jail cell open, and said "I
have come to have my revenge against you as I vowed. For your
punishment, you will have to walk the streets of this country and see
the children of this country who you tortured for so long learn to read
Borge himself tells this story a bit differently in the book,
/Christianity and Revolution: Tomas Borge's Theology of Life
/In this book, Borge explains: "After having been brutal tortured as a
prisoner, after having a hood placed over my head for nine months, after
having been handcuffed for seven months, I remember that when we
captured these torturers I told them: 'The hour of my revenge has come:
we will not do you even the slightest harm. You did not believe us
beforehand; now you will believe us.' That is our philosophy, our way of
Borge was true to his word, and the Sandinistas, who are now the elected
leaders in Nicaragua, are, by all accounts, improving the living
conditions for the Nicaraguan people and bringing peace and stability to
a country surrounded by other nations (Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, El
Salvador and Mexico) which are drenched in the violence of a
U.S.-sponsored drug war.
Tomas Borge went on to write the following poem with Luis Enrique Mejía
Godoy about his act of personal forgiveness against his torturers. I
will leave you with this poem:
*My Personal Revenge*
My personal revenge will be the right
of your children to school and to flowers;
My personal revenge will be to offer you
this florid song without fears;
My personal revenge will be to show you
the good there is in the eyes of my people,
always unyielding in combat
and most steadfast and generous in victory.
My personal revenge will be to say to you
good morning, without beggars in the streets,
when instead of jailing you I intend
you shake the sorrow from your eyes;
when you, practitioner of torture,
can no longer so much as lift your gaze,
my personal revenge will be to offer you
these hands you once maltreated
without being able to make them forsake tenderness.
And it was the people who hated you most
when the song was language of violence;
But the people today beneath its skin
of red and black [the colors of the Sandinista flag] has its heart uplifted.
/*Daniel Kovalik* is a labor and human rights lawyer living in
Pittsburgh. His red and black FSLN scarf remains carefully draped on a
mantle in his office./
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