Sunday, June 06, 2004

Reagan, desde América Latina

This Nicaraguan mural -- a gun-toting Reagan on the shoulders of a working woman -- represents how many in Central America will remember the former President.

Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times revisits the dispute among historians about the legacy of Ronald Reagan, and his role in ending the Cold War, and there one finds this perhaps surprising acknowledgement from one historian of Central America:

"Reagan's contribution to ending the Cold War was comparable to [President] Nixon's contribution to opening up China," said Walter LaFeber, a historian at Cornell University who has long been critical of Reagan. "Politically, to have somebody of Reagan's ideology do this was very important. It would have been very difficult for [a Democrat] to do it."
The Washington Post, on the other hand, cites Jorge Castañeda's review of Reagan as very mixed, from a Mexican perspective:

Reagan's involvement in civil wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador was viewed in Mexico as unwarranted meddling that was "interventionist, rooted in Cold War rivalries and disrespectful of international law," Castañeda said. "Not only were his policies viewed negatively, but he pressured Mexico enormously to change its foreign policies."

But when Mexico suffered a financial crisis in 1982, Castañeda said, Reagan became personally involved in the bailout. "Despite differences on foreign policy, when problems came up in the bilateral area, Mexico could count on him and did count on him," Castañeda said.
But when it comes to Central America itself, the Post highlighted Nicaragua:

...Reagan's financial and military support for anti-government rebels "caused a lot of damage in our country, a lot of suffering, a lot of death and destruction," said Carlos Chamorro, a journalist and political analyst, whose mother, Violeta Chamorro, became president in elections in 1990 that ended the rule of the Marxist-led Sandinistas.

"There might be a group that was supported by Reagan that may have a different memory of him. But I have the impression that a majority of the people will associate him with the war and with the destruction," Chamorro said. The U.S.-backed war killed at least 20,000 people.
To be fair, if you took a poll, Reagan --the ultimate anti-communist-- might have as many admirers as detractors in Latin America. In El Salvador, Reagan "drew the line against communism" in the hemisphere, so what do people here think 25 years later? La Prensa Gráfica has a story citing very distinct opinions from political leaders, demonstrating that it's not only the present that's polarized politically, but also Salvadorans' memory of the past.

President Tony Saca says "Former President Reagan represented a whole era of democracy. Reagan identified himself with this country, with its democracy and helped in difficult moments."

Gloria Salguero Gross, his new Commissioner on Governance, agrees but also undermines her new boss's ideas about 1980s democracy in El Salvador: she regrets that he never reversed the agrarian reform of the early 1980s--a not-to-subtle acknowledgement of the power of the U.S. government in those days.

Rubén Zamora provides a standard left assessment: "He placed El Salvador in a highly ideological context. And helped prolong the conflict in the country. He not made it so that the war was prolonged, but also deepened. In his period there was practically a denial of a negotiated political settlement."

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