Monday, June 07, 2004

Reagan, Duarte and the Contras

These two presidents were not exactly comfortable bedfellows, especially when it came to economic policy. But still, Duarte was the Reagan adminstration's best hope for gradually eroding the social, political and economic basis for the insurgency during the 1980s.

Today El Diario de Hoy publishes an interesting anecdote from Duarte's old minister of culture and communications, Adolfo Rey Prendes, regarding the origins of Duarte's most infamous moment -- the time he when he knelt down and kissed the American flag during a state visit to the U.S.. Rey Prendes now says that Duarte thought of this as a gesture that might win the confidence of Reagan, given other disagreements:

"The problem is that during the official visit there was a dispute between Reagan and Napoleón with respect to the fact that Reagan constantly asked Duarte for his support for the Contras in Nicaragua. And when he ended up rejecting all of the proposals in favor of the Contras, Napoleón couldn't think of a better idea for lowering the state of confrontation that they'd had than to kiss the flag."
Of course, Rey Prendes' memory fails him a bit. Duarte did allow for the Ilopango airbase to be used for the resupply of the contras, as we later learned from Hasenfus and the Iran-Contra affair. But perhaps Duarte did reject more overt measures of support for the Nicaraguan contras.

Nevertheless, that flag-kissing episode is a milestone in the annals of Salvadoran leaders fawning before the U.S., right up there with Paco Flores' pronouncement that he had had "no greater honor" than to call George W. Bush a friend.

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