It’s been 5 days since I came back to the US after a mission trip in Nicaragua. We stayed in Ciudad Sandino outside of Managua. We dug trenches, medical incinerator holes, made pavers, laid pavers, worked with children at the trash dump, worked in a clinic at Nuevo Vida and on top of a mountain named El Porvenir. I am still sore from swinging a pickaxe and keep waking up at night thinking I’m still in Nica! What a trip! I’ve been on mission and church trips to Bulgaria, the West End of Grand Bahama, the Philippines, and Mozambique, but Nica’s poverty is the worst and it’s so close to the US.
Nicaragua is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with neighboring Honduras a close second. The sad thing is how the US caused and perpetuated some of the poverty. US Marines occupied the country from 1909 to 1933 and about the only good thing they brought with them was baseball, the national sport. Gen. Sandino led an insurrection against the US that was successful but then he was assassinated by a right-winger that the US supported, Samoza, who took over and his rule was continued by his son and grandson for nearly 50 years. His downfall was sealed after the 1972 earthquake that destroyed 90% of Managua. Not only were the poor neglected but Samoza also neglected to prop up his fat cat friends with immediate action to restore infrastructure needs for big business.
Then Daniel Ortega and the FSLN came on the scene. FSLN stands for the Sandinista Front for National Liberation. Revolution gripped the country and the good old USA supported right wingers or “Contra’s” with weapons and mercenaries. Reagan said if Nicaragua went communist they could be in Texas in 48 hours. Lots of luck. The roads aren’t that good! Remember the movie “Red Dawn” with Patrick Swayze? Nothing but propaganda. Iran-Contra ring a bell? What’s with the USA casting aside our own revolutionary beginnings to prop up right wingers and try to control people outside the US as a way of protecting people within the US? I know one problem and it’s popping up right now in Nicaragua. When you trade in one set of fat cats, you usually get another set. The Sandinista’s, named for Sandino of the 1930’s, brought great reform to the country, but now Ortega and the FSLN want to change the constitution with upcoming elections to allow Daniel Ortega to run for more terms than are allowed. Sound familiar? Power begets power and the love of power once again seeks to trump the power of love.
Someone once asked another person what is the difference between capitalism and communism. The other person answered by saying, “In capitalism, man exploits man; in communism, it’s the other way around.” I want to laugh, but it’s not funny. The message to me is that no matter what you call the party or group in power, there’s going to be corruption and too often we just end up trading one set of power brokers for another, and who does it hurt the most? The poor!
So we went to Nicaragua to build, help the sick, to witness in Jesus’ name, dig, make brick, and maybe do a little penance for the Spanish and the US. I have the blisters and disturbing images of poverty to prove I/we need to do more. We have to prove that the power of love is greater than the love of power.