Open Phones: Does it Matter that de Blasio Visited Nicaragua in 1988?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recent reporting on mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's early activism shows that he visited Nicaragua in 1988 (on a humanitarian trip to deliver medical supplies), and was part of various groups in the US sympathetic to the Soviet-backed Sandinista government -- particularly as they fought off the US-backed Contra rebels. So: Does any of this matter? Does de Blasio's activism of 25 years ago indicate a core philosophy as his rivals have charged? How much does the context of the late-1980s Cold War activism matter? Call 212-433-9692 or post your thoughts below.

Comments [44]

Sg569 from Newark

Seeing some of the sickening Anti-American remarks on here for De Blasio who is a self-described SOCIALIST. Americans believe in INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM and LIBERTIES NOT SOCIALISM. New York will suffer at the hands of this person because under Socialism, what you earn is not yours, its everyones. Redistribution of wealth is abound but New Yorkers, whatever demise you end up with, you will deserve because that is how you voted.

Nov. 06 2013 07:20 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


Hate to break it to your but your commandante Hugo Chavez is dead and probably smelling sulfur first hand.

Anyhow I do hope you wear your Che T-Shirt when you campaign for DeBlasio.

Sep. 27 2013 12:10 PM

To Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

My parents, my grandparents, were born in Mayaguez, Humaco, Puerto Rico.
I was born in Flower Fifth Avenue hospital in NYC.
My father's Merchant Marine health insurance paid for that.
My father was a Merchant Marine for 33 years,
my mother worked as a supervisor in the Department of Welfare aka
Human Resource Administration for 27 years till her retirement.
I always vote, never miss an election, even if I do not like the
candidates. I hold my nose, but I pick one if I have to.

I have NYS Photo Identification, NYC Employee Identification,
and if I have to get a Voter ID, I will have no problem with that.

I'm wearing my Green, Che T Shirt, that I got in Astor Place,
while I'm shopping in Chelsea TJ's.

¡Viva Fidel Castro!
¡Viva Che Guevara!
¡Viva Hugo Chavez!
¡Viva Howard Zinn!
¡Viva Rosa Luxeumburg!
¡Viva Hannah Arendt!

Sep. 26 2013 07:07 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

DTorres from Manhattan said:

> I was really indifferent to Bill de Blasio but now, I will make sure to get up really early to vote for Bill de Blasio.

And often too?

Voter ID please.

> I am going to volunteer for the Bill de Blasio campaign.

I hope you will be wearing your Che T-Shirt while helping out.

Sep. 26 2013 04:37 PM

John Pilger - Nicaragua - A Nation's Right to Survive [1983]

Sep. 26 2013 03:04 PM

I meant to vote up for the Art525 from Park Slope comment.
When I tried to correct it, I got a "Thank you for Notifying us".
I did not want to notify, anyone of anything.
I wanted to Vote UP for that comment.

Sep. 26 2013 03:02 PM
DTorres from Manhattan

I was really indifferent to Bill de Blasio
but now, I will make sure to get up really early to vote for Bill de Blasio.
Our government backed the Somoza Regime, who lived in splendor and wealth,
while the overwhelming majority of Nicaraguans lived in dire poverty,
with zero access to doctors, education, schools.

FDR famously said of Anastasio Somoza García,
“He may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard.”
The history of the CIA and the importation of addictive drugs
that decimated large portions of neighborhoods, people's lives were
ruined is well documented in the late Gary Webb, he committed suicide
by firing 2 shots into his head, book.

Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion

I have deep admiration and respect for De Blasio, knowing that he
felt he had to help and actually put boots on the ground and went to
Nicaragua to help people get food and medicine.

The NYTIMES, banged the war drums for Iraq, based on a pack of lies,
regardless of how Bill Keller tries to explain it away, saying that
this time the NYTIMES is right about going after Iran.

By putting the De Blasio, Nicaragua story on the front page, the NYTIMES,
is trying to throw the election in favor of the Joe LLohta, the choice
of the Real Estate Developers, like the Rudin's theat demolished
St. Vincent's hospital to build a luxury condo.

I am going to volunteer for the Bill de Blasio campaign.

Sep. 26 2013 02:41 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Wow. I hope this mayoral election becomes a referendum on the failure of socialism.

Let DeBlasios radical past come out. Air the dirty laundry. Al "Tawana Brawley" Sharpton backing DeBlasio will be another strike against DeBlasio.

"democratic socialism"? As opposed to the usual mainstream ANTI-DEMOCRATIC socialism - like in Cuba.

Cuba, where the Castro family dictatorship, from Fidel to Raul, has had a stranglehold on the Cuban people. And the vaunted Cuban medical system that is the jewel of socialism, which when Fidel was deathly ill, he went to FRANCE for proper medical treatment. Apparently Cuban medical treatment is good enough for the regular folk. But not for the elites like the Castros.

Sep. 26 2013 01:03 PM
Keira from Manhattan

A rose by any other name—the US is currently a democratic socialist state, but for political reasons mainstream politicians cannot employ the phrase. The right strives to change that even as they shout out, "keep your government hands off my medicare". Unfortunately, almost all of our political discourse takes place down the rabbit hole.

Sep. 26 2013 01:03 PM
ellen D. from Manhattan

People may have forgotten how shocking it was to Americans on both sides of political "divide" when it came out that Reagan secretly and highly illegally was arming the Nicaraguan Contras and sending US troops to the bordering country of Honduras, prepared to mount an attack against the Sandanista forces. He was loved because of his supposed honest, straight-shooting and certain law-abiding image. Shortly after it came to light, he tried to distance himself by firing Oliver North, who was heading up the arms deals.

"Contras" were so called because they were opposed to the revolution (i.e. counter-revoluaries) being carried on by the Sandanista rebels fighting the dictatorship that had brought the country to its knees.

When we're young, we often make choices with our hearts alone and from these choices, we learn why the best decisions are made with both heart and head. Did he hurt anyone? On the contrary. However, thousands of people were murdered by the US-Reagan-armed Contras military machine.

Sep. 26 2013 11:30 AM
Jim Burchell from New Jersey

I am sad that I missed to opportunity to call into the show this morning. I was interviewed at length by a Times reporter or researcher, an interview that took place, if I remember correctly, before the primary so this was in the works for a while. (Also sad I was not quoted, but I had nothing inflamatory or cute to say.) I was very wary of the interview, suspecting that such a red-baiting article would result. I worked with Bill as a fellow staff member of the Quest for Peace/Quixote center with which I worked for over 20 years. He was in the national office while I worked at the grassroots organizing the shipment of aid to Nicaragua. I continue to work with Nicaragua as the director of PeaceWorks, a NJ-based non-profit that still ships aid to Nicaragua and funds development work, in fact our 65th cargo container shipment to Nicaragua loads on Oct. 5. To one extent I am glad that this information about Bill's past work has come out as it show the kind of person he is, a soulful, caring person who acts on his beliefs and passions. On the other hand it is always so hard to discuss Nicaragua because there has always been so much misinformation, not to mention official disinformation about the Nicaraguan revolution, the 10 years of Sandinista governance, and the down and up years since the 1990 election. It would take a long missive to challenge some of the stuff in the article such as the Quixote Center "rumored" to ship guns to the Sandinistas -- rumored by whom? A more important fallacy of the article and some of the resulting discussion was that it was all for nought, that nothing changed. The truth is that Nicaragua now is the safest country in Central America. Its police force and army are not instrument of repressions like in Honduras today. That is a result of the revolution. Today Nicaragua is heralded by the United Nations and other international organizations for its successful programs to fight illiteracy, hunger, and violence against women. While there are many problems with Nicaraguan democracy today (hey,what about Florida and continued state efforts to discourage voting!), the Sandinistas held a free and fair election in 1984. They won. The ran clean and fair elections in 1990. They lost, mostly because of the draft and continued US implied threats to release the contras again. The nation was tired of war and US enforced economic isolation. But those 1990 elections were the first time in Nicaraguan history that there was a peaceful transition from one political party to another. Thanks for this opportunity to vent. I could offer more insights to Bill's involvement and that of the tens of thousands of US citizens that have worked with the people of Nicaragua since 1979. Perhaps that will have to wait for the NY Times article that will never be written -- an honest assessment of the US role in Nicaragua. Or perhaps a full show on one of NYC's talk shows.

Sep. 26 2013 11:23 AM
ivan obregon from nyc

The only way Di Blasio can make this an issue that hampers his campaign is if he defensively begins denying or apologizing for democratic socialism. Lots of people in NYC today are college-educated and familiar with socialist-democratic european nations and/or from nations, particularly in Latin America (Ecuador, Brazil, etc.), where socialist parties are a normal part of the political spectrum. They are not your father's easily fooled and scared NY Post reader who confounds communist Korea, China or Cuba with socialist Sweden, France and The Netherlands. Fox News and conservative talk-radio have been decrying Obamacare, abortion rights, living-wage campaigns, union rights, progressive taxation, etc., as socialist on a daily basis for years so that even young voters under 30 have come to view the term in a positive light as a Pew Poll revealed across the nation as a whole. Once Mr. DiBlasio begins running away from the term, it won't be ignored by the predators on the right- this is their play book- as this broadly ideologically or materially progressive city will be confused by a scared and hence "guilty" or unconfident disavowing of its values or interests. If the Di Blasio campaign suddenly begins caring more about what people in Rockland County, Long Island or Staten Island- or potential voters from a Republican base(NY Post/Wall Street Journal readers)think rather than voters who've enthusiastically embraced his "progressive"- yes, social-democratic- agenda in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, then he will place his profound lead in the polls at risk by doing a "John Kerry". I hope he's smarter, more self-assured and aware of the political/historical moment than that as his more leftish agenda has already proven more popular than the more centrist Democrats he's already defeated. Don't fall for the hype and the noise of the histrionic right. Most New Yorkers, like most of the people who don't watch Fox News, aren't scared of 1950's Cold War politics, so Mr. Di Blasio shouldn't act as if he still is......

Sep. 26 2013 11:09 AM
citizen from Brooklyn

Based on the way deBlasio operated as our city councilman; there are real concerns that his sense of "activists government" doesn't much include democratic action where community consensus opinions on government action never seems to matter to him. His stand against the Gowanus Superfund, that was supported by more than 80% of the community, is just one example of deBlasio taking a dictatorial position in opposition to community perspective. Dumping the CB6 board members that didn't agree with his stand on the arena development is another example; and there are more.

If deblasio does become mayor, he's not likely to gather anything close to a majority of people endorsing him for that role. It is important that a mayor with such a small percentage of support, that he not act in the interest of his small group of supporters, but that actions accommodate real community input.

We have so little democracy in this city. And having a mayor who doesn't listen to consensus community views, is very worrisome. To be a progressive democrat, you must first practice democracy at the community level. After all, when most of us think of "activist government" Hitler does come to mind.

Sep. 26 2013 11:00 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Natalie

After Castro, every US president became determined not to let another Cuba arise in this hemisphere. We almost had soviet missiles and nukes in Cuba. One such experience was enough for us. Reagan allowed what had to be done to stop another commie base from happening here. Venezuela came close enough, and thankfully Chavez is gone. But look at their economy now, when the truth is coming out now that he is finally gone.

Sep. 26 2013 10:55 AM
shashinyc from NYC

I for one am gratified to learn of Bill DeBlasio's deep lifelong commitment to justice. So can we conclude that with this front page article, the NYT is unofficially backing Joe Lhota? Since we're delving into the two major mayoral candidates' histories, I wonder why is there no mention anywhere of Joe Lhota's FIRST marriage? His current wife is the second Mrs. Lhota...not that divorce is shameful, but since voters are apparently entitled to full disclosure, why is Lhota's early marriage to a fellow Georgetown student not mentioned in his Wikipedia bio or anywhere else? Just sayin'...

Sep. 26 2013 10:53 AM

It should also be mentioned that a lot of Americans were disgusted by US flagrant violation of international law. From Wikipedia: <> Following the judgment, the US again distinguished itself in a disgraceful way by being the ONLY State ever not to pay reparations as the ICJ judgment directed. Activists who traveled to Nicaragua during this period were as much anti-war crime as pro-Sandinista.

Sep. 26 2013 10:52 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'm neither a supporter of Lhota or Di Blasio. I wish they both could lose, but I know Di Blasio will be the next mayor, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he will end up just keeping Bloomberg's policies going, because it was the best way so far.

Sep. 26 2013 10:51 AM
john from office

Wow, all the knee jerk liberal, feel good , rose colored glasses types are coming out of the wood work.

Sep. 26 2013 10:48 AM
Brendan from Upper West Side

DiBlasio's work in Nicaragua in the 1980s shows he has been a caring and ethical person for his entire life.

"Democratic Socialism"? Here are two words voters might care more about, re: Lhota: "Fare Increase."


Sep. 26 2013 10:48 AM


The Red Scare and McCarthyism name-calling became passé in 1958 and TOTALLY IRRELEVANT in 1991!


What Reagan/CIA propagated in Central America was CORRUPT, ODIOUS and more ANTI-DEMOCRATIC than anything in recent American history.

Time to craft a better capitalism and a TRUE democracy!!


Sep. 26 2013 10:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I just love these people who parachute into a country for a few weeks or months, and suddenly think they are experts. LIVE AND WORK in a socialist country for 5 or more years and only THEN will you begin to see what's really going on. Just going to a place for a month or even a year means nothing. At least 5 years, preferably 10 to really know another society and what is underlying. What you just don't see or grasp during a relatively short period as basically a tourist living on US dollars.

Sep. 26 2013 10:46 AM

Tom Friedan, former NYC Health Commissioner and current head of CDC, went to Nicaragua early in his medical career, and the press never made mention of that! I don't recall if he was in med school or an intern or resident, but he went at least once, and I think several times.

Sep. 26 2013 10:46 AM
john from office

Wait, how will DeBlasio, he of the afro headed son, qualify for a security clearence?? He maybe a soviet mole, he maybe be a secret member of a Russian cell, we are doomed. He should be arrested NOW!!!! He may have a suicide belt at home!

Sep. 26 2013 10:43 AM
Syd UWS from NYC

What a silly caller. She's upset that the Times is being "political" because they happen to be exposing something unsavory re: DeBlasio. If it was re: Lhota she would applaud. Ridiculous!

Sep. 26 2013 10:42 AM
Oscar from NY

didn't president Reagan and col. Oliver north sell weapons to the guerrillas to combat and fight the Sandinistas, killing hundreds of innocent ppl in the way, wasn't these arms sold just to profit and kill?.. Mr de ladino probably wanted to do right but at the end evil is at the top echelons of everything so now I'm guessing that mr Deblasio understands that communism is evil too..

Sep. 26 2013 10:41 AM
Scott in Prospect heights

I think the bigger issue with this story about de Blasio is the selective way he presents his background and resume. i think it is also odd the way he has handled his name change. No one paid any attention to him until his son came along and jump started his campaign, so much of his background was and vetting was never really done until he got traction in August.

Sep. 26 2013 10:40 AM
antonio from baySide

Funny. Noam Chomsky just explained there is a DRASTIC difference between the parsing of words in the US vs the rest of the globe. Richard Wolf the economist and Bernie Sanders use similar words to express their political positions. The average NYC person is too busy surviving to care about this, Lhota is grasping at straws. I mean he just had to answer to why his website really has little content...

Sep. 26 2013 10:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

to black socialist

There are still plenty of black socialist states in Africa. Try one out for a while, say for 5 years, and come back and tell us how much you liked it AFTER you have experienced socialism on your head. But not here.I did my experimentation with socialism overseas, living in a kibbutz, and a semi-socialist Israel for a few years. Try it for a couple of years, and see if you like it :)

Sep. 26 2013 10:38 AM

I think ts great. His stock went way up when I read the article. Few people understand the deplorable US policy in Central America in the 1980s, and the importance of the Sandinistan revolution during the time.

Sep. 26 2013 10:38 AM

How about discussing Joe Lhota's presumed support for what, by the U.S. State Department's own definition, was a U.S.-funded terrorist army (known as the Contras), who in addition killing over 30,000 civilians were trading drugs?

Or Mr. Lhota's presumed support for the U.S.-supported Somoza family dynasty which preceded the Sandinistas?

Why are left-wing sympathies scandalous, but outright fascist terroist allegiances are sanctified? Why isn't Mr. Lhota explaining his support for dictators and terrorism?

Sep. 26 2013 10:37 AM
pliny from soho

doesnt full day pre k
hark back to old soviet ideas and practices?

Sep. 26 2013 10:37 AM
Jennifer from FLushing

I think Lhota is deperate. Anyone who knows anything about that time would have likely empathized with the rebels, as they we fighting against US intervention and a brutal regime. Yes, the Sandanistas as a government fell short, but they represented the poor who had been oppressed by their government (with US support) for decades. And the contras, with OUR GOVERNMENT's support, were funneling drugs to this country, fueling the drug trade and gang wars of the 80s. I'm not a MArxist but you didn't need to be to see that we were on the wrong side. What about all the priests and nuns killed by the death squads all over Central AMerica during that time. Does Lhota think their Marxists too?

Sep. 26 2013 10:36 AM

Makes me like him even more.

Sep. 26 2013 10:36 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I got my fill of socialism when I lived in Israel during the 1980s, and that finally and totally cured me of my left-wing itch. You have to experience it personally and up close to really see its ugly face. It looks so nice from a distance.

Sep. 26 2013 10:35 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

i see the resident idiots are out and about (jgarbuz, racist johnny, etc.).... what a sad lot.... how much are you'll getting paid?......... oh, and anyone that knows about the CIA/US gov't and has any respect for human rights would NOT be in favor of the Somozas aka contras....

Sep. 26 2013 10:34 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

It's a good thing that Bill di Blasio doesn't know my family background, lest I be declared a Kulak, like di Blasio's Sandinista friends did to their enemies back then.

Sep. 26 2013 10:33 AM
Pat from nyc

I was wondering about this, too.
In the past few days the news media in nyc has been "hammering" him for 'fixing tickets' [ooooh, so bad, he fixed traffic tickets - oooohhh] && for being a [oooohhhh] radical leftist who visited [oooooohhhhhh] A Latin American Country - ooooohh!

Just in time for Halloween - Scary Scary Bill de Blazio revaluation.
What's the matter news media? Quinn came in third in the primaries?

Sep. 26 2013 10:31 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Whenever there are bad economic times, with high unemployment, the left-wing socialist types blossom and come forth like weeds. They create programs we can no longer afford and invariably make things worse in the end.

Sep. 26 2013 10:27 AM
john from office

I heard a BBC report on the mess Hugo Chavez left behind, another hero of the left. DeBlasio will sink this city into a similar economic mess. He should run for office in Havana. He lost my vote.

Sep. 26 2013 10:25 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

What if someone had just taken "medical supplies" (or now claims that when he is in a mayoral general elction) to Nazi Germany?

Sep. 26 2013 10:20 AM
lcruz from brooklyn

"Mr. de Blasio, who studied Latin American politics at Columbia and was conversational in Spanish, grew to be an admirer of Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista party"

oh yeah, being an admirer of a communist party rebounds his credit, or does it ?

Sep. 26 2013 10:13 AM
Robert from NYC

I couldn't care less. Good! He delivered medical supplies on a humanitarian trip. We need more people do that, maybe in Syria now? Maybe we should stop going to war and as Kucinich says, go to peace and stop war and supply medical and other help to people in war zones. It's got to start somewhere and if we're so "exceptional" let's not take part in wars!! That sure would be "exceptional", no? Exceptional my baduke, we might be exceptional but likely not in the way we'd like to think we are these days. Remember Rome didn't take note of its decline either. I doubt de Tocqueville would see our "exceptionalism" were he alive today.

Sep. 26 2013 10:10 AM
art525 from Park SLope

This just demonstrates the vacuity of Mr Lhota's campaign when he has to attack DiBlasio for actions he took a quarter century ago, an action that is described here as "a humanitarian trip to deliver medical supplies". Oh the horror. Many were supportive of that kind of action at that time. But things change. Well except for the right wing. Somehow I don't think that New York City is going to turn into a socialist state under DiBlasio's leadership. On the other hand, under Lhota's leadership unlike under Mussolini,the trains did not run on time. I'm afraid that Lhota's outcry is just a tempest in a tea party.

Sep. 26 2013 10:03 AM
sp from nyc

Yes--it redounds to his credit.

Sep. 26 2013 10:02 AM

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