Fearful of another Marxist government in its own backyard, the US Congress is considering a $75 million allocation for reconstruction in Nicaragua. Most of the aid appears earmarked for private business in order to strengthen non-Sandinista moderates.
Since the overthrow by the Sandinistas of long-time US ally Anastasio Somoza (accompanied by loud applause from across the water in Cuba) the US has been reconsidering its position in the Caribbean basin. Included in the aid package now before Congress is $5 million for Honduras and Guatemala, $10 and $20 million in military credit-sales and training, and a further $2.4 million for development projects in the area.
But it’s not all carrots. The US has also resumed flights by the SR 71 Blackbird Spy-plane over Cuba, increased naval and military manoeuvres, and set up a Combined Armed Services task force for the Caribbean at Key West.
Pro-Cuban and therefore, in US eyes, pro-Moscow nations on its doorstep is not something to warm Washington’s heart. But more to the point is the strategic importance of Caribbean oil-refineries which process one barrel out of every six consumed in the US. The environmental restrictions on these small islands are far less stringent than on the Eastern seaboard of the United States itself. And, the warm Gulf waters have unexplored oil and natural gas potential.
The history of US involvement in Central America and the Caribbean - subverting much needed social reforms and helping to install and maintain military dictatorships does not augur well for peasants, trade unionists and others who might have been encouraged by the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua. In countries like Guatemala and El Salvador, where revolution is most likely, years of despotic rule have left the ‘moderates’ who are favoured by the US with as little popular support as the ruling generals.