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Happy Contra Day!

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While you are enjoying your dry turkey this evening, don’t forget to give thanks to Ronald Reagan, who ordered the CIA to establish and train the Contras to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua on this day in 1981. I know the people of Nicaragua are sure grateful for Ronnie! In case you need a refresher course:

Two private human rights organizations issued reports this week charging the contras , as the Nicaraguan rebels are commonly called, with a pattern of attacks on civilians, including murder, torture and rape. Democrats in Congress said they will use the charges to fight the Administration’s request for renewed U.S. aid for the rebels .

The most detailed report, issued Thursday by the International Human Rights Law Group, was based on 145 sworn statements from Nicaraguans who said they had witnessed 28 incidents of misconduct by the contras. “The documentation shows a pattern of brutality against largely unarmed civilians, including rape, torture, kidnapings, mutilation and other abuses,” the group said.

Earlier, Americas Watch, another private human rights group, said that both the contras and the Sandinistas have violated the laws of war in their conflict but added that the government has reduced its abuses while reports of contra violence against civilians continue to accumulate.

Typical among them was an Oct. 28, 1982, contra attack on the rural area of El Jicaro in northern Nicaragua. In an affidavit, Maria Bustillo, 57, testified that five armed men dressed in the FDN’s blue uniforms burst into her house and dragged away her husband Ricardo, a Roman Catholic activist, and five of their children. The next morning she found the mutilated bodies of the children. Her husband’s body was found later.

President Reagan has lauded the rebels as “moral equals of our Founding Fathers,” and Secretary of State George P. Shultz reacted sharply to questions from a Senate panel on the atrocity reports, charging that they were politically inspired.

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