Monday, September 23, 2013

New York's Next Mayor Supported the Sandinista's and Honeymooned in Cuba

Just in case you didn't think New York was completed f*cked with the passing of the Giuliani/Bloomberg years (not that I was always a fan but they did leave NYC better off than how they received it, in shambles after the administration of de Blasio's old boss, David Dinkins), read this:

"My work was based on trying to create a more fair and inclusive world," he said in a recent interview. "I have an activist's desire to improve people's lives."

Mr. de Blasio became an ardent supporter of the Nicaraguan revolutionaries. He helped raise funds for the Sandinistas in New York and subscribed to the party's newspaper, Barricada, or Barricade. When he was asked at a meeting in 1990 about his goals for society, he said he was an advocate of "democratic socialism."


In 1987, Mr. de Blasio was hired as a political organizer, soon after he finished graduate school at Columbia, earning $12,000 a year. He worked inside the Quixote Center's Maryland office, converted apartments filled with homegrown squash and peace posters. Hunched over his desk with a phone to his ear — his colleagues likened him to "Big Bird with a beard" — he oversaw efforts to solicit and ship millions of dollars in food, clothing and supplies to Nicaragua. He also proved to be a skilled provocateur, twice being arrested during rallies against United States foreign policy that were held in the Washington area.


In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. "The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle," said a poster designed by the group.

The activists tried everything: brandishing George H. W. Bush masks on subway cars, advertising parties to celebrate the Cuban revolution and hawking subscriptions to the international edition of Barricada. (Mr. de Blasio, who was living in a basement apartment in Astoria, Queens, was one of the first to sign up.)

Despite some debate over whether it should support only humanitarian causes, the Nicaragua Solidarity Network held dances to benefit the Sandinista party. "They gave a new definition to democracy," Mr. de Blasio told The New York Times in 1990 in an article about the wistful reaction of American activists to the defeat of the Sandinistas. "They built a democracy that was striving to be economic and political, that pervaded all levels in society."

At a retreat later that year, members of the network were asked to articulate their visions for society. One suggested a "real peace movement," according to minutes of the meeting. "Rewards for altruism," another said. Mr. de Blasio suggested "democratic socialism."


Mr. de Blasio remained supportive of the Sandinistas, often referred to by their acronym, F.S.L.N., even after they lost power. "People who had shallow party sympathies with the F.S.L.N. pretty much dropped everything when they lost," said Jane Guskin, a fellow activist in the solidarity group. "Bill wasn't like that."

He has remained interested in Latin America — he even honeymooned in Cuba (in violation of a United States travel ban). To this day, he speaks admiringly of the Sandinistas' campaign, noting advances in literacy and health care. "They had a youthful energy and idealism mixed with a human ability and practicality that was really inspirational," he said.

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