April 28 marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of solidarity activist Benjamin Linder by the US-funded Contras. Ben was shot at short range along with his two Nicaraguan co-workers who were surveying to construct a small hydroelectric system to bring electricity to the village of San Jose de Bocay. Ben was the only US citizen who was killed in the Contra war of terror against the people of Nicaragua. In Nicaragua tonight friends and Nicaragua residents, both Nicaraguan and foreigners, will gather at the Casa Ben Linder in Managua for a pot-luck dinner and sharing. Tomorrow many people will travel to San Jose de Bocay and will stay over Friday, April 28 to commemorate this sad day in the history of people-to-people solidarity with Nicaragua’s Sandinista Revolution.
Below is a personal reflection by Brian Moore who is a University of Oregon Spanish instructor who got to know Ben Linder in Nicaragua in 1984.
Benjamin Linder, Presente!
“He did not come with a planeload of guns;
he came with a planeload of dreams”
– Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, April 1987
April 28th marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Ben Linder, mechanical engineer from Portland, Oregon, who in 1983 went to Nicaragua to work on hydroelectric projects that today provide energy to the community, schools, clinics, and campesinos. While working on a small dam in the remote northern region of San José de Bocay, performing the miracle of transforming “water into light”, Ben and two other Nicaraguan co-workers, were killed by Contra forces armed and paid for by the US government.
In 1984, I had the opportunity to meet Ben Linder in Nicaragua while I was at the national university. Ben, like myself, was one of many thousands of young volunteers from the United States and other parts of the world who wanted to witness and contribute to the rebuilding process in Nicaragua following the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution over the repressive Somoza dictatorship. It was a time of amazing hope, dreams and struggle; it was a time of unnecessary war, pain and suffering.
When I met Ben, I was moved, in fact a little jealous, by his enthusiasm as he described the work he was doing and how truly happy he was in Nicaragua. I was intrigued by the simplicity and perfection of his work and the difference it could make in the lives of poor farmers who were trapped in a war zone. Both Ben and I were deeply opposed to US policy, yet Ben had a unique ability to rise above despair and dedicate himself to improve the lives of the poor. Ben was not trying to be a hero, he sincerely wanted to make a difference in making the world a better place. If one could visit Nicaragua today and see the work that Ben started, one would see beautiful results of people working and producing for their families and communities with a great sense of pride, dignity and optimism for the future. Ben would be happy.
In this painful time of renewed violence and frightening uncertainty we can look to Ben Linder as an inspiration to not only stand up in resistance but also to work to transform horrific violence into peace, prosperity and justice. During the 80’s with our nation’s shameless acts of aggression against the people of Nicaragua and other Central American countries, Ben stated, “I wish I could take the children to a safe place until the war ends”. Yet, he always worked to bring happiness and safety to children in the midst of unimaginable conditions imposed by U.S. military intervention. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to accompany a group of Oregon high school student leaders in Nicaragua at Ben’s grave. I was truly moved by their tears and joy, feeling their commitment as young people, a new generation inspired by Ben’s legacy, to work to make a positive difference in the world. Ben would be proud.
Ben was also a very talented clown, juggler and unicyclist bringing joy to many. Just as he used laughter to mobilize small children in vaccination campaigns; just as he offered his intellect as an engineer to bring development to remote areas; just as he accompanied the most vulnerable during times of suffering; just as Ben gave his knowledge, energy, humor and love to Nicaragua and the world — let us follow his example and celebrate the life and mission of Ben Linder.
” La luz que encendió brillará para siempre”
The light he lit will shine forever.
(Epitaph carved on Ben’s grave marker in the city of Matagalpa)
- An IMF delegation conducting an annual review of the Nicaraguan economy, reported in a meeting with the president of the Central Bank and other government officials including Presidential Economic Advisor Bayardo Arce, that the economy could exceed the 4.5% growth projected by the IMF because the economic reforms of recent years are still “bearing fruit.” The delegation also stated that although aid from Venezuela has fallen “in a significant way” in the last two years, it has “so far not generated a problem.” (El Nuevo Diario, Apr. 24)
- A new M&R poll published has found that fewer Nicaraguans want to migrate to another country. Sixty-three percent (63%) of respondents said they are not planning to leave the country and expressed great confidence in a better future. The survey was carried out between April 4-12 and is based on interviews with 1,600 individuals nationwide. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 24)
- Vice President Rosario Murillo announced that this year more than 1.2 million students will benefit from the School Meal Program. She added that 192,000 hundredweights of nutritious food are being distributed including fortified cereal, dates, and wheat flour, among others. Many schools have also planted gardens as a community project with fruit trees and vegetables to supplement the School Meal Program food. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 24)
- Jose Adan Aguerri, president of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), said that the positive economic growth projections announced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reaffirm the successful results of the cooperation between business, government, and labor. “These multilateral agencies are projecting a 4.5% economic growth in Nicaragua this year, one of the highest rates in Central and Latin America”, Aguerri said. Nicaragua is followed by followed by Costa Rica with a 4.1% projected growth; Honduras with 3.4%; Guatemala with 3.3%; and El Salvador with 2.3%. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 20, 19)
- The President of the Superior Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP), José Adán Aguerri said the Tripartite Alliance Model between government, employers and labor has contributed to the growth in formal employment and the greater purchasing power of workers in Nicaragua. “In 2016 minimum wage grew 6.3% and formal employment 10.8%,” Aguerri said. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 18)
- Deputy Director of the National Police, Commissioner Francisco Díaz, announced that Nicaragua reported the lowest number of homicides in Central America during Holy Week. “Nicaragua continues to be the safest country in the region. The number of homicides reported during Holy Week was 50% lower in comparison to the regional average,” Commissioner Diaz said. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 19)
- The Board of Directors of the World Bank announced the approval of a US$ 55 million loan for the Nicaragua Quality Education Alliance Program. The purpose of this initiative is to continue strengthening teaching capabilities and improve infrastructure conditions in the rural schools of the country, primarily those that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. (Nicaragua News, Apr. 17)