NicaNotes: “If the US Invades Central America, We Pledge to Resist:” 2024 Marks the 40th Anniversary of the Pledge of Resistance

By Katherine Hoyt

(Katherine Hoyt lived in Nicaragua for 16 years. She is a retired Co-Coordinator of the Nicaragua Network/Alliance for Global Justice and a current board member. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and is the author of The Many Faces of Sandinista Democracy among other publications.)

[This article is taken from Thirty Years of Memories: Dictatorship, Revolution, and Nicaragua Solidarity by Katherine Hoyt, published by the Nicaragua Network in 1996.]

As many as 80,000 people all over the US signed the Pledge of Resistance. Here, Kathy Hoyt speaks to a crowd of protestors in Detroit.

In 1984 I started work as Coordinator of the Michigan Interfaith Committee on Central American Human Rights (MICAH) in Detroit. MICAH was doing excellent education and lobbying work on Central America issues, was an active participant in the Sanctuary Movement, and the group had just taken on the job of coordinating the brand-new Pledge of Resistance for the state of Michigan. The Sanctuary Movement was a network of places of worship which gave refuge to those fleeing repression in El Salvador and Guatemala. My co-worker Sara Murray was in charge of the Sanctuary work and I did “the Pledge.”

As many as 80,000 people all over the country signed the Pledge of Resistance in which they promised to take civil disobedience action or support civil disobedience action if the U. S. invaded Central America. As an illustration of our opposition to U.S. – funded bombing in EI Salvador and numerous votes in the U.S. Congress approving aid to the Nicaraguan contras, we often had as many as 2,000 people arrested in different parts of the United States within a period of a few days.

Naturally, the Reagan Administration was not pleased and took to harassing us. ABC’s Peter Jennings later called it “intrusive surveillance.” Our office phone was tapped and they did not care if we knew it. Both Sara and I were followed by men in suits who wanted us to know that they were there. It was later revealed that the FBI had taken more photographs in Detroit than in any other city to get pictures of trade unionists and religious people involved in protest demonstrations. But, most frightening of all were the death threats received by Sara as a result of her Sanctuary work. They scared her but did not stop her from her Sanctuary organizing!

Local paid activists work all day for their organization and then spend the evenings in meetings with members who have “regular” day jobs as accountants, teachers or businesspeople and thus can only meet in the evenings. Many of the people involved in Central America solidarity at that time were single as well, which meant that their obligations at home were not great. I was working fifty or more hours a week and not spending as much time with my children as I would have liked. I dragged them to newsletter mailings on weekends but some evenings, with one meeting at 5:00 and another at 7:00, I did not get home for dinner at all. One evening I came home for a minute to pick something up and found my twins sitting on the floor in front of the television eating macaroni and cheese with their fingers. After that, I became more assertive about saying that I could not make it to 5:00 o’clock meetings! Most evenings, I rushed home at 6:00 and whipped something together very fast (thank God for instant mashed potatoes!) and we all sat down to dinner before I rushed out again to a 7:00 or 7:30 meeting. A couple of years later, some of those young single people started getting married and having babies. When I would see them at gatherings, of which they attended fewer now, they would say to me, “Kathy, we didn’t understand; it’s a whole different world with a child!” I refrained from reminding them that I had three.

The children had by this time learned a great deal about life in the United States, having lived in both the small town of Enumclaw, Washington, and the big rust-belt city of Detroit. Before the children came to the United States to live, the U.S. had been a wonderful place where their much-loved grandparents lived and where they came every few years for Christmas and snow. They found it hard to believe that what the Sandinistas said about Ronald Reagan and the U.S. establishment could be true. However, as a student at Holy Redeemer High School in Detroit, my older daughter wrote this poem entitled “Democracia”:


Allá las casas son de cartón
y aquí son de ladrillo
allá las casas no tienen techo
y aquí no tienen calefacción.

Cuando llueve allá
el piso de tierra se vuelve lodo
y el niño se muere de diarrea.
Cuando nieva aquí
y hace frio
se muere congelado
un pobre anciano.

Es universal. . .
solo que aquí
le llaman Democracia.

Here I have translated it into English:

There, the houses are of cardboard
Here they are made of brick
There, the houses have no roofs
Here they have no heat.

When it rains there
The dirt floor turns to mud
And the child dies of diarrhea.
When it snows here
And gets cold
A poor old man
Dies frozen to death.

It is universal
Except that here
they call it democracy.

One of my most vivid memories of the children in Detroit is of the day in 1985 when the Detroit Pledge of Resistance closed down Michigan Avenue for 45 minutes during the rush hour to protest the approval by Congress of $27 million for “humanitarian aid” to the contras. My daughter stood on the sidewalk holding her sign which said “Reagan’s foreign policy: Hire the poor to kill the poor.”

The Detroit Pledge was divided into what were called “Day Groups” based on the day each group would do civil disobedience and support civil disobedience following any US invasion of a Central American country. Day Zero was composed of those who would do civil disobedience on the day of the invasion. There were only twelve on the Day Zero list, including three nuns and four ministers and priests. Several of them had frozen small containers of their own blood which they would pour out to symbolize the innocent blood shed as a result of United States policy. Almost every issue of the MICAH newsletter, “Voice of the Voiceless” included a coupon which people could use to sign up for the “Pledge.” As the numbers of people expanded beyond the day groups, several local organizations such as the Central America Solidarity Committee (CASC) and Witness for Peace formed affinity groups. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was involved as was the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Nationally, the Pledge was mobilized by a committee [including the Nicaragua Network] from the founding organizations in Washington, DC. That committee then notified the Mid-West coordinator, who notified us state coordinators. My job was then to call my contacts In Lansing, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Flint (that was Michael Moore, later of “Roger and Me” fame), and 14 other Michigan cities including far-away Sault-Sainte-Marie on the Upper Peninsula, to alert them to what was happening so they could plan their actions in accordance with others around the nation. In Detroit, the local groups met to organize our events in the city.

I helped plan many protests that included civil disobedience and took the non-violent training several times. I never did civil disobedience, however, because the children were frightened by the idea and it seemed one more strain on them and one that was unnecessary. I told people who did civil disobedience, like our MICAH Steering Committee members Sister Kit Concannon and Rev. Bill Kellermann, that they were doing it for me, too.

Fifty people in the Detroit area, including Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, fasted for 48 hours in July of 1985 in union with the fast “for peace, in defense of life and against terrorism” of Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Father Miguel D’Escoto. Father Miguel had announced on July 7 that he was asking for a leave of absence in order to begin an open-ended fast for peace. He said that all other means to stop the U.S.-financed war against his people were already being used to their fullest and that now it was necessary to use “means of struggle which emanate from the gospel.”

Our fast began at a service at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in honor of a National Sanctuary Caravan of Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees which passed through Detroit on July 16. A prayer service was held for the fasters at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in the middle of the fast and many then broke their fast at the July 19th dinner and program celebrating the sixth anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution. I, however, had broken my fast after only one day when I couldn’t stand and walk in the morning. And I had been drinking several types of liquids! My only justification for not being able to measure up to the many famous Nicaraguan hunger-fasters was that I was trying to work whereas they always suspended work when they began their fasts. I was one of the principal speakers at that CASC dinner celebrating the anniversary of the revolution. It was in that talk that I first described my experiences during the final offensive of 1979. People responded very positively; they had not had the opportunity before to hear about the final offensive from a North American who had lived through it.

Continuing to struggle for justice requires keeping your perspective. In June of 1986 we were walking up and down with our signs in front of the old Federal Building in Detroit waiting for the release of twelve of our members who had been arrested protesting the approval by Congress of $100 million for the contras. That vote was so shocking that the Day Zero activists had decided that they should carry out the protest they had planned for a U.S. invasion. Several of them poured their blood on the contact paper crosses with names of contra victims that they had stuck to the walls of the Federal Building. They were immediately arrested. I’ll always remember what Rudy Simons, one of our most active MICAH board members, said as he watched the Federal employees stare at us as they came out of the Federal Building. “Kathy,” he said, “We’re not the crazies, they are!”  Father Tom Lumkin, one of those arrested, stated “I do this to show that our government bears deep responsibility for their deaths,” referring to the names written on the crosses. “I have marked the Federal building in real blood, appealing to all to recognize the real spilled innocent blood behind the government’s sanitized rhetoric.”

People were arrested all over the United States, including some at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, DC. Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the protesters at the Capitol, and before leaving told them that he had to make a trip to Detroit but wanted to continue to express his outrage at the approval of the $100 million by Congress. He was told to call MICAH in Detroit. The Rainbow Coalition office called us and we set up a press conference for Rev. Jackson to speak. I introduced him and he made a strong statement against aid to the contras whom he tied in with drug trafficking:

“This week the U.S. Congress joined President Reagan in declaring war in Central America. We have hired the Contras as our surrogates: we are using the Contras as mercenaries. …We should use this $100 million to attack the drug flow into our country at the point of supply…. Contra aid has been approved in contempt of American public opinion, which has repeatedly expressed opposition to Reagan’s efforts to overthrow the Sandinistas. … The Contras are being funded regardless of their continuous record of systematic human rights violations and criminal activities…. The Report of the General Accounting Office as to the Contra’s misuse and embezzlement of U.S. taxpayers’ monies has also been ignored, as have been the serious allegations of Contra involvement with drug trafficking inside the United States.” More revelations came out later about the serious nature of Contra drug involvement carried out with a wink from the CIA.

We later learned from retired United States Army officers that the U.S. military would have played a much greater direct role In Central America if it had not been for fear of “all those nuns sitting in at Congressional offices.” It was the Pledge of Resistance that organized all those nuns, priests, ministers, students, housewives, businesspeople, teachers, trade unionists, health workers, etc., etc. and prevented a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua or El Salvador. Eventually, release of Federal documents will shed much-needed light on this troubled period in American foreign policy.

(Do you have memories from the Central America peace movement of the 1980s? Write an article for NicaNotes! Let’s compile those memories before we all die out! Write to [email protected])

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By Nan McCurdy

Marking the Start of the Final Offensive against Somoza 45 Years Ago
On May 28, in a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of the beginning of the final offensive against the Somoza dictatorship, President Daniel Ortega awarded the Order of Augusto C. Sandino in its highest expression to the “Sandino Cubs” who on October 5, 1986, shot down a C-123K tactical transport plane. [Those honored were Fernando Canales, a member of the Patriotic Military Service, now a doctor; Byron Montiel, Patriotic Military Service, now an agricultural engineer; Raúl Acevedo, Patriotic Military Service, today a lawyer and mayor of the Municipality of El Cuá, Jinotega; Lieutenant Efraín Miranda, Member of the Army, chief of the first company of the Gaspar García Laviana Light Hunter Battalion, today a farmer in the area of El Castillo, Río San Juan; First lieutenant Pablo Betancourt, a founder of the Army, chief of the first company of the Gaspar García Laviana Light Hunter Battalion, today a farmer in the area of Las Azucenas.] The plane was flown by the mercenary Eugene Hansenfus, and was going to supply the counterrevolutionaries with weapons in a camp in Honduras. During his speech, President Ortega recounted how the young fighters were able to down the Hasenfus plane. Hasenfus had been a member of the U.S. Army and later became a mercenary. “Three died in the plane, and one, who parachuted, survived—Hasenfus, the gringo CIA agent, who had been part of the US Army. He was the only one who was saved because he parachuted,” Ortega recalled. The Presidential Decree was read by Vice President Rosario Murillo during the ceremony to remember the beginning of the final offensive against Somoza. (La Primerisima, 28 May 2024)

Adelante Program Has Loaned $US6.57 million 
The Adelante fair credit program has loaned $US6.57 million to date in 2024, benefiting more than 4,600 families, said the program’s Executive Secretary Gustavo Zapata. This year, the program expects to loan a total of US$17.8 million, which represents 20% more than last year and would reach more than 12,000 families with loans of between US$270 and US$10,000. Zapata said that currently the fair credit program works in135 municipalities with loan amounts that impact agricultural production, processing and marketing. “We are expanding as we grow, and that allows the recovery to date of US$8.1 million, almost 30% of the total portfolio placed. Zapata said that, “The beneficiaries have commented that by making the payment in a timely manner, they are contributing to more Nicaraguan families accessing this funding; timely payment allows them to produce more, and allows us to reinvest and achieve that important sustainability for development in the countryside. (La Primerisima, 21 May 2024)

Exports Exceed US$1.5 Billion 
In the first four months of 2024, exports reached US$1.5 billion, with an estimated 99 different products shipped, according to the director for foreign trade, Alexander Estrada. Estrada explained that this means an inter-annual growth compared to the same period last year of 3.1%, or US$46 million in the first four months of 2024. Of the main export products, the following stand out: gold, beef, coffee, cane sugar, and peanuts, which account for 72.21% of the exported value. Estrada pointed out that in volume there has been a slight decrease, however. In the first four months of 2024, around 771 million kilograms were exported. The three products with the highest growth are bananas, lobster and tobacco. Among the products with the greatest dynamism are gold with an increase of 29.1%, beef 20.8%, peanuts 13.9%, semi-soft cheese 18.3%, tobacco 41.2%, lobster 19.5%, sunflower oil 9.6% and bananas 9.1%. The main destinations are the United States, Canada and Mexico, which account for between 50% and 52% of exports, then El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala, and to a lesser extent Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. Last year total exports closed at around US$7.5 billion and in 2024 are expected to reach around US$8 billion, with a growth of between 6 and 10%. (La Primerisima, 23 May 2024)

Ariel “Panal” Delgado Highlights Amenities of New Stadium in León
One of the best hitters Nicaragua has ever had and now vice-mayor of the municipality of León, Ariel Delgado, praised the amenities that the Rigoberto López Pérez Stadium will have, and said that the construction has made great progress. The construction is progressing for a capacity of 7,000 people with the placement of seats and of grass in the playing area. There will be parking for more than 600 vehicles. “A monumental stadium with all the standards of Major League Baseball. This will enhance our sport, our city, which has won many championships, such as the Germán Pomares championship, as well as the professional league,” he emphasized. See photos: (La Primerisima, 25 May 2024)

Health Fair in La Cruz de Río Grande a Resounding Success
During the “My Hospital in My Community” health fair held in the municipality of La Cruz de Río Grande, in the South Caribbean Autonomous Region, doctors provided 6,977 medical attentions to 4,943 people from the communities of that locality. The care provided was in the specialties of internal medicine, ear-nose-and-throat, orthopedics, dentistry and natural medicine. The services provided were obstetric ultrasounds, Doppler exams, pap smears, laboratory studies, and electrocardiograms; pre-malignant lesions in the cervix were also treated. See photos: (La Primerisima, 26 May 2024)

Mexico joins South Africa and Nicaragua in World Court Lawsuit against Israel
The Mexican government has submitted a formal request to participate in the proceedings related to the case against Israel initiated last year by South Africa before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of genocide against the people of Palestine. Mexico, Nicaragua [Nicaragua was the first country to ask to join the case], Colombia and Libya have all applied to become parties to the suit. On January 26, as part of South Africa’s request for provisional measures, the ICJ ordered Israel to “take all feasible measures” to prevent acts related to genocide during its military actions against Hamas in Gaza. South Africa’s initiative, filed in January, accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, where the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 people, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities. (La Primerisima, 28 May 2024)

National Delegation Will Be at Funeral Honors in Iran 
Vice President Rosario Murillo reported that Minister Mohamed Lashtar, who is President Daniel Ortega’s advisor for Africa, Middle East and Arab countries, has left for Tehran as the official representative of the people and government of Nicaragua and there he joins Foreign Minister Denis Moncada Colindres as part of the national delegation. “We emphasize that comrade Mohamed was with us in the two official visits we made to Tehran and then also represented us in various forums and events that took place in that brotherly country,” she said. (Informe Pastran, 21 May 2024)

Nicaragua Re-elected to World Animal Health Council
Nicaragua was re-elected with 117 votes as a member of the Council of the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) during the 91st Annual General Session being held in Paris from May 26 to 30. Wilmer Juárez, Director of Animal Health at Nicaragua’s Institute for Agricultural Protection and Health, together with Dr. Hugo Idoyaga Benítez, delegate of Paraguay, will represent the Americas as members of the Council of the WOAH for a period of three years. The Council, composed of seven other delegates from all regions, meets at least twice a year to discuss with the Director General sanitary and administrative guidelines and the organization’s program of activities. The national delegation formed by Ricardo Somarriba, Executive Director of IPSA and Wilmer Juarez, Director of Animal Health, on behalf of the Nicaragua, is participating in the OMSA General Session of Delegates. The government states it is committed to continue working to maintain the international sanitary status it has achieved. (La Primerisima, 28 May 2024)