Pinter has had strong interests and involvement in the political
destinies of the countries of latin america and the caribbean for
image which became emblematic of the Sandinista's struggle to
regain their democracy.
Pinter visited Nicaragua in February 1988.
Interview in South Magazine, May 1988 by Andrew
Graham-Yooll: One difference between British
and European writers and Latin American writers is that the Latin
Americans have become political figures, mainly because they can
read and write. By and large it has not happened in Britain.
Pinter: We don't understand the extremity of our own position. In
England it is assumed that there is nothing really to be very concerned
about; People easily blind themselves to that reality. In Latin
America everything is thrown into much sharper focus. In Nicaragua
I had a long conversation with President Ortega. One image of the
past which he impressed upon me was of certain houses, mansions
- which are kept as museums - which contain a series of large boxes,
,just a little bigger than coffins. Under Somoza the peasants lived
in these boxes. They did not simply sleep there, they lived there.
It was the only place they had a right to be. That is slavery.
The Sandinistas are a democratically elected government which originally
led a popular revolution to overthrow a dictatorship based on slavery.
But the central reality of the region is that the US is not interested
in allowing any kind of real democracy to exist. Such a thing would
be against their interests. Noam Chomsky, in his most recent book,
The Culture of Terrorism (Pluto), says that the US elites are dedicated
to the use of force. Their leaning towards lawlessness is masked
by their ideological system, which prevents the population at home
from seeing the clandestine action applied abroad. US foreign policy
could be best defined as follows: kiss my arse or Ill kick your
head in. It is as simple and as crude as that. It can hardly be
said to be a complicated foreign policy. What is interesting about
it is that it is so incredibly successful. It possesses the structures
of disinformation, use of rhetoric, distortion of language, which
are very persuasive, but are actually a pack of lies. It is very
successful propaganda. They have the money, they have the technology,
they have all the means to get away with it, and they do. I find
the ignorance in this country, Britain, and certainly the US, really
quite deep. It is not only the Republican Party and government in
the US which are responsible for this state of affairs, but I see
the Democrats as only differing by degrees. While they say "no more
military aid to the Contras" ... they are still referring to an
innate and deeply embedded assumption that they are talking about
a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian dictatorship; gangsters, thugs,
instructed from Moscow.
President Reagan declared a while ago something like
"we know that the Sandinistas are very deep into drug dealing".
This was front page of the New York Times and Washington Post. A
few days later you could have spied, if you looked at the back page,
a couple of paragraphs saying that the assertion that the Sandinistas
were in high-level drug dealing was unsupported. The President lied,
blatantly, nakedly, unashamedly. The drug dealing as is now known
from every angle and authority was done by the CIA, who gave the
money from drugs to the Contras. Last November, 1 went to a US university
to give a reading and then had a few questions from an academic
audience of about 500 people. I offered one or two propositions
about what is the reality and what is a masquerade in terms of their
country's responsibilities. The bulk of the audience was resentful,
uncomfortable, and would have preferred not to hear these propositions.
It was a body which actually was frightened of something, and preferred
to remain in ignorance and bewilderment. The 1960s and l97Os saw
them challenging not only their own government but their own establishment,
and they are now full of mea culpas and regrets that Vietnam heroes
have been neglected and noisy students were encouraged. We have
moved into an unliberal (not anti-liberal) decade. Yes, fear of
being seen as soft on communism, and so on. There is a fear that
is demonstrated not only in the US, but in Britain and Europe too.
'the idea of something called communism, which is going to bite:
the term has become automatically pejorative - it is not descriptive,
just foul language. A communist is not somebody who believes in
a certain set of ideas, but a criminal. The basic problem seems
to lie in the inability of the US to let a small country be because
of the fear of the "reds" - the "commies" - in the backyard. That
is a myth cultivated by the US administration. The whole thing seems
to me to be about power and money.
HP With Cardinal
Basil Hume and Nicaraguan Ambassador to Great Britain, D'Escoto,1988
Nicaragua a Sandinista commander once described the national sport
as writing poetry - which may be an extreme way of showing social
responsibility. I spent nine intense days in Nicaragua. I came away
with a number of very distinct and quite vivid impressions. One
of them was the realisation that I had just been in a country where
a most remarkable, if not unique, synthesis of art, Christianity
and politics was taking place. You couldn't put a dividing line
between any of those areas. I don't think there can be any other
government on earth in which you have three priests, a well-known
novelist (Sergio Ramirez) and a leading poet (Ernesto
Cardenal); in which there is such respect for other people's
individuality and dignity. The literacy campaign was one of the
most extraordinary developments of the Sandinistas, together with
health, and the agrarian reform. These remarkable achievements have
been stunted by the disgrace that is the American action. It is
part of our disgrace, I mean ours as part of the West, of what we
call the democratic West.
General Vernon Walters, the US ambassador to the UN Who recently
attended the UN Human Rights Subcommittee meeting in Geneva, admonished
a business audience at the World Economic Forum, In Davos, Switzerland,
in January. He said the US sees itself preventing a continental
communist penetration, which uses Central America as its landing
stage. Just before I went to Nicaragua I saw General Vernon Walters
on British television, he was talking to
an English journalist. The general said that the US would continue
to support the Contras against a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian dictatorship.
The British journalist said simply, "I see," and passed on to the
next question, but Nicaragua is not a Marxist-Leninist totalitarian
dictatorship. Since that remark was not corrected, people assume
it is true. We are educated to believe such a statement by the media
and by the politicians When the US refers to a "return to democracy"
in the country it draws a veil over the fact that the previous regime
was a vicious dictatorship which the US naturally, supported. Nicaragua
is a country in peril. It is being brutally attacked by the most
powerful nation on earth. It is true that they are getting other
people to do their dirty tricks. But economically there are no holds
barred - the economic and financial blockade is quite devastating.
This seems to be a classic statement of a depraved moral position,
which is ignored by a substantial body of world opinion. The reason
for our willed ignorance is that we already have our own brute:
we have been told for years by our leaders that the brute is Russia.
It is essential that Western Europe should act responsibly.
The issues of principle applying to Nicaragua are as important and
as critical now as they were in the case of the Spanish Civil War.
The western democracies then let the Spanish Republic be destroyed.
They have a moral obligation not to allow the same to happen to
Nicaragua. It seems to me that democracy in Nicaragua is a serious,
almost unprecedented attempt to establish a decent, civilised society,
with a leadership of men of intelligence, culture and ideas. It
is in peril because it is independent , because it is not doing
what it is told to do. Hundreds of priests have been murdered in
the last few decades in Central America. But the appalling record
of torture and murder in Guatemala and El Salvador is virtually
ignored by the press whereas if the Sandinistas criticise a priest,
it is front-page news. So the presentation of facts is consistently
unbalanced and distorted. It is lie upon lie upon lie. How can one
correct all these lies? I don't know, but one can't stop trying.
Harold Pinter with Lady Antonia
|Click the above envelope to view
the letter to the Times Literary Supplement 17th February 1995
SUPPORT GROUP BRIEFING
LONDON - 26 April
At the opening night of the exhibition, Haiti:
Photos, Paintings, Ironworks, the internationally renowned playwright,
Harold Pinter, condemned the US for undermining democracy in Haiti.
The exhibition at London's October Gallery, staged in conjunction
with the Haiti Support Group, features the work of Haitian artists,
and North American and European photojoumalists who have worked
in Haiti in the years since the collapse of the Duvalier dictatorship.
Over the last three decades Pinter has written scores of succesful
plays including The Birthday Party, and The Caretaker, and screenplays
such as The Servant, The Go Between and The Handmaid's Tale. Last
month he was awarded the British Literary Prize for lifetime achievement.
Pinter, a member of the London-based Haiti Support Group, formally
opened the exhibition by praising the assembled works for embodying
"the extraordinary spirit of the Haitian people."
He went on to criticise the United States policy
in Haiti calling it 'a masquerade' and claiming that "a democratic
procedure, a democratic election, has been totally undermined
and sabotaged ... by a military coup supported in fact by the
United States." Referring to last September's US military intervention
in Haiti, he remembered President Clinton's contention that "a
new dawn has arisen" as a result, but remarked that all that had
been restored was the "status quo". He continued, "All of Aristide's
endeavours to perform what he was actually elected for have been
totally undermined, and he himself, in a sense, 1 must say with
great regret, seems to have been strangled and emasculated.' Ale
opening night of the exhibition, which runs until 17 June, was
'attended by over 400 invited guests, including the Haitian painter,
Edouard Duval-Carrie, and US photographer, Michelle Frankfurter,
who recently won a World Press Award prize for her photo of a
Port au-Prince street demonstration. Other artists featured in
the exhibition include Stevenson Magloire, Prosper Pierrelouis,
Frantz Larnothe, and Serge Solimeau. Photographers contributing
include Maggic Steber, Les Stone, Chantal Regnault and Roger Hutchings.
The exhibition was curated by Leah Gordon and the October Gallery,
with the assistance of the Carlos Jara Gallery and Catherine Orenstein.
The Haiti Support Group works to develop solidarity in Britain
with the struggle for genuine democracy and social justice in
Haiti. London, 26 April 1995