Ronald Reagan’s Death Squads

Ronald Reagan touched many peoples’ lives, many he killed…one was Ben Linder.

Ben Linder was murdered by Reagan’s contras on April 28, 1987. He was an engineer who had gone to Nicaragua in 1983, as many thousands did during the years of the Reagan regime, to act as a counterweight to the contra terror campaign. He was an engineer and he was working to build a small hydroelectric project that would bring light to the nights in the community of El Cua, in Jinotega Province.

On that spring day he was inspecting the dam with two Nicaraguans, Sergio Hernandez and Pablo Rosales. A band of Contras hurled a grenade at the men. All three were seriously wounded. Ben was executed with a shot to the head a few moments later. The two Nicaraguans were also killed, one of them stabbed in the chest.

Ben Linder was also an accomplished juggler and unicyclist, and often dressed as a clown to perform for Nicaraguan children, for whom he had particular affection. In his journal he wrote, “I see the kids and I feel like taking them all away to a safe place to hide until the war stops and the hunger stops and El Cua becomes strong enough to give them the care they deserve. But I can’t do that and even if I could, it wouldn’t help the neighboring towns. So, instead, I try to put in light and hope for the best.”

At his funeral in Nicaragua, Ben’s mother Elizabeth said, “My son was brutally murdered for bringing electricity to a few poor people in Northern Nicaragua. He was murdered because he had a dream and because he had the courage to make that dream come true. Not many of us can say that. What was that dream?…to make it possible for the peasants of a few villages to have a light bulb in their homes so their day does not have to end at six o’clock when it gets dark, to get drinking water to them so their children don’t have to die of diarrhea in the first years of their lives, to raise them out of poverty so they can raise their children with hope for the future….We understand why Ben came to Nicaragua, and we now know why he stayed. Ben told me the first year he was here, and this is a quote, “It’s a wonderful feeling to work in a country where the government’s first concern is for its people, for all its people.” I am grateful that he had his three and a half years in Nicaragua.”

Ben was just one of tens of thousand killed by the Contras. Of Ben Linder’s death, Ronald Reagan said nothing, though earlier he said, “I am a Contra, too!” Vice President Bush said,”he was on the other side”.

I never met Ben Linder, though I was in Nicaragua a few times during his years there. Thousands of US citizens joined various projects in efforts to stop Reagan’s vicious war. We all knew that at any moment we could be harmed with weapons we had paid for. Such was the fate of Ben Linder.

His gravestone in a cemetery in Matagalpa, Nicaragua reads, “Benjamin Ernest Linder…Internationalist…Born July 7,1959 California, USA…Fell April 28, 1987… San Jose del Bocay Jinotega, Nicaragua…The light he lit will shine forever…

Ronald Reagan should be remembered….as the murderer of Ben Linder.

GARY HANDSCHUMACHER worked with various projects in Nicaragua from 1984 to 1996. including, The Boulder (Colorado)/Jalapa Friendship City Project, the Denver Disability Peace Project, and Colorado Friends of Los Pipitos He lives in western Colorado where he is a co-producer of Speaking Freely” ” on KVNF radio in Paonia. He is also regional coordinator for the Committee to Free Lori Berenson.