Bennett Addresses a Message To Managua
Washington--Last Thursday, while Americans celebrated the 200th birthday of the Constitution, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett was winging his way south to deliver the Constitution's--and the Administration's--"message" about freedom in Nicaragua.
At an American Embassy gathering in Managua, the country's capital, he enumerated the ways in which freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution are denied by Nicaragua's Sandinista government.
"I am here today because the safety and happiness of the people of Nicaragua are much on the minds of the citizens of the United States as we celebrate the bicentennial of our Constitution," Mr. Bennett said.
"The Constitution of the United States did not establish justice merely for one nation; it held out the hope and prospect of freedom for all mankind. With millions of other4citizens of the United States, I trust and pray that the freedom we enjoy shall soon also be yours."
Mr. Bennett's audience included resident Americans and several hundred Nicaraguans. State Department and White House officials asked him to make the trip, said his spokesman, Loye W. Miller.
"They thought a visit by a top Administration official was in order," Mr. Miller said. "The idea is to send a message."
Mr. Bennett's message was that the Nicaraguan government cannot claim that liberty exists under its rule until it allows free elections, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion.
"First and foremost, liberty means self government," including "fair and free and regular elections--and respect for their outcomes," he said.
"Freedom of speech and of the press means that the government must tolerate newspapers independent of its control," he said. "It means that public criticism of the ruling party is permitted without threat of arrest or assault.
"And then there is freedom of religion," Mr. Bennett continued. "Whatever the complexity of drawing the proper lines between church and state, this much is clear: religious freedom is inconsistent with the suppression of religious speech, with the public humiliation of priests, and with the branding of religious groups as 'subversive."'
"The drama that took place 200 years ago at Trenton and Yorktown and Valley Forge, the drama that culminated at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, is again taking place today--around the world, and especially here in Nicaragua," Mr. Bennett said. "The drama, the struggle, is the same. It is the eternal struggle betweeen tyranny and freedom."