De Blasio Worked for Sandinistas, Honeymooned in Cuba

Image: De Blasio Worked for Sandinistas, Honeymooned in Cuba

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 03:34 PM

By Melanie Batley

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New York City Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio spent time as a left-wing supporter and activist for Nicaragua's ruling Sandinista party at a time when the Reagan administration characterized it as "tyrannical" and "Communist."

He also honeymooned in Cuba in violation of the United States' ban on travel to the Caribbean Communist stronghold, The New York Times reported Monday.

The revelations immediately sparked outrage from Joe Lhota, de Blasio's Republican opponent in November's election. "It’s pretty obvious we think very, very differently about the way the governments of the world should work and the way the people should interact with their government," said Lhota when asked about the Times piece.

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"Quite honestly, there are words that I don’t like to use, but in his own words he called himself a Democratic socialist. It’s really unfortunate that that’s the level that we’ve come to in this city."

De Blasio was 26 when he went to Nicaragua in 1988, during Daniel Ortega's first term as president. He traveled to the western city of Masaya to help distribute food and medicine during the conflict with the contras, reported the Times.

He later returned to Maryland to work for the Quixote Center, a group that shipped food, clothing, and supplies to the country, often to Sandinista families.

"My work was based on trying to create a more fair and inclusive world," he said in a recent interview, according to the Times. "I have an activist's desire to improve people's lives."

De Blasio was twice arrested during rallies against United States foreign policy that were held in the Washington area, the Times reports.

He later moved to New York where he helped raise funds for the Sandinistas as a volunteer for the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York. He worked alongside peace activists, Democrats, Marxists, and anarchists to continue to highlight the cause in Central America after the Sandinistas lost power in 1990.

His interest in revolutionary Latin American politics even extended to his honeymoon destination following his 1994 marriage to former admitted lesbian Chirlane McCray, the Times reports.

That decision, too, was blasted by Lhota. "Going to Cuba illegally is never a good thing in this country," he said.

The Times reports that de Blasio, who studied Latin American politics at Columbia University, continues to be interested in Latin America and speaks with admiration of the Sandinistas' campaign.

"They had a youthful energy and idealism mixed with a human ability and practicality that was really inspirational," he said in a recent interview, according to the newspaper, though he is critical of the party's attempts to crack down on dissent, saying the revolutionary leaders were "not free enough by any stretch of the imagination."

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