CANDIDATE ROBERTSON'S CENTRAL AMERICA POLICY by Sara Diamond, copyright 1986 TV preacher P
CANDIDATE ROBERTSON'S CENTRAL AMERICA POLICY
by Sara Diamond, copyright 1986
TV preacher Pat Robertson is the only prospective
presidential candidate who not only has a Central America policy
but also provides Bibles, beans, and maybe even bullets to U.S.
backed forces in the region.
Until recently, Robertson was seen by most as just another
slick televangelist. But his soft-spoken style is misleading; his
actions speaker louder than his words.
Robertson's controversial activities include: support for
the slaughter of thousands of Indians by a Guatemalan dictator;
public praise for the reputed leader of Salvadoran death squads;
collaboration with murky U.S. mercenary groups; and the provision
of chaplains and funds to the contra army seeking to topple the
government of Nicaragua.
Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network is the largest
non-commercial TV network in the world, with an annual budget of
about $230 million. The most popular of all religious TV shows,
Robertson's 90-minute weekday "700 Club" has an estimated 28.7
million regular U.S. viewers. CBN also broadcasts to 65 foreign
countries, including Israel, Argentina, Namibia, El Salvador, and
These bright statistics don't obscure Robertson's notorious
involvement in Central America. It began with the March 1982 coup
in Guatemala which brought General Efrain Rios Montt to power.
Montt is a member of Gospel Outreach, a fundamentalist sect based
in Eureka, California. Within a week of the coup, Robertson flew
to Guatemala to meet with Montt.
Robertson told the New York Times (5/20/82) that CBN would
send missionaries and "more than a billion dollars" to Guatemala.
While this promise was not fully met, Montt used the pledges of
support from U.S. evangelicals to convince Congress that he would
not seek massive sums of U.S. aid.
In June 1982 Montt aide Francisco Bianchi met with senior
Reagan administration officials and Christian Right leaders,
including: U.S. representative to the Organization of American
States William Middendorf, then Presidential counselor Edwin
Meese, then Interior Secretary James Watt, Ambassador to
Guatemala Fred Chapin, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Loren
Cunningham of Youth with a Mission.
Subsequently the State Department briefed Christian Right
leaders on the need for "private" support for the the Montt
regime. On the "700 Club" Robertson urged donations to
International Love Lift, an ongoing relief project sponsored by
Montt's U.S. shepherds from Gospel Outreach. Robertson also
successfully lobbied the Reagan administration to end the five-
year ban on military aid to Guatemala.
On January 8, 1983 the ban instituted by President Carter
for human rights reasons was lifted. That same day 350 U.S.
evangelicals set sail for Guatemala with a boat carrying $1
million worth of food, clothing, medical supplies, and housing
"The Gospel in Guatemala," a PBS documentary, revealed the
complicity of Gospel Outreach in the Guatemalan Army's
adminstration of camps for refugees from Rios Montt's brutal
counterinsurgency massacres of Mayan Quiche Indians.
By late 1983, Robertson shifted his attention to El
Salvador, where he interviewed President Alvaro Magana and
individuals connected with Salvadoran death squads. Robertson
returned about the same time that the Kissinger Commission made
headlines with recommendations for unprecedented levels of U.S.
aid to Central America. On the "700 Club" Robertson stressed that
the Magana government was getting a bum rap. He warned his
audience not to rely on the "biased liberalism" of Newsweek, Time
and U.S. News and World Report, while he praised death squad
leader Robert D'Aubuisson as a "very nice fellow."
In March 1984 CBN reporter Norm Mintle covered the "American
elections in El Salvador," accompanied throughout the country by
"very friendly Salvadoran troops." Over and over, 700 Club
viewers saw long lines of patient Salvadoran voters and a clip of
Reagan loyalist Senator Jeremiah Denton (R-AL) in front of a
ballot box pleading that "we should send what aid these peole
require immediately in terms of economic and military, to
preserve their opportunity to remain free."
Throughout the spring of 1984 Robertson broadcast the phone
number of the Congressional switchboard and urged viewers to
lobby for U.S. aid to El Salvador. "Just 40 U.S. helicopters
would take care of those guerrillas," he said.
In August 1984 Robertson assisted Montt's successor General
Mejia Victores in Guatemala. The Florida-based Air Commandos
Association and CBN's Operation Blessing set up a medical clinic
in the Nebaj region of northwestern Guatemala. According to an
Air Commandos newsletter, CBN paid the costs and the Air
Commandos worked on logistics. The Air Commandos Association is
headed by retired general H.C. Aderholt who, during the Vietnam
War, delivered supplies from the Michigan-based World Medical
Relief to the CIA's secret army of guerrillas in Laos. Aderholt
is a contributing editor of Soldier of Fortune mercenary
Robertson's summer propaganda offensive against Nicaragua
was also in full swing, as was his direct assistance to contra
families in Honduras. By fall 1984, press reports on the emerging
private contra aid network listed CBN as one of the largest
In 1984 CBN donated $3 million to the contras through the
Nicaraguan Patriotic Association whose Vice President Juan Sacasa
is the Houston representative of the FDN. By the end of 1985 CBN
had supplied at least $7 million in aid to the contras, and to
the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala. These were not
secret contributions: Robertson solicited viewers' donations
through simulated mailgrams and a special May telethon for the
Robertson personally delivered more than a million dollars
worth of supplies to the Guatemalan government in June 1985.
During the same trip, he reviewed troops at contra training camps
in Honduras where he was saluted as a guest of honor.
In October 1985 Sojourners magazine exposed the dubious
behavior of CBN's Operation Blessing in Honduras. According to a
former World Relief worker, a CBN film crew in Honduras requested
gasoline for its jeep, which turned out to belong to the contras.
In another instance a CBN official falsely claimed that Operation
Blessing provides funds to another relief group, World Vision.
At a private reception held in his honor during the February
1986 convention of the National Religious Broadcasters, Robertson
told a reporter that "the contras are being supplied by Israel
and South Africa." He went on to say that CBN is providing Bibles
and military chaplains to the contras, at the request of FDN
leader Enrique Bermudez.
Benton Miller, manager of media relations for CBN, confirmed
Robertson's training of at least one contra chaplain. But when
asked by a reporter about Robertson's insider's knowledge on
South Africa's role, Miller denied Robertson's statement, until
he was confronted with video and audio taped evidence.
For the past two years, whenever Congress has been
considering a contra aid package, Robertson has revved up a
"Mighty Wirlitzer" of propaganda against Nicaragua--with a
special emphasis, naturally, on stories of religious persecution.
Robertson has repeatedly aired excerpts from the private
American Security Council's film "Attack on the Americas."
According to Jenny Pierce, author of Under the Eagle,
distribution funds for the film were raised by associates of
Guatemala's far-right nationalist party, the Movement of National
Liberation (MLN) which operates death squads in that country. A
more recent ASC film, Crisis in the Americas, also excerpted on
the 700 Club, purports to "prove" that Nicaraguan leaders are
running a massive drug ring designed to simultaneously "poison
American youth" and finance revolution.
CBN's constant and sophisticated anti-Nicaraguan media
barrage is a far cry from the pouting tirades of Bible-thumpers
Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart. Whether viewed as a politician
or a preacher, Robertson's direct involvement with armed factions
in Central America puts him in a class by himself.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank