Saturday, June 19, 2004
Otto Reich -- hater of Castro, hero of contras, foe of Chavez, and all-around card -- has resigned as the President's Special Envoy to Latin America. Like his fellow dirty-tricksters Elliott Abrams and John Negroponte, Reich was a leftover from the scandal-wracked Reagan administration, plucked from the diplomatic dumpster by the scandal-indifferent Bush administration. He got the envoy gig through a recess appointment when the Senate would not confirm him to a more prestigious post as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs:
Mr. Reich had strong views, and rarely failed to express them, in words or deeds. When sworn in as temporary assistant secretary of state in March 2002, he noted in mock indignation that his critics had "said that I can't make rational decisions because of my ideology."Link courtesy of TBogg, who also sniffed out some good background articles here and here.
"Well," he said, "they are not saying that anymore, because I had them all arrested this morning!"
Mr. Reich, a former ambassador to Venezuela, also led the State Department's office of public diplomacy under President Ronald Reagan. He carried out the president's policy of undermining the left-wing leaders of Nicaragua, the Sandinistas. He tried to generate public support in the United States for anti-Sandinista rebels, known as contras, after Congress cut off funds to them in 1984.
In 1987, the comptroller general of the United States reported that Mr. Reich's office had "engaged in prohibited, covert activities" of domestic propaganda "designed to influence the media and the public to support the administration's Latin American policies.'' Those acts violated restrictions on the use of public funds for propaganda without Congress's consent, the report said.
Mr. Reich was not charged, though many Reagan administration officials were, with breaking Congress's ban on aid to the contras. But the memory rankled, as did the fight over his appointment. In March 2002, days after his swearing-in as assistant secretary of state, he opened a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington with, "Friends, colleagues, un-indicted co-conspirators...."