San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ben Linder’s Death Was a Bitter Irony

Dear Nica Times:

I read with interest the April 27 Nica Times article on the 20th anniversary of the passing of Benjamin Linder.

In August 1988, I briefly met Ben’s mother and sister at a United Church of Canada event where they spoke about his work in Nicaragua and his death.

As a university student at that time, I was doing my best to get a handle on the issues that had brought Nicaragua once again to a state of civil war so soon after the ousting of the Somoza dictatorship in 1979.

The events surrounding Ben Linder’s death were controversial and conflicting, but an account of the events can be read in the book The Death of Ben Linder, published by Seven Story Press.

CBS News correspondent Dan Rather remembered Benjamin Linder this way: “Bejamin Linder was no revolutionary firebrand, spewing rhetoric and itching to carry a rifle through the jungles of Central America. He was a slight, soft spoken, thoughtful young man.When at 23, he left the comfort and security of the United States for Nicaragua, he wasn’t exactly sure what he would find. He wanted to see Nicaragua firsthand, and so headed off, armed with his new degree in engineering, and the ideals of youth.”

This wasn’t just another death in a war that has claimed thousands of Nicaraguan lives.

This was a U.S. citizen who was killed by weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars. The bitter irony of Benjamin Linder’s death is that he went to Nicaragua to build what his own country’s dollars paid to destroy, and ended up a victim of that destruction.

The loss of Benjamin Linder is more than fodder in an angry political debate. It is the loss of something that seems rare these days: a man with the courage to put his back behind his beliefs.

It would have been easy for this bright young man to follow the path to a good job and a comfortable salary.

Instead he chose to follow the path of his conscience.

Twenty years later with the Sandinistas and Contras allied and the wounds of the painful 1980s healing, we can remember the joy Ben Linder brought to many Nicaraguan children and the hope he gave to the rural people of Jinotega where he helped bring electricity.

And we can be very thankful that Nicaragua is now at peace.

Bruce Callow

San José, Costa Rica


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