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The Death of Ben Linder: The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua Paperback – August 7, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press (June 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583220682
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583220689
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,148,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Some deaths in war are unmistakably heroic, sacrifices for the greater good. Some are merely sacrifices, and whatever good comes from them happens years later, when the events surrounding them have been all but forgotten. Such was the case with the death of Ben Linder, a young American engineer who, fired by ideals of social justice, volunteered to aid the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the corrupt dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979.

Ben Linder arrived in Nicaragua four years later, where he worked to build a hydroelectric dam that would bring electrical power to the remote northern highlands. As journalist Joan Kruckewitt observes in The Death of Ben Linder, "Nicaragua was to leftists throughout the world in the 1980s what Spain was to progressive Americans in the 1930s," a place where a popular revolution might for once bring peace and even happiness to the downtrodden. Officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan viewed the matter quite differently, however; Reagan once remarked, seriously, that Nicaraguan tanks were only three days' drive from the American border--yet another Communist threat that lay too close to be countenanced.

Linder was murdered by counterrevolutionaries--the Contras--in 1987, almost certainly with the foreknowledge and perhaps even tacit approval of American intelligence officials. Kruckewitt draws on recently declassified CIA documents and her own field reporting to discover why Linder--and why Sandinista Nicaragua--should have been perceived as being such a threat. She paints a sympathetic portrait of young Linder, too, who, even though idealistic, seems not to have been naive; he recognized that he was in danger, but he pressed on, anyway, to do his part for the revolution, helping build a dam that now provides electricity to former Sandinistas and Contras alike. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

JOAN KRUCKEWITT is a journalist who lived in Nicaragua from 1983-1991 and covered the war between the Sandinistas and the U.S.-backed Contras for ABC Radio. She reported from Latin America and Europe for various radio networks (Pacifica, RKO, Mutual, NBC, Monitoradio, Canadian Broadcasting Company, National Public Radio) and newspapers. Kruckewitt lives in Northern California.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn Tully Costa on April 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Kruckewitt cuts through the turbulent politics of the 80's in Central America to tell the story of one young man's dream against the back drop of love, war and assassination.
With great care towards historic detail, Kruckewitt has performed a scholarly service to any student of history, as well as bringing to life the day to day struggle of this poor Latin American country under siege and those volunteers who flocked from allover the world to lend aid.
Kruckewitt's tale builds suspensefully, chapter after chapter as the thumbscrews of the United State's illegal war against Nicaragua tighten against modest social change and on Linder's personal journey into the Sandinista revolution. Kruckewitt reveals the effects of Washington's corrupt political policy that ultimately ends in the murder of this dedicated man and his Nicaraguan companions -poignantly told in a heartbreaking narrative that takes you deep into the Nicaraguan mountains filled with danger and hope. As the body count rises around him, Linder, an engineer, races against time to complete his small hydro-electric project in the rural village of El Cua - the ever increasing threat of death from military attacks takes on metaphorical proportions of David and Goliath. As those struggling to build and benefit from the tiny power plant are picked off, one by one, by the U.S. sponsored, trained and directed mercenaries known as the "Contras" we are swept breathlessly to his death.
This is a riveting, suspenseful drama, a study in courage and hope - hope in the face of the an enemy both ideological and lethally real. For those wishing to understand the passions, conflicts and historic context of the Nicaraguan controversy, set in a gripping , tragic context - read this book."
Evelyn Tully Costa Four Corners Radio/NPR Freelancer
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mike Rhodes on September 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you are one of the many people who risked their lives when they traveled to Central America during the 1980's this book is for you! If you missed that experience but want to know what would motivate someone to risk their lives for peace and social justice by going to Nicaragua and participating in the revolution then, this book is for you!
During the 1980's U.S. foreign policy in Central America was driven by an obsessive effort to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas had overthrown a dictator and were developing a society that put people before profits. They set up free health care, carried out a massive literacy campaign, and gave land to small farmers.
This threat of "a good example" was countered by the U.S. which created a mercenary army (the Contras) who set out to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. Tactics included killing teachers, destroying health clinics, and forcing the Sandinistas to spend more and more of their resources on the military.
Ben Linder was an engineer from Portland who put his life on the line to support the people of Nicaragua. Ben was also a clown and often put on his red nose and clown make-up to juggle and unicycle in poor neighborhoods, where children had never seen a clown. He worked in a small rural village in Northern Nicaragua, maybe 30 miles from my communities sister city of Telpaneca, near the Honduran border. Like the Fresnan's who built a school in Telpaneca during the Contra War, Ben was working on a hydroelectric project trying in a positive way to support the revolution. THE DEATH OF BEN LINDER, THE STORY OF A NORTH AMERICAN IN SANDINISTA NICARAGUA is an insightful book that reminds us why people are willing to put their lives on the line for a cause they believe in. It shows the tragic results of U.S. foreign policy that seeks to make the world safe for corporations seeking to maximize profits.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz on December 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Besides being a gripping story told well, this is the most important book yet about Sandinista Nicaragua, the US not so covert war against it, and the anti-interventionist movement in the United States (and other countries). I had to read it in small doses as it brought back the terror and anguish I experienced working in the war zone during the same period. For anyone who did, it is impossible not to feel that Ben Linder died in our place, and that we must never forget his sacrifice lest we forget the still unresolved crimes against humanity committed in our name.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book offers an intimate view into Ben's life and dreams while he worked in Nicaragua. It effectiveley portrays what it was like for Ben and his co-workers to work in rural development while under threat of attack from the US organized Contra forces. The book gives clear insite into the motivations that kept Ben and others from giving into that threat. I highly recommend this book.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Morris A. Wessel, M.D. on March 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A vivid description of a young American's idealistic determination to bring to a Nicaraguan village electricity created by a hydroelectric source in a flowing stream. Worshipped by families and government officials, he worked valiantly and continuously at his task only to be killed by contra military personnel.
An important documentary. .
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By DanP on November 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For all you people that are labling Ben: I went to engineering school with Ben and talked to him nearly daily. He was just a normal guy, but with the confidence to be just a little bit different than the rest of us and ride a unicycle to class. :)

He had no political agenda. He simply had the desire to make people smile and make a difference. It is a shame that he was wasted this way.
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