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Everybody Had His Own Gringo: The CIA and the Contras Hardcover – April, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Veteran newspaper correspondent Garvin ( Washington Times ) presents the Nicaraguan war (1979-91) from the vantage point of the contras --a legitimate political movement that in his view accomplished "nearly everything they were fighting for." In richly anecdotal coverage, he concludes, however, that the contras were not well served by their own leadership nor by their CIA advisers. Furthermore, he contends the contras were sold out by the Central American Peace Plan and by the Chamorro government that replaced the Sandinistas. Garvin's work serves as an antidote to Sam Dillon's Commandos: The CIA and Nicaragua's Contra Rebels ( LJ 10/1/91) for the two authors draw sharply differing assessments. For example, "Mike Lima," a contra field commander portrayed by Dillon as a sadistic ex-National Guardsman, stands in Garvin's eyes as a heroic counterintelligence contra chief "under attack by the State Department's human-rights hit team." With rich personal detail and dramatic scenes, Garvin portrays the war in human terms and explains the failure of the Reagan administration to influence its outcome. Since this book assumes a basic knowledge of the conflict, it is recommended for larger international affairs collections.
- James Rhodes, Luther Coll., Decorah, Ia.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A journalist's excellent history of the Nicaraguan civil war. Garvin, who traveled among the contras for six years reporting for the Washington Times, begins before the war, when formative elements of both the contras and the Sandinistas were united against their common enemy, the Somoza family. The counterrevolutionaries, or contras, came into existence when Daniel Ortega's new regime confiscated their lands. Garvin gives us a detailed account of the guerrilla war that followed, from the vexed participation of Tacho Somoza and some overzealous Argentines through the massive involvements of the CIA and State Department, motivated by a fear of Nicaraguan involvement in El Salvador. Garvin treats Oliver North gingerly, though with a faint distaste; he's more interested in following the exploits of two contra principals, Walter Calder¢n and Enrique Berm£dez, whom he presents so effectively and sympathetically they become like protagonists in a novel. The richness of this history comes, in fact, from Garvin's mixture of anecdotes and good factual reporting. He has a bit of the soldier of fortune in him, and makes no secret of his sympathies with the contras, who, in his view, were not a ragtag army but a dispossessed, patriotic, even religious minority. In the one year, 1987, that the Reagan Administration persuaded Congress to fund them fully, they did enormous damage to the Sandinistas, despite facing formidable Soviet armaments. Garvin's epilogue looks back on the election and what he feels to be Violeta Chamorro's fatal compromise: allowing Daniel Ortega to retain command of the army. Despite the collapse of the Soviet empire, tensions remain and violence could easily erupt again, Garvin says, particularly with the Chamorro government's disregard for contra claims to land. A partisan but restrained account; we are unlikely to see a better one. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Brassey's Inc; 1St Edition edition (April 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0080405622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0080405629
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,706,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
one of the very few books that don't blindly praise the sandinistas. this book and shirley christian's 'nicaragua: revolution in the family' are essential to understanding the civil war in nicaragua.
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By A Customer on September 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Glenn Garvin's book is a wonderful and highly readable account of the peasant army which made up the Contras. The author is sympathetic but clear-eyed, and he provides a fascinating account of the motivations of the Contra soldiers and leaders, as well as describing U.S. involvement with the Contras. "Everybody Had His Own Gringo" (a great title!) is a "must-read" for anyone interested in the history of the Nicaraguan civil war and the Contras.
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Format: Hardcover
Garvin's greatest success in "Everybody had his own Gringo" is that he addresses the contra army neither as a puppet creation of the United States nor as Robin Hood-esque freedom fighters glavanting around in the jungle. Written with mordant wit, dead-on in focus and scope, this is an excellent text on the contras. Those looking for a complete history of the Nicaraguan civil war, however, will probably want to look elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Glenn Garvin was a newspaper reporter who spent six years living with the Contras in Honduras & Nicaragua. The results of his interviews is this book "Everybody Had His Own Gringo." Garvin is an excellent writer; had he changed paths slightly, he would have been an excellent novelist.

The book covers the history of the Contras; how they came to be and who filled their ranks. If there is a central theme to "Everybody Had His Own Gringo," it is that the Contras were a living Rohrshach test--everyone saw in them what they wanted. To the Reagan administration they were brave freedom fighters; to the American left they were the worst type of terrorist. Yet neither of these camps really made an effort to find out what the Contras were about; they were just a means to a political end. Garvin took the time to meet the Contras, and find out what actually motivated them. What he found was a complex organization that was often at odds with itself, and which often had differing visions of what they wanted to achieve.

In "Everybody Had His Own Gringo," Glenn Garvin has produced the best first hand account of the Contra insurgency in Nicaragua.
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