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Context of 'Fall 1987: US Senator McCain Assaults Nicaraguan Official'

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Senator John McCain (R-AZ) physically assaults a Nicaraguan official during a diplomatic mission by US lawmakers to Managua. According to a witness, fellow senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), McCain is the co-chair, with Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), of the bipartisan Central American Negotiations Observer Group; Cochran is a member of the group. They are in a meeting with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, the leader of the ruling Sandinistas, and several Nicaraguan diplomats, discussing tensions between the two countries. A number of armed Nicaraguan soldiers are also in the room. Cochran recalls that tensions in the room are high due to the heavy pressure being brought to bear by the US against the Nicaraguans. The American lawmakers are pressing “pretty hard,” Cochran will recall. During the discussions, “McCain was down at the end of the table and we were talking to the head of the guerrilla group here at this end of the table and I don’t know what attracted my attention,” Cochran later says. “But I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever. I don’t know what he was telling him but I thought, good grief, everybody around here has got guns and we were there on a diplomatic mission. I don’t know what had happened to provoke John but he obviously got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him.” McCain does not actually strike the Nicaraguan, and the two eventually retake their seats. Cochran will recall that the Nicaraguan appears “ruffled” after the incident. [Biloxi Sun-Herald, 6/30/2008; Biloxi Sun-Herald, 7/1/2008; Associated Press, 7/2/2008] In 2008, McCain will call Cochran’s story “simply untrue.” [Time, 7/2/2008] “I had many, many meetings with the Sandinistas,” McCain will say. “I must say, I did not admire the Sandinistas much. But there was never anything of that nature. It just didn’t happen.” [Associated Press, 7/2/2008]

Entity Tags: Central American Negotiations Observer Group, John McCain, Daniel Ortega, Thad Cochran, Christopher Dodd

Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair

Congressman Dan Burton, Chair of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House’s Committee on International Relations, is in Managua, Nicaragua on a two-day visit to meet with presidential candidates Eduardo Montealegre and Edmundo Jarquin. The two US-backed candidates are running against Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who polls suggest may win the presidency on November 5. Montealegre is a Harvard-educated banker; Jarquin, a Sandinista dissident. [Associated Press, 9/22/2006] During a press conference, Burton warns that the US could cut $175 million in aid to Nicaragua through the Millenium Challenge Account and block Nicaragua’s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) if Ortega wins the elections. He also states that if Ortega creates a state agency to process remittances from the US, as he has promised, Nicaraguan families might end up earning “much, much less money” and would experience “a significantly reduced quality of life.” Ortega has pledged to “make sure that Nicaraguans get 100 percent of their remittances.” Transfers from family members working in the US are usually sent through private companies such as Western Union, which charge a hefty commission. Remittances are the primary source of income for many families and accounted for 16.9 percent of the country’s GDP and 99 percent of its exports in 2005. [CounterPunch, 10/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Daniel Ortega, Eduardo Montealegre, Dan Burton

Timeline Tags: US-Nicaragua (1979-)

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) is retracting previous comments he made about Republican presidential candidate and fellow senator John McCain (R-AZ). Cochran recently recounted the story of McCain physically assaulting a Nicaraguan official in 1987 (see Fall 1987). He has said: “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” Cochran has now backed off of his characterization somewhat, and says that McCain has learned to control his temper since 1987. A Cochran spokesperson says: “I think Senator Cochran went into as much detail yesterday as is necessary to make the point that, though Senator McCain has had problems with his temper, he has overcome them. Though Senator Cochran saw the incident he described to you, decades have passed since then and he wanted to make the point that over the years he has seen Senator McCain mature into an individual who is not only spirited and tenacious but also thoughtful and levelheaded.” Cochran supports McCain’s bid for the presidency. [Biloxi Sun-Herald, 7/1/2008]

Entity Tags: Thad Cochran, John McCain

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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