On this day: October 5th

Iran-Contra scandal goes public — 1986

Believing any further encroachment of Communism in the western hemisphere to be a direct threat to the United States, from the beginning of his time as president, Ronald Reagan supported the Contras, a paramilitary group who opposed the communist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. However, Congress expressly forbade supporting their cause once it became clear the Contras were corrupt and violent.

Believing to have found a workaround that would also help secure the release of American hostages held in Iran, the Reagan administration devised a plan to sell weapons to the Iranian regime, and use part of that money to funnel to the Contras in their war in Nicaragua. With Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North helping to grease the skids with all parties involved, the CIA soon had supplies flowing to the Contras in direct violation of Congress’ wishes.

It all came to a head when Eugene Hasenfus’ aircraft was downed over Nicaragua on October 5th 1986, killing two other people on board. Hasenfus was detained by the Sandinistas, and confessed that he was running guns for the Contras, and it was all sponsored by the CIA. After repeated denials from the Reagan administration, a Congressional investigation that winter revealed it all to be true.

Hasenfus was tried and convicted to 30 years in prison in Nicaragua, but was released shortly after being detained.


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