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Nicaragua's Bids for Aid

May 17, 1985

News reports that focus only upon Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's aid-seeking trip to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries present an incomplete story. For Vice President Sergio Ramirez recently visited Holland, Austria, France, Spain, Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries for aid; so there is better balance here than we are seeing.

We must also realize Ortega's trip came only after the United States blocked a $200-million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. Thus, Nicaragua did turn first to the West.

It has been said that Ortega's trip, coming shortly after the House of Representatives voted down aid to the contras , is an embarrassment to those congressmen who so voted. We should also understand that this is planting season in Nicaragua, so money for seeds, fertilizer and tools is crucial now. If their large agricultural sector, 80% private, is to thrive, an alternative to the blocked loan must be found quickly. Therefore, unless he knows how to stop the advance of springtime, Ortega cannot afford the nicety of delaying aid appeals, much as U.S. politics might demand it.

I recently heard the Rev. Norman Bent, a Moravian minister from Nicaragua who has worked to reconcile Sandinistas and the Miskito Indians. He offered these perspectives: economic sanctions and embargoes, rather than pressuring the Sandinistas will unite the country against this outside aggression; the poor and the private sector will suffer most. U.S. leaders generally underestimate the strength of Nicaragua's desire to be free from any superpower domination--"free country or death" is how they put it.

For these reasons I believe Congress should work to reverse the Reagan trade embargo, and refuse under any circumstances to reconsider aid to the vicious contras. Either of these policies, if successful, would only increase suffering in a land whose "free country or death" sentiment reflects our own revolutionary spirit of 200 years ago.

RODNEY B. THORN

San Jose

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