"The Sandinistas would like for us to become engaged in a struggle for territory, operating in big units," he said. "We don't fight for territory. Our forces are constantly on the move. They don't sleep twice in the same place."
A Western diplomat said the contras have been unable to operate effectively in small guerrilla groups because they have not had a reliable system for resupplying widespread units and have lacked effective communications for "command and control."
The diplomat predicted that the new U.S. aid will help the contras establish an effective air-supply system that will enable small units to stay in the field "much, much longer, if not permanently." He said two-way field radios with scrambling devices should solve the communications problem.
"Down to the smallest unit (the contras) would have radios so that their activities could be directed and coordinated," he said."
Missiles Will Add Power
The $100 million in new aid will also include infantry support weapons such as machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles. Bermudez said that will give the guerrilla tactics more impact.
"In an ambush, with much greater firepower, the results are going to be more damaging," he said. "Now we have muscle. Now we are going to use it in a very selective way, and we hope that every military action will have a political and propagandistic goal."
He hinted that the coming campaign will include "spectacular blows," but he emphasized that the contras will not try to match battlefield strength with the more numerous and better-armed Sandinista army.
"We are going to attack weak positions, not fortified positions," he said.
To Hit Economic Targets
The contras will also continue to hit economic targets, despite Sandinista claims that they are attacking "the people." For example, he said, contras recently targeted a grain storage installation at San Juan del Rio Coco, in Nueva Segovia province.
"Our troops attacked the guards who kept watch over it and destroyed the granaries," he said. "Then the Sandinistas said, 'Come and see the damage the contras have caused, the mercenaries against the people.' "
Grain stored in a war zone is a supply source for the Sandinista military effort, Bermudez said, and added, "We are going to attack targets that are part of the military infrastructure."
The contras will make a special effort to hit roads, truck convoys and transport helicopters, he said, and "are going to try to destroy the system that the Sandinistas have to resupply themselves."
Hope to Down Copters
One of the main advantages of the Sandinista army during the past 18 months has been a growing fleet of Soviet-built transport and attack helicopters. As long as the contras lack shoulder-fired missiles, they say, their units can be overwhelmed by air-mobile operations and gunship attacks.
"With the missiles, we are going to reduce that possibility," Bermudez said.
The increased vulnerability of the helicopters will be a psychological blow to the Sandinistas, he said, and "that affects the morale of the troops."
He predicted that rebel military successes will result in increased defections from the Sandinista army. He also predicted that as the contras' war effort takes its toll on the Sandinista military and economic systems, popular opposition to the Sandinistas will grow bolder.
"The crisis that the country is going through is going to increase--the economic, political, social and military crisis," he said. "To the degree that we succeed in gaining the support of the population, to that degree the Sandinista regime is going to deteriorate."
He said a popular uprising may ultimately be a bigger threat to the Sandinistas than a contra invasion of the capital.
"I personally think it should be the people who overthrow the totalitarian system," he said. "Sandinista power could collapse without our having to go in and fight in the neighborhoods of Managua."
It was popular revolt in the cities, not rural guerrilla action, that forced Somoza from power in 1979. The urban uprising, initiated in 1978 by Calero and other civilian business, church and community leaders, was reinforced and later coordinated by the Sandinista guerrillas working clandestinely with such urban groups as secondary and university students and trade unions.
Many analysts say that the contras lack the political commitment and training to prepare a popular revolt. Bermudez said that political indoctrination within the rebel army has not been a high priority.
"Our army is not a political army," he said. "We are not trying to instill an ideology in our boys."
But, in an effort to increase the contras' political awareness, political instruction is being included in courses at the Nicaraguan Democratic Force's military school in Honduras. About 11,000 contras have been at the school in the past year, the official said.