Your series on the Nicaraguan contras cites (Dec. 14) Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs Elliott Abrams as referring to the "tough question" of how to measure popular support.
It is perhaps understandable that this might be a difficult problem to resolve in Washington, D.C. But it would not be so difficult to accomplish with an extensive and intensive open-ended inquiry inside Nicaragua. Since the Administration attests to its support of the Contadora process, why not invite the Contadora nations to conduct such an inquiry, perhaps as a sort of Latin Gallup or Times poll?
Or, without going to all that effort, might Abrams for just a non-romantic moment ponder the implications of the Nicaraguan government having armed its general population during the very time when the contras have been pressing for power? Would that be a rational act for a repressive government to take? And what other "popular democracies" of Latin America have taken a similar step or would even consider it?
The reason "popular support" for the contras is so tough to measure is that it is virtually non-existent. Even the right-wing opposition in Nicaragua is opposed to the contras. In the words of the Doonesbury cartoon people, responding to a Yankee questioner, the Nicaraguan people would rather have "vile, repressive Sandinistas" than "freedom-loving contras."