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Democracy in Central America

August 30, 1987

I wish to share some facts about Nicaragua after living there the last 16 years.

Seven parties were elected to the National Assembly in 1984. Three other parties nominated Arturo Cruz for president, but withdrew when they saw very few people at their public rallies. Catholic and Protestant clergy and laymen are high in Sandinista government and party councils. Nicaragua is more pluralistic than El Salvador or Mexico.

The Nicaraguan army in 1981 was the same size as the Salvadoran or Guatemalan, or the Honduran--if we include 5,000 Somoza troops. Honduran and Salvadoran air forces were then, and still are, much larger and more modern than Nicaragua's. Nicaragua was no "threat" in 1981.

The Nicaraguan economy is still predominantly private. Many owners of small- and medium-sized farms not only supported the Sandinistas but even represent them in the National Assembly, where even one wealthy landowner represents them! Some U.S. firms still do business there.

Few Nicaraguans support the contras. Most contras belong to FDN (Nicaraguan Democratic Force). The CIA founded FDN using 5,000 Somoza guards in Honduras in 1981. A few democratic anti-Sandinistas were forced by the U.S. to unite with FDN to "clean up" the FDN image, but real power belongs to FDN Somoza people.

Few Soviets were in Nicaragua in 1981 when the war began. Then the U.S. pulled out trade and aid and pressured Britain and West Germany to do the same, abandoning the field to the Soviet bloc. We should resume normal trade and aid relations to diminish Soviet influence.

GEORGE L. CAMPBELL

Long Beach

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