MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Indian rebel leaders said Wednesday they will send a 10-member delegation to Managua soon to begin cease-fire negotiations with the Sandinista government under a Central American peace plan.
Miskito Indian leader Brooklyn Rivera said in a telephone interview from Costa Rica that he expects the talks to begin within the next week and to include Interior Minister Tomas Borge, who directs government policy toward the Indians.
"We must explore the possibility of peace now that strong winds for peace are blowing through Central America," Rivera said. "There are few of us, and we are in a war for our survival and dignity. It is in our interest to find mechanisms that alleviate our suffering and bring peace."
The negotiations would be a setback for U.S. State Department officials who have been working since May to unite rival Indian rebels into one opposition group that would forge an alliance with contras in the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan Resistance. The CIA failed in earlier attempts to unite the Indians.
Rivera recently has criticized the CIA for using part of the $100 million in contra aid voted by Congress last year to try to manipulate the Indians. He said the Indians did not receive all of the $5 million in supplies that were designated for them under the aid package.
Earlier this month, Borge reached a cease-fire agreement with Miskito leader Uriel Vanegas, who allegedly commands about 400 Indian rebels. Under the agreement, the rebels will refuse further U.S. aid and stop fighting the Sandinistas. The government, in return, will let the rebels keep their weapons and defend their villages as part of the Sandinista army and police force.
Another group of about 200 Indians has operated under such a cease-fire agreement in the town of Yulu since 1985.
The government so far has refused to negotiate with contra leaders from the Nicaraguan Resistance despite pressure to do so from Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez, who won this year's Nobel Peace prize for his role in drafting and promoting the peace plan.
Rivera claims that he and Indian leaders Steadman Fagoth and Diego Wycliff still represent about 2,400 combatants in a newly formed group they call Yatama. Some observers say the figure may be less than half that.