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Tape of Managua Defector's Assertions Aired in Central America

December 19, 1987|MARJORIE MILLER | Times Staff Writer

SAN SALVADOR — Television stations in El Salvador and Honduras are airing a CIA-produced videotape of Nicaraguan army defector Roger Miranda Bengoechea, in which he embraces the Contra cause and accuses Sandinista Defense Minister Humberto Ortega of philandering with the wives of his associates.

Miranda, an army major and a top staff aide to Ortega when he defected to the United States in October, calls the Sandinista leaders an elite "gang of traitors and thieves" and says they are building a communist state in Nicaragua, according to the videotape. He bolsters U.S. and Salvadoran government assertions that the Sandinistas continue to aid Salvadoran guerrillas despite a Central American peace plan that prohibits such assistance.

The 45-minute program is clearly aimed at gaining support for the Contras in Nicaragua and elsewhere throughout the region. Salvadoran state and private television broadcasts can be picked up in some areas of northern Nicaragua and outside Managua with an antenna.

A sound track of the program has been broadcast on the Contras' clandestine radio station, Radio Liberacion, which reportedly transmits from within El Salvador.

The program aired on television Tuesday and Friday nights in El Salvador and is expected to be shown several more times.

American Embassy officials in Honduras said that portions of the tape have aired on Honduran television throughout the week. Government officials and television directors in Guatemala and Costa Rica said the program has not aired in either of those countries.

A Reagan Administration official in Washington said the program is a CIA production and has been distributed to Central American television stations by the Contras. A spokesman for Salvadoran state television said that the Communications Ministry provided the tape, and the director of Channel 2, a private station, said the Communications Ministry asked for time to air the program on that station.

Salvadoran government officials could not be reached for comment.

The Reagan Administration official, who asked not to be identified, said that the tape has been sent to all American embassies in the region for private showings to journalists, government officials, academics and "anybody interested in forming public opinion."

A Costa Rican official who had not seen the program but had heard about its philandering charges against Defense Minister Ortega said: "This is really stupid if what they want to do is detract from the popularity of Humberto Ortega. With these charges, they are going to convert him into a hero in macho Latin America."

Miranda defected in Mexico City on Oct. 25, and the Reagan Administration has been arranging interviews for him during the past week as Congress prepares to vote on renewed aid to the Contras.

During the program, Miranda is dressed in a dark suit and red tie. Seated on a couch, he speaks directly into a camera without refering to notes. He offers no proof of his many allegations and is not questioned by anyone.

Miranda calls the Contras "the legitimate representatives of freedom and democracy" and says they have a broad social base among peasants. He said he will give the Contras the $15,000 that the Sandinistas accuse him of stealing from the government when he defected. Miranda said the money was given to him for medical expenses.

On the videotape, Miranda defends himself against Sandinista charges that he is a traitor and appeals to other Sandinista soldiers and officers "to cease being an instrument of the corruption, sedition and immorality" of the nine-member Sandinista National Directorate.

Miranda, describing himself as having been one of Defense Minister Ortega's closest confidants, accuses him of adultery with the wives of at least three top Sandinistas.

A Nicaraguan Defense Ministry spokeswoman said that Ortega would not comment on any of the charges and described Miranda as "having a nervous breakdown."

Times staff writer Michael Wines, in Washington, contributed to this story.

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