Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo's giving substance and direction to the peace process in Nicaragua is a welcome development, which the U.S. Congress must respect as it weighs its next step.
The cardinal shocked both the government of Nicaragua and the Contra rebels by breaking off a three-day negotiating session at mid-point last weekend. He had presented his own proposal for the immediate implementation of a cease-fire.
It was accepted "in principle" by the Contras, but the government gave only tentative agreement and asked for clarifications. The cardinal found neither response fully satisfactory, and decided that there was no good reason to continue the consultations in those circumstances. Now the cardinal has said that the talks can resume only when delegates on both sides come "with a power to make decisions." Fair enough.
The Sandinistas who rule Nicaragua are faced with a critical decision. If they accept Obando y Bravo's cease-fire proposal, they will be committed to profound democratic reforms. If they reject the proposal, they will be renouncing the Central America peace plan that they themselves signed in August. He has asked for nothing from them that was not explicit or implicit in that agreement--including total amnesty, full political participation by opposition groups, press freedom and reconsideration of obligatory military service.