WASHINGTON — In a remarkable bit of political irony, both Nicaragua's Sandinista government and the Contras who are fighting to overthrow them sent representatives to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to put their support behind a Democratic compromise plan for $16 million in non-military aid for the rebels.
The Sandinistas, through their American lawyer, Paul Reichler, told liberal congressmen and lobbyists that they would not oppose the bill--even though it provides food, clothing and shelter for the Contras--because they fear that, if it fails, Congress might approve military aid for the rebels.
"He's very strongly pushing the package," said a Democratic congressman who met with Reichler.
The Contras, who sent a delegation to roam the Capitol in anticipation of a close vote, said they would accept the Democratic plan--even though it denies them weapons they want--because they fear it could be their last chance to win U.S. aid for months.
"It's a plan we can accept," Contra leader Adolfo Calero said after a meeting with Republican supporters. "We're not completely happy about it, but the important thing is to get a signal of American support for the democratic cause."
The Contras and the Sandinistas do not agree on much else. They have met for two rounds of cease-fire talks but have failed to agree on either the terms or the date of a truce.