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U.S. Relations With Nicaragua

August 21, 1988

In response to "Ortega Shuts Door on Contra Talks," Part I, Aug. 14:

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has not shut the door. As one present at the Sapoa cease-fire talks, I would like to review what has taken place.

The cease-fire agreement signed at Sapoa, Nicaragua, on March 23 is the key accomplishment of the Central American Peace Accord (Arias Peace Plan). No other Central American country has been able to effect a cease-fire agreement except Nicaragua.

Every time the government of Nicaragua makes concessions, the Contras pile on new demands. The following is a list of conditions that Nicaragua has agreed to after signing the March 23 agreement:

* Contras are allowed to join a national dialogue before they lay down their arms.

* The government of Nicaragua will discuss ending the draft before the Contras lay down their arms.

* All ties will be severed between the Sandinista party and the Sandinista army.

* The electoral council will be bypassed and Contras will join in setting electoral dates.

* Separation of powers will be redefined to reduce the power of the executive branch.

The accord came as a shock to President Reagan and the extreme right in the United States. Hence the Administration worked closely with the Contra's military commander, Somozist National Guard Col. Enrique Bermudez, to prevent the temporary cease-fire from becoming permanent. The negotiations soon bogged down.

Meanwhile, Contra negotiator Alfredo Cesar secretly opened negotiations with the Nicaraguan government, citing the need to isolate Bermudez. By May 28 the Nicaragua government agreed that all political concessions would be implemented and verified before a single Contra put down his arms.

But Cesar was unable to shift the Contra leadership away from the Reagan agenda which still backed Bermudez and added five new demands.

These new demands were simply aimed at wrecking an agreement.

On June 9, the Contras handed the Nicaraguan government the additional demands as an ultimatum. The demands were "non-negotiable." The Nicaraguan government agreed to negotiate them, but not to accept them unchanged. The Contras refused new negotiations.

Immediately thereafter, the Reagan Administration accused the Nicaraguans of "intransigence" and began a drive for more Contra aid. Both sides, however, have extended the cease-fire; the Nicaraguan government has called for more meetings and the Contras have left open the possibility of returning.

BLASE BONPANE

Director Office of the Americas

Santa Monica

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