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Nicaragua's Hostage Crisis: Old Hatreds Still Run Deep : Latin America: For Contras and Sandinistas, civil war never ended. Cardinal Obando y Bravo agrees to intercede.

August 24, 1993|TRACY WILKINSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the war ended and the Soviet Union, traditional backers of the Sandinista Front, collapsed, the army was reduced; about 20,000 officers, including Mendoza, were dismissed. Last year, he formed a veterans association that some people accuse of secretly maintaining weapons.

Mendoza said this week that he fears the "accomplishments" of the Sandinista revolution are being destroyed.

"The Jackal and his people hate the Sandinistas," he said. "It's politics, but it's more than politics. It's hate. They want the Sandinistas to disappear."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said the skill with which the Chamorro government handles the crisis will be a factor in determining whether Washington will resume economic aid to Managua.

"Unless Nicaragua obtains control over the security services, additional progress will be hard to achieve," McCurry said.

Other U.S. officials said that the ouster of Humberto Ortega from his post as army chief is a minimum requirement for resumption of aid.

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