Ortega Calls End to Cease-fire with Contras URGENT
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said Friday night he is ending the 20- month-old cease-fire with the Contras because of ″savage attacks″ by the rebels.
Ortega’s pronouncement threw a shock wave into the celebration of democracy he was attending in this Latin nation with President Bush and leaders of more than a dozen other countries from throughout the Western hemisphere.
The Sandinista leader, in a speech to 3,000 students and others at the University of Costa Rica, charged that the Contras have stepped up fighting in an effort to interfere with the elections scheduled for Feb. 25.
Ortega, addressing 3,000 people at the university, said, ″The drop of water that made the glass spill over was the attack that the mercenaries launhd on Oct. 22, the last day of voter registration, when campesinos who wanted to vote were assassinated.
″According to our security information, 19 campesinos were assassinated and six others were injured. This means that the Contras are trying to deny the Nicaraguan people their right to an electoral process,″ he said.
″After these savage attacks I met with the army high command to analyze the situation, and the result of the analysis was that the cease-fire could not be maintained,″ said Ortega.
″We have to guarantee the safety of the Nicaraguan people and the electoral process, which means we have to organize the army better and means it is unacceptable for us to disarm ourselves,″ the Nicaraguan said before departing for a formal dinner with presidents and prime ministers.
Earlier, Ortega’s press secretary, Manuel Espinosa, said the Sandinista leader would make the official announcement on Saturday that he was calling off the cease-fire. Espinosa said Tuesday, Oct. 31, will be the last day of the cease-fire.
The cease-fire has been in effect since March 1988, but the two sides never came to a formal agreement and the Sandinistas have unilaterally extended it on a monthly basis.
Secretary of State James A. Baker III, fielding questions from reporters about the day’s diplomacy, said, ″I hope it’s not true″ when asked about Ortega’s reported intentions. He said it would be a ″step back″ from peace.
He said the Nicaraguan leader had not mentioned the subject during the closed-door sessions with other leaders gathered in Costa Rica, and said that if Ortega does intend to end the ceasefire ″maybe he’s too ashamed″ to have said so at the meeting.
On Aug. 7, five Central American presidents agreed to disband the Contras in exchange for democratization in Nicaragua.
The Contras were not a party to that agreement and their field commander, Israel Galeano, said that his troops would move back into Nicaragua with their weapons rather than disband.
Galeano, known as Commander Franklin, said his troops would not launch offensive operations before the Feb. 25 vote, but would defend themselves if attacked.
Nicaraguan Defense Minister Humberto Ortega, Daniel’s brother, said in September that his troops would do the same.
The Contras have been based at camps in Honduras since the United States ended military aid to the movement, formally known as the Nicaraguan Resistance, in February 1988.