Rebels Prefer Home to Development Centers
EL ALMENDRO, Nicaragua (AP) _ Contra rebels demobilizing after a 9-year-war are shunning development centers the government established as part of a peace agreement. Instead, they’re going back home.
″Very few of us are going to go to the center because we prefer to see our people, whom we’ve gone years without seeing,″ said Filemon Cruz Lopez, an 18-year-old who said he joined the rebels eight years ago.
″We want to know what has happened in our homes,″ he said.
Cruz was one of about 800 Contras, including six commanders, who turned in their weapons Saturday in a mass demobilization attended by President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and Managua archbishop Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.
Despite the last-minute push, the rebels did not meet the Sunday deadline they had agreed to for completion of the demobilization.
Officials of the U.N. Central American peacekeeping force and the International Verification and Support Commission, which are overseeing the demobilization, said Saturday it would take about 10 days before all the fighters are disarmed.
Demobilization began May 7 under an agreement between the rebels and the government, but the process had been twice suspended.
Waiting in line to turn in his AK-47 rifle to the U.N. troops, Cruz said he would return to Susucayan, in the northern province of Nueva Segovia, to work with his father, a farmer.
Daniel Lozano, chief of operations for the verification commission said: ″Only 10 percent of the demobilized and disarmed rebels here have said they want to go to the development poles. The rest prefer that we take them home.″
Sonia Blandon, 19, said she turned in her weapons three days ago and was going to live in Las Colinas, two miles south of El Almendro.
″I have family that has lived here always. In addition, I have nothing to fear. The army has left also,″ she said.
The government agreed to create more than 20 development centers in war zones and invested $47 million in U.S. aid in economic and social infrastructure.
Manuel Garay, a 36-year-old rebel fighter and former farmer from Plan de Grama, Jinotega, said he expected few problems when he returned home.
″I haven’t done anything bad to anyone from my place,″ he said. I don’t owe anyone anything there. I believe I can return and go back to my work.″