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Americans’ March Ends, Sandinistas Protest an Attack

March 30, 1987

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Peasants on foot and horseback joined 10 Americans on the last few miles of their march through a Nicaraguan war zone to protest U.S. support for Contra rebels.

″We’re a little tired, but very happy to be in Wiwili,″ John David Isherwood, 63, of Santa Cruz, Calif., told the crowd that gathered to cheer the protesters Sunday as they arrived at their destination, a dusty village 120 miles north of Managua.

The Americans walked 50 miles in seven days through Jinotega province bordering southern Honduras, where most of the Contra rebels are based. The province has been the scene of heavy fighting recently, and protest leader Brian Willson said the group heard five firefights and a mortar attack during the march.

″We spent (one) night in a desolate place and the situation was so tense that we prayed vehemently,″ Isherwood, speaking in Spanish, told about 600 civilians, soldiers and Sandinista authorities.

The protesters, including several veterans of the U.S. armed forces, were unharmed after the hike through the tropical mountain region an planned to return to Managua today.

Meanwhile, the government late Sunday said Contras blew up two high-voltage power line towers on Nicaragua’s southern border with Costa Rica, about 100 miles south of Managua.

Deputy Foreign Minister Victor Hugo Tinoco sent a protest note to Secretary of State George P. Shultz saying the towers were destroyed about 4:10 a.m. Sunday with plastic explosives. The note said the Contras had also mined the area.

The note blamed the Reagan administration for the bombings because of its financial backing of the Contras.

Isherwood said of the march through the north: ″We didn’t have any mishaps. It’s a surprise because this route is dangerous.″

He said that along the way the Americans ″explained to the people the reason for our march and I think they understood well.″

Last week, U.S. Embassy spokesman Al Laun said in Managua the United States would hold the Nicaraguan government responsible for the American marchers. The protesters themselves said they would not hold the Sandinistas reponsible if any of them were hurt or killed.

Sandinista authorities followed the march’s progress by means of radio contact with government troops in the region.

Beside Willson, 45, of San Rafael, Calif., and Isherwood, the marchers included Holley Ravin, 34, of San Rafael, Calif.; John Poole, 41, Oak Park, Ill.; John Schuchardt, 47, Madison, Conn., and his wife, Judith Williamson; Richard Schoos, 36, Santa Cruz, Calif.; Scott Rutherford, 53, Washington; Joseph Ashley, 62, Goleta, Calif., and Peter Eaves, 33, Maplewood, Minn.