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Contra Leaders Unable to Return to Nicaragua

November 24, 1987

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ Two Nicaraguan rebel leaders gave up plans to return to Managua to deliver a cease-fire counter-proposal today after Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government told them to stay out.

Alfonso Robelo, one of two rebel leaders who hoped to deliver the counterproposal, said the U.S-backed Contra rebels would instead give their cease-fire plan to the Vatican ambassador in San Jose to deliver to Nicaragua.

Robelo and Azucena Ferrey, both directors of the rebel umbrella organization known as the Nicaraguan Resistance, had been named by fellow rebel leaders earlier Monday to deliver the insurgents’ cease-fire proposal to Managua.

But Robelo said later that it had become clear that he and Mrs. Ferrey would be unable to enter Nicaragua as planned because the government opposed the visit.

In Managua, President Daniel Ortega said Monday that the two would have to renounce the insurgency and ask for amnesty to come to Nicaragua.

Robelo, once a ranking member of the Sandinista government, and Mrs. Ferrey said they would not accept amnesty.

He told reporters that regional airlines and charter flight companies refused to carry them. He said it would be useless to try to enter Nicaragua by land at any border crossing.

Robelo said the Vatican ambassador in San Jose would transmit their messages to Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, who has agreed to mediate talks between the government and the rebels.

Robelo said the rebels would deliver two documents, one a letter ″in which we describe in detail what we think the role of the cardinal should be in the (peace) process, and the other is our full proposal on a cease fire.″

The Contras have long insisted that cease-fire talks be held in Managua under the mediation of Obando y Bravo.

Ortega, who delivered the Sandinistas’ cease-fire proposal to the cardinal during a meeting in Washington on Nov. 11, has said the talks should be held in the United States because it backs the Contras.

Alfredo Cesar, another member of the Resistance directorate, said the Contras had promised Obando y Bravo they would not make the proposal public, but called it ″aimed at ending the war in a serious way and achieving democracy for our country.″

Cesar noted the Contras already had informally rejected the Sandinista plan, which calls for a month-long cease fire starting Dec. 5, as ″a call for our unconditional surrender.″

Under the government proposal, the estimated 10,000 armed Contras inside Nicaragua would be confined during the cease-fire period to three areas totaling about 4,000 square miles, or less than one-tenth of the country.

They would not be allowed to receive any military aid, and any food, clothing, medicine or other humanitarian aid would be distributed to them by neutral international agencies.

At the end of the month, they would be asked to lay down their arms and accept amnesty.

Those agreeing to seek amnesty would be allowed to return to civilian life within the country, while those rejecting it would be given safe passage out of Nicaragua.

Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala are required to arrange cease-fires under a peace accord signed by their presidents and the chief executives of Costa Rica and Honduras last Aug. 7.

The peace pact also calls for democratic reforms and an end to outside help for insurgencies.

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