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Nicaragua Blames Reagan’s Rhetoric For Alleged Assassination Conspiracy

May 8, 1987

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ The leftist Sandinista government said President Reagan has whipped up an anti-Nicaragua ″hysteria″ that led two Oklahomans to conspire to assassinate President Daniel Ortega.

″Actually, the one responsible is the President of the United States, who has created a climate in which some people could think it is OK to come (here) and assassinate Nicaraguans, including the president of Nicaragua,″ Ortega said Thursday.

Foreign Minister Miguel D’Escoto made the accusation formal in a diplomatic note of protest he sent later Thursday to the U.S. Department of State.

An indictment unsealed Thursday in Tulsa named two men on charges of conspiring to assassinate Ortega. A federal grand jury said an unidentified backer had put up $5 million to finance a paramilitary mission to the Central American country.

The indictment identified the two as Donnell Howard, 35, of Maysville, Okla.; and John Norris, 30, of Purcell, Okla. It said they plotted between Dec. 1 and Jan. 29 to kill Ortega.

Howard was arrested in Oakland, Calif., and Norris at his farm in Purcell. Both appeared before a U.S. magistrate in Oklahoma City on Thursday, and a hearing was set for today.

Visiting a school for the deaf with American actress Marlee Matlin, Ortega said Reagan had whipped up a frenzy against Nicaragua in the United States.

″All this is part of the hysteria that Reagan has created with his policy against Nicaragua. President Reagan continues making speeches against Nicaragua, and there are extremists such as these now accused who could be used indirectly by the CIA to carry out these criminal actions.″

The United States is sending arms and supplies to Contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government, which overthrew a U.S.-backed rightist dictatorship in 1979.

Ms. Matlin, a 1987 Oscar winner for best actress, is in Nicaragua working on the movie ″Walker,″ the history of William Walker, an American adventurer who tried to conquer Central America during the last century and was finally executed by a firing squad after spurring several wars.

D’Escoto’s diplomatic note of protest said the Reagan administration has been conducting ″a campaign of inflammatory rhetoric″ against Nicaragua.

″These terrorist plans are encouraged by the policy the United States has been conducting, which has had precedents in other parts of the world,″ the note said.

The Tulsa indictment said one of the men contacted the office of Rep. Phillip Crane, R-Ill., for information about traveling with arms to Honduras, which borders Nicaragua, and for names of contacts there.

Crane and U.S. Attorney Layn Phillips both said the congressman was not aware of the purpose of the inquiries and had cooperated with an FBI investigation into the alleged plot.

Update hourly