U.S. Asylum Requested by Nine Top Contra Officers
MIAMI (AP) _ The Contra chief of staff and eight other top Nicaraguan rebels requested political asylum in the United States, but said they were not running because of the Central American pact to disband anti-Sandinista forces.
Immigration and Naturalization Service officials said Wednesday that three of the requests were approved, but their names were not released.
Perry Rivkind, INS district director in Miami, said the claims were given ″special action″ status and reviewed on the spot. INS officials said the other six requests were being given top priority.
The applications came two days after five Central American presidents signed an accord in Tela, Honduras, calling for the dismantling of the Contras within four months. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said the pact marks the death of the rebel movement.
But the rebel officers denied their asylum requests were linked to the accord.
Israel Galeano, the rebel chief of staff known as Comandante Franklin, told The Miami Herald the group sought asylum to obtain travel documents and weren’t planning to move to the United States.
″Some of us have the need right now to mobilize in the international field,″ said Galeano. ″There is a need to get documents to travel.″
He promised to continue the fight with ″limitless human resources″ and said he would return to Nicaragua if the Contras are kicked out of Honduras.
A Contra political adviser who requested asylum said the requests could send a misleading signal to the estimated 12,000 rebel troops languishing in border camps in Honduras.
″It could be demoralizing to the troops if we were seen as retiring from the struggle,″ Francisco ″Johnny″ Delgadillo said. ″But the troops know that’s not so. Our struggle continues.″
Delgadillo also expressed anger over the Tela agreement.
″We don’t want to live like slaves to the signature of the presidents,″ he said. ″We want to go on being rebels.″
Ortega’s Sandinista government has agreed to democratic reforms leading to national elections in exchange for the repatriation or resettlement of the Contras by Dec. 8.
While the Bush administration lobbied to keep the Contras intact until Nicaragua’s scheduled elections in February 1990, Washington officials have reluctantly embraced the accord. Military aid to the rebels was cut off by Congress in Febraury 1988.
A complete list of the nine commanders was not immediately made public, but others known to have to have requested asylum included Jose ″Emmanuel″ Aguilar, a southern commander; Fremio ″Jimmy Leo″ Altamirano, a northern commander, and Luis Angel Lopez.