Official Says 10,000 Indians Have Fled Nicaragua
WASHINGTON (AP) _ About 10,000 Nicaraguan Indians have fled recently to southern Honduras, including many who escaped ″bombing and shelling″ by the Sandinista army, a top State Department official said Monday.
Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams said the exodus reflects continuing Indian disenchantment with the leftist Sandinista government, adding that their plight has been ignored or distorted by American human rights groups.
Meeting with a group of reporters, Abrams was especially critical of a report last month on the Indians’ situation by Americas Watch, a New York- based human rights organization.
In the report, Americas Watch acknowledged there was a cross-border exodus but said the Indians were driven out by an anti-Sandinista Indian group known as Kisan.
The report said the Kisan ordered the evacuation to give the impression that Sandinista relations with the Indians, known as Mikitos, were deteriorating at a time when the U.S. Congress was gearing up for a vote on a $100 million aid package to anti-Sandinista Contra rebels.
″The exodus gives the Congress more reasons to vote for aid to the Contras, especially ‘humanitarian’ aid which could be thought to benefit these refugees,″ the report said. It added there was no evidence the evacuation was provoked by Sandinista abuses.
Abrams said the report closely followed the explanations of the Nicaraguan government, which he disputed.
The same day the Americas Watch report was issued, Hank Adams, national director of the Survival of American Indians Association, based in Washington state, sent a letter to members of Congress in which he accused the Sandinistas of systematic abuse of Nicaragua’s Indians.
″Clearly, the government of Nicaragua has tacitly waged an unconscionable war against the indigenous Atlantic Coast people - a war still hidden from the world in its one-sided character, viciousness and pervasive extent,″ Adams said.
According to Abrams, of the 10,000 Miskitos who fled to Honduras during March and April, about 7,000 have registered at United Nations refugee camps operating in southern Honduras. He said about 36,000 Nicaraguan Indians have fled to Honduras since the 1979 Sandinista revolution and reports indicate they soon will be joined by an additional 4,000.