Opposition Stages Protest Rally, Defying Ban
CHINANDEGA, Nicaragua (AP) _ In defiance of a government ban, hundreds of protesters staged a march and rally to demand that the leftist Sandinista government restore civil liberties.
Police with rubber truncheons stood by but did not stop the Sunday demonstration.
No arrests or violence were reported.
Several hundred demonstrators marched for two blocks to a used-car garage where about 1,000 people gathered to hear opposition leaders denounce the lack of constitutional freedoms.
Some marchers held banners reading, ″Liberty for all political prisoners 3/8″ and chanted slogans such as ″Press freedom 3/8″
Public demonstrations without written permission are banned under a state of emergency in effect almost continuously since 1982.
The law suspends most civil rights. President Daniel Ortega has said the decree was necessary because of activities by the U.S.-supported Contra rebels against his Sandinista government.
Leaders of the rally said it was called to test the Sandinistas’ commitment to democratic reform under a new peace plan signed Aug. 7 by the five Central American presidents.
The march was allowed to go on after an argument between Carlos Huembes, a leader of the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinate, the coalition that organized the demonstration, and the local security chief.
″If the street belongs to the poeple, I don’t know why we can’t pass,″ said Huembes.
″It’s the law,″ responded Deputy Commander Eduardo Cuadra, head of the state security police in Chinandega, 80 miles northeast of Nicaragua’s capital, Managua. But the police did not intervene.
An opposition demonstration in Managua a few weeks ago was broken up by police using dogs, clubs and electric prods, and two protest leaders were arrested.
At the rally, speakers denounced ″repression″ by the government, including press censorship and the wide powers police have to arrest people and search premises under the emergency law.
″The fight is not easy with a dictatorship,″ Myriam Arguello, general secretary of the Nicaraguan Conservative Party, a Coordinate member, told the rally.
The Democratic Coordinate is made up of four political parties, two independent labor unions and business groups.
The Central America peace plan calls for peace talks between rebel groups and their governments, cease-fires and a number of reforms to bring about greater democracy in the area.
The Contras have accepted the plan, including negotiations, but the Sandinistas have insisted on direct talks with the United States because of its aid to the rebels.
Ms. Arguello and other leaders called on the Sandinistas to comply with the peace plan’s provisions.
The Sandinistas, shortly after signing the new accord, said the state of siege could not be lifted until the United States ″ends its aggression.″
The opposition leaders stressed unity among their members.
″This is the time for patriotism,″ said Ramiro Gurdian, vice president of the Superior Private Enterprise Council. ″It’s not the time for (political) parties because the problems we have in front of us are very serious.″