Sandinistas Said To Have Killed Thousands With PM-Anti-Terrorism Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Nicaraguan defector says the Sandinista government routinely executes suspected political opponents and is able to keep its activities secret by destroying official records and intimidating families of the victims into silence.
Alvaro J. Baldizon Aviles, a former Interior Ministry official, told a news conference Wednesday that thousands have died since the revolution through ″individual or mass execution″ by Sandinista security forces.
He said not even the Interior Ministry has precise figures on the death toll ″because the lists of approval and authorization were burned.″
Asked how he knew thousands had died, he said the estimate was an extrapolation. When investigating the murder or disappearance of a single Nicaraguan, he said he sometimes would discover that dozens of others had been killed in the same region.
He said clandestine burial grounds in two northern provinces contain the remains of hundreds of execution victims. Only about 60 of the deaths were reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ″because the families of the others feared they would have the same end as those who had been killed.″ That same pattern was repeated elsewhere, he said.
Baldizon, 26, said that between July and September 1982, 150 Miskito Indians were executed because of suspected counterrevolutionary tendencies. They were selected from a group of 500 Miskitos who Baldizon said had been arrested, ″interrogated and tortured.″
He said he became aware of the extent of the Sandinistas’ alleged abuses when he was asked by his superiors to investigate complaints lodged by the rights commission.
Baldizon said his factual accounts were turned over to a special panel, which produced twisted versions of the alleged abuses that invariably absolved the Sandinistas of responsibility.
His charges were disputed by the Nicaraguan Embassy. Francisco Campbell, embassy political counselor, said Baldizon’s comments represent ″one more desperate maneuver by the administration to distract attention from the case brought by Nicaragua against the United States in the World Court.
″We believe that sound policy must be based on facts and not on absurd and groundless accusations,″ Campbell said.
In its World Court suit, Nicaragua is accusing the United States of aggression by supporting the Contra rebels in their fight against the Sandinista government.
The Sandinistas have acknowledged that atrocities have taken place in Nicaragua but said the Contras are responsible for the overwhelming majority.
A former rebel leader, Edgar Chamarro, has said that, as a recruiting device, rebel forces routinely kill Sandinista officials and their sympathizers in small towns.
Baldizon painted a particularly unflattering portrait of Interior Minister Tomas Borge. He said Borge, as a means of obtaining sorely needed hard currency for Nicaragua, has engaged in the the trafficking of cocaine to the United States.
He also said Borge maintains two offices, one where he receives journalists and visiting religious groups and another where he carries out his official duties.
In the former office, ″there are pictures of poor children, there are crucifixes carved in wood and Bibles,″ he said. ″In his real office where he acts as interior minister ... he has pictures of Marx, Engels, Lenin, all the volumes of Das Kapital, of Marxism-Leninism. There is no Bible, no crucifix, no picture of any child.″
In private, Borge speaks disparagingly of the religious leaders with whom he meets, calling them ″naive″ and ″useful fools,″ Baldizon said.
State Department officials said that of the many Nicaraguans who have defected since the start of the revolution, Baldizon is perhaps the most damaging to the Sandinistas because of his proximity to Borge, the only living member of the small group of Nicaraguans who founded the Sandinista movement in 1961. Before the revolution, Borge was a frequent visitor to Cuba.
According to the State Department officials, Baldizon’s testimony is considered credible because he passed a number of lie detector tests. His news conference Wednesday was held in a State Department meeting room.