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Nicaraguan Leader Appoints Former Rebels to Cabinet

January 11, 1991

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ President Violeta Chamorro named two former Contra leaders to Cabinet posts Thursday but left herself as defense minister.

She also replaced the education minister but otherwise made few changes in her government after her traditional January review of the Cabinet.

It had been rumored she would name a hard-line defense minister following the admission by the Sandinista People’s Army that four officers had sold 28 Soviet-made heat-seeking missiles to the leftist rebels in El Salvador.

The Nicaraguan army is led by many of the same officers installed during the leftist Sandinista administration of President Daniel Ortega, who was voted out of office last year.

Mrs. Chamorro’s U.S.-backed government has ended the Nicaraguan government’s own civil war with the Contra rebels, who were long supported by Washington.

However, she has faced a wave of unrest from labor organizations that remain under Sandinista control. In addition, former rebels have mounted protests to pressure the government to make good on promises for their resettlement.

In the Cabinet changes, Sofonias Cisneros, who led the changes in Nicaragua’s public education system from its leftist Sandinista orientation, was replaced by his deputy minister, Humberto Belli.

Cisneros was named to head the National Technological Institute, which Mrs. Chamorro created to provide training in trades such as construction.

Boanerges Matus, a longtime adviser to the now-disbanded Nicaraguan Resistance, was named deputy minister of Agrarian Reform, a Cabinet-level post.

Jaime Cuadra, a former Interior Ministry official, was named director of the Nicaraguan Repatriation Institute. The body is in charge of resettling returning Nicaraguan refugees, mostly relatives of Contra fighters. Cuadra replaces Roberto Ferrey, a former member of the Contra directorate.

Oscar Sovalbarro, the former Contra second-in-command known as ″Commander Ruben,″ was named as Cuadra’s deputy minister, also a Cabinet-level spot.

In the traditional annual state of the nation speech before the National Assembly, Mrs. Chamorro said Thursday the violence that plagued her first eight months in power was slowly giving way to a more democratic attitude among Nicaraguans.

″Many would like me to repress with toughness many demonstrations or unlawful acts,″ Mrs. Chamorro said in the nationally broadcast speech. ″But I have wanted that in the beginnings of the republic persuasion and not severity ... predominate.″

Referring to the illegal sale of weapons to the Salvadoran rebels, Mrs. Chamorro said her government would not allow ″weapons we don’t want in Nicaragua to set neighboring countries afire.″

Army Chief Gen. Humberto Ortega, the brother of the former president, later told reporters the Salvadoran rebels are investigating one of their leaders, Joaquin Villalobos, in connection with the ″theft of the missiles.″

The army commander also said a commission from th X Y % ,. 3/8 T:y ) 9 L K 5 ? I e R g R 3/8 l J f h R N B h R 1/4 N h Q J f Cle of the missiles, which they gave to the Sandinista army in 1986.

While the Sandinistas governed, U.S. officials periodically accused Nicaragua of supplying weapons to the Salvadoran rebels fighting a U.S.-backed government in that country.

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