Sandinistas Say 400 Rebels Abandoning Fight
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Interior Minister Tomas Borge said Saturday 400 rebels agreed to abandon their fight against the Sandinista government and ″joined the path to peace,″ the government’s radio reported.
Borge said the 400-man, fully armed unit was commanded by a guerrilla chief named Uriel Vanegas but did not identify it further, the Voice of Nicaragua radio reported.
He made the announcement in the northeastern Atlantic coast town of Puerto Cabezas, a center of Indian resistance to the leftist Sandinista government.
Sandinista military sources told The Associated Press the unit consisted mostly of Indian resistance fighters who allied themselves two years ago with the Nicaraguan Democratic Force or FDN, the main, U.S.-backed Contra rebel army. It was not clear if the unit was still part of the Contras.
A long-time Indian resistance leader, Steadman Fagoth, confirmed the report in an interview in Honduras and said the Indians ″had committed themselves along with the Sandinistas to achieving peace in Nicaragua.″
Fagoth, during a brief stop in Tegucigalpa on his way to Miami, said Indian leaders ″are going to talk with the Sandinistas starting now. ... They don’t want the war any more.″
Also Saturday, a government official said Contra rebels used explosives and M-79 rockets to topple a microwave repeating station in northern Nicaragua, interrupting telephone service in scattered parts of Managua, Panama, Central America and Mexico.
Lt. Col. Leopoldo Rivas Alfar, minister of telecommunications and postal service, said two government soldiers were killed in the attack late Friday.
Service was restored by Saturday morning via an international satellite system but the discovery of grenades in the wreckage was slowing down repairs to the tower, he said.
Borge said it was the first rebel group to decide as a unit to observe the peace process contained in a regional peace plan signed Aug. 7 by the five Central American presidents, according to a report from the official New Nicaragua news agency read over Voice of Nicaragua.
The peace plan in part calls for amnesty for insurgents who agree to end their battles. Last week the Interior Ministry said 335 rebels, most from the central part of Nicaragua, had asked for amnesty.
″We want to announce to the Nicaraguan people and to the world that a complete regional command of 400 men in arms has joined the path to peace and they are ready to fight in defense of the fatherland,″ Borge said.
The New Nicaragua agency identified the unit as the Bruno Gabriel Peralta Operational Command. It said the unit last week received the most recent air- drop of arms and supplies made to rebels fighting inside Nicaragua.
The northeastern Nueva Guinea region is one of three areas in northern Nicaragua where the Sandinistas plan to begin a one-month, unilateral cease- fire Tuesday.
President Daniel Ortega said Wednesday that Sandinista troops would withdraw the areas, which also include parts of Nueva Segovia and Jinotega provinces, because it was in the government’s ″interest to prevent further bloodshed.″
The often fragmented Indian resistance is drawn chiefly from the Miskito, Sumo and Rama tribes of the Atlantic coast region, where they traditionally have governed themselves. In the early 1980s the Sandinistas tried to move many of the Indians from their homelands and, the Indians said, impose unacceptable central government.