Congressional approval of the $755 million Nicaraguan aid package, although much delayed and accompanied by a lot of acrimonious debate, is a welcome step. Although the legislation is encumbered with a number of amendments which, in some measure, are insulting to the new Nicaraguan government, there is every expectation that the aid program will be administered in a constructive manner.
The aid program is designed to meet Nicaragua's pressing economic and social needs, aggravated by the 18 months of civil war in 1978 and 1979 that resulted in the victory of the left-leaning Sandinista guerrillas. Moreover, the aid package is aimed at demonstrating US support for the Sandinista promise of a pluralistic political system and a mixed economy. The US aid program is likely to encourage Nicaragua's private sector to join in the reconstruction effort, which they must do if Nicaragua is to recover not only from the fighting, but also 45 years of one- family dictatorship by the Somoza family. Many Nicaraguan businessmen have misgivings about the Sandinistas because of the leftits nature of their program.
But the Sandinista leadership has repeatedly gone out of its way to promise respect for private property and for the private sector. The aid program, passed last month, should encourage this respect and give Nicaragua assurance that the US is interested in seeing the development of a new Nicaragua.
While many congressmen in Washington worry about the role of Cuba and Cubans in Nicaraguan society, the Sandinistas have repeatedly asked the US for assistance and in specific answer to queries about the presence of Cuban doctors and teachers, they have urged Washington to send similar doctors and teachers. So far the US has not done that, but the aid program allows the US to compete with the Cubans and to demonstrate US sincerity.