The United States and Nicaragua: which policies?

I am puzzled by David Newsom's reference to a ``brilliant political strategy'' with regard to Nicaragua, particularly since he goes on to express an entirely justified skepticism about the efficacy of the American embargo [``How to fight communist regimes,'' May 3]. Nicaragua is not Vietnam, and the Indochina experience has produced no ``lesson'' pertinent to our policy in Central America, unless it be the consequences of hiding truth from the public. The analogy is rather with Cuba.

A Marxist-Leninist Nicaragua would pose no serious threat to American security until the moment it provided a base for Soviet military activity in the Western Hemisphere. Why not define clearly for Nicaragua and the other members of the OAS the limits of our tolerance? (1) No Soviet or other hostile military presence in Central America. (2) If such limitations are respected, no country need fear American intervention. And (3) though the US would stand ready to supply economic help that would encourage progressive social justice and stability, ideological interference is of no interest to the US, or to the OAS, with which we should fully cooperate. John Bovey Cambridge, Mass.

David Newsom was speaking for me, one who opposes military assistance to the Nicaraguan contras. I agree with those who want aid about the ``abhorrent character of the communist system.'' But we disagree on the best way to get rid of it. It is so important that we stay out of the internal affairs of a country, and leave the people free to work out their own government. Frances G. Gibson Cleveland

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To argue whether economic sanctions against Nicaragua would deepen the relationship among Managua, Moscow, and Cuba is straining out gnats and swallowing camels. The Sandinistas were trained in Cuba long before the revolution occurred. But imposing economic sanctions is moving in the right direction. Since World War II, over 200 million people have been murdered at the hands of communist ``liberators.'' Between 1970 and 1980, Western democracies have given over $200 billion to communist regimes.

Take Nicaragua specifically. During the Carter administration over $70 million was given to the Sandinista communists, more than Somoza received in 20 years; $14 million for the contra freedom fighters is peanuts. Eileen E. Hendrickson New Wilmington, Pa.

If Joseph C. Harsch would suggest to the Reagan administration that it forget Vietnam, perhaps we could follow his advice and not relate the issue of contra aid to Vietnam [``Nicaragua is not Vietnam,'' April 30].

Unfortunately, this administration continues to make the same strategic and tactical mistakes in Central America [the US] made in Vietnam. Principal among them are: seeing all conflicts as East-West struggles instead of national or regional conflicts stemming from historic causes peculiar to the nation or region; supporting armed forces that do not and cannot gain popular support; confusing the interests of the people of the US with the interests of capitalist/multinational powers; belief that technical superiority in arms and economic incentives can overcome the commitment to freedom, self-determination, and justice of those who fight on the other side.

There is, however, a better analogy. US policy toward Cuba contributed toward Cuba's drift from a nonaligned nation to a fully committed Soviet state. Current US policy toward Nicaragua and general Central American policy can only have two ends: more Latin states committed to the Soviet bloc, or direct and costly US military intervention. Daniel M. Long, Ministerios Hisp'anicos San Antonio

On May 8, John Hughes questioned the congressional vote denying aid to the contras, while referring to the Nicaraguan government as a ``totalitarian, Marxist regime'' [``Bitburg boomerang'']. Yet I read elsewhere in the Monitor that 60 percent of the economy in Nicaragua is private. Also that three parties to the left of the Sandinistas criticize them for being capitalist. Are we really supposed to believe that a poor country of 3 million represents a threat to the richest nation on earth? It's like an elephant jumping at the sight of a mouse. Joseph Tiede Raleigh, N.C.

If Mr. Reagan really meant business in Central America, he would cut off trade with the Soviet Union and halt our direct financial support of its communist blockbusters. After all, what is the difference between dealing with the Soviets and the Sandinistas? Lloyd Leiderman Simi Valley, Calif.

There will be a lesson learned from the embargo. However, the lesson will not be learned by Nicaragua but rather by those nations which wish to maintain their political sovereignty.

That lesson will be to not purchase goods which require a reliable supply of spare parts from United States sources when similar goods are available elsewhere. It is only the American industry and the American people who will suffer in the long run. To paraphrase Senator Dole, ``I think it's time we got smart.'' Kent Khtikian San Francisco

President Reagan's order embargoing trade with Nicaragua is illegal for several reasons and will probably be indefensible when challenged in court.

To impose the embargo, Reagan had to declare a state of national emergency. The rarely used National Emergency Act has inadequate standards for what makes a ``national emergency.'' More important, the President used the National Emergency Act without adequate justification.

The wording of the embargo order is itself unconstitutional because it is unclear.

The 27-year-old Nicaragua-United States Friendship Treaty provides that disputes will be settled by negotiation, or, failing that, in the World Court. This provision has not been followed.

The order violates the charter of the Organization of American States, which prohibits members from using economic coercion against each other.

The order violates the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Helena Halperin Arlington, Mass.

Ortega's trip [to Moscow] came only after the United States blocked a $200 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. Thus Nicaragua did turn first to the West.

This is planting season in Nicaragua, so money for seeds, fertilizer, and tools is crucial now. If their large agricultural sector, 80 percent private, is to thrive, an alternative to the blocked loan must be found quickly. Rodney B. Thorn San Jose, Calif.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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