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Contra shake-up misses the mark. Leadership change fails to persuade other rebels to join united front

By Special to The Christian Science Monitor / February 18, 1987



Managua, Nicaragua

Adolfo Calero's resignation from the contras' political directorate appears to have fallen short of its goal: to pave the way for a broader Nicaraguan rebel leadership. Pedro Joaqu'in Chamorro Jr. - the journalist suggested by Mr. Calero as his replacement - said Monday it was ``fundamental'' that the leadership be expanded ``so that it [would] be more representative'' of the range of anti-Sandinista forces.

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But a spokesman for the social democratic Southern Opposition Bloc, a contra group that Mr. Chamorro has urged to join the umbrella contra organization, said he was not impressed by the new rebel leadership. It represents no real political or military forces, he said.

Alfonso Robelo, Arturo Cruz, and Chamorro ``are three excellent individuals,'' said bloc leader Octaviano C'esar, ``but there are no organizations participating in the UNO leadership any more. We would join only a real national structure.''

UNO stands for United Nicaraguan Opposition, the contras' political directorate.

Chamorro is not a member of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), the main contra army, which Calero heads. Therefore he ``cannot represent the FDN army,'' Mr. C'esar argued.

This raises the same question that provoked the current crisis in the contra leadership:

How can the UNO leaders control the FDN, which, as the largest contra military force with some 10,000-12,000 men, has enjoyed considerable autonomy?

Mr. Robelo, who welcomed Calero's resignation as a ``patriotic'' gesture, said the problem of FDN hegemony will not arise because the FDN ``will integrate itself into something bigger, the UNO. The FDN will have no reason to exist.''

``There are no winners or losers'' in the UNO shakeup, Robelo insisted.

``It is simply that eyes have been opened to international realities.

``We need people running this struggle who are a democratic guarantee that there will be no return to the past.''

Calero, who remains FDN commander in chief, urged the creation of ``one single Nicaraguan democratic resistance'' and ``one single army'' in his resignation statement, Robelo pointed out.

In reality, however, the FDN is the only contra army of any significance, with the rebels' southern front in shreds and Miskito Indian guerrillas quiescent. Forging unity between the FDN (whose troops are led by former National Guard member Enrique Berm'udez), more moderate UNO leaders, and other rebel organizations has been the rebels' major problem since UNO was formed in June 1985.

There is no sign that anyone is challenging Mr. Berm'udez's position as FDN military commander, despite his links with the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

Chamorro called him ``an excellent man and an excellent professional.''

Robelo argued that ``there is no reason why we should think of ousting anyone who is doing his job.''

Though the FDN remains a member of UNO, its role within the coalition looks set to spark further conflicts. Robelo made it clear Monday that he expected the FDN to lose its identity by merging fully into UNO, and accepting the directorate's leadership.

Chamorro, however, while agreeing with the insistence of Cruz and Robelo that the directors of UNO should control all finances and military affairs, said he could not accept that the FDN should ``disappear.''

That, he argued, would be ``unjust and totally mistaken.''

In announcing his departure from the UNO directorate, Calero said his absence would be ``temporary.'' This was seen as an apparent hint that he might return to an expanded leadership some time in the future.

Such an expansion, Robelo argued, should involve the Miskito rebel group Misurasata, led by Brooklyn Rivera.

Mr. Rivera, however, said he was still ``waiting for them [the leaders of UNO] to make deep changes. Until that happens, the situation remains the same.''