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Nicaragua belongs to the Nicaraguans

By Cristiana Chamorro Barrios / April 2, 1987

San Jos'e, Costa Rica

SHOCKED by the Hasenfus case, but lacking a defined position on Nicaragua, and generally bewildered by the whole situation: This describes the attitude of most US journalists I met at the major newspapers I visited in Boston, Washington, and New York during a trip there last fall. Everywhere I went, reporters and editors plied me with questions about Central America, as if I could give them some sort of ``magic formula'' as an alternative to the policies of the Reagan administration.

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Nobody has an easy answer to the problems in Central America. But I do feel obliged to share my feelings as a Nicaraguan who sees the future of her country given over to the designs of the two superpowers under the very noses of the democracies surrounding Nicaragua.

Once the US Congress approved $100 million in aid for the contras last year, Nicaragua largely stopped being newsworthy in the United States. However, the arrest and prosecution in our country of Eugene Hasenfus, a US flier shot down by Sandinista troops last October, refocused world attention and, especially, US public opinion, back on Nicaragua.

The Hasenfus episode was not, however, a real surprise to any Nicaraguan. Unfortunately, the history of our country during the past 150 years has been one of repeated foreign intervention in our internal affairs. Our leaders have never been able to offer Nicaraguans a democratic regime; the leaders have instead chosen to arrogate lifetime power to themselves, with the aid, of course, of foreign forces. The Somozas were helped by US forces; the Sandinistas are backed by the Soviet Union through Cuba.

The Hasenfus case made the front pages of newspapers around the world, but for many Nicaraguans it amounted to another verse of the same old song. On one hand, we have the President of the US backing the contra rebels; on the other hand, we have the USSR and Cuba supporting the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which claims power now and forever.

As a Nicaraguan citizen, I feel I have the right to object to the military presence of other countries in our territory. The presence of US military forces offends our sovereignty and patriotic sentiments just as does the presence of forces from a nation like Cuba. That country has provided mat'eriel and manpower to support Soviet military expansion in several places in the world, now including, unfortunately, our Nicaragua.

Naturally, many Nicaraguans like myself reject the idea that Hasenfus was acting independently of the US government. But we aren't happy either about the presence in Nicaragua of Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, a very important Cuban military figure, a specialist in armored tanks who is famous for having led Cuban troops in Angola.

General Ochoa, according to the official newspaper Barricada, was decorated by Vice-President Sergio Ram'irez and by General of the Army Humberto Ortega, as well as Vice-Minister of the Interior Luis Carrion, on March 12, 1986. This indignity, a symbol of the Soviet-Cuban presence in Nicaragua, was neither a novelty nor a surprise to most Nicaraguans and, strangely, received little or no world press coverage.

At the close of his tour of duty in Nicaragua a year ago, General Ochoa was replaced by another general of the same rank. This refutes the Sandinistas' insistence that Nicaragua has only a ``few hundred Cuban advisers,'' and confirms the presence of a permanent Cuban military mission in Nicaragua.