Future in doubt for outspoken Nicaraguan ambassador

The Nicaraguan government has apparently decided to overlook, for the time being at least, criticism of its conduct of national affairs made by its own ambassador in Washington.

While it decided to censor remarks made by the ambassador, Francisco Fiallos Navarro, the government is not going to take any other action against the envoy, according to officials here.

In an interview with La Prensa, a newspaper that has been consistently critical of the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, Mr. Fiallos called for free elections, unrestricted freedom of the press, and a lifting of the current state of emergency here. The ambassador also referred to Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo, the church leader who has been in conflict with the Sandinistas as ''one of the most valiant men in Nicaragua'' and ''the most respected.''

''He has a right to his opinion,'' said Saul Arana Castellon, the official in charge of North American affairs at the Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry, when asked about Ambassador Fiallos's as yet unpublished interview with La Prensa.

''This is part of the pluralistic game,'' said Mr. Arana in an interview. ''This shows how flexible we are. . . . We feel that he is stating his personal opinion.''

If the ambassador had a right to his opinion, however, it was not clear why he was not permitted to make his criticisms known to the Nicaraguan public. Not a single line of Fiallos's interview appeared when it was supposed to appear in the Dec. 10 issue of La Prensa. Despite the low-key approach that the government in Managua has taken so far on the issue, diplomats here do not expect Fiallos to last long in his job. This is because the views the ambassador expressed placed him more on the side of the domestic opposition to the Sandinista regime than they did on the the side of the government itself.

''He really took the opposition point of view,'' said one diplomat here, referring to the ambassador's interview with La Prensa. Nobody thinks he will last. The question is not if but when he will resign or be fired.''

It was not clear how many Nicaraguan government officials might share Fiallos's views. If they hold views such as his, they usually do not make them public.

In his interview with La Prensa, Fiallos said that unrestricted freedom of the press is ''a condition sine qua non for the exercise of a true and authentic democracy.''

In an apparent warning that Nicaragua had gone too far in siding with Cuba and the Soviet Union, he said that Nicaragua should be genuinely nonaligned and not let itself get caught up in the struggle between the superpowers.

Fiallos said that the Roman Catholic Church occupies, and ought to occupy, a prominent place in the conscience of the Nicaraguan people.

He accused the Sandinistas of badly handling their relations with the church, thus creating confrontation.

''Only our faith in God and adherence to his word will give us the inspiration to construct a truly just and human society,'' said the ambassador.

Government censorship of an interview is not unusual here. La Prensa frequently has been censored. What was unusual in this case was that the government was censoring the remarks of one of its own representatives. But even this has happened before.

Not long ago, the government censored parts of an interview given to La Prensa by Rafael Cordoba Rivas, a member of the government junta. One part of the interview that was censored was Mr. Cordoba Rivas's criticism of censorship.

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