Contras create ill-will on Mosquito Coast

``I bought the bus eight months ago with a 5-million-c'ordoba ($71,420) loan from the bank, and I haven't paid it back yet,'' Felipe Z'uniga laments. ``No one would insure a vehicle against being burned by the contras. I've no idea what I'm going to do now.'' Mr. Z'uniga, who said he was traveling on his bus last Saturday with 60 other passengers, was struck by the unusual appearance of the Nicaraguan rebels who forced his vehicle off the road.

``They were almost all `Spaniards','' he recalled, using the Miskito term for people from Nicaragua's Pacific coast. ``I've done this route every day for eight months, and I know all the Miskito `comandantes,''' he went on. ``I'd never seen these people before. They were wearing really smart camouflage with `Ranger' shoulder flashes, and `FDN' on their caps.'' They were carrying heavy weapons that he did not recognize, Z'uniga said, and had ``a sack of money. They said they didn't need our money.''

Z'uniga said he escaped by hiding among a group of women who were set free before the guerrillas drove off in his bus and three other hijacked trucks with the men they had seized. Half an hour later, he added, he heard four explosions, as the rebels blew up the vehicles.

The FDN platoon commander, who identified himself as ``Tigrillo,'' ``made an anti-Sandinista speech to us all, and said he wanted volunteers to go with him. But there was nothing voluntary about what they did,'' Z'uniga said.

Burning the sole bus serving the R'io Coco earned the FDN considerable ill will, he adds. ``This is the time of year when the people need the bus the most, because they come to sell the vegetables they grow on the river.''

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