In Nicaragua, fierce fighting has continued in the capital Managua as government forces have attempted to destroy left wing guerrilla strongholds in the suburbs.
In Nicaragua, fierce fighting has continued in the capital Managua as government forces have attempted to destroy left wing guerrilla strongholds in the suburbs. The Sandinista national Liberation Front is trying to overthrow the right-wing administration of President Anastasio Somoza for the second time in less than a year. Barricades appeared in Managua on Sunday (10 June) and after a day of hand-to-hand skirmishes between the guerrillas and National Guardsmen, President Somoza used his Air Force planes to bomb Sandinista bases in the city. President Somoza's family has ruled Nicaragua for more than forty years and he has dismissed any possibility of resigning in order to restore peace to the country.
SYNOPSIS: Cessna aircraft have made repeated attacks on the capital's densely populated slums. During the past two weeks of conflict, the Air Force has been used to bombard Sandinist areas all over the country. The guerrillas have described their stand in Managua as the final battle and the government has responded with an all-out counter-attack. Other aircraft in the Nicaraguan Air Force amount to some vintage jets -- such as this one refuelling before taking off on another raid. But it is the Cessnas that the Sandinistas fear most because of its Israeli-made rocket fire power and accuracy.
Aerial attacks on the city have been constant, with pilots often flying all day and only landing to refuel and load bombs. Helicopters have been used, some carrying fifty calibre machine guns to strafe guerrillas behind the street barricades.
One bombing raid destroyed the main opposition newspaper printing press. La Prensa ceased publication at the beginning of June when President Somoza declared a state of siege and imposed press censorship. Four members of the newspaper's staff were reported missing after the attack and the Inter-American Press Association has accused President Somoza of deliberately destroying the printing press in order to silence the opposition.
Casualty figures have not been published, but eye witnesses speak of hundreds of dead. Water mains were cut by the bombing and fires raged unabated. At least fifteen thousand people have fled from the fighting and are being sheltered in emergency centres organised by the International Red Cross. The capital had already been paralysed by a general strike called by the Sandinistas for the first week of June. Despite support for this protest, President Somoza, claims the guerrillas have no backing from the majority of the people.
At the height of the battle for the capital, on Sunday (10 June), the government put two prisoners on show to newsmen. It was claimed they were former Sandinistas who now regretted their part in the uprising. President Somoza himself said recently the National Guard no longer took prisoners and some newsmen were sceptical about the alleged former rebels since they were unable to give details of guerrilla operations.
Managua's civil airport has been closed since the battle began. One special flight arrived on Monday (11 June) bringing two Foreign Ministers of the South American Andean Pact to mediate in the conflict. Venezuelan Minister, Alberto Zambrano Velasco, and his Ecuador counterpart, Julio Amaya, met President Somoza for several hours, but no peace proposals emerged from the negotiations.