Fighting in the civil war in Nicaragua has now stopped, but clearing-up operations are just beginning.
Fighting in the civil war in Nicaragua has now stopped, but clearing-up operations are just beginning. In Leon and Esteli, two cities near the Honduran border, life is returning to normal after the heavy fighting when government troops of President Anastasio Somoza wrested them from the control of rebel forces.
SYNOPSIS: Before the civil war, almost one hundred thousand people lived in the Esteli region, which straddles the Pan-American highway. The worst-hit of the towns which revolted against the government, Esteli was the last rebel stronghold before the National Guard regained full control of the country.
When fighting was at its worst, many residents fled as government aircraft strafed the city with rocket fire, reducing entire buildings to rubble. Now the survivors have begun the clearing-up operation. Not only were buildings blown to bits, but essential services such as water and electricity were badly hit. Observers estimated that several hundred people died in the fighting that ripped the heart from this sawmilling township.
Leon, the second-largest city in Nicaragua, has more than two hundred thousand inhabitants. It, too, was under temporary rebel control, and suffered much damage. Trade is resuming in the open-air market, which was partly destroyed.
A familiar sight in any battle zone -- a Red Cross centre providing treatment, and dispensing food and comfort. While the civil war raged, Nicaragua's Opposition Alliance organised a General Strike to try to force President Somoza from office, but support waned as government troops got the upper hand. The governor of the country's Central Bank, Senor Carlos Muniz, has said the war would slash Nicaragua's economic growth in half. The government wants a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to speed economic recovery.
Throughout Leon are dismal reminders of the war -- scattered graves, sx2ome in the backyards of houses. Some common graves have up to fifty bodies in them. Red Cross officials said that, during fighting, many bodies were simply hauled into the streets and burnt. For others, burial was more conventional, though anonymous.