The Government of Nicaragua says it has crushed the rebellion led by the Sandanist guerrilla movement.
The Government of Nicaragua says it has crushed the rebellion led by the Sandanist guerrilla movement. This claim follows National Guard assaults on three rebel-held towns.
SYNOPSIS: The last rebel-held bastion to fall was Esteli 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of the Nicaraguan capital of Mangaua. Reports say the Nation Guard turned people out of their houses, then opened fire on the buildings with heavy machine guns and Sherman tanks. Other reports said advancing troops had thrown incendiary bombs into the buildings. In Leon, Nicaragua's second largest city 90 kilometres (55 miles) north or Mangaua, the scene was the same. Government troops took control on Friday. (15 September) after Government aircraft and pounded the city with rockets for five hours.
It was estimated that more than half the population of 90 thousand had fled before the bombardment. The city was the scene of bitter fighting between Government forces and Sandanist guerrillas and became a key target in the National Guards' offensive. Red Cross officials are reported to have estimated that between 360 and 380 people were killed during the fighting. The rebels were trying to oust President Somoza, whose family has controlled Nicaragua since 1933. Some estimate of the Somoza family fortune put the figure at four hundred million U.S. Dollars (two hundred million pounds sterling) which is spread over a... wide range of business interest. Many of the leading jobs in Nicaragua are held by members of the Somoza family.
The country has also been suffering from a general strike which has lasted for more than a month, despite determined Government efforts to break it. The result has been a shortage of food and consumer goods in the capital, as well as in towns like Leon.
The town of Chinandega 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of Managua was reported to have been taken by Government troops on Sunday (17 September). Troops from Leon had been airlifted across to Chinandega and operations were similar to those carried out against Esteli and Leon. Government aircraft bombed the town, leaving large areas of smouldering ruins. The air raids were followed once again by troops using heavy machine guns. It was estimated that several hundred people were killed in the attacks.
As in the other towns, people said only local youths and a small number of Sandanist guerrillas were involved in the fighting with Government troops. The price of some foodstuffs has almost doubled in the few markets still operating. But the biggest fear is for the cotton crop-Nicaragua's main export earner.
While lives in the towns have been disrupted, the economy relies heavily on the cotton crop, which has to be sprayed soon. And the main cotton areas is near where the fighting has been heaviest.