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Nicaragua to enlarge draft as contra war gets hotter

Faced with stronger military attacks by contra rebels, Nicaragua's Sandinista government has announced it will draft an older category of Nicaraguans into the military: 25- to 30-year-old men. The political impact of this move remains to be seen. But the drafting of 18- to 25-year-old men, initiated early last year, continues to provoke open popular discontent. The new draft is scheduled to begin in June or July.

When he announced the draft Monday night, Defense Minister Humberto Ortega Saavedra added that the government would crack down on Nicaraguans who fail to register for military service. For some time, the military has conducted searches of buses and public areas looking for draft evaders. The effort apparently will be stepped up.

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The older group of draftees will be places in the Army reserves, instead of the regular Army, although many of them will engage in actual fighting at military fronts, officials say. Those who are not sent to the front will work mainly in rear-guard engineering and sanitary corps, most of which serve irregular highly mobile military units that specialize in antiguerrilla warfare, officials say.

An estimated 30,000 18- to 25-year-olds already have been drafted. Last December in the provincial town of Nagarote there were angry street demonstrations by mothers attempting to prevent their sons from being drafted.

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