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How the US Should View Nicaragua Elections

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EARLY last summer I suggested to President Bush, Vice President Quayle, and Secretary Baker that, given the importance of the Nicaraguan election to the potential alleviation of one of the worst dilemmas of American foreign policy, a presidential observer group should be appointed months in advance so that all members could visit the country and come to a careful understanding of both history and current circumstances. In unprecedented fashion, President Bush appointed a 20-member Nicaraguan election observer group on Nov. 14 to be co-chaired by congressman Tony Beilenson, a California Democrat, and me. We were charged with a mission of visiting Nicaragua in all possible locations and were given the widest latitude for our own deliberations and report. After the November congressional recess, members planned travel to Nicaragua but were stopped in their tracks by an official directive from Nicaragua denying visas to all members of the presidential observer group.

Whether I or any of the official US observers ever see Nicaragua or not, a congressional debate will commence soon. It will play a critical role in shaping future US-Nicaraguan relations. I intend to play a vigorous role in it. I will cite the following factors as relevant to the election process thus far:

1. The ground rules for the election have been set entirely by the Sandinistas except at the time of the National Dialogue when an accord with the opposition was dictated by a Sandinista need for an agreement to take to the Tela conference of Central America presidents. The National Dialogue was supposed to resume immediately thereafter, but the Sandinistas have refused all opposition requests for a resumption of discussion on key remaining issues.

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