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Nicaraguan Strike Taints Both Sides

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NICARAGUAN President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and Sandinista party leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra both appear to have lost popular support as a result of the nationwide strike that brought violence to Nicaragua's capital earlier this week. ``The only winners in this are the extremists on both sides,'' notes Nicaraguan economist and sociologist Oscar Ren'e Vargas. By yesterday morning, street confrontation and violence had calmed with Mrs. Chamorro and Mr. Ortega reported closer to a settlement.

But observers here say Chamorro's failure to restore order soon after the strike began and public criticism of her handling of outspoken Vice President Virgilio Godoy badly damaged her authority and will likely make it more difficult for her to rule in the future.

``The credibility of the government has suffered a serious blow this week,'' says one Latin American diplomat based here.

In an address to the nation in the midst of the crisis Monday night, Chamorro declared that police would restore order. By late Wednesday the police and Army had cleared street barricades. But strikers' remained in control of government offices, transport, and the nation's communication system.

``Everyone waited for Violeta to use the police to take control of the situation. But she didn't do anything,'' says Managua resident David Serrano. ``So people decided to take things into their own hands.''

Across the city, government supporters organized to dismantle street barricades put up by Sandinista militants, criticizing what they saw as inaction and conflicting loyalties by Sandinista-trained police and Army.

``The police and the Army have protected the strikers,'' says Horacio Cuadra, the owner of a small electronics repair shop in the Managua neighborhood of Cuidad Jardin. ``And Violeta has been very weak.''

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