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US Conservatives Cool to Nicaragua Reforms

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IN recent days, US officials have had encouraging words for Nicaraguan President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro's latest government reform efforts. But words are almost all Mrs. Chamorro is getting; it does not look like $104 million in frozen US aid for Nicaragua is going to be flowing into that battered country soon.

The $104 million has already been approved by Congress and was supposed to have been spent by the end of September. But conservatives led by Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina have kept it bottled up for months. They say that Chamorro is a figurehead, and that supporters of the leftist Sandinist National Liberation Front still control too many powerful positions.

Last weekend's purge of the Sandinista National Police chief, plus 11 other policy commanders, did not impress the US conservatives.

"We weren't suggesting she take out one Sandinista thug and replace him with another Sandinista thug," says a key Helms foreign policy aide.

At the root of this dispute is Chamorro's policy of reconciliation between the Sandinistas, who controlled the government from the 1979 revolution until her 1990 election triumph, and the contra fighters who, with US support, once fought them.

As part of this policy Chamorro has left a number of key Sandinistas in positions of power, notably Army chief Humberto Ortega, brother of former Nicaraguan president and present Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra.

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