Last Thursday, President Reagan proposed a peace plan to the Nicaraguan government. Almost immediately some members of the Democratic leadership in Congress rejected it; the Sandinista government spurned it even before they saw it; and the American media played the scorn back with full amplification.

What seems to be missing from the American debate about Nicaragua is concern for the well-being of Nicaraguans -- for our rights, our freedom, our choices about how to handle our problems.

We hear arguments about whether it is proper for the United States to try to remove a government; whether Nicaragua is a threat to the United States; whether Nicaragua is being used to attack allies of the United States; whether the United States is justified in supporting a fight for democracy in Nicaragua before it atones for its past behavior or does enough for democracy in other parts of the world. But rarely do we hear concern about what is good for Nicaraguans and what we want for our country.

We Nicaraguans see the main issue as internal -- a struggle by Nicaraguans for self-determination, democracy and social justice. It is a struggle against other Nicaraguans and foreigners who, like the Polish regime of Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, have imposed a tyranny on their fellow citizens with the help of the Soviet Union.

There are two reasons why we feel justified in asking Americans for help in this struggle. First, we are in danger of being destroyed by weapons sent into our country by the Soviets, perhaps as part of their fight against the United States. We ask only for enough help so that we can have a reasonably even chance in our fight for freedom. We are the ones who are suffering, and it is our country that must make the sacrifices. We do not ask others to share these horrors. We ask only for enough resources from outside to give us a chance to fight against the weapons the Sandinistas have received from the communists.

Second, the United States joined in the Organization of American States intervention in our country that led to the removal in 1979 of the previous government, the Somoza dictatorship. I and the other leaders of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force welcomed that action by the United States and the OAS, for almost all of us worked for his removal.

The very conditions that justified the hemispheric intervention against the Somoza regime exist again, but in greater measure. The existence of those conditions justifies foreign support again, this time against the Sandinista regime, which has betrayed our revolution against Somoza amd has ignored its commitments to the Nicaraguan people, to the United States and to the OAS.

The unprecedented intervention against Somoza was based on two things: 1) his record of human rights violations, and 2) the civil war under way as a result of the turning against Somoza by nearly all sectors of our society. The Sandinistas have an even worse record of human rights violations than Somoza had. And there are far more Nicaraguans in arms against the Sandinistas than there ever were against Somoza.

Again, nearly the entire spectrum of political opinion and leadership in Nicaragua has turned against the government -- liberals and conservatives, business and labor, Catholics and Protestants, pacifists and those who have come to believe that force is necessary. And our neighbors -- Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador -- have all spoken out officially against the Sandinistas, even more strongly than they ever did against Somoza.

In 1978, the United States called on Somoza to withdraw so that there could be peace in Nicaragua. Now we think the United States can call on the Sandinistas to make peace with thir countrymen. We stand ready to stop the fighting and discuss our grievances with the government and all Nicaraguan parties. But if our appeal for a civilized dialogue is not heeded, we are also ready to continue the armed struggle.

Above all, however, we believe that the United States and other democratic nations have no right to confer upon the Sandinista regime the legitimacy that it has not been able to achieve within the country. The people of Nicaragua do not regard the Sandinista regime as a legitimate or acceptable government. We do not think that the outside world has the right to require us to accept that regime because of the misguided view that that would bring peace to the region.

Genuine concern for the well-being of the Nicaraguan people can only translate into support for the democratic opposition and its struggle to return Nicaragua to the values that guided us in removing the Somoza dictatorship.