Q: Robert Leiken in the New York Review of Books, March 13, says that Adolfo Calero (head of FDN, the largest Nicaraguan guerrilla group) "obstructed the efforts of Cruz and (democratic leader Alfonso) Robelo to clean up FDN human-rights practices." He says, "the top leaders of the FDN continue to refuse to share real power with such former supporters of the revolution as Cruz, Robelo, and (Alfredo) Cesar." He says the FDN is "a movement with a peasant base, some populist middle-echelon officers, and a mostly reactionary leadership imposed and maintained by the U.S." He says, "the FDN high command, with one exception is drawn entirely from the (Somoza) National Guard." These are statements by someone generally sympathetic to your purposes. How do you reply?

A: It is a fact that the FDN has resisted heretofore to accept UNO as the umbrella. But we have overcome that to a large extent. I am confident that we are putting an end to internal jockeying. We are restructuring UNO. In addition, we are expanding the alliance; we are about to enter into an agreement with the southern opposition bloc of Alfredo Cesar, which also includes Eden Pastora, as well as with Misurasata (Indian) leader Brooklyn Rivera.

But it is true, there has been some resistance on the part of some key leaders in the FDN. We have refused to be a fig leaf for anybody, because otherwise we will be defeating our own purposes of continued democratization of Nicaragua through a unified resistance putting pressure on the Sandinistas.

Q:The implication of the quoted statements is that if your movement succeeds, it might take Nicaragua not toward democracy but back in the old direction. Could that be so?

A:What we are precisely trying to avert is a repetition of Somoza and the Sandinistas, each with its own private army. In the case of Somoza, the National Guard, which was a pretorian guard for the Somoza dynasty, and in the case of the Sandinistas, the Nicaraguan army, which is the armed wing of the party. That is what we want to avoid now. We don't want to have any political affiliation with any army.

Q:Would American military assistance to the contras help the democratic part of the movement or the nondemocratic part? Doesn't it do the latter?

A:I think we need by all means the aid because those young men who are fighting out there in the jungles and the swamps deserve it. I have spoken with them. They are very impressive young men. I believe they are populists. They are not fascists by any means.

What we have to ensure is that no one manipulates the armed forces for political purposes, and that all the efforts lead to putting pressures on the Sandinistas to force them into opening into a more democratic mode. Or if it were the case that they were overthrown, to make sure that there is a national reconciliation without exclusion of anyone and that there be an open political process of elections to determine who would be in the new government. We don't want any more political parties with armies.

Q:In your movement there are people from the old National Guard and from that part of Nicaraguan life. Does that mean that American support of the contras actually helps the Sandinistas unite the Nicaraguan people in defense of Nicaraguan sovereignty?

A:That's one of the canards that the Sandinistas have planted in the national public opinion -- that rebel forces, especially those up north (FDN guerrillas operating out of Honduras), are made of former members of the National Guard.

(The FDN military commander, Col. Enrique) Bermudez, yes, is a former member of the National Guard, and so are several others, including the largest number in the inner staff. But if you take into account the overall spectrum of the rebel forces, the former members of the National Guard are outnumbered immensely by campesinos and by Sandinistas who deserted the Sandinista army.

And besides, I assure you that those former members of the National Guard in the rebel forces are aware of the need for democracy and are aware of the need to forget about the past and to think instead of the new Nicaragua.

Q:In the Philippines, Mrs. Aquino could demonstrate that she had a very moral basis, a very democratic basis to her political claims. She clearly had a majority in the country. Can you make any similar claim?

A:I think you have to be very careful when you draw parallels. In the Philippines you had more or less an autonomous army. True, it was tremendously influenced by dictator Marcos, but it was composed of a large number of West Point graduates, and you saw how they moved against Marcos and sided with Mrs. Aquino.

In Nicaragua you don't have that. In Nicaragua the grip of the Sandinistas on society is tremendous. The army is political; they control it. There is fanaticism in this. You have the various committees, food rationing cards, all sorts of controls.

I'm not suggesting that in Nicaragua you cannot ever have a situation of popular uprising. We might. But what I underscore is that it's much more difficult to have a popular uprising under the communist dictatorship than under a traditional banana republic dictatorship.

Q:In circumstances of greater freedom in Nicaragua, could you demonstrate you have a majority?

A:That we have a majority -- that would remain open to be demonstrated either through a poll or through the freedom to hold big rallies. The only proof we have was very short-lived because the Sandinistas stopped it immediately. That was in 1984, in the city of Chinandega, the first weekend of August. We put thousands of people in the streets, young men, chanting slogans against the Sandinistas, and you could see tremendous fervor.

But when the Sandinistas saw that that was taking momentum, they decided to stop us. That the Sandinistas are facing tremendous opposition has been demonstrated by the crowds following the bishop (Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo). It is for that reason that the Sandinistas are forbidding him to celebrate masses in the open or to have processions.

Q:Do you think nonetheless that you can bring the Sandinistas into a negotiation?

A:Yes. We must exert every possible effort to try to achieve that. I am not ignoring that you seldom see a communist entering into an agreement, let alone living by it. But we must make an effort.

Q:And otherwise military victory is the essential purpose of your movement?

A:No. No, no, no, no, no. The essential purpose of our movement is to force the Sandinistas into respecting what they promised as the basis of pluralism in Nicaragua.

Q:Even though pluralism will mean that the Sandinistas will lose a monopoly of political power?

A:Absolutely. We feel that no party is entitled to having a monopoly of the organs of the state.

Q:Why is it that the Contadora countries -- eight Latin countries, seven of them democratic -- take another view and favor a negotiated route rather than the current combination military-and-proposed-negotiation route? Why can you not convince them that your course is right?

A:The South American governments have their own domestic problems. Usually they act in Central America in terms of their own extreme left constituencies.

But you mentioned the two-track approach. Let me put it this way: We would like to see a situation where a chance is given to Contadora. But at the same time that line should be given to the Sandinistas. If they refuse to accept dialogue with all Nicaraguans, then I think that continued struggle is justified, thoroughly justified.

Q:You think that the Contadora nations are limited by their domestic political considerations.

A:Right. But I'm saying this also. Robelo, Calero and I would very glad to see a situation whereby you put aside the use of military funds for military purposes to give Contadora a reasonable period of time to get from the Sandinistas a positive answer -- to have a dialogue with the Nicaraguan opposition.

But at the same time we feel that it's about time that a deadline be given to the Sandinistas. Let's say you give them 75 days or so. If you do not give an answer to this proposal, then we should be entitled to receive military aid.

Are you aware of the fact that about a month ago six political parties inside Nicaragua -- one being the Independent Liberal Party of Virgilio Godoy -- made this proposal to the Sandinistas: a ceasefire, an amnesty, restitution of all civil rights and a nonparty agreement for general elections?

What was the response of the Sandinista government? "It won't work." Officially the government and Barricada, the party newspaper, attacked this as trying to undermine the constitutional order. You see, that's the problem. The Sandinistas do not want to talk to Nicaraguans.

Now, we are in favor of the Duarte proposal (made by Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte on March 4). I think it sounds fine. There would be three dialogues going on: one between Duarte and his own opposition, one between the Sandinistas and the opposition and one between Washington and Managua. We support that, we back it up.

The problem is that the Sandinistas do not want to have negotiations with. . . . If they don't want to, I understand. I understand that they don't want to speak with the people who have anything to do with armed groups. All right. We would be willing to delegate to the internal parties inside Nicaragua for such a dialogue.