MANAGUA -- The Sandinista government, not satisfied with having arbitrarily brought about the closure last year of the daily newspaper La Prensa for an indefinite period, has continued a series of aggressions against the newspaper which I think the whole world should know about.
In a note dated March 26, but for some unexplained reason not sent until April 13, the Labor Ministry ordered us to pay in full the wages of all the workers, whose work contracts inevitably were suspended -- strictly in line with the current Labor Code -- at the same time the newspaper was suspended on June 26, 1986.
It should be noted that La Prensa, on the decision of its directors and for humanitarian reasons, seeking to ease as much as possible the unemployment brought about by the Sandinista government, continued paying the wages for two months beyond the June 26 closure.
As can be imagined, La Prensa, after 10 months of receiving not one cent in income, has severe liquidity problems -- despite which it has kept on a skeleton staff, in case it might be able to publish again.
To pay those costs, in the absence of any revenue, the directors of La Prensa have had to sell off some of the assets. Amid the pressure for the paper to meet its obligations, The Sandinista government now is trying to liquidate it completely to bankrupt La Prensa.
"Why this now?" ask the noble Nicaraguan people, all of whose freedoms -- such as freedom of expression -- have already been battered. Very simple. The closure of La Prensa was not done for this or that reason proclaimed by the Sandinistas (without their specifying one), but because this newspaper, even shut down, represents the Nicaraguans' hope of one day being able to express themselves freely again.
That is why for the "Sandinista Front" even the hopes of an innocent people in their tragedy have to be killed.
But despite all the outrages, we are continuing day in and day out to seek means to reestablish our right to appear again before the Nicaraguan public and respond to its demand to be able to be informed openly and impartially -- and not solely in line with the local and international policy of the Sandinista government, as it is now by the revolutionary government's media. We do this because we consider it our strong moral obligation to hold on to the defense of the Nicaraguans' rights at this historic moment in my country.
Based on that conviction, during the 77th World Interparliamentary Conference in Managua April 27, La Prensa sought to raise its voice again and claim before representatives from around the world its rights to once again freely inform the Nicaraguan people about what is happening in this country.
To make our message known, La Prensa published a poster-style sheet bearing the newspaper's logo and calling for worldwide solidarity against the Sandinista government's decision to keep it silenced.
The poster had as a background an enlarged photograph of my late husband, the martyred editor of La Prensa, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal. It declared that in Nicaragua there is no freedom and therefore no democracy, and that it cannot be said a parliamentary system exists here, such as is known in all the democratic nations of the world.
Our greeting was circulated at the World Interparliamentary Union conference, having been sent to the embassies of the various countries represented there.
The result was that on April 30 a platoon of 30 armed soldiers under the command of Capt. Oscar Lozo, from the Nicaraguan Interior Ministry's State Security, broke into the newspaper's plant and temporarily detained several La Prensa employees, including directors. All were subjected to police interrogation and threats of being hauled off to jail for having published the poster.
Three hours later, the State Security military squad withdrew, after searching the entire building and seizing plates, film and other material used to print the poster. Many of the printed posters were also seized, along with thousands of wastage sheets.
The newspaper was also left with the threat of further action, supposedly stemming from the state of emergency in the country, under which the publication even of a one-sheet flyer is prohibited if its text has not been checked and approved by the Interior Ministry.
With these two Sandinista government actions against us, which I denounce herewith through my Inter American Press Association colleagues, I wish only to carry out a mission that I have taken upon myself: to explain to the world the defenselessness of the Nicaraguans in the principal struggle of this century -- the ideological struggle. My mission is to make those who do not live in Nicaragua feel the ominous significance of the silence that has fallen over our Nicaraguan people, after having bled, after a heroic fight for their freedom, a fight in which I lost my loved one.
Nevertheless, I believe it is also my obligation to assert that despite the Sandinistas' flagrant injustice to La Prensa, bulwark and barometer of democracy in Nicaragua, the reaction from the free world -- the great world press and the leaders who call themselves democrats -- has been little.
What concerns me in this coolness is that all the debate is over whether armed struggle is good or bad. I, and La Prensa, do not want -- and have never wanted -- to take part in that discussion. It seems absurd to us that we look only at the here and now, and not ahead to the most dangerous outlook for our struggle in Nicaragua. We are fighting against a deceitful, seductive, false ideology that can trick exploited peoples. And against such a force we have no arms.
The barracks, the bulwark, of the ideological struggle in Nicaragua is La Prensa, but the loss of such a bastion does not seem to mean much to the free world.
The months go by and totalitarianism, with the outrage taken for granted, engages in new attacks against the people's right to be informed. The months go by and the new dictatorship continues taking positions and strangling a people's freedoms, won by blood and sacrifice.
The writer, a former member of the Sandinista junta in Nicaragua, is publisher of the newspaper La Prensa.