From a speech on Nov. 12 by Mayor Edward Koch of New York, who had just returned from a tour of Central America as leader of a delegation sponsored by Central American Peace and Democracy Watch:

Public opinion polls are illegal in Nicaragua, and have been since La Prensa sought to measure the extent of popular support for the Sandinistas in 1981. My impression, which is based on personal observation in Managua, where between one-third and one-half of the population resides, is that if an election were held today the Sandinistas might well be able to carry the day.

However, such an election would not reflect a free choice in a society where news broadcasts are restricted, opinion polls can't be taken, political rallies are against the law, and opposition parties are not well organized.

. . . One argument holds that it is in the Sandinistas' interest to prolong the {peace} process so that they can further solidify their rule at home while contra support withers abroad. If that is indeed their strategy, our strategy should be to compel them to continue to honor both the spirit and letter of the Arias accords well after the military has been neutralized. There are two ways to do this: keep the contras alive through humanitarian aid, and offer economic incentives for further democratization. Economic aid is the carrot. The contras are the stick.

The contras are, in my estimation, a legitimate fighting force. They are patriots with a genuine concern for their country. They deserve to have their voice heard in the peace process. They should not be ignored and forgotten. We should continue to support them with humanitarian aid until they are fully integrated into the democratic political life of Nicaragua.