While Lawrence and David Pezzullo make the case that Nicaragua continues to suffer economic difficulties and needs our aid, unfortunately they seem to have felt a need to revise history to make their argument more sympathetic ["Nicaragua Still Needs Our Help," op-ed, Aug. 2].

Although the Reagan administration was indeed hostile to the Sandinista regime, it was Jimmy Carter who suspended economic assistance to Nicaragua because of evidence that the Sandinistas were sending arms to the rebels in El Salvador. President Carter also signed the first presidential finding to allow the CIA to begin its operations against the Sandinistas. It probably is true that U.S. hostility toward the Sandinistas strengthened the party radicals, but according to early documents, the Sandinistas intended from the beginning to become a radical regime and to export their revolution. And the Sandinistas were indeed a serious threat to their neighbors.

In recent interviews on the 20th anniversary of the 1979 revolution, Sandinista leaders admitted sending thousands of Soviet arms to the FMLN guerrillas in El Salvador. The conflict caused some 80,000 deaths.

The Hondurans, our allies in the contra war, did not have their democracy undermined by siding with us in this confrontation. The first civilian president to succeed years of military dictatorship was elected in 1981, and only elected civilian presidents have served since.

The Pezzullos are correct that the ordinary Nicaraguan has been consulted little about his future, as the Sandinistas, the Chamorros and the Alemans make deals to perpetuate their own power. But that is the Nicaraguan political culture, and unfortunately, international donors have not been able to change it.

ALFRED R. BARR

CAESAR D. SERESERES

Washington

The writers served in the State Department's contra office.