When special U.S. envoy William Bowdler arrived early Saturday morning at the middle-class home where he conducted his negotiations with the rebelbacked Nicaraguan junta, he brought gifts for hostess Violeta Chamorro -- a bottle of wine and a jump rope for Chamorro's granddaughter.
For Chamorro and the two other junta members who had been meeting with Bowdler every day that week, the gifts were important symbols of hope.
"He called me 'Mr. Foreign Minister' for the first time", said Maryknoll priest Miguel d'Escoto. "He said, 'you are the new government of Nicaragua and soon you will be in power.'"
Bowdler's gifts followed the junta's announcement of their "Plan for Peace" that apparently satisfied U.S. concerns about Nicaragua's future under the junta.
It was the crucial step in a seriers of delicate and frustrating negotiations that eventually led to the resignation of President Anastasio Somoza ending more than 40 years of authoritarian rule by his family.
The negotiations were made particularly difficult by the junta's deep mistrust of U.S. motives. The mistrust is shared by most Nicaraguans, who point to the long history of U.S. association with the Somoza family beginning with the organization of the hated National Guard in 1927 by Somoza's father and U.S. Marines who were occupying the country.
The pace and course of the negotiations were deeply affected by the mass. rebellin that spurred the Sandinista rebels toward military victory.
The fragile feeling of confidence that Bowdler tried to build during the negotiation was almost shattered when Somoza' successor ignored the carefully worked out timetable for transferring power to the junta and insisted he would remain in office.
In the first hours after Franciso Urcuyo's maneuver, Nicaraguans her and in Managua charged that the entire thing had been arranged by Somoza with U.S. connivance.
It was only after servel hours of silence that the United States withdrew it ambassador in Managua and exerted firm pressure on Urcuyo to get the transfer of power back on the track. By then the National Guard was disintegrating and the rebels' Junta of National Reconstruction had been installed in Leon.
Both sides said, however, that the withdrawal of U.S. Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo and strong U.S. statements urging Urcuyo to step down had done much to restore the junta's confidence in American good faith.
The United States apparently hopes that the trust developed during Bowdler's negotiations will be the basis for good relations with the new government that emerges in Nicaragua.
The character of that new government is the big question mark now and was a major issue for the U.S. and Latin American diplomats negotiating with the junta.
At a jubilant press conference here Wednesday, the junta released the "fundamental statute" under which it will rule until elections are held.
The law provides that the junta will be the executive power back up by a 33-member Council of State that will exercise a sort of pocket veto over junta decision.
The junta's five members range from middle-class centrists to a leftist who says he is not a Marixt. The Sandinista representative is from the most moderate of the three guerrilla factions, one that reportedly has received aid from Western European socialists and democratic Latin American countries like Venezuela and Costa Rica.
The Council of State will have six Sandinista members, six members appointed by business organizations, and representatives of various political parties, union groups, the university and the clergy.
The inclusion of some economic moderates in the junta's recently announced Cabinet is said to have done much to reassure other countries and the international financial communty.
The junta's nominal leader, Sergio Ramirez, said in an interview this week that elections for local governments, a constitutional assembly and a new national government would be held within two years.
The junta's law also provides for establishment of a new army which would include some members of the National Guard. This provision was important to U.S. negotiators who hoped to retain some anticommunist elements in the Nicaraguan military, but has become moot with the collapse of the National Guard.
The United States stuffed a number of setbacks in the process of seeking a peaceful solution to the Nicaraguan civil war.An attempt by Bowdler to mediate last fall fell apart when Somoza refused to permit a plebiscite under conditions acceptable to his opponents.
When it became apparent this spring that the Somoza government could not survive, the United States turned to the Organization of America States.
A move to have the OAS sponsor a peacekeeping force was voted down by members who opposed setting the precedent of any military intervention in Latin America.
The OAS did, however, pass a resolution calling for the establishment of a broad-based democratic government in Nicaragua and opening the way for mediation by OsaOAS members. The move was intended to counter the influence of the Marxist factions of the Sandinistas.
The final stage of negotiations began when Bowdler met with the newly named Nicaraguan junta in Panama June 27.
The first U.S. proposal, for Somoza to name a broad-based governmemt then resign, did not get off the ground.
The second suggestion was to enlarge the junta to include some conservatives and retain the basic structure of the National Guard. The United States abandoned these ideas when it became clear that even the most conservative Nicaraguan opponents of Somoza did not back them.
An offer of food and other humanitarian aid apparently was accepted and has already begun.
Last Thursday at the costal resort of Puntarenas, Costa Rica Costa Rican President Rodrigo Carazo, former Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez, formers Costa Rican president Jose Figueres and a representative of former Panamanian president Omar Torrijos met in an effort to "twist the junta's arm", in the words of one wellinformed Costa Rican observer.
At the same time, the five nations of the Andean Pact announced plans to meet in Caracas to consider the Nicaraguan situation.
Apparently as a result of the international pressure from governments that had given substantial aid to the revolt against Somoza, the junta on Friday issued the document that apparently broke the logjam, the "Plan for Peace."
The plan set out a timetable for a peaceful transfer of power to the junta and pledged to guarantee the safety of members of the National Guard who respected the cease-fire.