La Prensa, traditionally Nicaragua's most influential and widely read newspaper, reaffirmed its determination to remain free and independent today, as publication resumed two months after its printing plant was destroyed by former president Anastasio Somoza's National Guard.
La Prensa, which was outspoken in its opposition to the Somoza government until silenced by National Guard tanks and rockets in June, said in its first post-Somoza editorial that the paper sees its role now as offering critical support for Nicaragua's new revolutionary government.
"The aim of La Prensa is to contribute to the creation of a revolution where it is -- and always must be -- possible to have an independent press, free and critical, to shape a democratic and pluralistic republic," the editorial said.
La Prensa's reappearance was viewed by both Nicaraguan and foreign observers as an important and concrete indication that Nicaragua's new government will, as it has promised, allow differing points of view to be aired as it attempts to restructure the country politically and economically.
While pledging support for the revolution, led militarily by the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front, La Prensa said pointedly in its editorial that Somoza's defeat was the result of a "revolution of all of the people. Each person, each sector, in the method in which it contributed, has a place for something of its own" in the new society to be created here.
Since the Sandinistas came to power July 19, the only newspaper publishied in the country has been Barricada, the official Sandinista paper. In an interview earlier this week, Javier Chamorro, La Prensa's publisher, described Barricada as "a political newspaper, not a newspaper as we know it. It has very little news and information."
La Prensa, limited to 10 pages and an initial press run of 100,000 copies because its own presses are still inoperative, will try to fill the void, he said.
Until Wednesday, when the government has said that Nicaragua's privately owned radio and television stations may resume operations, La Prensa will be the only communications medium outside the Sandinistas' control.
In today's edition, the paper devoted almost all its space to recounting the political events and fighting that led to Somoza's defeat. Among those developments given prominent space was the assassination in January 1978 of Edro Josquin Chamorro Cardenal, La Prensa's former publisher and brother of the current publisher. The murder was a watershed in turning public opinion here against the Somoza government.
Chamorro's widow Violeta took up his activities in opposition to Somoza and she is now a member of ruling provisional junta.
In bold black type today, La Prensa headlined its lead story in homage to Pedro Chamorro: "They Were the Ones Who Were Buried. We Said It in January of '78." The headline referred to an editorial published in La Prensa the day Chamorro was buried which said that his death would result in the burial of the Somoza government.
The paper also published pictures: one of Pedro Chamorro, a second of Augusto Cesar Sandino, the Nicaraguan patriot from whom the Sandinistas take their name and inspiration, and a third photograph of joyous crowds tearing down a statue of Anastasio Somoza Garcia, the founder of the family that ruled Nicaragua for 46 years before his son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, was forced into exile last month.
Javier Chamorro, who became La Prensa's publisher after his brother's assassination, said it will be at least four months before the paper's presses in Managua are repaired and the newspaper is able to resume its normal daily run of 120,000 copies.
The paper will be printed, meanwhile, in Leon, about 50 miles from Managua, on presses belonging to another newspaper, El Centroamericano.
Chamorro said that his insurance did not cover war-related damage and that he will have to raise about $3 million to replace buildings and equipment destroyed by the National Guard.
Despite the obstacles, Chamorro said he is optimistic about the paper's and the country's future.
"People have been waiting for the paper to resume publication," he said. "They say it is a barometer of the situation here. We feel that the paper is the same. We are the same people even if the type is different."
As for the new government, he said he believes it is in the hands of "very intelligent people who know what they are doing. If they go to the left it will be because we don't receive help from the democratic countries."
Chamorro said La Prensa's role will be that of an independent and critical observer.
"We will support the goals of the revolution within a pluralistic society," he said.