JUST FOUR YEARS ago the Somoza dictatorship was pried out of power in Nicaragua by a combination of popular resistance, led by the Sandinistas, and inter-American solidarity. The latter contribution needs to be better appreciated. The foreign ministers of the Organization of American States, meeting on June 23, 1979, approved a resolution unprecedented in the OAS and perhaps in any other international organization. They explicitly removed the legitimacy of a sitting member government and in effect conferred it on a rebel force. Unquestionably this act of political resistance by the hemispheric community hastened the exit of Anastasio Somoza and eased the path to power of the successor regime.
At the time, moreover, the Sandinistas fully and formally recognized their debt. On June 17, 1979, they had organized a five-person junta, or governing council, of a provisional government. A few weeks later, responding specifically to the OAS resolution, the junta sent the OAS a "Plan to Achieve Peace" in which it pledged itself to democracy, human rights and Nicaragua's "first free elections" in this century. "Our premise is that while it is true that the solution to Nicaragua's serious problem is the exclusive competence of the Nicaraguan people," the junta said, "hemispheric solidarity, essential for this plan to take hold, will be accorded in fulfillment of the (OAS) resolution . . ."
The OAS, meanwhile, determined to "keep open" its meeting of foreign ministers "while the present situation continues."
These developments suggest a certain course of action now. The OAS, by its action in 1979, put the Sandinistas under a permanent obligation by expelling Gen. Somoza in his hour of need and opening the way to what was supposed to be "a truly democratic government." The Sandinista regime then proceeded, however, to break the promises which were the basis of its tremendous boon from the OAS. The Sandinistas came to power in the voluntary company of others, but they have come to rule increasingly by force and alone. Human rights are toyed with, and free and fair elections are not remotely in sight.
Since the OAS meeting of 1979 is still "open," why don't the ministers come back into session to review the Sandinistas' delivery on their pledges? The OAS might reasonably call, among others, the Nicaraguan groups which are fighting against the regime, claiming that it has betrayed the revolution. No doubt the government in Managua would have plenty of its own to say. Good. It could be a useful discussion. The OAS accepted a duty to the Nicaraguan people in 1979, and the need is still there.