The Nicaraguan government has arrested 134 persons suspected of aiding anti-Sandinista rebels, including five accused of forming an urban "terrorist cell" to sabotage several targets.
The announcement of the arrests followed the Sandinista government's move Tuesday to broaden restrictions on civil liberties.
Interior Minister Tomas Borge, in a speech Thursday, said the new restrictions are needed to prevent such sabotage attempts, which the Sandinistas blame on the U.S.-supported rebels called contras, or counterrevolutionaries.
But other sources in the Sandinista government, the diplomatic community and political opposition groups said the restrictions were also a response to pressure from nonmilitary opposition groups, particularly Catholic Church leaders and some labor unions.
Borge said the five arrested in Managua made up a "terrorist cell" that had planned to blow up two bus stations, an electrical substation, a supermarket and the office of the Soviet airline Aeroflot.
He said the group was directed by Enrique Bermudez, military chief of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, which is based along the Honduran-Nicaraguan border.
At a news conference yesterday in the provincial capital of Matagalpa, the Interior Ministry presented 129 alleged contra collaborators, accused of passing information to the rebels, distributing antigovernment propaganda and planning sabotage with explosives.
The prisoners, described by the ministry as peasants, small businessmen and speculators who had been traveling in the mountainous northern war zone, were arrested during the past several months in a joint operation by the defense and interior ministries, officials said.
In a telephone interview from Miami today, Adolfo Calero Portocarrero, leader of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, denied that the organization has collaborators with explosives in Managua and called the announcement of the arrests a "show to justify suspension of civil rights."
Of the 129 alleged collaborators whose arrest was announced yesterday, he said, "We have people all over the country. It's possible that they were collaborating at one point, and that just now they are being shown."
The decree Tuesday suspended a series of civil liberties, including habeas corpus and the right to strike. The move was described as an extension of a state of emergency that had been declared in the war zones to the entire country.
In his speech Thursday, Borge, a member of Sandinistas' nine-man National Directorate, said the activities of Nicaragua's National Assembly, the "life" of the legal opposition parties and the program to grant autonomy to ethnic groups on the Atlantic Coast would not be affected.
Diplomats, government officials and opposition politicians said the Sandinistas face growing pressures on other, nonmilitary fronts. Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, who has been critical of the Sandinistas, has stepped up his activity, making trips outside Managua to conduct masses.
Some labor unions have stepped up pressure on the government to restore a policy of granting workers a bonus equal to one month's salary every year.