As one who has long admired Joanne Omang's coverage of Latin America, I found her article "Claims on Contras in Dispute" (March 18) at best disappointing, at worst shocking.
Most disappointing is her cavalier dismissal of Sandinista anti-Semitism. She simply ignores evidence to this effect provided by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. Nor does she mention the moving testimony of Sarita Kellerman, who related in 1985 why she and the majority of the Jewish community departed Nicaragua after the revolution. Said Kellerman:
"Three times I was followed, and they tried to kill me three times. Twice they tried to burn me. With gasoline, they tried to burn the car. Other times, I did not take the path or the road that they thought I was going to take, because every day we would take a different road. We knew already that we were being followed. We were receiving, not only myself, but the rest of the Jewish families, receiving harassment, threats, phone calls. And all this made us little by little, one by one, leave Nicaragua."
Omang dismisses former Ministry of Interior official Alvaro Baldizon's testimony that Sandinista troops carry out atrocities wearing uniforms of the resistance movement. She discounts Baldizon because he presented "no evidence." In fact, Baldizon provided detailed information on units trained in East Germany to conduct "special actions." He provided names, places and specifics of atrocities carried out for the purpose of discrediting the resistance. Did he present copies of the operations orders and other "hard copy" evidence? Of course not. While he did bring some documents with him when he defected, does Omang expect that Baldizon was going to strap a file cabinet to his back when he decided to leave Nicaagua? Would Omang so blithely dismiss with the "no evidence" charge one who defected from the Salvadoran government with tales (but "no evidence") of "death squad" atrocities.
Omang perpetuates the myth that the resistance forces are commanded by "old Somocista loyalists." Once again, she is wrong. The only former National Guard colonel in the resistance is Enrique Bermudez. The assertion that he was a "Somoza loyalist" is laughable. Somoza considered him so disloyal he shipped him off to Washington in "golden exile" in 1975. In 1979, the Carter administration recommended that Somoza name Bermudez National Guard Commander to improve the conduct, professionalism and image of the National Guard. Somoza rejected the offer, so strong was his distrust of Bermudez. After coming to power, the Sandinistas themselves cleared Bermudez of any wrongdoing during the civil war. Of the military commanders and staff officers of the FDN, 41 are former Guardsmen, 30 are former Sandinistas and 78 had no prior military experience. Of those with Guard experience, the vast majority were cadets, lieutenants and enlisted men, an unlikely group of confidantes for Somoza.
The administration does not count, as Omang incorrectly states, "construction workers, teachers and agricultural workers" in the total of Cuban military advisers. There are approximately 3,000 Cuban active duty military advisers in Nicaragua -- in addition to 4,500 workers and teachers, most of whom are militarily trained.
She ignores Gallup Poll findings in 1983 that Nicaragua was considered a military threat by 69 percent of Costa Ricans and 80 percent of Hondurans. The percentage climbed to 87 percent in Costa Rica and held steady in Honduras in 1985. In short, the citizens of Nicaragua's neighbors are very fearful of the Sandinistas.
The repression of the Catholic Church by the Sandinistas, the muting of the church media and the efforts to infuse Marxism-Leninism into the Catholic school system have been sources of revulsion to Nicaraguan Catholics. Omang omits these facts, allowing only that Cardinal Obando y Bravo is the "leading opposition voice." He is simply the leading source of consolation for Nicaraguans of all faiths who suffer the abuses of the Sandinistas. Omang implies that Nicaraguan Catholics other than the cardinal are "split on the Sandinistas." That statement is absolutely untrue. U.S. Catholics may be split, but the vast majority of Nicaraguan Catholics know that it is the Sandinista regime that is the enemy of the church.
This is the side of the story Post readers have a right to know, but did not receive from Omang's article.