TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS, JUNE 8 -- President Jose Azcona Hoyo said today that high-level leaders of the U.S.-backed Nicaraguan rebels will no longer be allowed to hold public meetings in this country.
The president confirmed that Honduran authorities blocked top leaders of the rebels, known as contras, from holding a session here last week. However, moderating his position somewhat, he told the press that Nicaraguan Indian refugee groups will be allowed to hold a major assembly Wednesday in remote eastern Honduras.
In addition to issues concerning the more than 12,000 refugees, the Indians are expected to choose contra chiefs to command Indian fighting against the leftist Sandinista government.
Today's statement marked another swing in the attitude of the Honduran government, which faces continuing pressure from Washington to permit the contras to maintain some operations in Honduran territory. While openly anti-Sandinista, Honduras also hopes to avoid being dragged into a wider war.
The six members of a recently elected board of directors of the new contra organization known as the Nicaraguan Resistance were scheduled to convene here last week. They intended to visit a contra headquarters near the Nicaraguan border to talk with their military commanders about uniting several different contra armies into one.
Three board members, including the widely known leader Adolfo Calero, arrived in Honduras, contra officials said. But Alfonso Robelo, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro and Alfredo Cesar remained in Costa Rica, apparently after they were advised they would not be permitted to enter.
The board meeting is now scheduled to take place this week, probably in Miami. However, the setback means the civilian leadership could have reduced access to the more than 10,000 guerrillas it nominally controls.
"We didn't force them," said Azcona, who was out of the country last week. "But we are trying to become involved as little as possible in Nicaragua's internal conflict. We thought that type of meeting would not be convenient. I don't think there will be any more meetings of contra leaders in Honduras."