The State Department yesterday welcomed Nicaragua's decision to allow three exiled Roman Catholic clerics to return, but the department added that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega should be held to his commitment that the three can go back "without conditions."
In his first gesture toward relaxing Nicaragua's restrictive political climate, Ortega said Tuesday that he was rescinding an order that banned from the country Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega and the Rev. Bismarck Carballo, both Nicaraguans, and the Rev. Benito Pitito, an Italian.
In a news conference in Miami, Carballo said he plans to return to Nicaragua on Sept. 12, but he said Vega, who fears for his life, does not plan to return until there are some guarantees for civil freedom. It was unclear whether Pitito will return.
Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said the United States hopes that Carballo will be allowed to reopen Radio Catolica, formerly an important source of information and criticism of the leftist Sandinista government, and operate "without Sandinista censorship or harassment."
Oakley also criticized the membership of a National Commission of Reconcilation, which was announced Tuesday as a step toward meeting the amnesty and democratization commitments called for in the Central American peace initiative that Ortega and the presidents of four neighboring countries signed in Guatemala City Aug. 7.
"We are concerned that through careful selection of members of the commission, the Sandinistas appear to have stacked the council in their favor, at the same time trying to maintain the appearance of compliance with the Guatemala accord," Oakley said. "It's doubtful to expect anything but Sandinista rhetoric from the government representatives."