MANAGUA, NICARAGUA, JAN. 25 -- A delegation of Indian rebels led by Brooklyn Rivera opened peace talks today with the Sandinista government, hoping to press it to cede part of Nicaragua's territory to Indian groups.
Rivera and eight other Miskito and Rama Indian rebels, or contras, returned to Nicaragua from exile Saturday to revive a peace dialogue that began in October 1984 and was suspended seven months later.
Rivera represents a small rebel army known by the acronym Yatama. In agreeing to send Rivera to Nicaragua to meet with the Sandinista government, the Indians broke with the main contra alliance, the Nicaraguan Resistance, which is in separate cease-fire negotiations through the mediation of Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.
Rivera claimed that State Department officials have used their influence in Honduras to bar him from visiting Indian refugee camps there since October, in order to press him to join forces with the main contra alliance.
Rivera said he represents more than 2,000 armed Indian fighters. But the interior minister, Tomas Borge, who will conduct the government side of the negotiations, said Saturday that Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast, where about 125,000 Indians are concentrated, is already "virtually pacified." Rivera admitted that fighting on the coast had been "sporadic" in the past year.
Although Borge said the talks would begin with no preconditions, it seemed unlikely that the Sandinistas would accept Rivera's proposals. Rivera said he will ask the government to extend land ownership rights to the Indians for much of the vast Atlantic Coast and call for a referendum vote on the Sandinista leaders now in control there.
In 1986, Rivera's organization received $5 million in aid from the United States as part of a larger contra assistance package. But Rivera said in an interview last night that he will not seek more U.S. aid while the current dialogue continues.
"Strong winds of peace are blowing in Central America," he said. "We do not view aid as compatible with our efforts at this moment."