The Reagan Administration said Monday that Nicaragua's leftist government has put down an opposition political protest with a display of force demonstrating the Sandinistas' contempt for the 10-day-old Central American presidents' peace plan.
State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley read a stinging denunciation of the Managua regime as the senior U.S. diplomats assigned to the five Central American countries met in Washington with top Administration officials to discuss the U.S. reaction to the peace process.
The latest developments appeared to be part of an Administration strategy to shape the regional peace effort and to try to place the blame on Managua if the plan should fail. Republican sources on Capitol Hill have said that the chances of renewed U.S. funding for the anti-government contras would be greatly improved if the Sandinistas were seen to reject--or torpedo--a negotiated settlement.
Oakley said that Nicaraguan security forces used dogs, nightsticks and electric shock batons to prevent a Saturday demonstration sponsored by the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinate and the Movement of Mothers of Political Prisoners.
She said that several opposition leaders were arrested and that two were immediately sentenced to 30 days in jail. Among those seized were Lino Hernandez Trigueros, president of the Permanent Human Rights Commission, and Alberto Saborio, head of the Nicaraguan Bar Assn. and secretary general of the Nicaraguan Conservative Party.
"The arrest of these political and human rights leaders and the brutal manner and great speed with which the marches were suppressed would seem to indicate that the Nicaragua government wishes to intimidate and oppress the opposition rather than fulfill its promises for democratization under the Guatemala agreement," Oakley said.
5 Ministers to Meet
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the presidents of Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras reached agreement Aug. 7 on the outlines of a peace plan intended to end insurgencies in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala and guarantee democracy throughout the region. Foreign ministers of the five nations are scheduled to meet Wednesday in San Salvador to begin working out the details of putting the plan into effect.
The proposal sets Nov. 7 as the target date for a cease-fire in Nicaragua, where the government is challenged by the U.S.-backed contras, and in El Salvador, which faces Soviet- and Cuban-supported insurgents. The same target date applies in the case of Guatemala, where a less-publicized, smaller insurgency has been going on for years.
Four other conditions are to be met simultaneously with the cease-fires, and the complex process of achieving them implies concentrated negotiations for the next three months between the governments and opposition political groups on ways of ensuring, among other things, free elections, a free press and an end to political oppression in all of the region's nations.
The Nicaraguan government refuses to negotiate with the contras, but Ortega said that his regime is prepared to open talks with internal opposition groups, such as the organizations led by Hernandez and Saborio.