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U.S. Aid Is Not Misused, Contra Leader Calero Says

Times Staff Writers

Nicaraguan rebel leader Adolfo Calero angrily denied Monday that he has misused any U.S. aid funds and said that allegations of financial improprieties by the Contras are false.

“These allegations of mismanaging funds--I say this is false and defamatory,” Calero said at a news conference in Miami.

“I have never managed any money (from) the government of the United States,” he said. “This money has always been managed in an institutional way. . . . No one individual can decide on the use or diversion of these funds.”

Calero and other Contra leaders also denied a report that the CIA has begun a special audit of the Contras’ use of a secret U.S. political aid fund.

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“The finances of the resistance are not undergoing investigation, as has been reported,” the Contra leaders said in a formal statement.

U.S. Officials Quoted

A report that the CIA has begun an audit of the covert political fund was published in The Times on Saturday.

The article quoted U.S. officials as saying that Calero was one of several targets of the inquiry but that the audit was aimed at the Contra movement as a whole.

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A senior U.S. official Monday reconfirmed the existence of the audit.

The audit is examining a covert program of political aid that supports the rebels’ organizational and political work throughout Central America, officials said.

The Contras said that the U.S. government had completed an audit of their finances in the second week of January. They said no improprieties were found.

U.S. officials refused to comment on the audit’s findings, or to say whether the inquiry has been completed.

A Contra official said the rebels are currently receiving $400,000 a month in political aid from the CIA. He said the aid had been cut back from $500,000 a month some time last year.

He said Contra leaders are given a daily allowance of $60 each for lodging and other expenses when they are traveling on official business, in addition to air fare.

Calero said that a Contra financial manager oversees the fund and that the Contras’ own internal auditors review the use of the funds.

“We also have audits by the U.S. government that have been going on constantly since we began receiving funds,” he said.

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The story in The Times said that Calero’s rivals have previously charged that he misused official funds, but the story reported that these rivals have provided no evidence to back up their allegations.

Calero angrily denounced the report.

“It is false, it is defamatory, and I am going to proceed legally if I don’t get thorough satisfaction from the Los Angeles Times,” Calero said. “I am sick and tired of having these allegations that have never been proven, that have just smeared my reputation,” he said.

Boudreaux reported from Miami and McManus from Washington.


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