Comandante Tomas Borge, the hard-line Sandinista who heads Nicaragua's powerful security police, pledged Friday to support a peaceful turnover of the government next week to the pro-American coalition that upset his party in national elections.
"Starting April 25, this institution will be subordinated to a new government and a new minister," Borge said of the Interior Ministry he has directed, in an emotional farewell to his troops. "This implies a difficult test for you, but you must face it with discipline, professionalism and strict adherence to the law and the constitution."
The comandante's speech, his first in public since his government lost the Feb. 25 election, dispelled any fear of high-level Sandinista resistance to the opposition's accession to power. Borge, the sole surviving founder of the 29-year-old revolutionary movement, is considered the most rigid member of its nine-man directorate.
His remarks came a day after the Sandinista army and President-elect Violeta Barrios de Chamorro's advisers reached agreements with Contra leaders formally ending the eight-year-old Nicaraguan war and obliging the U.S.-backed rebels to disarm by June 10.
Borge said the accords proved the "ethical purposes and healthy intentions" of some of the incoming government's leaders and removed any pretext for challenging them with labor unrest, as some Sandinista-led unions have threatened. He urged striking bank clerks, telephone workers and miners to return to work.
"Make your best efforts, as I am doing, to assure that Mrs. Chamorro takes possession (of the presidency)," he told hundreds of police officers and combat troops in an hourlong outdoor ceremony. "Let me warn you against disobedience, insubordination and disrespect."
The message was a stark contrast to pre-election statements by Borge and other military leaders that their troops would never obey orders from any government that tried to dismiss Sandinista commanders. Borge once declared that Nicaragua would become "ungovernable" under a Chamorro administration.
While calling his impending dismissal a "painful moment," Borge said it would be irresponsible of him "to ask you to leave the country's new leaders unprotected, to let flames reduce their homes to ashes, to make life impossible by promoting disorder. Never, under any circumstances, can you expect such advice from me."
He cautioned, however, that a failure by the Contras to meet their disarmament deadline would "completely change the rules of the game." And he spoke of "ethical challenges" in which police officers might have to "defend (the Chamorro government) against its own possible sins of delinquency, corruption and abuse."
Borge, a spellbinding orator with a gift for poetic imagery, moved many in his audience to tears when he vowed that the "blood of our martyrs is like a seed that will flourish again someday, even more beautifully, in this revolutionary land" and that the "darkness" of previous dictatorships "will never return . . . because we have enough reserves of light."
He called his secret police "the best sons of the fatherland" and boasted of how they had "outsmarted the CIA" to prevent the Contras from gaining a foothold in the cities. He noted with pride that his forces never used gunfire and rarely used tear gas to break up political disturbances, and that Managua "is one of the safest cities in the world."
"They accuse me of having a hard hand, but people closest to me know that is not the nature of my heart," he said. He denied being corrupt, trafficking in drugs, owning a valuable art collection or planning to live in exile. "The doctors who have examined me say I am healthy enough for a long life, so don't have any illusions that I'll soon leave this world," he declared.