SAM Missile Strife Deepens

April 1, 2005

GRANADA – Former revolutionary leader TomásBorge this week accused the United States government oflaunching a fear campaign against the left-wing SandinistaNational Liberation Front (FSLN), to prevent DanielOrtega from returning to the presidency in 2006.Borge’s accusation was in response to comments madelast week by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,who alleged that the Sandinista government in the 1980ssold an undetermined number of SAM-7 shoulder-fire missilesto the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) andthe Basque terrorist group ETA.Borge, the Sandinistas’ Minister of the Interior duringthe 1980s, flatly denied Rumsfeld’s accusation, calling it“ridiculous” and “illogical.”“If we had given SAM-7 missiles to the PLO and ETA,then why haven’t they used them by now?” Borge said in a phone conversation with The NicaTimes. “Why didn’t the PLO use them toshoot down the Israeli fight jets when theywere under attack?”THE U.S. government, which has beenlobbying Nicaragua for the past year todestroy its stockpiled SAM-7s, last weeksuspended $2.3 million in military aid toNicaragua until the remaining 700 or somissiles are destroyed.Nicaragua last year destroyed half ofits Soviet-made missiles, which werepurchased by the Sandinista governmentin the 1980s to defend the country againsta possible air attack launched fromHonduras (TT, Aug 6, May 14, 2004).The United States insists it wants allthe missiles destroyed, and last Februarysent a high-ranking State Department delegationto Nicaragua to pressure for compliance(NT, Feb. 25).Nicaragua’s military brass, which iscurrently headed by former Sandinista revolutionaryGen. Moisés OmarHalleslevens, informed the United Statesthat it plans to hold on to some 400 missilesfor defense purposes – a nationaldefense concern that is agitating UncleSam.THE U.S. government claims it hasinformation that several hundred SAM-7s(the number has changed several times) areunaccounted for in Nicaragua, and fearedto be in civilian hands.Nicaragua’s Minister of the Interior,Julio Vega, this week spoke out againstRumsfeld’s accusations, arguing thatNicaragua’s army deserves total respect asa professional institution.Borge also brushed off the allegation,comparing it to the U.S.’ previous claimthat Saddam Hussein was hiding weaponsof mass destruction in Iraq.“They are accustomed to lying aboutmissing weapons,” Borge told The NicaTimes.BORGE also refuted a report in lastweek’s The Miami Herald that 20 SAM-7swere recovered from his house after anexplosion flattened it in 1993.“First of all, that wasn’t my house, itwas a Salvadoran weapons catch inManagua, which I had nothing to do with,”Borge said. “And secondly, no SAM-7sturned up there.”NICARAGUAN defense expertRoberto Cajina told The Nica Times thisweek that the suspension of military aid toNicaragua indicates that the United Statesis “betting” on Ortega to win the 2006presidential elections.Cajina, however, dismissed the aid cutoffas having a “minimal” effect onNicaragua’s military.“That money was used for militaryscholarships, courses and training, it wasn’tused for purchasing equipment orweapons,” Cajina explained, adding: “Inreality, U.S. military aid to Nicaragua isvery small.”

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