Ex-Contra hardens stand on hostage release



MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP)—A guerrilla leader issued new conditions for releasing at least 18 government officials, dampening hopes Monday for an end to Nicaragua’s four-day hostage crisis.

Rival leftist gunmen in Managua who held 27 hostages freed two captives Monday as a goodwill gesture. They still held Vice President Virgilio Godoy, eight congressmen and at least nine journalists.

The hostage crisis involves rival groups of ex-combatants from the war between the former leftist Sandinista government and the U.S.-backed Contras that ended in 1990.

Rearmed former soldiers from both sides have clashed repeatedly with troops over the past year as President Violeta Chamorro’s reconciliation policies have been foiled by political enmity and a crippled economy. Unemployment runs as high as 60 percent.

Both sides have rearmed, accusing the government of failing to provide the land and aid promised when they disarmed after the war.

On Sunday, former Contras released 20 of their hostages in the northern town of Quilali and promised to free the 18 to 21 remaining.

Under an accord signed Sunday by Frank Cesar, vice minister of the interior, the government promised it would not use troops against North Front 3-80 and would continue to discuss its demands.

The Contras said that they would drop their demand for the ouster of Nicaraguan army chief Gen. Humberto Ortega and army security chief Lenin Cerna, both Sandinistas. Contras are angered by what they see as Mrs. Chamorro’s decision to co-govern with the Sandinistas despite ousting them in an election in 1990.

But the group’s leader, Jose Angel ‘‘The Jackal’‘ Talavera Analiz, told reporters Sunday that ‘‘The question of Humberto Ortega and Lenin Cerna is not negotiable.’‘ He did not sign the agreement with Cesar.

‘‘The liberty of the rest of the hostages will depend on the actions taken by the government,’‘ said the 32-year-old former Contra, whose faction includes about 400 fighters.

Talavera’s North Front 3-80 on Thursday seized members of a government commission that had arrived to discuss terms of an amnesty offer. It later added five government soldiers to the hostages.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo agreed to travel to Quilali on Tuesday to help negotiate freedom for the hostages held by the former Contras. He was asked to mediate by the government.

Meanwhile, former Sandinista president Daniel Ortega said he would meet later Monday afternoon with leftist gunmen in Managua to try to secure hostage releases there.

A group of former Sandinista soldiers in Managua, meanwhile, freed two party officials of the United National Opposition, a Communist-to-conservative coalition known as UNO that defeated the Sandinistas in 1990 elections.

The soldiers said they released the two hostages as a gesture of ‘‘humanism’‘ and said they would not release more captives until the ex-Contras released theirs.

‘‘They liberate, we will be liberating,’‘ said commando leader Donald Mendoza, a former Sandinista army major.

The pro-Sandinista ‘‘Dignity and Sovereignty Command,’‘ which acted Saturday in response to the events in Quilali, freed 14 hostages Saturday and two more Sunday.

Both the Sandinista Party and UNO on Sunday said the immediate liberation of Godoy ‘‘is indispensable.’‘

On Sunday, the Managua hostage-takers went on an indiscriminate shooting spree after reporters approached the house where they are holding their captives.

No one was injured, but Godoy, former National Assembly President Alfredo Cesar and Assembly Deputy Humberto Castilla were forced to act as human shields, standing in their underwear in the windows of the building where they were held.

The Sandinistas and UNO, meanwhile, asked for the immediate liberation of two Sandinista deputies held by Talavera and six UNO deputies held by the ex-Sandinistas as well as the freedom ‘‘without conditions’‘ of other hostages.

A spokesman for the hostages held at a clinic near Quilali also told a visiting reporter for Sandinista Radio Ya that they wanted freedom for ‘‘all the hostages’‘ in Quilali and Managua.

‘‘There is no reason to demand political reforms in the country by kidnapping representatives of state institutions,’‘ said Carlos Gallo, a kidnapped Sandinista deputy.