*LEF319 07/21/93*


(Maisto confirmation hearing 7/21) lf (650)

(Spanish coming)

By Louise Fenner

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Civilian control of the military "is probably the most

important single issue that exists in Nicaragua today," John Maisto, the

nominee for U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, told a Senate confirmation


He said civilian control must encompass not just the armed forces in

Nicaragua but all security forces -- including the intelligence sector and

the police -- as well as the justice system.

Maisto told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee July 21 that "we have let

the government know in no uncertain terms our views following the discovery

of the arms cache" in Managua, referring to the discovery of a clandestine

cache of missiles and other weapons linked to the Farabundo Marti National

Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador.

"We expect the government of Nicaragua to investigate that matter; we expect

strong measures to be taken against those who are responsible for it.  We

expect progress to be made with regard to full civilian control of the


Maisto indicated that he believes the Nicaraguan military and security

sectors were aware of the arms cache.

Addressing the issue of property claims, Maisto noted that 117 cases

involving property confiscated by the former Sandinista government have

been totally or partially resolved out of some 1,000 outstanding cases.

"That's forward movement, but it's painfully slow," he said.

Human rights violations also "are a key problem in Nicaragua," Maisto told

the committee, noting that the Tripartite Commission is investigating

reported violations and has completed two reports.  "It's up to the

government of Nicaragua to take action," he said.  "They still have a lot

to do in that area, and it is something we have to watch very closely."

"The primary problem in Nicaragua, in my view, is political -- they cannot

seem to sit down and sort out their political problems.  They are going to

have to do it.  Only they can solve their political problems.... We want to

help, but it is their responsibility."

If a political resolution isn't found, Maisto said, Nicaragua "could have

1ostilities" that exceed the sporadic incidents of violence that now occur.

 "Nicaraguans realize that."

The senators were highly complimentary to Maisto and to Alan Flanigan, the

nominee for U.S. ambassador to El Salvador.  Sen. Christopher Dodd

(D-Conn.), who chaired the hearing, indicated that both nominations were

likely to be approved by the committee the following week.  The full Senate

will then have to vote on the nominations.

However, Sens. Jesse Helms and Paul Coverdell, republicans from North

Carolina and Georgia, respectively, used the hearing as an opportunity to

criticize the Nicaraguan government on issues such as the power of the

military, the progress of land claims settlements, and the investigation of

human rights abuses.

They warned that unless property claims and other problems are resolved,

there is "no incentive" for foreign investment in Nicaragua.  Helms

repeated his opposition to any form of aid to the government of President

Violeta Barios de Chamorro as long as, in his words, "the Sandinistas are

running the country."  Coverdell said the Chamorro government "is facing a

power it cannot control" in the form of Nicaragua's military.

Even Sen. Dodd, a strong supporter of aid to Nicaragua, said the problems

there are making it harder to argue for continued aid when the United

States is trying to cut its deficit.  He indicated his belief that the

Nicaraguan military and intelligence sectors knew about the FMLN arms


"When caches of arms of significant size are found and there are problems

with civilian control -- even for supporters like myself it gets awfully

hard to make a case" for foreign aid," Dodd said.

"That message needs to be carried back (to Nicaragua)," he told Maisto.