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Department Releases Report on Sandinista Intervention in Central America
Introduction The issue in the debate over Central America is not whether outside support for irregular forces fighting their government is legal or not; both the United States and Nicaragua agree that it is a use of force legally identical to open use of regular armed forces. The key issue is whether that use of force is an unlawful act of aggression or a legitimate response in collective self-defense.
Often overlooked in the debate over U.S. policy toward Nicaragua is the fundamentally important fact that the Sandinistas began to intervene in El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica within a year of entering the Nicaraguan Government in July 1979 and that they have actively continued that aggression to the present. In an effort to sustain its carefully fostered image as an innocent and aggrieved victim of unprovoked aggression, Nicaragua denies that it has ever intervened in neighboring countries by supporting antigovernment rebels. (In the case now before the World Court, for example, Nicaragua submitted a sworn statement by Foreign Minister D'Escoto that "my country is not engaged, and has not been engaged, in the provision of arms or other supplies to either of the factions engaged in the civil war in El Salvador.")
The facts, however, show Nicaragua's solemn denials to be untrue. As the Congress has found, the Government of Nicaragua "has committed and refused to cease aggression in the form of armed subversion against its neighbors." (PL 99-83) By the same token, the Sandinistas' claim that U.S. actions, including support for the democratic resistance, constitute aggression against Nicaragua stands the facts on their head. It is Nicaragua, and not the United States and its friends, that committed the aggression that led directly to the actions of which the Sandinistas now complain. And it is the United States and its friends, and not Nicaragua, which are acting in lawful self-defense in countering the Sandinistas' subversion and intimidation.
The United States initially made strong efforts to forge a friendly relationship with Nicaragua after Somoza's ouster, then undertook, by a series of diplomatic efforts directed at inducing the Sandinistas, to halt their policies of subversion and intimidation. Only as those …