The Miami Herald
March 18, 1999
Ex-Nicaraguan chief may be target of suits

             MANAGUA -- (AP) -- Former President Daniel Ortega on Wednesday warned
             that anyone who tries to bring Col. Lenin Cerna, Nicaragua's former security chief,
             to trial ``will be playing with fire.''

             Cerna, who headed the dreaded General Directorate for State Security (DGSE)
             during the Sandinista government of the 1980s under Ortega, retired this week.

             After his retirement was announced, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights
             said 14,000 complaints of human rights violations were filed while the Sandinistas
             were in power from 1979 to 1990, and that most of them were attributed to the

             Commission Chairman Lino Hernandez Trigueros said the alleged violations
             included the torture of educator Sofonias Cisneros in 1985 and the murder of
             contra rebel leader Efren Mondragon in 1988.

             Cerna symbolized ``the harshest period of the Sandinista regime'' and his
             retirement ``ends a dark chapter in Nicaragua's history,'' Hernandez said.

             ``We will not seek a trial for him,'' Hernandez said, but several media outlets said
             people who were affected by Cerna's actions may file suit against him.

             In response, Ortega said Cerna ``was a combatant in the Sandinista Front [and]
             was part of the government I led. Whatever challenge is made to him is made to
             me, as well. I answer for him.''

             The former president said that ``whoever starts to play that way will be playing
             with fire.'' That would mean ``starting a confrontation that we Sandinistas will not

             Army Chief of Staff Gen. Javier Carrion also came to Cerna's defense, saying that
             ``if we're going to talk about crimes committed 20 years ago, we should remember
             that an amnesty was granted here in 1990.''

             Rep. Guillermo Selva, of the governing Liberal Party, countered that a policy of
             ``forgive and forget'' should not be applied to war crimes and crimes against

             ``If we have the proof and the evidence at hand, I believe it is necessary to deal
             with this case in the courts,'' Selva said.

             Retiring with Cerna were four top leaders of the Defense Information Directorate,
             a separate intelligence agency within the Defense Ministry: Brig. Gen. Hugo Torres
             and Lt. Cols. Edgard Manuel Guerrero, Enoc Ramon Flores and Vicente Chavez.

             Carrion denied that the retirements were in response to external pressure --
             specifically, from the Pentagon -- and said they were part of the army's routine
             renewal process.

             Sources in the military predict that Cerna's post as military intelligence advisor will
             be eliminated, and that the Defense Information Directorate will be integrated into
             the army's intelligence and counterintelligence agency.


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