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
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
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
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
``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
``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
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
Sources in the military predict that Cerna's post as military intelligence
be eliminated, and that the Defense Information Directorate will be integrated into
the army's intelligence and counterintelligence agency.
Copyright © 1999 The Miami Herald