Cancel U.S. visas for Sandinistas, senator demands
BY GLENN GARVIN
MANAGUA -- Angrily accusing the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua of having
strings'' to obtain visas for former Sandinista officials ``on the U.S. list of
terrorists,'' Sen. Jesse Helms has demanded that the State Department
immediately ban them from the United States.
Canceling visas for the four -- including former Nicaraguan president
-- ``will make clear that these men are not welcome on American soil,'' Helms
said in a letter to Alan Larson, undersecretary of state for economic affairs.
Helms added that the Sandinistas are ``bandits'' who engineered
of thousands of properties belonging to U.S. citizens when the Marxist party ruled
Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 -- an contentious issue that continues to plague
relations between Washington and Managua to this day.
The letter mentions Ortega; his brother Humberto, former head
of the Nicaraguan
armed forces; Tomas Borge, former chief of intelligence and security forces; and
Lenin Cerna, who directed the secret police.
Borge, Cerna and Daniel Ortega have all received U.S. visas since 1997.
Humberto Ortega asked for a visa last Christmas, but never followed
up on his
State Department officials in Washington confirmed Wednesday that
were granted even though all three men appear on a department watch list that is
supposed to bar entry into the United States by suspected terrorists.
In each case, the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua cabled Washington
asking for a
waiver granting the visa, and each time it was granted -- in the cases of Borge and
Cerna, despite highly publicized accusations by the State Department itself that
they are murderers.
While heading the interior ministry, which oversaw security forces,
the order to regularize political killings,'' said a 1986 State Department publication
entitled Human Rights in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas.
The same year, the department's Inside the Sandinista Regime:
Investigator's Perspective said Borge directed an operation to lure out and
execute several Nicaraguans who had taken political asylum inside the
Guatemalan Embassy in Managua. And the department's 1987 publication In
Their Own Words: Testimony of Nicaraguan Exiles accused Borge of overseeing
the execution of 150 Miskito Indians in 1982.
Cerna ``directed assassinations of regime opponents in exile,''
notorious torture-murder of a former Nicaraguan National Guard commander
named Pablo Emilio Salazar, said the State Department's 1988 publication
Nicaraguan Biographies: A Resource Book.
Human Rights in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas also contained
account of Cerna's personal torture of a Sandinista critic.
Cerna ``repeatedly kicked'' the man, ``beat his head against the
wall of the room,
and put a pistol to his temple and shouted, `I am Comandante Lenin Cerna, and
you are . . . going to die right here,' '' the book said.
Cerna nonetheless was granted a visa in 1998 after his son went
to the United
States for treatment of a head injury suffered in an auto accident.
He apparently never used it, however.
Daniel Ortega was granted a visa to attended a religious conference in 1997.
Borge has visited the United States several times since 1997 and
granted an audience at the State Department on one visit, although he canceled it
at the last minute.
The U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua has apparently recently begun to
policy on visas.
Helms' letter praised ``the recent recommendation by U.S. Ambassador
Garza and his excellent consular team to deny these visas.''
An embassy spokesman confirmed that Borge was recently sent a
him that any future requests for visas will be denied because of his role in
confiscations of property of U.S. citizens.
``We are actively investigating a number of other cases,'' the
spokesman said, but
declined to give details.