NICARAGUA: ASSESSMENT OF INSURGENT AND REGIME CAPABILITES IN THIRD QUARTER 1988

Created: 10/24/1988

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DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE6

Nicaragua: Assessment of Insurgent and Regime Capabilities

ln Third Quarter8

Summary

While combat activity remainedow level, ill-equipped insurgent troops and supporters continued to stream into Honduras during the past three months, causing guerrilla military capabilities to wane further and command end control of forces Inside Nicaragua .to deteriorate. Guerrilla political cohesion also suffered ln the wake of divisive elections for leadership positions ln July. The Sandinistas, meanwhile. Initiated large-scale counter-insurgency operations in eouth-central and northwest Nicaragua. They also cracked down on the Internal opposition, which, despite some activity in ald-auoaaer. remained largely cowed by regime pressure.

, Thia_typescript was prepared

Office of African

and Latin American Analysis. Comments and queries are welcomebe. directed to theALA,

8

Insurgent Capabilities Hit Bottom

Resupply and logistics problems continued to drive insurgents out of Nicaragua this quarter.despite an effort to reinfiltra

-tc euirre rigntersdditional rebels and several hundred supporters had left Nicaragua by the end of September, bringing the total number of combatants in Honduras to The exodus included elite insurgent unite that reportedly had remained active by relying on the local populace and captured Sandinlsta supplies after aerial

re supply ended last winter.

i insurgent military cniet Enrique Bermudez was visibly snaxen py tne dismal condition of the troops exfiltrating.

The already poor supply situation worsened and Tegucigalpa remained reluctant to release guerrilla munitions under its control. Honduran military chief Regalado told US Embassy officials onuly that he feared the insurgents would pose an internal security threat to Honduras if US support ends. Regalado apparentlyormal request from Bermudez onugust to release the munitions. In his request, Bermudez claimed that guerrillas ln Honduras had only four million rounds ofmmunition on hand and no reserves or caches Inside Nicaragua.

individual regional commanders

in sanctuary in September confirmedtatements.

We believe ammunition and tactical communications capabilities inside Nicaragua dwindled to the point of permitting only limited defensive actions by individual insurgent units. Reporting showed only aboutlashes per week in Nicaragua during the quarter, despite renewed operations by the Sandinistas.

The exfiltration of insurgents also undermined insurgent general staff command and control over guerrillas in sanctuary and in tho field. Bermudez said in early August that command and control inside Nicaragua had completely broken down and that [coordination of combat operations was no longer possible.

irecuorfana purpose-rrr"the strategic command at Vamales, with many general staff members absentariety of reasons.ormal daily training schedule and other organized activities continued, little in the way of combat preparation appeared underway.

Reports that Sandinista infiltrators entered Hondurasguerrillas and supporters suggest thatand security capabilities alao continued tothe quarter.roup of

Cuban-trained Sandinista officers have penetrated Insurgent ronhs ln Honduras since atollected operational intelligence, and conducted sabotage aimed at discreditina the insurgent cause.

Insurgent Political Infighting

, Guerrilla internal dissension intensified this quarterew political Directorate was elected in July. Four newcomers-including military commander Enriqueincumbents Adolfo Calero, Alfredo Cesar, and Arlstldes Sanchez on the board, me blatant manipulation of the election, including vote buying and the padding of delegations, ehement reaction from guerrilla politicians who threatened to leave the movement. The election of Bermudez alao prompted insurgents from the southern front, long critical of hla leadership, to secede from the movement. Calero denounced the military chief aa untrustworthy and observed that his elevationigh political npst woulderious public relations problem.

By late August, moderate politicians critical of the new Directorateew coalition and threatened to secede. The group, spearheaded by Cesar, demanded more equitable diatribution of fundsreater vole* in decisionmaking on cease-fire strategy. Some members also were concerned with pollahina their image in antlclnmt-ignew US administration, f

Robelo, and former director

WOrro Eeliaved that any new US adminietration would want to distance itself from the "old" lnaurgent rroveraant.

While new funding procedures and ceaae-flre talks in September defused such talk, we expect infighting to continue further splits in the movement .ire poseible.

Ku I f

<;

the quarter the xeoM coalition had

rormanyew organization and stated its Intention to continue pressing demands for internal reform.

Sandinistas Launch Aggressive Operations

ncressingly aggressive in th*the quarter as they sought to fill the void inleft by departing insurgents. in south-central Nicaragua secured the areafor theuly anniversary celebration of Large-scale counterinsurgency andinsurgents into Honduras and blocking

reinflltratlon ln northwestern and north-central Nicaragua have continued since mid-July. The Sandinistas apparently hoped to disguise th* acope of thesein the north involved upounterinsurgency forcesthernot using cloo* air and long-range artillery support.

the Sandinistas arrested hurareas or Caropesinos in tho Jino.tega-Natagalpa area on charges of supporting the insurgents.

As tho guerrillas exfiltrated to Honduras, government military and Intelligence units attempted to mop up remaining pockets of insurgents and dismantle their support network. According to the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, some insurgents claimed the Sandinistas were carrying out night attacks against guerrilla units inside Nicaragua and intimidating suspected civilian collaborators.

n

The Sandinistas also used an extensive civic-action program to shore up their own local support, especially In the south. The Embassy reported the regime was giving peasants better medical and dental care, some scarce consumer goods, agricultural supplies, and low-cost loans. Managua alao worked to improve roads to key markets and, in an unprecedented move, announced plans to suspend the military draft in the south until the end of the year,

Tightening the Noose

Beginning ln July the Sandlnistaa also moved to stifle the Internal oppositionrackdown on its leaders and the expulsion of US diplomats accused of conspiring with them. Onuly, government forcoo broke up an opposition rally in the southern town of Nandalme and arrested somenti-Sandlniota politicians who were still on trial at the end of September. The regime also closed several Independent news outlets for short periods,umber of private properties, and repeatedly refused to issue permits for opposition marches and rallies. In September, the editor of an opposition newspaper was brutally attacked by aassilants who aources

believe were officially sanctioned thuga.

The crackdown successfully cowed regime opponents. The main

opposition coalition canceled plansajor rally in September because of insufficient funda and government intimidation,

Even the Catholic Churchdirect conirontation. In August, Cardinal Obandoaccepted the Sandlnlsta offer to reopen Radio Obando may have taken

his cue in partrope, wno was less critical of the Sandlnietas when he met with the Cardinal in August than he had been earlier ln the year.

The Anti-Sandinista Inwirgcncy Key Indkaiors

Drfuacni Weak 9 Modnii*

0) SubilaoUi]

Eval-utioa of oxim indicators of nullify cupdotliUn fl.iing tne*ppttUsmc (kcjuh ihe oeut-fire Upl corobji toUvMy Iu*.

The SandiniMa Refilrae Key Indicators

cah 9 Modo.tr

f moil tndkatort of miliujy capabilities during thn*i approiimiK brciioc ihekepi onnbi: activity low.

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