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Anti-Sandinista Peasants Take Back Seized Ranch

August 4, 1990

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) _ Government supporters used clubs and machetes Friday to chase away about 150 Sandinista peasants who seized a Cabinet minister’s ranch, a union leader said. Four people were reported hurt.

The seizure of the ranch had represented the latest challenge to the U.S.-backed government by the leftist Sandinista opposition. The peasants were retaliating for takeovers in recent weeks of Sandinista cooperative farms.

Leopoldo Siles Blanco, regional secretary of the pro-Sandinista Farm Workers Association, told reporters late Friday that about 315 anti-Sandinista peasants retook the ranch belonging to Agriculture Minister Roberto Rondon.

Rondon’s ranch near Juigalpa, 120 miles southeast of Managua, was seized by members of the Sandinista-controlled association on Wednesday.

Siles Blanco said four of his people were injured. He gave no details.

Police had no immediate comment.

″This action is not going to frighten members of the association, and in the next few hours they might take over other ranches in the area,″ Siles Blanco said.

In a second takeover Thursday night, about 60 Sandinistas seized a private ranch also in the Juigalpa area.

The government of President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro also faced other threats Friday from the Sandinista opposition.

In an effort to stave off a general strike, the government late Friday increased salaries for about 65,000 government employees.

Labor Minister Francisco Rosales announced at a news conference a 60 percent increase for employees making $35 to $71 a month and a flat $36 for those making more than $71.

Rosales said the increases were part of an agreement reached with the Sandinistas to raise government salaries in August to compensate for inflation. Six people were killed and about 100 injured in clashes between Sandinista supporters and opponents in the last Sandinista-led strike in July. The strikers erected barricades, paralyzing Managua and disrupting the rest of the nation.

On Thursday, the 150,000-member National Workers Front threatened its third labor action since the United National Opposition coalition of Mrs. Chamorro took office on April 25. They defeated the Sandinistas in February elections.

Lucio Jimenez, leader of the National Workers Front, said Thursday that his federation plans a walkout of all Sandinista unions because more than 1,000 government employees were fired, despite promises nobody would be laid off.

Jimenez said currency devaluations over the last three months have cut the purchasing power of the 150,000 government workers by 90 percent, despite pay raises.

Inflation and low farm production are the two biggest problems Mrs. Chamorro inherited from the anti-U.S. Sandinistas who governed Nicaragua for a decade and battled U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

Mrs. Chamorro has been trying to return Nicaragua to a free market economy, but strikes and strike threats have undermined her efforts.

Her government managed to eliminate government subsidies and price controls. But this sent prices for staples skyrocketing.