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Among the missing.

Among the Missing

On January 26, Dr. Gustavo Sequeira, vice dean of the faculty of medical sciences at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, and three members of a team of health workers visiting Rama Key, an island inhabited by 500 Indians off Nicaragua's southeast coast, were kidnapped by contra guerrillas. The attack occurred a few hours after the team arrived. Several days later the radio station of the F.D.N., a contra group based in Honduras, confirmed that the kidnappings took place. Senator Edward Kennedy's office has informed us that Sequeira is believed to be alive.

Atrocities by the contras are a daily occurrence in Nicaragua's dirty little war, and attacks on medical personnel are not unusual. Thirty health centers have been forced to close because of damage inflicted by the rebels. Eighteen health workers--including two volunteer doctors from Europe--had been killed, thirteen wounded and eighteen others kidnapped, tortured or raped prior to the assault on Rama Key. The contras have made it dangerous for medical teams to enter contested areas, deliberately disrupting the Nicaraguan government's vaccination campaigns and malaria control efforts in the countryside.

Still, Dr. Sequeira's faculty position and his friends in the United States make this latest outrage a highly visible one According to Dr. Paula Braveman, an assistant clinical professor in the School of Medicine of the University of California, San Francisco, who has worked with the Nicaraguan medical school in developing exchange programs, this was the fourth time Sequeira had volunteered to travel with medical teams to rural areas. Although his main interests lie in teaching and research, he has felt a strong obligation to perform fieldwork to set an example for his students.

But the individual tragedy aside, he is a doctor and should be treated as a noncombatant under the rules of war, which all civilized nations are pledged to uphold. The abductions at Rama Key, and all attacks on medical personnel, call for the severest condemnation. Let Gustavo Sequeira symbolize all the victims of the contras--and of the immorality of the Reagan Administration's support for them.

Sometimes in the past, the contras have released captives in response to international pressure. Nation readers are urged to join the campaign calling for Sequeira's release. Although this effort centers on one man, it could rally indignation in Congress against the Administration's expected request for a resumption of official aid to the contras. Letters and telegrams demanding intervention on behalf of Dr. Sequeira and his three co-workers should be sent to:

U.S. Department of State ARA/CEN Room 4915 Washington, DC 20520 (202) 632-2205

Intelligence Committee U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 (202) 224-3121

Intelligence Committee U.S. Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-3121

Embassy of Honduras 4301 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 408 Washington, DC 20008 (202) 966-7700

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Title Annotation:medical personnel are kidnapped and murdered by the Nicaragua contras
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Feb 16, 1985
Words:469
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