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Dictator's daughter wants property back

By JOHN OTIS

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- The daughter of former dictator Anastasio Somoza Garcia is trying to reclaim millions of dollars in family properties confiscated by the Sandinista government after the 1979 revolution.

In a letter to President Violeta Chamorro, Lilliam Somoza de Sevilla- Secasa said she would contest the government's sale of a luxury hotel, a beach resort, houses and other properties that belonged to her family.

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'I feel obligated to write to you to ratify ... my decision to reclaim my personal properties acquired with my own funds and those that belong to me through the legitimate inheritance of my parents,' she wrote in her letter, which was published in Thursday's edition of the Managua daily Barricada.

Somoza Garcia was the first of three family dictators in a dynasty that ruled Nicaragua for 43 years. At the time, Nicaragua was often called 'Somoza's hacienda,' and it was said the family owned everything that was worth owning in the country.

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Lilliam, Somoza Garcia's only daughter, has lived in the United States for the past 30 years. She is familiar to older Nicaraguans because her portrait appeared on the one-cordoba note issued in the 1950s.

The Somoza dictatorship ended when Sandinista rebels ousted Anastasio Somoza Debayle -- Somoza Garcia's son -- in a 1979 revolution. The Sandinistas confiscated all the family's holdings, which included homes, businesses and thousands of acres of land.

Chamorro, whose 1990 election ended a decade of Sandinista rule, has pledged to sell most state holdings and return properties to their former owners that were deemed to have been unjustly confiscated by the Sandinistas.

Still, even the most ardent Sandinista opponents agreed with their decision to confiscate the Somoza holdings. Chamorro's husband, an opposition newspaper publisher during the last dictatorship, was killed on orders from Somoza Debayle shortly before the revolution, and the Somoza family was widely hated.

The Chamorro government has now put many of the family's properties up for sale. They include Montelimar, Somoza Garcia's former beach mansion, which has been converted into a resort, and the Hotel Inter- Continental, Managua's most prominent. Several luxury homes outside the capital also are up for sale.

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Lilliam Somoza said she has presented documentation of her ownership to the attorney general's office and said she has been lobbying foreign ministers in Latin America and Europe for support.

'The recent sale of the Hotel Inter-Continental by your government -- a property in which I own shares -- obligates me to exercise my legal right to recover my belongings,' she wrote in her letter to Chamorro.

Last October, her son Luis Ramon Sevilla Somoza arrived in Managua to file a claim for 40 percent of the properties being held by Sucesion Somoza, one of the state institutions set up to administer the former Somoza properties.

Even though all three former dictators are dead, some Nicaraguans have predicted that the Somoza family could still make a comeback. The Sandinistas, now the main opposition party, have warned that there is a growing trend of 'Somocismo' within the Chamorro government.

A recent story in the weekly El Semanario and titled 'Is Somocismo Returning?' detailed attempts by Nicaraguan exiles in Miami to recreate Somoza's National Liberal Party.

The story also said Anastasio Somoza Debayle's son is part of a mostly Salvadoran group of who are attempting to buy Aeronica, Nicargua's airline.

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