A majority of Lawrence residents and Kansas University students participating in a referendum think the United States should accept the findings of international observers concerning the validity of Sunday's Nicaraguan elections, a member of a Latin American interest group says.
Marc Becker, a member of Latin American Solidarity, said Friday that several hundred people are taking part in the referendum to determine local opinion about the elections and U.S. policy toward Nicaragua.
"My guess is that an overwhelming majority will vote yes to question number one that the U.S. should accept valid results of the elections, no matter who wins," Becker said.
The LAS referendum, which allows anyone to register their opinion, consists of four "yes or no" questions.
Becker predicted a majority of respondents would favor "normalizing" relations and ending the U.S. trade embargo with Nicaragua.
HE ALSO predicted most people would mark "no" on whether to continue to finance the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, even if the ruling Sandinista party wins Sunday's elections.
"Most people find the Contra war that we are fighting over there to be immoral," he said.
"I don't think anyone agrees completely with U.S. policy there."
Becker spoke while working behind an LAS information table set up Friday in the Kansas Union.
Referendum ballots are available until 4 p.m. today at Adventure A Bookstore, 836 Mass., Liberty Hall, 642 Mass., and Natural Way, 820 Mass.
Referendum results will be announced at an LAS candlelight vigil beginning at 7 p.m. today near the bandstand in South Park. The vigil is intended to emphasize the importance of Sunday's elections in Nicaragua and to support the continuing peace process in Central America.
LIZ MAGGARD, LAS coordinator, said referendum results would be sent to members of the Kansas congressional delegation.
U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Topeka, arrived in Nicaragua on Friday as one of several observers to the elections.
Slattery's press secretary, Ken Murphy, said Slattery was one of a four-member observer team sent under the auspices of the Organization of American States. Members of that organization, along with members of the United Nations, will be the principle monitors of Sunday's elections.
Charles Stansifer, a KU Latin American specialist currently on leave, also is in Nicaragua as an observer for the Latin American Studies Assn.
The Lawrence LAS group was formed in 1978 to raise public awareness of the Nicaraguan civil war. Since then, the organization has been concerned with other Latin American issues, such as the civil war in El Salvador and the destruction of South American rain forests, Becker said.
LAS consists of about 20 Lawrence residents and KU students who meet weekly. The group also holds rice and beans dinners, which feature informational programs.
Sunday's voting in Nicaragua has increased normal public participation in LAS-sponsored events, Becker said.
"When a hot issue comes up, that automatically raises interest," he said.