Nicaraguans who saw their cash drop to one-fifth its former value are complaining about President Violeta Chamorro's tough economic measures, but many see the steps as necessary to heal a sick economy.

The 80 percent devaluation and sharp price increases for staples, utilities and fuel were balanced by a tripling of government salaries and protection of all money in savings accounts at its previous value.But the possibility of strife loomed as Sandinista labor unions threatened possibly violent protests to push for big salary increases for their members. Police patrols were increased around the city Monday.

Chamorro was defiant. "I am not afraid of anything," she said. "I was elected to govern, and that's what I'm doing."

Chamorro announced the devaluation on Sunday. It is aimed at bringing some order to Nicaragua's long troubled economy before a meeting on March 25 in Washington with representatives of lending institutions and governments being asked to provide $400 million in aid.

Nicaragua is trying to overcome the effects of a nine-year war between U.S.-backed rebels and the Sandinista government that was replaced when Chamorro was elected last year.

Homemakers complained Monday that the 80 percent devaluation of the cordoba left them without enough money to cover basic needs. The devaluation meant that each $1 worth of cordobas anyone was holding in cash or a checking account was worth only 20 cents on Monday.