San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

‘Comandante Cero’ Plans to Retake Managua

MANAGUA – It has been 26 yearssince Edén Pastora captured the world’sattention as the dashing “Comandante Cero”who led a daring 1978 guerrilla raid onManagua’s National Palace and tookCongress hostage.Now, under the banner “For NicaraguaOnce Again,” the larger-than-life Pastoraplans to retake control of the capital city,only this time as Managua’s democraticallyelected mayor.The former revolutionary hero-turnedContra leader held a political rally Sundayafternoon outside his Managua home, wherehe announced to some 500 supporters thathe has been offered the mayoral candidacyfor the minority Liberal Independent Party(PLI).He told the crowd that his politicalmovement For Nicaragua Once Again,which is not an inscribed party, would haveto discuss the offer before making an officialdecision.He confirmed his candidacy to The TicoTimes 48 hours later.AT 67, Pastora is showing no signs ofslowing down and insists that he isapproaching politics with his trademark all or-nothing attitude.“I will definitely win, otherwise I wouldn’tenter,” Pastora told The Tico Times afterSunday’s rally. “I take the Palace, or I don’tdo anything. I make war, or I don’t do anything.I am President or Mayor, or I don’t doanything.”Pastora, who has never held a publicoffice and spent the last decade dabbling asa shark hunter, also has made known hiswillingness to run for President next year, ifany party will offer him the candidacy. Heattempted to run for President in 1996, butthe Supreme Elections Tribunal did not granthis upstart party ballot access.AS a political figure, Pastora is relyingheavily on his historic image as ComandanteCero to rally disenfranchised voters aroundwhat he calls his “mystique” and “historicallegitimacy.”He said he believes his image will translateinto electoral success in a caudillo-dominatedbipartisan political system. On thatsame token, Pastora said, he is not worriedabout competing for the third-party optionwith the upstart Alliance for the Republic, anew political coalition that is challenging thecaudillo – or party boss strongman – votingtradition (TT, June 4).“They are a party without a face, a partywithout a leader. I predict they will have adifficult future,” Pastora said, adding, “Wethink that we will become the true thirdoption that will be the only alternative forNicaragua.”However, like Alliance for Nicaragua,Pastora’s political movement has defineditself only in general terms and has noclear political platform or proposals for thecountry.Pastora had hoped for thousands of supportersfrom around the country to show upat his rally to support his grassroots movementFor Nicaragua Once Again, which herefers to as a “sacred organization.”He blamed the lower-than-expectedturnout on a country that has become politicallyapathetic after years of corrupt administrations.PASTORA the soldier proved to be atough man to tame or beat. He capturedCongress in 1978 with only 25 soldiers andnegotiated the prison release of Sandinistaleaders Daniel Ortega, Omberto Ortega andTomás Borge, before escaping on a charterflight to Cuba. He defected from theSandinista front when he felt the Ortegabrothers sold out the country to the communists,and became the leader of the southernfrontContras in Costa Rica.During the 1980s, Pastora survived severalattempts on his life, including the terroristattack during a press conference at hisjungle headquarters at La Penca 20 yearsago (TT, May 28).What remains to be seen is if Pastora thepolitician will display the same resilienceand luck; if the cult of personality that transformedEdén Pastora the fisherman intoComandante Cero the war hero can again becalled on to make him Mayor of Managua,or perhaps even President of Nicaragua.

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