Self-proclaimed Somoza assassin sentenced for army base attack
By DANIEL ZADUNAISKY
Associated Press Writer
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - A leftist guerrilla and self-proclaimed
assassin of deposed Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio
Somoza was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for leading an assault on an Argentine army base that killed 39 people.
A federal three-judge panel on Wednesday found Enrique Gorriaran Merlo
guilty of leading the 1989 attack on La Tablada
barracks southwest of the capital. The panel sentenced Gorriaran's ex-wife Ana Maria Sivori to 18 years for her role as
More than 70 people were wounded in the attack.
Gorriaran, 56, will have to spend at least 25 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
Gorriaran is the last surviving leader of the People's Revolutionary Army,
an urban guerrilla group that was active from the
mid-1960s until a 1976 coup d'etat deposed then-President Isabel Peron.
Argentina's military responded to the leftist movement with a ``dirty war,''
snatching thousands of suspects off streets or from their
homes, then torturing and killing them.
Gorriaran fled Argentina after the coup and served with Sandinista forces
that overthrew Somoza in 1979. He returned to Argentina
in 1983 after the restoration of elected government.
In 1980, Gorriaran says, he participated in the killing of Somoza, who
was then living in exile in Asuncion, Paraguay. Guerrillas
armed with a bazooka and automatic weapons ambushed Somoza's car on an Asuncion street.
His involvement made him a hero to the Sandinistas.
For two decades, Gorriaran freely traveled Latin America, using false papers and with little evident fear of being caught.
He was arrested in 1995 at a Mexico City restaurant and was hustled aboard a private plane that returned him to Argentina.
Gorriaran regaled his captors on the plane ride home with tales of his
adventures, including late-night chats with Cuban leader Fidel
Sivori was arrested later that year in Rosario, 100 miles northwest of the capital, Buenos Aires, where she was visiting her mother.
Prosecutor Pablo Quiroga had requested life sentences for both Gorriarian and Sivori.
Quiroga said there was ``no doubt'' that Gorriaran gave the order to attack
the Tablada barracks. Sivori was with him when he
gave the order and was therefore a ``co-author'' of the assault, Quiroga said.
The attack, carried out by a group of young, poorly trained leftists, was
quelled after more than 30 hours of fighting in which 31
attackers and eight policemen were killed.
Twenty guerrillas were caught and most were sentenced to life in prison.
The survivors said at their trial that the attack was meant to thwart an
alleged right-wing military coup being planned against
then-President Raul Alfonsin. The claim never was proved and was received with widespread skepticism.