By GLENN GARVIN
Herald Staff Writer
MANAGUA -- Eden Pastora, who has shot it out with enemies in the National
Palace and laid ambushes for them in the jungle, is fighting what may be his last
great battle from a mattress on a downtown sidewalk.
For 28 days, the 61-year-old Pastora has been camped out across the street
the offices of Nicaragua's electoral tribunal, conducting a hunger strike in hopes of
forcing the agency to restore his right to run for president.
The fast has taken its toll. His face is gaunt, the paunch that padded
his belly in
recent years is completely gone, and his voice is low and weary.
``It would be kind of ironic if I died here, after all the places I've
it?'' mused Pastora, who has lost 35 pounds on a diet of nothing but water and
fruit juice. ``But I'm not eating until that woman admits her error and fixes it.''
``That woman'' is Rosa Marina Zelaya, head of the Supreme Electoral Council.
Pastora blames her for the tribunal's decision to throw him off the 1996
presidential ballot and rule him ineligible for any further races.
Zelaya, though she has taken to slipping into her office through a back
avoid the sight of Pastora, remains otherwise unmoved by his hunger strike.
``Pastora enjoys all civil and political rights, but he can't be a presidential
because he renounced his Nicaraguan citizenship once,'' she said. ``There's nothing
we can do about it.''
As his fast drags on, doctors have begun to express concerns about Pastora's
health. And political analysts have noted that the ruling that keeps Pastora off the
ballot threatens to disqualify other Nicaraguans who went into exile and adopted
foreign citizenship during the country's strife.
Pastora catapulted to fame in 1978 when, as a commander of the leftist
guerrillas battling right-wing President Anastasio Somoza, he seized the National
Palace in the heart of Managua.
With just two dozen guerrillas, Pastora took 1,500 hostages, including
entire Congress and several members of the Somoza family. He eventually forced
the government to pay a $500,000 ransom and release about 50 imprisoned
When the Sandinistas took over Nicaragua the next year, Pastora joined
revolutionary government. But as it veered left, he bolted back into the jungle and
led a band of Contra rebels against his old comrades.
When Nicaragua's civil wars ended in 1990, Pastora returned from exile.
when he tried to run for president in 1996, the electoral tribunal scratched him
from the ballot.
The Nicaraguan Constitution says no one who has ever renounced Nicaraguan
citizenship can hold the presidency. The tribunal ruled that Pastora had lost his
Nicaraguan citizenship by becoming a Costa Rican citizen in 1976. It tribunal
disqualified two other candidates for president and one for vice president on the
same grounds. Its rulings cannot be appealed.
Pastora said he applied for Costa Rican citizenship only because it made
for the Sandinista guerrillas to smuggle guns through the country during their war
against Somoza. He never intended to give up his status as a Nicaraguan citizen.
Pastora says he won't give up his quest.
``I'm going to stay out here until they restore all my constitutional rights,''
``I'll win, because I'm not afraid of death. I laugh at death. I've been beaten, but
never defeated. I've been beaten, but I've never surrendered.''
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald