Ex-Sandinista hungers for Nicaraguan presidency
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Reuters) -- Eden Pastora, the Sandinista guerrilla
who captured Nicaragua's National Palace in 1978, returned to the scene of
his famous triumph Saturday and launched a hunger strike in the hope of
running for president.
Pastora marched with his family and a small group of supporters to the
to mark the 20th anniversary of his military victory as "Commander Zero," and
to protest a ruling that prohibits him from running for president based on
questions about his citizenship.
"Yesterday, with weapons in hand, we came here to defend the rights of
Nicaraguans," said Pastora, his olive green fatigues of yesteryear replaced
with a white shirt and slacks.
"Now we come civically to again risk our lives in defense of Nicaraguans'
Supporters shouted, "Long live Commander Zero!" Then he entered the
national museum that once was the seat of Gen. Anastasio Somoza's
dictatorship -- which Pastora seized with two-dozen commandos -- lay down
on a straw mat, loosened his belt and the laces of his polished combat boots
and began a hunger strike in solidarity with Nicaragua's poor.
He pledged to fast for "as long as my body resists and God is willing."
Pastora is among Nicaragua's most legendary and controversial figures.
capture of the National Palace proved central to the success of the
Marxist-inspired Sandinista revolution, which deposed Somoza a year later.
Pastora was named to the Sandinista regime but later defected to lead a
movement during the U.S.-backed Contra uprising of the 1980s. He fled to
Costa Rica in 1986 and returned to Managua in 1990, when the civil war
ended and the Sandinistas lost power in an election.
In 1996, the Supreme Electoral Council barred his candidacy for president
the Democratic Action Party ticket, ruling that Pastora renounced his
allegiance to Nicaragua when he became a Costa Rican citizen in 1977 for
strategic reasons at the request of the Sandinista leadership.
But Pastora said Nicaraguan law allowed him to maintain dual nationality.
Furthermore, Costa Rican officials cancelled his citizenship in 1981 due to his
failure to disavow his Nicaraguan allegiance, he said.
He presented journalists with an array of documents supporting his appeal
the chance to run for president in 2001.
Pastora labeled the Supreme Electoral Council's decision purely political,
denouncing "loathsome politicians" of both the left and the right and calling for
a nonpartisan government.
The Sandinista leadership, he charged, betrayed the people's revolution
installing a "Marxist-Leninist dictatorship."
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