June 16, 2020 / 6:15 PM / 2 months ago

Nicaragua's legendary guerrilla, Eden Pastora, dies at 83

FILE PHOTO: Legendary Sandinista guerrilla Eden Pastora Gomez, once known as "Commander Zero," talks to supporters and journalists outside Nicaragua's National Palace, where he began a hunger strike August 22, 1998./File Photo

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaragua’s legendary leftist guerrilla Eden Pastora, known as ‘Commander Zero,’ died early on Tuesday at age 83 of respiratory arrest, his son said.

Pastora was one of the most respected Sandinista guerrilla commanders in the 1979 overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza, and an on-and-off ally of former Sandinista guerrilla leader and current President Daniel Ortega.

Pastora had entered a military hospital in capital Managua for treatment 10 days ago with respiratory problems, hospital representatives said.

His son Alvaro Pastora, one his many children, confirmed to Reuters that his father had died of respiratory arrest. He declined to comment on whether his father had contracted the coronavirus, which has been spreading fast in Nicaragua.

The ex-commander’s heroic reputation dates to 1978, when he led a squad of Sandinista troops in capturing the National Palace and demanding the release of imprisoned guerrillas. The exploit helped bring fellow rebel Ortega, who is now in his second stint as president, to power the following year.

But shortly after, Pastora lost faith in the Sandinista government, saying the spirit of the revolution had been lost.

He fled to Costa Rica and from there took up arms against his former colleagues for eight years. Upon his return to Nicaragua, he unsuccessfully attempted to run for mayor, led right-wing parties and, in 2006, ran a failed bid for the presidency.

When Ortega took office in 2007, the pair reconciled. After mass protests against Ortega’s administration rocked the country in 2018, Pastora met with former leftist guerrillas across the country, asking them to support the present.

“Daniel is not alone. We the old-timers are here, shoulder to shoulder with our people,” Pastora said.

Reporting by Ismael Lopez, Writing by Daina Beth Solomon Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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