Rebels Debut at Contra 'Freedom Gala' in L.A.

Times Staff Writer

Two Nicaraguan anti-Communist rebels made their debut at Los Angeles' first fund-raiser for their cause at the Beverly Wilshire on Wednesday night, drawing about 100 supporters inside and more than 1,500 demonstrators outside the hotel on Wilshire Boulevard.

The $100-per-couple "Nicaraguan Freedom Gala" was sponsored by the conservative Council on Inter-American Security to raise funds for a nationwide radio advertising campaign that the Washington-based group plans to mount before Congress votes on a $14-million aid bill for the contras. Council Director L. Francis Bouchey said that the campaign will target 50 congressional districts considered swing votes.

Fernando Chamorro, a member of the rebel group ARDE, and Miskito Indian rebel fighter Steadman Fagoth strode into the elegant banquet room to the music of "God Bless America" and accompanied by two Nicaraguan fighters in camouflage khakis.

"We are not fighting Nicaraguans; we don't want to kill Nicaraguans," declared Chamorro, who said he was making his first public attempt to speak in English. "We are fighting against Russians, Libyans, Cubans . . . to save America. We need the help of the American people. President Reagan says he is happy to be on our side. I am happy to be on his side."

8 Republicans Co-Sponsor

The event was co-sponsored by eight Southern California Republican politicians--including Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, and Reps. Daniel Lungren of Long Beach, Robert Lagormarsino of Santa Barbara and Robert K. Dornan of Garden Grove. None of the politicians was present.

"I pray to God that Congress votes to stiffen resistance against the tyrannical Sandinistas," Antonovich wrote in a letter apologizing for his absence.

Eleven area Democrats issued a spur-of-the-moment declaration of their own at a press conference staged at the hotel by more than a dozen groups opposed to U.S. aid to the rebels.

"In efforts to recruit support for further aid to the contras, the Administration has renamed these terrorists 'freedom fighters,' " the statement read. "Tonight's fund-raiser shows to what lengths the Reagan Administration and its supporters will go to twist facts and subvert the American will."

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