Eden Pastora, the revolutionary hero who later took up arms against Nicaragua's left-wing Sandinista government, returned home Sunday after eight years of exile and condemned the leftist government and the U.S.-backed opposition.
A crowd of 2,000 welcomed Pastora at a rally outside the National Palace, which he had captured with a squad of Sandinista troops in one of the most famous exploits of the 1979 war against former dictator Anastasio Somoza.
Pastora, known as "Commander Zero," has returned to campaign for the Social Christian Party, a centrist alternative to the two main contenders in next February's elections, the Sandinista Front and the National Opposition Union, a coalition dominated by the right wing.
The official campaign for the elections opens today.
Pastora, 52, said the Social Christians, with whom he has aligned himself for the Feb. 25 elections, are the true followers of Nicaraguan nationalist hero Augusto Cesar Sandino.
"We are anti-imperialist with Moscow, and we are anti-imperialist with Washington," Pastora told the crowd.
He called for creation of a government independent of Soviet and U.S. influence.
"I propose a third type of government . . . without the influence of Soviet tanks or dollars from the United States," he said.
Pastora, who is not a candidate for any office, was one of the most respected Sandinista guerrilla commanders. But, two years after the 1979 revolution, he fled to Costa Rica and took up arms against his former colleagues.
After he refused to merge his fighters with U.S.-backed Contras operating from Honduras in 1984, Pastora was cut off from U.S. funds and eventually gave up his armed struggle in 1986.