Black-and-white photos suit the ruggedness of life in Northern Greece’s Pindus mountains. Back in 1961, it certainly didn’t occur to me that one day I would be as old as these men — and yet I have now been retired for 23 years. But it hasn’t meant bench-sitting for me!
Like other intellectuals of his time, the celebrated Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez admired Cuba's Fidel Castro. What's just been revealed, however, is also, as one text reveals, the Sandinista rebels who have stifled Nicaraguan democracy in past years.
BOGOTÁ — Entirely isolated and criticized by the international community, Daniel Ortega was again sworn in earlier this month as president of Nicaragua.
Ortega has now outdone Anastasio Somoza, the despot he helped topple in his youth, with a record 26 years in power and starting a fifth mandate, including a fourth consecutive one and the second with his wife Rosario Murillo as vice-president.
After Cuba's Fidel Castro, he is the regional tyrant most frequently cheered by Colombia's leftist intellectuals, and praised as his people's emancipator from "yankee oppression."
When the Colombian-born Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez died in 2013, Nicaragua's First Lady Murillo published a text he had dedicated to her husband three decades earlier, in which García Márquez proclaimed himself to be a "wandering Sandinista." This, said Mrs. Ortega, was a "declaration of love to Nicaragua, to the revolution and the mystique, to Sandinismo, which is Christianity, socialism and solidarity."
Idealizing the Sandinista revolution
The regime's website recalls that in 1978, wrote Asalto al Palacio (Assault on the Palace), a chronicle "of one of the most decisive events of the struggle against the dictatorship" of Somoza. The text is based on accounts given by participants in the attack on the Nicaraguan parliament that year. The operation was decisive in toppling Somoza the following year, and shared traits with the M-19 guerrillas' assault on the Colombian Supreme Court in 1985.
"It was about taking the palace with just 25 men and holding members of the Chamber of Deputies hostages," García Márquez wrote.
García Márquez's idealized description of the incident is unnerving: "The atmosphere inside was orderly and quiet. On the first floor, many slept peacefully while others engaged in little pastimes they had made up. There was not the slightest sign of hostility, perhaps even the opposite, against the uniformed youngsters inspecting the premises every four hours. In some of the public offices, they made coffee for them and many hostages expressed sympathy and solidarity with them. Even in writing, as they asked to stay on in any case as voluntary hostages... No deputy had put up any resistance.
They were disarmed without a problem and, as the hours passed, one noted an increasing resentment against Somoza, for the delay in reaching an agreement. The guerrillas appeared self-assured and educated, but also highly resolved. Their response to any doubts was firm: unless there was a definitive response within four hours, they would begin executing hostages."
Talk about cynicism: speaking of a quiet, peaceful atmosphere, devoid of hostility, when there was threat of murder.
Fidel Castro in Managua supporting election of Sandinista FSLN candidate Daniel Ortega.
Cuba's influence in Nicaragua
While not surprising, it is troubling that García Márquez kept quiet about the international dimension of the attack and the Cuban regime's definitive influence, if not support, of the operation. As a nickname, Wandering Sandinista is in fact better suited to Renán Montero, the Cuban colonel and longstanding collaborator of the Sandinistas.
In mid-1993, Nicaraguan police were investigating to see if the explosion of an arms cache in a district of the capital Managua was the work of a member of ETA, the Basque terrorist group, known as Paticorto ('Shortleg').The place, known as Miguel's Workshop (El Taller de Miguel), was inside a building rented by one Miguel Larios, purportedly a Spaniard.
It is hard to believe he didn't know any of this
Police inquiries revealed ties between ETA and various Latin American guerrilla groups. Police found there "19 surface-to-air missiles, 200 automatic rifles, grenades and abundant ammunition," 300 false passports from 21 countries, and information on businessmen around Latin America as possible kidnapping targets. Seven people arrested in this police operation included two ETA members, Atxulo and Paticorto.
Ties with Che Guevara
Larios had arrived in Nicaragua in 1983 through the Cuban Colonel Montero, who for years advised the Sandinistas as guerrillas, then as the government. He became the first head of the Sandinista regime's Fifth Security Directorate (D-V), modeled on the Cuban state security agency.
Montero was born in Cuba in the 1930s, and established ties with the Sandinistas from the 1960s, soon after Castro took power in Cuba. He returned to Cuba to enter the country's intelligence services, then accompanied Ernesto "Che" Guevara to start a revolution in Bolivia, acting as his go-between with Cuba. After his expulsion from Bolivia, Montero maintained ties with the legendary figure from Cuba, under the command of Manuel Piñeiro — aka Barbarroja (Redbeard) — the principal tutor to Colombia's M-19 guerrillas and a great friend of García Márquez's.
Montero was then named head of the special schools for foreigners in Cuba, and forged ties with all Latin American insurgent groups. Before Somoza's fall, he worked at the Cuban Trade Office in San José, Costa Rica, from where he backed the Sandinistas.
It is hard to believe García Márquez didn't know any of this when he wrote his romantic chronicle. After all, he knew perfectly well that arms stolen from the Cantón Norte barracks in Bogotá went straight to the Sandinistas. Of that he was informed by another friend and fan: the "Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution," Omar Torrijos.
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