Nora Astorga, 39, Nicaragua's ambassador to the United Nations who became a romantic symbol of the Sandinista revolution after luring an enemy general to his death in her bedroom, died of cancer Feb. 14 in Managua. She had returned to Nicaragua from New York last month.
In March 1978, she used her charm to persuade Gen. Reynaldo Perez Vega, deputy commander of the National Guard of Nicaragua and a close adviser to President Anastasio Somoza, to visit her. She later told reporters that while undressing him, she embraced him in a way that enabled five Sandinista guerrillas to leap from her closets and subdue him. The general later was found wrapped in a Sandinista flag with a slit throat.
Ambassador Astorga never denied her role in the general's death. Years later she told a Washington Post reporter, "I never felt guilty. The plan was to kidnap him, but he fought back and had to be killed . . . . It was something you had to do for revolutionary justice. He had killed so many. He was a monster."
After the killing, Ambassador Astorga fled to the jungles, where she became a leader in the guerrilla movement and caught the popular imagination. Pictures of her wearing fatigues and carrying an AK-47 assault rifle appeared. It also was learned that she had been active in radical student groups while earning her law degree at Catholic University in Managua, had been a Sandinista courier, and had run "safe houses" for the movement.
Following the overthrow of Somoza in 1979, she became chief prosecutor of the 6,000 people tried by the new government as war criminals. She then joined the Foreign Ministry, where she gained a reputation as an administrator and rose to its number three post, deputy foreign minister. In 1984, the U.S. government rejected her nomination as ambassador to the United States. In February 1986, she became her country's ambassador to the United Nations.
She arrived in New York as a celebrity. She championed women's rights, leftist causes, and the downtrodden. Her personal tastes included classical music and designer fashions. She was featured in newspaper stories and television news programs. Ambassador Astorga attended international women's conferences, spoke throughout the United States and much of the world about her country's revolution, and became admired for the influence she gained at the U.N.
She helped Nicaragua win election to the U.N. Security Council, swaying others to her country's interests in eloquent and husky English, Spanish and Italian. Diplomats told how she disarmed people, serving as a living proof that her people were not Russian-speaking communist monsters.
The daughter of a family long favored by the Somoza dictatorship, Ambassador Astorga was born into wealth. She grew up on the family estate and in Managua. A grandfather, who was a rich landowner, had served Somoza as defense minister..
She studied at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and then returned to Nicaragua, where she became prominent in its social whirl. She married and had two children before graduating from law school there. She then studied for a year in Europe and was a lawyer for a construction company before she abandoned wealth, privilege and children to become a celebrated revolutionary.
Ambassador Astorga was twice divorced and is survived by five children.
CLAYTON W. McNEILL
DEA Staff Assistant
Clayton W. McNeill, 68, a retired staff assistant with the Drug Enforcement Administration who was a member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Annandale, died of cancer Feb. 11 at Fair Oaks Hospital. He lived in Springfield.
Mr. McNeill, who moved to this area in 1972, was a native of New Mexico. He was a graduate of Northern Illinois University. He had been an electrical engineer and systems analyst for private companies and a systems analyst for the American Medical Association, all in Illinois. He also had spent two years as a systems analyst with LTV Corp. in Texas before moving here and joining the DEA. He retired in 1987.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara, of Springfield; four daughters, Andrea Guanci of Hoffman Estates, Ill., Deborah McNeill of Pittsburgh, Kathleen McNeill of Arlington and Jennifer Miller of Herndon; a brother, three sisters and three grandchildren.
NORMAN GENE SCHRAG
State Department Interpreter
Norman Gene Schrag, 40, an interpreter and escort with the State Department since 1976, died Feb. 3 of cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He lived in Takoma Park.
Dr. Schrag was born in Freeman, S.D. He graduated from Goshen College in Indiana and received a doctorate in African Studies from Indiana University. He moved to the Washington area about 1971 and was the assistant curator with the Museum of African Art before joining the State Department.
Survivors include his parents, Harley and Irene Schrag of Marion, S.D.; four sisters, Gean Lauver of Takoma Park, Eloise Lehmann of Rochester, N.Y., and Charlotte Sprunger and Rosalie Schrag, both of Goshen, Ind.