Nicaraguan rebel leader Eden Pastora, the "Commander Zero" of the Sandinista revolution, asked Congress yesterday for more than zero of any new U.S. aid for anti-Sandinista guerrilla forces.
Pastora made his appeal in Washington as the House prepared to vote on new U.S. humanitarian or other nonlethal aid to the rebel forces, known as contras.
The Reagan administration has not made clear how the funds would be distributed, or specifically to whom, if the aid program clears Congress. Five conservative senators headed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) asked Reagan in a recent letter to provide one-third of the money to forces associated with Pastora's Revolutionary Democratic Alliance (ARDE).
"I have 10,000 men, including 7,000 of them armed . . . at the moment without ammunition, weapons or boots," Pastora told Washington Post editors and reporters. In the past 15 days, he said, the Sandinista army has launched an offensive against his forces in southern Nicaragua, a battle he called "the war of silence."
Pastora said he is requesting medicine, food and clothing as humanitarian aid for "hundreds of thousands" of civilians in his southern Nicaragua area of operations, as well as "those who have been in combat" among his troops.
Pastora was among the most celebrated military leaders of the Sandinista revolution, which overthrew President Anastasio Somoza in July 1979. After serving as a deputy minister in the Sandinista government following the revolution, he left Nicaragua in July 1981 and denounced the Sandinista regime in April 1982 on grounds it had sold out to Cuban and Soviet influence. The Central Intelligence Agency provided indirect support to Pastora and his southern-based rebels from October 1983 to February 1984, according to reports, but cut off the funds after pressuring Pastora unsuccessfully to join with the northern-based Nicaraguan Democratic Front (FDN).
Pastora narrowly escaped death May 30, 1984, in a bomb explosion during a news conference at his headquarters inside southern Nicaragua. Three journalists and a guerrilla were killed. He said yesterday that he is still suffering from wounds inflicted then and that he still has no definite information on who tried to kill him -- "either the extreme left or the extreme right."
In recent fighting, Pastora said yesterday, Sandinista troops have managed to take control of 50 kilometers along the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border. A Sandinista attack across the Costa Rican border in which two Costa Rican policemen were killed was aimed at his guerrillas, Pastora said. He insisted that all of his forces are inside Nicaragua rather than Costa Rica, however.
Pastora said he has received no word from the Reagan administration about a possible share for his troops and civilian population if Congress passes the new aid program. Sources close to Pastora said a meeting with administration officials had been planned during his stay here this week, but that the meeting was canceled by the administration.