HomeNewsAnalysisNicaragua ‘Armed Groups’ Raise Specter of Contra Warfare
ANALYSIS

Nicaragua ‘Armed Groups’ Raise Specter of Contra Warfare

NICARAGUA / 30 MAY 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

In Nicaragua, a shadowy organization claims to have launched a successful attack against the security forces as part of their crusade against President Daniel Ortega, whose government denies that the group are any more than countryside bandits. Where does the truth lie?

The group, which calls itself the Democratic Command Front 3-80, claims it attacked a group of police on May 3 in Nicaragua’s northern Jinotega department, seriously wounding two officers and causing the police to flee. The security forces contested this, stating that the attack was in fact launched on eight civilians, all part of a single family, in a different part of the country. The military confirmed that six men, wearing military uniform and armed with AK-47s, carried out this attack, but described them as cattle rustlers.

As Nicaragua Dispatch details, a few days later an individual claiming to be a commander of Front 3-80 called a local reporter and stated that his group was committed to carrying out an “armed struggle” against Ortega. The phone call echoed public statements released in 2011 in the name of Front 3-80, which declared that they would “continue to grow until there are democracy and institutions in Nicaragua,” adding, “We have taken up arms because this country has a dictatorship government, a violator of the constitution.”

Front 3-80 is just one of several groups claiming to be made up of rearmed Contras, determined to fight the Ortega regime. The groups have adopted a range of names, from the Patriotic Nicaraguan Command (Copan) to the Armed Forces for National Salvation (FASN), many of them references to Contra leaders active during the 1980s civil war.

The security forces deny the very existence of these groups, describing them as thieves, drunks, and common criminals. “Those who say they’ve formed an organization could not sustain a situation of combat with the military, because they don’t exist,” one military spokesman bluntly told La Prensa last year.

But by the military’s own admission, the May 3 attacks were carried out by an armed cell equipped with weapons far too sophisticated for mere cattle rustlers. The Contra groups, who claimed earlier this year that they were now united beneath an umbrella organization, have made a point of emphasizing their political agenda. “We are not criminal bands, we are armed commandos, fighting for liberty, democracy and justice in our country,” the rebels told El Nuevo Diario in 2011.

Adding to their patina of legitimacy, several prominent rearmed Contra fighters have been killed in mysterious circumstances in the past year. If the military’s claims are correct and there are no rearmed rebels in Nicaragua, it raises the question of who considered the victims enough of a threat to kill them. First, ex-Contra leader Jose Gabriel Garmendia, alias “Comandante Jahob,” was shot to death under mysterious circumstances in February 2011, as InSight Crime reported. In early 2012, another former Contra fighter, Santos Guadalupe Borges, alias “Pablo Negro,” the alleged leader of the Front 3-80, was shot and killed in Honduras near the Nicaraguan border. And as Nicaragua Dispatch reported, an alleged ally of Yahob, known as “Comandante Byron,” was assassinated on February 29.

It is possible that the May 3 assault was intended as revenge for these killings. After Pablo Negro’s death, Front 3-80 issued a statement declaring that they would strike against the government in reprisal. “We are going to take several measures and there will be pressure in the political arena as well as the military,” a man claiming to be a rearmed leader told a local TV station.

If a rearmed Contra group was behind the armed attack in May, it would be one indication that, at the very least, the groups have the arms and the will to carry out violent ambushes. But, for now, the real battle may be forcing the Ortega administration to admit their existence, something which is extremely unlikely to happen unless the groups prove themselves capable of carrying out a large-scale attack. As one self-proclaimed Front 3-80 commander told La Prensa, “It’s not convenient for the government to legitimize our activity. They will lie to us and always say that we’re a criminal band. Why? Because if they say internationally that they have guerrillas and armed opposition in Nicaragua it will get bad politically.”

Image, above, shows “Comandante Jahob” with the Contras in 1982

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Related Content

NICARAGUA / 12 DEC 2011

Nicaragua's Navy reported that it has seized 4.7 tons of cocaine so far in 2011.

AMAURI CARMONA MORELOS / 28 AUG 2017

Authorities in Nicaragua are discreetly prosecuting a major underworld figure from the country's Caribbean coast, highlighting the area's important but…

COCAINE / 18 JUL 2014

Authorities in Nicaragua have seized approximately 886 kilos of cocaine over the past two weeks near the border with Costa…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…