León’s mayor-elect, former rebel commander Manuel Calderón, denies that the defunct Sandinista special-ops group he helped found to fight Anastasio Somoza’s National Guard in the 1970s and then U.S.- backed Contra rebels in the ’80s has been reactivated to stymie opposition protests in the colonial city.
Calderón was one of the original founders of the Pablo Uveda Troops (TPU), named after an intrepid guerrilla fighter who fell to Somoza’s gunmen in 1967.
Calderón denied an allegation in a recent article published by the daily El Nuevo Diario that reported former Sandinista special-ops soldiers were being mobilized to train Sandinista Councils of Citizen Power (CPCs) to undermine opposition protests in León leading up to the Nov. 9 elections.
The article came out shortly after President Daniel Ortega met with TPU leaders at the HotelCrownPlaza in August.
Ortega said he would enlist the demobilized troops to help in the Sandinista literacy campaign, and to distribute medicine and 25,000 Venezuelan-funded gas tanks and stoves.
Ortega predicted that his enlisting the troops in his social programs would draw fire from opposition.
“I can imagine the headlines: ‘Pablo Ubeda Troops Meet, What an Outrage!’ and ‘They’re reorganizing the Pablo Ubeda Troops!’ They’ll say we’re organizing for who knows what malignant objectives, because they’re always thinking about malignant things, because they are the devil.
“And what can we say to our Nicaraguan brothers? That, yes … the Pablo Ubeda Troops are being organized – this time to combat hunger, unemployment, and a lack of health and education.”
The El Nuevo Diario article, based on interviews with former TPU troops who broke from the Sandinista Front, said the government is giving the troops work in exchange for their support in undermining opposition – an allegation Calderón denies.
Though Calderón’s Liberal Party rival Ariel Terán claims the former Sandinista special-ops troops may have been involved in the attack on Radio Dario, Calderón insisted the group is no longer active.
“That group has disappeared, some may still be around and active in the Sandinista Front, but they’ve disappeared,” Calderón told The Nica Times in an interview at his office in León.
Though he said the group was as small as 250 members, others say there are more than 1,000 men in the group.
In the 1980s, Calderón served as the second-in-command of the now defunct Sandinista State Security Directorate, which was run by Sandinista spy boss Lenin Cerna.
The week before the election, local press ran front page stories about Cerna’s visit to Leon with Sandinista leaders, in which he was allegedly coordinating an electoral fraud. But Calderón said Cerna, now the Sandinista Party’s Secretary of Organization, simply came to help get out the vote on Nov. 9.