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In Nicaragua, a return of the contras?

A former commando known as 'Comandante Jahob' says he is rearming a group of contras to oppose the reelection of President Daniel Ortega. Former contra leaders and ex-military intelligence tell the Monitor it would be a mistake for the military to dismiss the threat.

A man walks past a painting of Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega in Managua August 7. Ortega returned to power in 2007 in his fourth attempt at reelection – a campaign he ran on promises of 'peace and reconciliation.'

Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters

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Hidden somewhere in the rugged mountains of Estelí, in northern Nicaragua, a former contra commando with CIA training says he’s organizing an armed rebellion against President Daniel Ortega.

José Gabriel Garmendia, a former counterrevolutionary special forces commander known by the codename “Comandante Jahob,” is reportedly leading a group of rearmed contras that promise to “remove Ortega from office with bullets” if the president tries to sidestep the constitution to get himself reelected next year.

US-backed counterrevolutionary forces, or “contras,” battled the left-wing Sandinista government in decade-long civil war in the 1980s, which claimed more than 36,000 lives. When Mr. Ortega and the Sandinistas were voted out of office in 1990, tens of thousands of contras – including Jahob – handed in their weapons and tried to return to civilian life.

Ortega returned to power in 2007 in his fourth attempt at reelection – a campaign he ran on promises of “peace and reconciliation.” But three-and-half years into his second term, Nicaraguan society has become increasingly polarized by Ortega’s government, which critics claim is pushing the country back toward dictatorship.

Ortega’s actions have allegedly forced some contras to return to clandestine struggle, according to Jahob. In a rare phone interview with a local newspaper earlier this month, the mysterious comandante said he and his men are looking for weapons and munitions and are prepared to remain in the mountains as long as they feel it’s necessary to ensure Ortega's ouster.

Military dismisses threat

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