MANAGUA — Standing on the floor of the old national legislature where he and a group of Sandinista rebels sparked a national insurrection 30 years ago, legendary guerrilla leader Eden Pastora urges Nicaraguan youth to continue the revolution after he and his graying comrades have passed away.
''You need to be more revolutionary,'' Pastora, 71, told the packed audience of high-school students, as part of the government's weeklong commemoration of the assault on the National Palace. "Sandinismo and the revolution are the only instruments that can save this country.''
Pastora first introduced the world to the Sandinista revolution on Aug. 22, 1978, as the dashing Comandante Cero who took the entire legislature of 90 lawmakers hostage and then forced dictator Anastasio Somoza to agree to a prisoner swap for jailed Sandinista rebels.
On Friday, he will be among several surviving commandos from that operation who will be decorated in a medal ceremony at the palace.
''You are heroes and you will always be,'' said one female student who addressed Pastora and seven other commandos on behalf of her classmates. ''Today Nicaragua is free, thanks to your initiative, your bravery.'' Pastora, the only one of the 25 rebels in his commando unit who refused to hide his face behind a red and black bandanna during the hostage-taking, became an icon of the Sandinista revolution when he victoriously raised his assault rifle above his head before boarding the plane that took the rebels and freed prisoners to Cuba.
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