La Penca bombing made today a day for newspeople

Today is the Día Nacional del Periodista in Costa Rica, and it is no coincidence that the date is May 30. That’s the day in 1984 when three newspeople died and many other persons suffered serious injuries when a bomb exploded at a press conference in a Contra rebel camp.

The case still is open, and recent revelations put the crime at the doorstep of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The presumed target of the bombing was rebel leader Eden Pastora, a former Sandinista who turned against the leftist government of Daniel Ortega and became the leader of the so-called Southern Contras.

Pastora is the same person who is now involved with Ortega in the dredging of the Río San Juan and the border dispute with Costa Rica. He is known as Comandante Cero.

Reporters were invited to Pastora’s jungle camp cross the border in Nicaragua in 1984. They traveled in what seems tight security partly in small boats.

One of those who died was Linda Frazier, a reporter for The Tico Times and wife to the Costa Rican bureau chief for The Associated Press. Two Costa Rican Canal 7 camera operators and a rebel also died. The Tico Times still carries Ms. Frazier’s name on its masthead.

From 'Last Chapter: Goodbye, Nicaragua' Peter Torbiörnsson, left, enjoys a friendly visit with Eden Pastora.

This was during the time that the United States was attempting to oust the Ortega regime in Nicaragua on the claim that he was a puppet of Moscow. The Cold War continued to rage. Some accused the United States for wanting to silence Pastora. U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica also were accused of complicity. Many years passed until what seems to be the truth came out.

The Colegio de Periodistas, the journalists’ professional group, is marking the 28th anniversary of the La Penca bombing with afternoon and evening conferences. Among those attending are Wendy Cruz of Univision and Glena Umaña of CNN.

At 2 p.m. the movie “Last Chapter: Goodbye, Nicaragua” will be discussed. This is the documentary by Peter Torbiörnsson, a Sandinista sympathizer and La Penca survivor who came forward in 2009 to accuse the Ortega regime of engineering the bombing. He said he spent time accompanying the suspected bomber, who claimed to be a Danish reporter.  Torbiörnsson said the man was working for the Sandinistas.

In 1993 a Miami Herald reporter managed to identify the bomber as Vital Roberto Gaguine, an Argentine leftist with ties to the Sandinistas. Pastora also attributed the bombing to Ortega’s regime but notes that the time was one of war and he was trying to kill Ortega then, too.

Among other events tonight, the colegio will bestow a medal of honor on La Penca survivor Nelson Murillo Murillo. He has worked for a number of Costa Rican print outlets.

Each year news associations raise the issue of the La Penca bombing because many of the survivors of the attack feel that the investigation is incomplete.

Some have spent years trying to learn the truth. Costa Rican prosecutors have declined to follow the Sandinista allegations. The bombing attack has had a big impact on Costa Rican journalism.

The attack that involved newspeople was a shock in 1984, unlike today when newspeople are killed regularly in México and Honduras as well as elsewhere in the world.

A trailer of the  Torbiörnsson film is HERE!

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