Portraits of The Contras With AM-Stranded Contras, Bjt
Feb. 11, 1989
YAMALES, Honduras (AP) _ They used to be sharecroppers, or soldiers, or just sons and daughters. Now they call themselves ''fighters,'' ''commandos'' or ''guerrillas.''
There are more than 11,000 of them camped in the hills of eastern Honduras, hoping for further U.S. military aid that will allow them to resume their fight.
Here is a look at some of the people who make up the Contras:
Juan Cornejo Cruz, 55, and solid as a rock. A sharecropper and coffee- picker near Jicara in northwestern Nicaragua; Said he joined the rebels two years ago to avoid forced recruitment into the Sandinista reserve. Brought his wife and children out at the end of January because ''the Sandinistas were spying on them and harassing them, saying they were helping the commandos. Which they were.'' Proudly introduces Mari Isabel, 15; Luis Armando, 12; Maria Mercedes, 10; Arbin Alfredo, 7; and ''the big jolly one,'' Concha, 17. They live with two other families in a cramped mud house at the Kilali battalion camp.
Pastor Rodriguez, 78, ''Granadillo.'' Calls himself the oldest Contra, said he last went ''inside'' three years ago but rheumatism prevents him from going again. He owned a coffee farm that produced 150 quintals, or about 30,000 pounds, of beans a year. Normally jolly, he fills the air with curses as he says of the Sandinistas, ''Those dogs stole my farm.'' His six sons also joined the rebels; one has been killed, buried in the mountains. His wife is dead.
''Comandante Mack,'' 38. Head of the Center for Military Instruction and also of Contra intelligence. A man of cynical cast, he looks much older than 38. He served in dictator Anastasio Somoza's army and received training at the U.S. Southern Command in Panama as well as from Argentine intelligence during a time of severe repression. He is among the few who wear an insignia of rank. His mottos, such as ''A leader must be clear about the values he defends,'' decorate blackboards at the school. He has not seen his wife and children in a year; they live in Miami.
Jose Adan, ''Quetzal,'' 18, from Danli in Honduras. He joined the Nicaraguan rebels because ''I felt like it.'' He was wounded in the right hip, now his foot goes to sleep on long marches. He carries a KRT15, a plastic version of the M-16, because it's light, but would prefer the heavier and more powerful Belgian FAL. He was in Danli recently but didn't visit his parents. Has a Honduran fiance in Las Trojes, 12 miles away, and a Nicaraguan ''woman'' in the Yamales camp. ''I'm married for a little while,'' he laughs. When the war ends he plans to join the Salvadoran army and keep on fighting.
Roberto Martinez, ''Comandante Nolan,'' 23, and looks like a teen-ager. Commander of the Kilali battalion. Martinez just found out his parents moved to New York. ''I gave up wealth for the truth that we are now living. There's life and blood here.'' Didn't tell his mother he'd been wounded twice. Last year he married Maria Maren Gonzalez, a woman he met while fighting in Nicaragua. They live together in a 10-by-6 foot hut and are trying for children. ''We're doing our part, anyway.'' They are obviously in love.
''Leopard,'' 14. A go-fer at general staff headquarters, he refuses to give his name ''for security reasons.'' Knows how to clean a rifle with a toothbrush. Two years ago, while his family was working as day laborers on a hacienda, he had a fight with his father over chores; his father beat him. Next day a rebel patrol came by and ''Leopard'' joined them. Since then his father has joined the Sandinista army. ''My father's a piricuaco now. He'd kill me if he found me.'' Doesn't know what he wants to do when he grows up.
Maria de Jesus Gonzalez, called ''Marbelit,'' 19. A cook at the Center for Military Instruction. Left home and walked into the hills where she met a Contra patrol because ''the Sandinistas tortured my brother.'' A family of sharecroppers. Likes having so many men around ''so I can make tortillas for all of them.'' Much ribald laughter from all within earshot.
Oscar Sanchez Castillo, 28. A former sharecropper who didn't want to join a Sandinista cooperative, which would have prevented him from selling much of his crop to the highest bidder. Now an officer candidate, he hasn't seen his wife and two children in six years. ''It's sad.'' He shrugs. His cheek and lip are scarred by a bullet wound. What will he do when the war is over? ''Look for a new life as a sharecropper.''