Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Adolfo Calero, 80, a Leader of Contra Rebels

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Adolfo Calero, 80, a Leader of Contra Rebels

Article excerpt

Adolfo Calero played a major role in the Iran-contra scandal, lobbying in Washington for aid for his anti-Communist forces and testifying before the U.S. Congress.

Adolfo Calero, a leader of the U.S.-backed contra rebels who fought Nicaragua's revolutionary Sandinista government and eventually achieved its ouster through democratic elections, died Saturday in Managua. He was 80.

The cause was pneumonia, said his adviser Julio Romero, Nicaraguan newspapers reported.

Mr. Calero played a major role in the Iran-contra scandal, lobbying in Washington for aid for his anti-Communist forces and testifying before Congress when it began investigating the Reagan administration's efforts to funnel money to the contras despite a congressional ban on such aid.

The contra rebels' fight against the Sandinistas was a centerpiece of President Ronald Reagan's anti-Communist efforts in the 1980s. But although he called the contra leaders "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers," Congress cut off financing for the contra war in 1984.

In testimony before investigators looking into secret arms sales to Iran and covert financing schemes for the contras, Mr. Calero described how he helped set up secret bank accounts and dummy corporations to receive money after the congressional ban was imposed. Most of the money came from Saudi Arabia, apparently at the suggestion of U.S. officials.

Mr. Calero said he never asked where the money had come from.

"When you're in the desert and you're dying of thirst, you don't ask if the water they are giving you is Schweppes or Perrier," he said. "You don't care," he added. "You drink the damn thing."

Mr. Calero acknowledged receiving help in buying more than $18 million in military equipment, and receiving $14 million in donations to buy food, clothing and other supplies. Some of the money came from the sales of arms to Iran in an effort to free American hostages held by Iranian-backed groups in Lebanon.

Mr. Calero said he had given $50,000 in traveler's checks to Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, the former National Security Council aide who was at the center of those efforts. …

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