The commander of a Sandinista training camp near the Nicaraguan border with Costa Rica is confident his troops will defeat President Somoza's national Guard.
TRACKING SHOT ALONG ROAD near Costa Rican border with Nicaragua
GV Sandinista trainees swimming in river (2 shots)
SV Sandinista trainees running through bush
GV Sandinistas running to stand at attention with their weapons
CU Sandinista commander Alejandro speaking in English
SV Young recruits training with guns
GV Commander Alejandro speaking in English as recruits stand by and young Sandinista answers question in English (2 shots)
SV Women recruits training with guns in field (2 shots)
SCU Commander Alejandro speaking in English to interviewer (3 shots)
GV Women recruits training with guns in field (2 shots)
GV Sandinistas relaxing and eating (2 shots)
SV & CU Sandinistas shooting at firing range (5 shots)
ALPERT; "We drove through the hills along the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border until we came to this river. At first glance it looked like a boy scout camp. In reality it is the main training camp for the Sandinista guerrillas. No journalist had been allowed in this camp before. Two hundred volunteers show up each week from Nicaragua and other Latin American countries. Most of them have never held a rifle in their lives, and there is only one gun for every three recruits. The commander of the camp is Alejandro. He was an architecture student in Arizona state. We asked why he came back to join the guerrillas."
ALEJANDRO: "It is a tradition with every Nicaraguan. You have got to join the front. I mean it is a fifty year-old war. So, how can you go? You can stay over there and look back on a sinking ship if you want to. or you can have a little conscience and think that all those people you left behind are your brothers and sisters, your own family."
ALPERT: "The recruits are eager but uncoordinated. To hurry men to the front the training has been cut down from two months to four days. Any Nicaraguan who wants to fight is accepted."
ALEJANDRO; "We have got an insurance salesman."
ALPERT: "And this one here, what does he do?"
ALEJANDRO: "He was a teaching student at the University."
ALPERT: "And this one here?"
ALEJANDRO: "What did you used to do?"
TRAINEE: "I have just finished high school."
ALPERT: "Are you afraid that you might get killed?"
TRAINEE: "No, because sometime you have got to get killed you know, so I am just not afraid."
ALPERT: "How old are you?"
TRAINEE: "Sixteen years old."
ALPERT: "The women are given a month's extra training. Even blindfolded they can take apart and reassemble their rifles in less than two minutes.
"Which one of these do you think is the best fighter of this group here?"
ALEJANDRO: "They are all good, but she has had more training."
ALPERT: "This one here? how old is she?"
ALEJANDRO: "She is fifteen. She came with three other kids. When they came they placed a bomb on a lieutenant's jeep and blew him and three soldiers to bits. Yeah, her and the other three boys."
ALPERT: "There are daily exercises in commando tactics. Today the women are practising an assault on a machine-gun next.
"Camp life is relaxed and the food is good, even if the meat is iguana.
"After lunch the recruits went to the shooting range, located in a old cow pasture. Only two men hit the target in a whole afternoon of practice, but this is they only change they will get to fire a rifle before going into battle. Their opponents. Somoza's National Guard, have had years of training. But Alejandro says it does not make any difference, his troops will win."
REPORTER: JOHN ALPERT
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The commander of a Sandinista training camp near the Nicaraguan border with Costa Rica is confident his troops will defeat President Somoza's national Guard. But at the bush training camp his troops are often very young. They receive only four days' training, and spend just one afternoon firing on the rifle range before going into battle. There appears, however, to be no shortage of volunteers, with hundreds of young rebels arriving at the bush training camp every week. This report from John Alpert.