La Penca 1984 bombing. Photo: La Nacion archives
La Penca 1984 bombing. Photo: La Nacion archives

Associated Press –  Costa Rica’s attorney general says an investigation of the 1984 La Penca bombing that killed three journalists and four Nicaraguan rebels at a news conference has been closed after officials determined the only suspect has been dead for decades.

Attorney General Jorge Chavarria says DNA tests verified suspect Roberto Vidal Gallini’s identity and also showed he has been dead since 1989.

Read more: Peter Torbiornsson: My guilt over La Penca bombing
Peter Torbiornsson: My guilt over La Penca bombing

Two Costa Rican cameramen, four Nicaraguan rebels and a U.S. journalist were killed and more than 20 people were wounded in the blast at the village of La Penca, near Costa Rica’s border with Nicaragua.

Costa Rican authorities said at the time that they suspected the bomb was planted by a Danish journalist named Per Anker Hansen in a CIA plot to kill Contra leader Eden Pastora, who survived and is still alive. The bomb went off in Hansen’s camera case.

The man identified as Hansen disappeared from a San José hospital where he was recovering from wounds.

Costa Rican authorities said later that in reality he was Vital Gallini, who they alleged was a leftist Argentine guerrilla hired by Nicaragua’s Sandinista movement to kill Pastora. Vital Gallini reportedly died Jan. 23, 1989, during a rebel attack on a military barracks in Buenos Aires, the Argentine capital.

At the time of the bombing the Sandinista government was fighting a war with U.S.-backed Contra rebels. The Sandinistas were unseated in 1990 elections that ended the war, but then-President Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency in 2006.

Eden Pastora today.
Eden Pastora today.  Pastora is a key player in the current border conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Pastora, known then as “Commander Zero,” had defected from the Sandinistas and started a Contra rebel group to oppose their government in Nicaragua. But his group refused to cooperate with other Contra organizations.

Jose Rodolfo Ibarra, a Costa Rican journalist who survived the attack, told The Associated Press that he is happy to know such a dangerous person is no longer threatening the lives of innocent people. But he said survivors won’t withdraw a complaint filed at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission against the governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua charging they failed to act quickly to bring those responsible to justice.

“Nicaragua did absolutely nothing to bring justice to those killed and wounded,” Ibarra said.

Costa Rica didn’t open an investigation until 2005 and only issued an arrest warrant for Vital Gallini three years later, he added.


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