For guerrilla leader Pastora, the road to Nicaraguan peace winds through the US

A leading Nicaraguan guerrilla leader says Cuba is trying to avoid a military confrontation in Nicaragua and favors a compromise political solution. Eden Pastora Gomez, widely known by his guerrilla alias, ''Commander Zero,'' says the United States should open a dialogue with Cuba in order to facilitate a resolution of Central America's conflicts.

According to Mr. Pastora, the worst thing the United States could do would be to intervene directly in Nicaragua with military force or encourage an invasion of Nicaragua by neighboring, US-supported nations. The result, he says, would be to solidify support behind the leftist-led Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, justify many of the Sandinistas' most radical actions, and ''save them in the eyes of history.''

The bearded Pastora considers himself a friend of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but he opposes Cuba's involvement in Nicaragua. According to State Department estimates, Cuba's presence in Nicaragua includes some 2,000 military advisers and security personnel, as well as some 6,000 teachers and medical workers who are also said to have had military training.

Pastora split with the Cuban-backed Sandinista leaders of Nicaragua in mid- 1981, because he felt that they had betrayed their revolution. He now leads guerrilla forces fighting against the Sandinistas in the south of Nicaragua, but declares that he would prefer a political solution to a military solution for the Central American nation. Pastora says the armed men under his command now number about 4,500, marking a recent increase of more than 1,000.

Seeking American sympathy and support, Pastora is making his first visit to this country in several years. His previous visits had been under false identity on arms-buying missions for the Sandinistas during their struggle against the late Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who was overthrown in 1979. Pastora says he is not seeking any aid from the US government. He was scheduled to meet Monday with Assistant Secretary of State A. Langhorne Motley.

Reagan administration officials have regarded Pastora with some distrust because of his friendship with Castro and his offer of assistance to guerrillas fighting the US-backed regime in Guatemala, following his split with the Sandinista leaders. They also regard with suspicion a visit he made to Libya in 1982.

During the revolution against Somoza, Pastora gained international attention when he led a successful raid on the Nicaraguan National Assembly, capturing delegates and securing the release of prisoners.

In an interview, Pastora described himself as a fighter against the extremes of both left and right. He lists what he considers to have been four major mistakes made by the Sandinista leaders:

* To have ''fallen in love with the good life,'' thus isolating themselves from reality and from their own people.

* To have superimposed an ideological view over their national interests.

* To have opted for military moves, rather than having sought political solutions to their problems.

* To have aligned themselves with the Soviet camp, thus bringing Nicaragua into the East-West conflict.

Pastora adds that the Sandinistas had also made a mistake in giving military support to leftist-led guerrillas in El Salvador even before they had consolidated their own revolution. He says the Nicaraguans were also mistaken in encouraging the Salvadorean guerrillas to launch their abortive ''final offensive'' of 1981.

Pastora says he favors a political solution that would involve the ''most progressive'' elements drawn from among the contending groups in Nicaragua. Those groups would include the Sandinistas as well as some members of the political leadership of the CIA-backed forces now fighting in the north of Nicaragua. He says if such a formula is not accepted, ''we have no choice but to fight.''

But Pastora says he believes the Cubans favor a political solution and are not happy with the way the ruling nine-member directorate has been moving in Nicaragua. Pastora says it was at Fidel Castro's invitation that representatives of his movement, the Nicaraguan Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, met with Cuban representatives last June and July and again about a month ago in Panama.

Pastora's relationship with Castro is a complex one. Pastora says he was kept in Cuba for about 41/2 months last year, against his will. He says he went to Libya during that year ''trying to get out of Cuba.''

How could that happen to a friend of Fidel Castro's? ''There is a difference between personal friendship and ideological friendship,'' Pastora says.

The guerrilla leader adds that he doesn't see why his friendship with Castro should be regarded as a liability by US officials.

''It's an asset,'' says Pastora, adding with a laugh, ''The beard of Castro tickles them, and makes them lose control.''

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.