The Nicaraguan Revolution

        I.            Aftermath of 1959

A.      U.S. government determined after 1959 to prevent successful leftist revolutions

B.      Provides increased military support to Latin American and Caribbean governments

C.      John F. Kennedy promotes the Alliance for Progress to address poverty in the region

D.      As governments become stronger, peaceful revolution becomes difficult, making violent revolution more likely

E.       Central America, the poorest, least developed region in Latin America, becomes the most violent

      II.            Nicaragua before the Sandinista Revolution

A.      A colonial backwater, with a very low population and population density (3 million in 1970)

B.      U.S. occupation, 1912-1933

1.  U.S. moves in to support Conservative government and insure access to possible canal route.

2. Primary opponent would be Augusto Sandino

a.       Linked to the Liberals, strongly anti-imperialist, influenced by socialist and anarchist ideas.

b.      Primary goal was end of occupation by U.S. Marines; Marine’s main goal was to defeat Sandino

3. U.S. creates and trains a National Guard to maintain order, puts Anastasio Somoza Garcia in charge

4. After Marine’s leave, Somoza invites Sandino to peace conference, after which Sandino is assassinated.

    III.            The Somoza dynasty (1933-1979)

A.      Anastasio Somoza Garcia is the power behind the scenes, and seizes full power in 1936, establishes family dynasty

1. Anastsio the elder assassinated in 1956

2.  His sons, Luis and Anastasio (“Tacho”) Somoza Debayle rule jointly till Luis’s death in 1967

3.  Anastasio the younger rules alone until deposed in 1979

B.      Somozas will provide unwavering support to United States

1.  Supports U.S. on all diplomatic ventures

2.  Provides training facilities for Bay of Pigs invasion

3. Sends troops to support U.S.  invasion of Dominican Republic in 1965

C.      Military power used to build financial empire

1. National Guard grows; largest per capita military budget in Latin America

2. Guard will control several government functions and some key industries

D.      Somoza, Inc.

1. Somozas takes control of a number of key industries

2. Meanwhile, Nicaragua remains poor – life expectancy of 50 years, 50% illiteracy

3. Empire expands after 1972 Managua earthquake

a.       Greatly enriched by control of concrete and construction industries

b.      Forces rebuilding on Somoza owned land on edges of city – Managua remains a “ring” city, with little in the old center

c.       This behavior, as well as the Guard’s seizure of much of the foreign disaster aid, turns many against Somoza

    IV.            The Sandanistas

A.      The Frente Sandanista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) forms in 1961

1.  Marxist in character, will receive support from Cuba

2. Remains very small (about a dozen) through the 1960s and early 70s

B.      Reinvigorated by Somoza’s and the Guard’s response to the 1972 earthquake

C.      Kidnapping for fame and profit

1.  A group of Sandinistas seizes a group of dignitaries at a party, December, 1974

2. Get $5 million dollars ransom and a safe (and televised) passage out of thre country

3. Gives them the funds and the fame to become the main opposition force to Somoza

4. Tacho responds with a brutal counterinsurgency, which ultimately breeds more support for Sandinistas

      V.            The Fall of Somoza

A.      Increasingly brutal tactics of Tacho and the National Guard drives many into opposition

B.       All opposition targeted, peaceful and armed, destroying any middle option between Sandinistas and Somoza

C.      Influence of Liberation Theology galvanizes many in the lower classes to join opposition

D.      Assassination of Joaquim Chammorro (1978)

1. Chamorros were one of the oldest elite families in Nicaragua

2. Joaquim owned and operated La Prensa, began using newspaper to attack Somoza

3. His assassination will result in most of the middle class and much of the elite realizing that none of them are safe

E.       U.S in a bind

1. Jimmy Carter tries to convince Somoza to leave

2. Wants a reformist, democratic government to replace him and avoid a successful leftist revolution

3. But Tacho’s brutality makes that increasingly unlikely

4.  Assassination of ABC television reporter by National Guard turns U.S. population against Somoza

F.       Tacho flees 19 July, 1979

1. Refused entry in United States

2. Goes to Paraguay, where he will be assassinated by Argentine leftists in 1980

    VI.            Sandinistas seize power

A.      Led by Daniel Ortega, Sandinistas promote a more moderate version of Cuban revolution

1. Neither Carter nor Reagan (1981-89) are prepared to accept them

2. Initially part of a coalition with middle class and elite opposition members, but most of those leave the government quickly

3. Some Sandinistas opposed to Ortega also leave, returning to guerilla insurgency

B.      United States supports armed opposition, the contras

  VII.            The confusion of U.S. policy in Central America

A.      Inspired by Sandinistas leftist revolutionaries erupt in El Salvador, igniting a bloody civil war

1.  Sandinistas sends arms to revolutionaries

2. Reagan sends arms to the government, just enough it seems to enable government to survive

3.  A similar pattern emerges in Guatemala, where the long-simmering civil war heats up

B.      Reagan sends billions to Central America to defeat leftists, overthrow Sandinistas

1.   But contras are so corrupt and divided, Congress cuts off aid

2. Reagan covertly sells arms to Iran to support the contras, results in major scandal (Iran-Contra)

C.      Yet the “revolution” at least in Nicaragua, is modest

1. Many of the nationalized business were Somoza-owned, as was most of the land taken for land reform

2. Only 50% of the economy comes under government control (at the time, U.S. government spending as a percentage of GDP was 35%, though that’s an inexact comparison)

3. Sandinistas hold regular elections, though Reagan pressures opposition to stay out of 1984 national election ,and most do

D.      Meanwhile in El Salvador

1.  U.S. pressured El Salvador to hold election in the midst of a leftist insurgency

2. U.S. spends millions to get Jose Napoleon Duarte elected

3. Duarte, with U.S. support, pursues  land reform and nationalizes the bank – just like Arbenz and the Sandinistas

E.       Oscar Arias, president of Costa Rica, pursues regional peace negotiations

1.  Openly mocked by Reagan

2.  Ultimately successful, contributing significantly to end the wars

3.  Winds Nobel Peace Prize in 1987

VIII.            1990 and beyond

A.      Sandinistas hold elections in 1990

1. Bush the Elder pressures  opposition to stay out, but they ignore him

2. Sandinistas lose…..and peacefully hand over power to government led by Violeta Chamorro, Joaquin’s widow

B.      Much of the Sandinista reforms dismantled over following years

C.      Nicaragua remains second poorest nation in Western Hemisphere

D.      But also remains (chaotically) democratic

E.       Daniel Ortega re-elected president in 2006