Nicaraguan Revolution

Nicaraguan Revolution
Nicaraguan Revolution
Nicaragua map.png
Date 1961 - 1990
Location Nicaragua
Result Overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, insurgency of the Contras, 1990 election victory of the National Opposition Union of Violeta Chamorro
Nicaragua Somoza Regime


Commanders and leaders
Nicaragua Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Enrique Bermúdez

Daniel Ortega

The Nicaraguan Revolution (Spanish: Revolución Nicaragüense or Revolución Popular Sandinista, also RPS) encompasses the rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s, the campaign led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN) which led to the violent ousting of that dictatorship in 1979, and the subsequent efforts of the FSLN, which governed from 1979 until 1990, to reform the society and economy of the country along somewhat socialist lines.[1]

The revolution played a substantial role in foreign policy for Nicaragua, Central America and the Americas. The revolutionary conflict also marked one of the proxy wars in the Cold War.


Origins of the Nicaraguan Revolution

Defining the time span of the Nicaraguan revolution is difficult, since there was no formal declaration of war. The end date can be variously regarded as the date when the old regime is ousted, the date when hostilities cease (which could be later than the ouster of the old regime if there is a counterrevolution), or a later date that includes the period of rebuilding and change after the new regime takes power. A fairly broad definition of the time of the Nicaraguan revolution would be from the formal founding of the FSLN in 1961, to its 1990 election loss to Violetta Barrios de Chamorro and the Unión Nacional Opositora which marked the end of its first period in power.

A more restricted definition would be that it dates from the late 1970s, when serious armed resistance to the Somoza regime began, and culminated with the overthrow of Anastasio Somoza Debayle on 19 July 1979. The latter view might be criticized as too socially and politically naive, isolating the Nicaraguan Revolution from its context as part of the Cold War and from the flow of revolutionary struggles all across Latin America.

The Revolution was influenced by three major historical events:

  1. The Nicaraguan guerrilla warfare sustained by Nicaraguan Augusto César Sandino who stood originally, and at one time with only 29 men, against the occupation of Nicaragua by U.S. Marines in 1926. He developed an armed rebellion to fight the U.S. and what Sandino saw as an "usurpation of independence and sovereignty of Nicaragua".(citation from Selser, Gregorio's historical work needed) In 1934 Sandino was betrayed and assassinated by Anastasio Somoza García. Sandino became an icon of the roots and birth of the Nicaraguan Revolution.
  2. The Cuban Revolution, which sparked widespread left wing revolutionary movements across Latin America, and showed a plausible and possible cause of major political confrontation for a continent soon to be occupied by right-wing dictatorships.
  3. The 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and weakening of the Soviet Union, ending the Cold War and reducing the influence of US and USSR competition. It preceded the end of the Nicaraguan Revolution as marked by the electoral defeat of the FSLN in 1990. The liberal governments that followed changed much of its legacy. The FSLN, the organization that orchestrated the Revolution, evolved into a leftist party that won the Nicaraguan general election in 2006.

Background: Sandino and Somoza

Nicaragua's Sandinista movement takes its name from Augusto Cesar Sandino, a Nicaraguan who worked in the 1920s and 1930s to improve the conditions of the rural poor and end the United States military occupation of his country which had begun in 1909. Sandino assembled a guerrilla army of peasants, miners, workers, and artisans which began fighting the occupying forces in mid 1927. Confronted with an increasingly costly operation, the U.S. military prepared the Nicaraguan National Guard to take over security operations in the country and withdrew in 1933. Appointed as head of the Guard was Anastasio Somoza Garcia, U.S.-educated, a former diplomatic translator for the U.S., close friend of the previous Nicaraguan president, Moncada, and nephew of the current president, Sacasa.

Sandino had promised to cease fighting if the U.S. withdrew, did so, and entered negotiations with Sacasa, who offered amnesty and land for Sandino's followers. Somoza, however, kidnapped and murdered Sandino at the negotiations, set the National Guard to massacre his unwary guerrillas and their families, and then in 1936 ousted Sacasa in a coup and had himself elected president by a remarkable vote of 107,201 to 108. Somoza and a small circle of family and close associates were soon running virtually every institution in Nicaragua, from the police and courts to the post office and railway. He used his power to enrich himself in business: within a decade he had fifty-one cattle ranches, was Nicaragua's largest coffee producer with forty-six coffee plantations, and owned numerous other enterprises including the merchant marine lines, the airline (Lanica), various mills, and the country's only pasteurised milk facility. By the 1970s, the Somozas controlled forty percent of the Nicaraguan economy and thirty percent of all arable land.[2]

Somoza maintained himself in power by a combination of ruthless suppression at home and compliance toward the United States. With ninety percent of its exports going to the United States, Nicaragua was in some respects an economic appendage of the larger country. Somoza protected U.S. business interests in Nicaragua and was vociferously anti-communist. The United States sent the Somozas military assistance until 1978, one year before their demise. After his death in 1956, Somoza was succeeded by his sons Luis and Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Their methods of government were similar to their father's. The younger of the two, Anastasio, was director of the National Guard from 1956 and president from 1967.[3]

Formation of the FSLN

In 1958, Roman Raudales, a comrade of Augusto César Sandino's, launched a gerrilla movement in Northern Nicaragua. The small band led by Raudales, who was by then past sixty, lived in the mountains and exhorted the people to take up arms against the Somoza dictatorship. Although a National Guard punitive squad wiped out this tiny guerrilla force with its "whitebearded patriarch," the very appearance of a group pitting itself against the dictatorship inspired others to begin similar activities. These included students as well as a youthful group within the Nicaraguan Socialist Party who began to decry what they saw as the timidity and un-militancy of that organisation. (The Nicaraguan Socialist Party was Nicaragua's Communist party, a COMINTERN member. Banned in Nicaragua in 1945, it operated underground.) The young anti-Somoza activists soon had organised several guerrilla groups that operated in the areas of Nueva Segovia and Rio Jorgo near the border with Honduras, and also in the Matagalpa and Jinotega highlands. One of these activists was Carlos Foonseca Amador, a young communist party member who had studied law at the University of Léon, been repeatedly thrown in jail for his political activities, and finally deported to Guatemala in 1959. While there, he and a few score other Nicaraguans formed a guerrilla group that named itself the Rigoberto Lopez column, after the patriot who had assassinated Somoza Garcia in 1956. They reinfiltrated Nicaragua but their first engagement was disastrous: nine of them were killed and Fonseca badly wounded. Upon his recovery, Fonseca linked up with Thomás Borge Martínez and Silvio Mayorga to publish a newspaper, Juventad Revolucionario. A guerrilla group formed around these three, called Juventad Patriotico. It later changed its name to Frente de Liberación nacional; in 1961 it had seven members. Finally, in 1962, it took on the name which was to prove permanent, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional.

The group began to combine armed action in the highlands with urban and village operations, mostly bank raids, and started to carry on political education among the population. Upon entering one or another inhabited locality, the Sandinistas would call a meeting of the local peasants to describe their aims and purposes, and exhort them to actively participate in the struggle to overthrow the dictatorship. According to one of its leaders, Plutarco Hernandez, in some places as many as 300 peasants would turn out to hear them speak. However, many of the small Sandinista group were imprisoned or killed by the National Guard in the years 1962 - 1964.[4]

Many of the early Sandinistas were students from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua -- UNAN) in Managua

The FSLN had about twenty members in the early 1960s.[5]

In 1972 an event occurred which Somoza was able to use to considerably enrich himself; however, in doing so he incurred the animosity of the Nicaraguan public and the international community, and also many Nicaraguan business people, to an extent that seriously damaged his position. The event was the Managua earthquake of December 23. It killed 5,000 to 10,000 people, left 50,000 without homes, and destroyed eighty percent of Managua's commercial buildings. A major relief effort was undertaken by international donors. Somoza was able to turn the disaster to his profit by putting himself in charge of the local organisation responsible for distributing the aid and appropriating a large amount of it for himself. The job of rebuilding was given preponderantly to Somoza family and friends, which increased his monopolisation of the commercial life of the country. Somoza's control and accumulation of ownership was already a source of friction between him and other Nicaraguan capitalists because it was shutting them out of investment opportunities. The quake grab exacerbated that problem. Another phenomenon was that thousands of young middle class people had their prospects in life seriously diminished by the earthquake through impoverishment up to and including homelessness; for many, the relative desirability of radical change had been increased, and Sandinista support grew accordingly.

Anastasio Somoza Debayle's intentions to run for another presidential term in 1974 were resisted even within his own Partido Liberal Nacionalista (PLN – National Liberal Party). The political opposition, led by La Prensa editor Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal and former minister of education Ramiro Sacasa, established the Unión Democrática de Liberacion (UDEL – Democratic Liberation Union), a broad coalition of anti-Somoza elements, including members from both the traditional elite and labour unions. The party promoted a dialogue with the government to foster political pluralism. The president responded with increasing political repression and further censorship of the news media. Somoza was reelected president in 1974.[6]

On 27 December 1974, a group of FSLN guerrillas seized the home of a former government official and took as hostages a handful of leading Nicaraguan officials, many of whom were Somoza relatives. The agreement reached between them and the government on 30 December with the mediation of Archbishop Obando y Bravo damaged the prestige of the already unpopular government. The guerrillas received US$1 million ransom, had an FSLN declaration read over the radio and printed in La Prensa, and succeeded in getting fourteen Sandinista prisoners released from jail and flown to Cuba along with the kidnappers. The guerrilla movement's prestige soared because of this successful operation. The act also established the FSLN strategy of revolution as an effective alternative to Udel's policy of promoting change peacefully. The government responded to the incident with further censorship, intimidation, torture, and murder.

In 1975, Somoza and the National Guard launched another campaign against the FSLN. The government imposed a state of siege, censoring the press, and threatening all opponents with detention and torture.

In late 1975, because of the repressive campaign of the National Guard and because of its own increase in size, the FSLN split into three factions.

  • The Proletaries, or Proletarian faction, headed by Jamie Wheelock Román, followed traditional Marxist thought and sought to organise factory workers and people in poor neighbourhoods.
  • The Guerra Popular Prolongada (GPP – Prolonged Popular War) faction, headed by Tomás Borge and Henry Ruiz, was influenced by the philosophy of Mao Zedong and believed that revolution would require a long insurrection that included peasants as well as labour movements.
  • The Terceristas, also known as the Third Roaders, Third Way, or Insurrectional faction was pragmatic and called for ideological pluralism. Its leaders included Plutarco Hernandez, and the Ortega Saavedra brothers, Daniel José and Humberto. It argued that social conditions in Nicaragua were ripe for an immediate insurrection. The Third Way faction supported joint action with non-Marxist groups against Somoza.[7]

Fall of Somoza

In the late 1970s, international pressure mounted against the Somoza government because of its state terrorism and repression. This came from rights organisations as well as governments. In 1977 the Jimmy Carter administration in the United States made further United States military assistance to Somoza conditional on his improving his human rights record. The international pressure is credited with having forced president Somoza to lift the state of siege in September 1977. Upon the lifting of the state of siege, strong public protest against the government resumed; however, the FSLN remained under strong suppression by the National Guard.[8]

In October 1977 a non-Marxist anti-Somoza alliance called Los Doce (The Group of Twelve) was formed by some Nicaraguan businesspeople and academics. The founding meeting was held in Costa Rica. Sergio Ramírez Mercado was a leading member. Los Doce strengthened the FSLN by insisting on Sandinista representation in any post-Somoza government. Nevertheless, opposition to the dictatorship remained divided.

Economically, capital flight became a problem for the government, forcing it to undertake heavy foreign loans, mostly from United States banks, to finance its expenditures. In spite of this and in spite of continued expressions of disapproval from some international quarters, civil liberties remained minimal and representative institutions absent. The Somoza regime frequently threatened the press, especially the newspaper La Prensa and the critical editorials of its publisher and Udel leader, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal. On 10 January 1978, Chamorro was assassinated. Although the assassins were not identified at the time, evidence implicated president Somoza's son and other members of the National Guard. The killing provoked mass demonstrations against the regime, the Episcopate of the Nicaraguan Catholic Church issued a pastoral letter critical of the government, and opposition parties called for the president's resignation. On 23 January 1978, a nationwide strike began, with the intention of unseating the dictatorship. It was heavily suppressed by the National Guard but succeeded in paralysing both private industry and government services for about ten days. Most private enterprises suspended their participation in the strike after a week or two because of the financial cost to themselves of not doing business. The FSLN guerrillas also launched a series of attacks throughout the country; however, the better-equipped National Guard was able to maintain military superiority.

The United States suspended military assistance in February 1978. This increased the dictatorship's financial problems because it then had to buy weapons on the international market. Capital flight continued and inflation and unemployment became serious.

1978 saw the formation of several more anti-Somoza organisations. In March, Alfonso Robelo Callejas, a businessman, established the Movimiento Democrático Nicaragüense (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement – MDN). In May, the Frente Amplio de Opposición (Broad Opposition Front – FAO) was created by several political parties – the Conservatives, Udel, Los Doce, and MDN – to pressure Somoza for a negotiated solution to the crisis. Although the FSLN was not included in the FAO, the participation of Los Doce in the FAO assured a connection between the FSLN and other opposition groups. In July, the FSLN also established its own political arm, the Movimiento del Pueblo Unido (Movement of United people – MPU), which included labour groups, student organisations, and communist and socialist political parties. The MPU's position was that armed struggle would be necessary in order to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship.[9]

On 22 August 1978, 25 members of the Third Way, led by Edén Pastora Gómez, also known as Commandante Cero (Commander Zero), succeeded in capturing the National Palace and holding almost 2,000 government officials and members of congress hostage. A negotiated settlement was reached after two days, through the mediation of Archbishop Obando y Bravo and the Panamanian and Costa Rican ambassadors, which required the government to pay the guerrillas $500,000 U.S., release sixty FSLN members from prison, disseminate an FSLN declaration in the news media, and give the raiders safe passage to Panama and Venezuela. The incident further tarnished the government's image, electrified the opposition, and demoralised the National Guard. Somoza had to replace many of the National Guard's officers to forestall a coup and he launched a recruitment campaign to strengthen its rank and file.

By the end of 1978, the failure of the FAO to obtain a negotiated settlement and the success of the August raid had increased the stature of the insurrection movement. Los Doce withdrew from the FAO and many other individual members resigned because they now considered negotiations with the dictator pointless and odious. Another issue was that the FAO was considering a deal that would have the United States intervene military to hold in place a post-Somoza government. Los Doce opposed any solution that would bring U.S. troops to Nicaragua.[10]

The Somoza regime was further isolated in November 1978 when the Organisation of American States' (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a report charging the National Guard with numerous human rights violations. The report was followed by a United Nations declaration condemning the Nicaraguan government.

In December, Cuban mediation led to a rapprochment between the three factions of the FSLN. Formal reunification of the FSLN took place in March 1979.

On 1 February 1979, the Sandinists established a broader popular front organisation called the Frente Patriótico Nacional (National Patriotic Front – FPN), which besides the FSLN included Los Doce, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), and the Popular Social Christian Party (Partido Popular Social Christiano – PPSC). The FPN had a broad appeal, including political support from elements of the FAO and the business sector.

After the formal unification of the Sandinista guerrillas in March, heavy fighting broke out all over the country. Although the National Guard had better mobility and air support, by then the FSLN was much better equipped than in earlier times, with weapons flowing from Venezuela, Panama, and Cuba, mostly through Costa Rica. The FSLN had the advantages of higher morale, good discipline, popular support and cooperation, safe bases in Northern Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and a good rate of volunteers. The FSLN launched its final offensive in May, just as the National Guard began to lose control of many areas of the country. In a year's time, bold military and political moves had changed the FSLN from one of many opposition groups to the leading group in the anti-Somoza revolt.

Katherine Hoyt cites Humberto Ortega as listing three factors besides the reunification of the FSLN that put the revolutionaries in a very strong position at this time:

  • The people were prepared and ready for a massive popular uprising;
  • The private sector was completely fed up with Somoza and was ready to support another general strike; and most importantly
  • The FSLN, in a culmination of its eighteen years of struggle, was politically and militarily ready to lead the offensive.[11]

The final offensive by the FSLN was planned on three fronts: North central, Western, and North Eastern. They took the Northern parts of the country easily but the South was a hard task. The final goal of the FSLN was to capture Managua.

On 30 May, it was announced that the final general strike would begin on June 4.

In Matagalpa, fighting began on June 5 between the national Guard and the Sandinistas, who had entered the city that day. For about a month, the National Guard strafed and bombed the city, which still had many civilians in it, from the air and fired mortars into it. The Sandinistas moved through the city by knocking holes in the walls of houses so that they could go from house to house without exposing themselves in the street.

On 16 June, the FSLN took the National Guard post in León, about 75 km North West of Managua.[12]

On 18 June, a provisional Nicaraguan government in exile, consisting of a five-member junta, was organised in Costa Rica. The members were Daniel Ortega of the FSLN, Moisés Hassan Morales of the FPN, Sergio Ramírez of Los Doce, Alfonso Robelo Callejas of the MDN, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the widow of La Prensa's editor. The members of the junta reached an agreement called the Puntarenas Pact, calling for a mixed economy, political pluralism, and a nonaligned foreign policy. Free elections were to be held at a later date, and the National Guard was to be replaced by a nonpartisan army. Panama was the first country to recognise the junta.

On 20 June, international condemnation of the Somoza regime was increased by the savage murder of ABC news reporter Bill Stewart by a National Guardsman who shot him while he was lying face down on the ground, kicked him, and shot him again. Another journalist captured the killing on film and it was aired widely.[13]

In late June, the OAS voted to demand Somoza's resignation. Several Central American dictatorships abstained and Paraguay voted against the resolution.[14]

Around 29 June, the Sandanistas in Managua executed a tactical retreat. They moved about 8,000 combattants and civilians 26 km South East, out of the neighbourhoods of Managua, where they were being slaughtered, to Masaya, which by then the National Guards could not easily strike. Some of the civilians trained there to become FSLN militia.[15]

By 5 July, the Sandinistas controlled eighty percent of Nicaragua: twenty-three major citities and towns. By 13 July, they were in control of the major roads into Managua, cutting the National Guard's land communications with the outside world.[16]

By the second week of July 1979, president Somoza had agreed to resign and hand power to vice-president Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños, who was then supposed to transfer the government to the revolutionary junta. According to the agreement, a cease-fire would follow, and defence responsibilities would be shared by elements of the National Guard and the FSLN. On 16 July, he submitted his resignation, and the next morning the Somoza family and several National Guard generals, Liberal Nationalist Party (PLN) leaders and congressmen fled to Miami, U.S.A. The next day, the 18th, the five-member junta arrived in Léon from Costa Rica. They became known as the Junta de Reconstrucción Nacional (Junta of National Reconstruction). Urcuyo tried to ignore the agreement to transfer power, but in less than two days, domestic and international pressure drove him into exile in Guatemala. On 19 July, the FSLN entered Managua.

First years

The new government established a consultative assembly, the Council of State, on 4 May 1980. The council could approve laws submitted to it by the junta or initiate its own legislation. The junta had the right of veto over council-initiated legislation, and retained control over much of the budget. Although its powers were limited, the council was not a rubber stamp and often amended legislation given it by the junta.

From late 1979 through 1980, United States president Carter's administration made efforts to work with the new Nicaraguan government. However, when president Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, the United States government launched a campaign to isolate the Sandinista government. On 23 January, the Reagan administration suspended all United States aid to Nicaragua. Later that year, the Reagan administration authorised support for groups trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The U.S. claimed that Nicaragua, with assistance from Cuba and the Soviet Union, was supplying arms to guerrillas in El Salvador. The Nicaraguan government denied the United States' allegations and charged the United States with leading an international campaign against it.

Changes after 1979

As any revolutionary process that struck the basements of the society that harbors it, with the Nicaragua Revolution there were several major changes that reshaped the Nicaraguan society, turning it into a country complex as ever. The direct consequences of the Revolution can be structured into three main directions:


The Revolution brought down the heavy burden the Somocista regime had imposed upon the Nicaraguan economy and that had seriously deformed the country creating a big and modern head, Managua, where Somoza's power would emanate to all corners of the territory, and then an almost semifeudalist rural economy with few productive goods, such as cotton, sugar and other tropical agricultural products. All sectors of the economy of Nicaragua were determined, in great part if not all, by the Somozas or the officials and adepts surrounding the regime, whether it was directly owning agricultural brands and trusts, or actively setting them to local or foreign hands. It is famously stated that Somoza himself owned 1/5 of all profitable land in Nicaragua. While this is not correct, Somoza or his adepts did own or give away banks, ports, communications, services and massive amounts of land.[17]

All sectors of the economy were restructured, actually heading into a mixed economy system. However, the biggest impact, economically, set by the Revolution was within the primary sector: the Agrarian Reform.

The Nicaraguan Revolution brought immense restructuring and reforms to all three sectors of the Economy. In the primary sector, the Revolution presented the Agrarian Reform, not as one that could be planned in advanced from the beginning of the Revolution but as a process that would develop pragmatically along the different conditions -economical, political and from organization, that would arise all during the Revolution period.[18]

Economic reforms overall needed to rescue out of limbo the inefficient and helpless Nicaraguan economy. As a "third-world" country, Nicaragua had, and has, an agriculture-based economy, undeveloped and susceptible to flow of market price of its agricultural goods, such as coffee and cotton. The Revolution faced a rural economy well behind in technology and, at the same time, devastated by the guerrilla warfare and the soon to come civil war against the Contras.

"Article 1 of the Agrarian Reform Law says that property is guaranteed if it laboured efficiently and that there could be different forms of property:

  • state property (with the confiscated land from somocists)
  • cooperative property (part of confiscated land, but without individual certificates of ownership, to be laboured efficiently)
  • communal property (in response to reinvindication from people and communities from Miskito regions in the Atlantic
  • individual property (as long as this is efficiently exploited and integrated to national plans of development)[19]
The principles that presided Agrarian Reform were the same ones for the Revolution: pluralism, national unity and economic democracy."[20]

The Nicaraguan Agrarian Reform developed into four phasesthis aspect alone of the Nicaraguan Revolution should be developed into a new article:

  1. First phase (1979): confiscation of property owned by Somocists and its adepts
  2. Second phase (1981): Agrarian Reform Law of July 19, 1981
  3. Third phase (1984–1985): massive cession of land individually, responding to demands from peasantry
  4. Fourth phase (1986): Agrarian Reform Law of 1986, or "reform to the 1981 Law"

In 1985, the Agrarian Reform distributed 235,000 acres (950 km2) of land to the peasantry. This represented about 75 per cent of all land distributed to peasants since 1980. According to Proyect, the agrarian reform had the twofold purpose of increasing the support for the government among the campesinos, and guaranteeing ample food delivery into the cities. During 1985, ceremonies were held throughout the countryside in which Daniel Ortega would give each peasant a title to the land and a rifle to defend it.[21]

Cultural Revolution

The Nicaraguan Revolution brought many cultural improvements and developments. Undoubtfully, the most important was the planning and execution of the Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign(Cruzada Nacional de Alfabetización). The literacy campaign used secondary school students, university students as well as teachers as volunteer teachers. Within five months they reduced the overall illiteracy rate from 50.3% to 12.9%.[22] As a result, in September 1980, UNESCO awarded Nicaragua with the “Nadezhda K. Krupskaya” award for their successful literacy campaign. This was followed by the literacy campaigns of 1982, 1986, 1987, 1995 and 2000, all of which were also awarded by UNESCO.[23] The Revolution also founded a Ministry of Culture, one of only three in Latin America at the time, and established a new editorial brand, called Editorial Nueva Nicaragua and, based on it, started to print cheap editions of basic books rarely seen by Nicaraguans at all. It also founded an Instituto de Estudios del Sandinismo (Institute for Studies of Sandinismo) where it printed all of the work and papers of Augusto C. Sandino and those that cemented the ideologies of FSLN as well, such as Carlos Fonseca, Ricardo Morales Avilés and others. The key large scale programs of the Sandinistas received international recognition for their gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform.[24][25]


Since the political project of the Revolution was an "anti-imperialist, classist, popular and revolutionary" project[26] the growth of the military was also a direct consequence of the Revolution. As early as 1981 (1980 to some evidence) an anti-Sandinist movement, the Contrarrevolución (Counter-revolution) -or just Contras, was already taking form and place along the border with Honduras. An armed conflict would then arise in no time, adding to the ongoing civil wars across Central America. Later, Contras, heavily backed up by the CIA and, although secretly, by members of the US Government, opened a second "front" in the Atlantic coast and Costa Rican border of the country, thus making the 80's an even more stressful decade. With the civil war opening up cracks in the national revolutionary project, the military budget grew in numbers of money and men. The Servicio Militar Patriótico (Patriotic Military Service), a compulsory draft, was established to help defend the Revolution. (see below).

1984 General election

The 1984 election took place on November 4. Of the 1,551,597 citizens registered in July, 1,170,142 voted (75.41%). The null votes were 6% of the total. The national averages of valid votes for president were:

  • Daniel Ortega, Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) - 66.97%
  • Clemente Guido, Democratic Conservative Party (PCD) - 14.04%
  • Virgilio Godoy, Independent Liberal Party (PLI) - 9.60%
  • Mauricio Diaz, Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC) - 5.56%
  • Allan Zambrana, Nicaraguan Communist Party (PCdeN) - 1.45%
  • Domingo Sánchez Sancho, Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) - 1.31%
  • Isidro Téllez, Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement (MAP-ML) - 1.03%

Growing insurgency


1990 General Elections

The 1990 Nicaraguan General Elections marked a setback for the Sandinista Leadership. The winner of the elections, UNO (Unión Nacional Oppositora, or National Opposition Union), a coalition of political parties, was devised to match the strength of FSLN political front and to access the presidential chair. The candidate for UNO was Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, a member of the original Junta de Reconstrucción Nacional (National Reconstruction Junta) and widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, assassinated by Somoza on January 10, 1978. For FSLN, the same formula that won the 1984 General Elections was presenting its candidacy for a new term: Daniel Ortega for President of Nicaragua, and Sergio Ramírez for Vicepresident.

The 1990 Elections according to the source.[27]

Nicaraguan 1990 General Elections  %
UNO 54.74%
FSLN 40.82%
MUR 1.18%
Other parties 3.26%


Nicaraguan historian and leading social investigator Roberto J. Cajina describes UNO as follows:

"Since the very moment of inception, under the political guidance and technical and financial support from the government of the US, the existence of UNO was marked by grave structural deformations, derived from its own nature. In its conformation concurred the most diverse currents of the Nicaraguan political and ideological range: from the liberal-conservative -traditionally anticommunist and pro-US, to marxist-leninists from moscovian lineage, openly declared supporters of class struggle and enemies of capitalism in its superior development stage".[28]

The constitution of the UNO Coalition for the 1990 General Elections was as follows[29]: (exact transcription and translation of the names of these political parties needed)

  • 3 Liberal factions: PLI, PLC and PALI
  • 3 Conservative: ANC, PNC and APC
  • 3 Social-Christians: PPSC, PDCN and PAN
  • 2 Socialdemocrats: PSD and MDN
  • 2 Communists: PSN (pro-Moscow) and PC de Nicaragua (pro-Albania)
  • 1 Central American Unionist: PIAC

See also


Emily L Andrews, Active Marianismo: Women's social and political action in Nicaraguan Christian base communities and the Sandinista revolution. [1] Grinnell College research project, 1997. Retrieved November 2009.

Katherine Hoyt, Memories of the 1979 Final Offensive, Nicanet, Retrieved November 2009. This is a first-hand account from Metagalpa; also contains some information on the general situation. Has photograph showing considerable damage to Metagalpa. [2]

Oleg Ignatiev, "The Storm of Tiscapa", in Borovik and Ignatiev, The Agony of a Dictatorsip. Progress Publishers, 1979; English translation, 1980.

Library of Congress (United States), Country Study:Nicaragua, especially Chapter 1, which is by Marisabel Brás. Retrieved November 2009.

Louis Proyect, Nicaragua. Retrieved November 2009.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Louis Proyect, Nicaragua, discusses, among other things, the reforms and the degree to which socialism was intended or achieved.
  2. ^ Most of the information in this paragraph is from Library of Congress, Country Study, Chapter 1 >> "The Somoza Era". The 1970s control percentages are from Andrews' sction on 'Sandino and Somoza'.
  3. ^ Ninety percent of exports: Library of Congress, country Study, Chapter 1 >> "The Somoza Era".
  4. ^ Most of the information in this and the previous pararaph on the 1950s and 60s guerrillas is from Ignatiev, Chapter 4, "Sandinista Revival".
  5. ^ Library of Congress, Country Study, Chapter 1 >> 'The rise of the FSLN'.
  6. ^ Library of Congress, Country Study >> The Somoza Era, 1936 - 74.
  7. ^ Library of Congress, Country Study, Chapter 1 >> 'The Rise of the FSLN'.
  8. ^ Library of Congress, Country Study, Chapter 1 >> "The End of the Anastasio Somoza Debayle Era".
  9. ^ Library of Congress, Country Study, Chapter 1 >> "The End of the Anastasio Somoza Debayle Era".
  10. ^ Ignatiev, Chapter Eight: "Till Victory".
  11. ^ Hoyt, near top of article.
  12. ^ This and several previous pieces of information about events in May and June are from Hoyt.
  13. ^ Hoyt.
  14. ^ Hoyt, about half way down.
  15. ^ Hoyt, about 2/3 of the way down.
  16. ^ Andrews.
  17. ^ SOLÁ MONSERRAT, Roser. "Geografía y Estructura Económicas de Nicaragua" (Nicaragua's Geography and Economical Structure). Universidad Centroamericana. Managua, Nicaragua, 1989. Second Edition.
  18. ^ "Agrarian Productive Structure in Nicaragua", SOLÁ MONSERRAT, Roser. 1989. Pag 69 and ss.
  19. ^ Ib. ant. Italics of "properties" are from this editor
  20. ^ Ibid. ant.
  21. ^ Louis Proyect, Nicaragua, about 4/5 of the way down.
  22. ^ Hanemann, Ulrike. "Nicaragua's Literacy Campaign" (DOC). UNESCO. Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-07-02. 
  23. ^ B. Arrien, Juan. "Literacy in Nicaragua" (PDF). UNESCO. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  24. ^ Background History of Nicaragua
  25. ^ Report on Nicaragua
  26. ^ Managua: Sección de Formación Política del Ejército Popular Sandinista, 1981. (Managua: Seccion of Political Formation of Sandinist Popular Army), 38 pgs; source from CRAJINA, Roberto: "Transición política y reconversión militar en Nicaragua, 1990-1995" (Political Transition and Military Restructuring in Nicaragua, 1990-1995).
  27. ^ "Bases de datos políticos de las Américas", Center for Latin America Studies, University of Georgetown
  28. ^ "Paradoxes from an heterogeneous and fragile electoral Alliance", CAJINA, Roberto, Id. ant. Pag. 44 and ss.
  29. ^ Ibid. ant.

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