The Nicaragua revolution in 1979 History Collections

Nicaragua Revolution


 History Collections


Created by

 Dr iwan suwandy,MHA

Private limited EditionIn CD-ROM

Nicaragua Quest


Copyright @ 2012

sandinista stamps


President Somoza



Sandinista rebellion


I have just looking the amizing vintage MGM movie at my TV Cable,the movie about the US Journalist who searching the Photos of Rafael the leader of Sandinista rebellion during Nicaragua revolution in 1979 at Managua city,


Look some pictures and compare with the original collections of that amazing revolutions just several years after the Vietnam war were ended

Jakarta April 2012

Dr Iwan suwandy






A gun and a digging tool. Sandino said: “Only the workers and the peasants will endure to the end.”

And he established a self-sustaining community at Wiwilí: rooted in cooperation and the land, it was his model for a sustainable Nicaragua.

In these days of belated realization of the catastrophe of Northern greed, he is a truly global figure – his model vital for the very survival of the planet under global warming. Somoza destroyed the Wiwilí community when he murdered Sandino.

As Cheney put it more recently, “The Amurican Way of Life is not negotiable.”

Post Revolution Phase1.
Workers back in their proper place and attitude; no sign of Sandino.

Post.Revolution Phase 2.
Woman back in her place, barefoot, pregnant, on her knees.

In the background, hidden by trees and a high wall, the ruins of the 1972 earthquake that demolished the heart of Managua and killed 10,000 people.

Fixing them up instead of making maudlin statues would at least ensure that more families actually had ktchens.

4.Post-Revolution. Phase 3.

 The Return of Religosity:
“Pilgrims will come from all over the the world to see these great works of art,” they said. The few that come, come


Phase 5

.Revolution Post-Revolution.

View from the warrior peasant, which is located just up the road from the newly re-constituted Revolutionary Square.

The statue of the newly repressed workers is in front, and, beyond them, that of the pregnant woman.

Despite attempts to blow it up, the statue still stands defiant and proud.

Phase 6

Bloodied but Unbowed.

The Carrion store is aptly named. Like vultures, carrion crows feed on dead animals, offal and road kill. So “savage consumerism” is consuming itself.


As he stands a top Somoza’s last bunker,

 brooding over high water mark of consumerism’s catastrophic stupidity within Nicaragua, Sandino offers us all a more intelligent, sustainable, and indeed happy, way of life, reminding us of the fate of all civilizations that get too big for their boots – their roots in the Earth:


history Background

America In The Post-Vietnam Era




The Empire

America in the post-Vietnam Era: The Reawakening of the Empire.

After the defeat in Vietnam the United States found itself unsure of its place in the world, it was a nation adrift in the ocean of a cold war seeking for its identity amidst a current that seemed to be flowing against it.

The years that followed the end of the war in South East Asia saw serious setbacks to American hegemony.


The Islamic revolution in Iran dethroned the U.S. staunchest ally in the Middle East, and

 in the same year (1979), the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Both events signaled a decrease of American power in the region and battered the pride of a flailing nation.

In 1980 the American electorate overwhelmingly elected Ronald Reagan and sent him to the White House with a mandate – restore the American roar.

The presidency of the former Hollywood actor and General Electric spokesman promised that America would regain its cowboy swagger, and stride with confidence into the canteen of international affairs. To reinvigorate and consolidate its power the U.S. turned to its “backyard”.

The United States transformed Central America into the new theatre of war, where it could play the role of triumphant hero, rewrite history, and thus cleanse itself from a shameful past. As the story would unfold, the country became entrenched with allied governments that were not exemplary models of liberty and democracy and ended in a tragic finale of human suffering.

Latin America traditionally has been the domain of the United States. Since the beginning of the 19th Century with the Monroe Doctrine the country positioned itself as the voice of the hemisphere. It was Latin American that first witnessed and suffered the incipient imperial endeavors of

the United States in the Mexican-American War (1848). And at the turn of the century Latin American waters were

the battle grounds of the Spanish-American War (1898), from which the United States emerged as a world power. Six years later the doctrine of Manifest Destiny Manifest Destiny was epitomized by the Roosevelt Corollary Effects of the Roosevelt Corollary. That infamous amendment that reinforced the Monroe Doctrine and clearly articulated the U.S.’s self-bestowed right of intervention in the domestic affairs of the regions country. Through the 20th century Latin America awarder the dubious honor of being in the gravitational sphere of influence had fallen squarely into the economic and political realm of the United States. Cuba, of course, is the great exception that has hunted every American administration since 1959. Supportive government, usually in the command of dictators and military juntas, sprouted (with the assistance of national elites and foreign intervention) from the Isthmus of Panama to the Patagonia. Except for the parenthesis of the Good Neighbor Policy The Good Neighbor Policy under President Franklin D. Roosevelt American hegemony in the continent had been exercised recklessly and gone mostly unchallenged.

If the 1980s was to be the decade of restoration of the American Empire, Latin America was going to provide the canvass on which it would be created. The U.S. Empire regrouped on known and proven ground. With South America under the control of sympathetic government Central American, this impotent, impoverished and mostly inconsequential region provided a laboratory for an empire that had wandered off its bellicose path. As historian Greg Grandin argues, because of the unimportance of Central America neo-conservatives in Washington saw it as the ideal place in the world to retry the third-world wars from which the U.S. had found itself unable to emerge victorious. A land scarce in natural resources and within the “natural” hemispheric influence of the U.S. would not confront large degree of intervention from the Soviet Union. On its drive to reaffirm power the U.S. tried to play two diametrically opposed roles. In the traditional fashion of western empires it formed an alliance with

autocratic governments in Guatemala and El Salvador.

 But it balanced it with an innovative approach that marketed support for insurgents in Nicaragua as a battle between David and Goliath. The U.S. was able to portray itself as the patron of freedom fighters. Central America was to be a testing ground for those who advocated the “Reagan Doctrine”, a repudiation of détente and a belief that the U.S. should focus not only in containing the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union but reducing it. With the arrival of Reagan at the White House there was a shift in policy away from the emphasis of human rights under the Jimmy Carter administration and the adoption of a stance of realpolitik, i.e., support for friendly government regardless of their bloodshed record. The perceived “softness” of the Carter administration (this presidency, although not as warmly as its successor, supported many dictatorships in Central American and elsewhere) was blamed by some members of the Reagan administration for the rise of governments that did not blindly submit to the Washington consensus. Officials like Jeane Kirkpatrick formulated ideas for the justification of U.S. support of dictatorships by arguing for a focus on pragmatism, of stability above all other concerns. The cost of this “stabilization” was the assassination of 300,000 people in Central America during the Reagan presidency.


When Reagan came to power, events that had been brewing for a long time in these oppressed lands where coming into full force. The region and the U.S. were not without their troubled history.

In the 1850s William Walker,

 a warrior entrepreneur from New Orleans (probably the inspiration of Marlon Brando’s character, who goes by the same name, in Gillo Pontecorvo’s film Burn), invaded Nicaragua, reestablished slavery and became the first and only American to be elected President of the country. Eighty years later nationalists, led by Augusto Sandino, drove U.S. marines out of Nicaragua in 1927. U.S. involvement in Central America was not limited to Nicaragua.


United States intervention (1909–33)


In 1909,

the United States provided political support to conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua’s potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya’s attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of Zelaya. The U.S. justified the intervention by claiming to protect U.S. lives and property. Zelaya resigned later that year.

In August 1912

the President of Nicaragua, Adolfo Díaz, requested that the Secretary of War, General Luis Mena, resign for fear that he was leading an insurrection. Mena fled Managua with his brother, the Chief of Police of Managua, to start an insurrection. When the U.S. Legation asked President Díaz to ensure the safety of American citizens and property during the insurrection he replied that he could not and that…

U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua

President Emiliano Chamorro

José Santos Zelaya
U.S. Marines clearing 
barriers from the track.
U.S. Marine MajorSmedley Butler
  Inauguration of Conservative President Adolfo Díaz (center), with U.S. diplomat Lawrence Dennis and
former president Emiliano Chamorro.
Two Marines at Coyotepe Hill, the 
   Liberal rebel stronghold, in Oct. 1912.
El Coyotepe fortress.
El Coyotepe entrance El Coyotepe wall

The Assault on Coyotepe (1912)

The Assault on Coyotepe
U.S. Marines Trounce Rebellious Liberals

On a leisurely drive to Masaya from  Managua, looming up on the left of the highway is the old mountaintop  fortress, Coyotepe. Many tales have been told about it, usually bloodcurdling stories of torture during the rule of Somoza or the Sandinistas, depending on one’s political bent. What is almost never  heard about is something that really happened on this hill. One of Nicaragua’s national heroes, Benjamín Zeledón, is associated with this place. It is an interesting story with a variety of versions.

One battle was fought there in October 1912.

 Lasting perhaps one hour, maybe less, it established Zeledón as a national hero and martyr, kept President Adolfo Díaz in power
until the 1916 elections, and began the tradition of direct, American involvement in Nicaragua’s internal politics.


 was a turbulent year in Nicaragua. The regime of José Santos Zelaya, subject to
many Conservative uprisings and a poisonous relationship with the Catholic Church,
finally tottered and fell when a Conservative “revolution” headed by Juan J. Estrada in Bluefields finally appeared to have the military power to defeat Zelaya.

Two mercenaries from the United States contracted by Conservatives to sabotage ships in the harbor had been caught by the authorities and summarily executed.

U.S. Marines were sent to the rescue and landed in Bluefields to insure that the revolution would not fizzle out.

 Zelaya reportedly consulted with his friend to the north, Dictator Porfirio Díaz of  Mexico, who advised him to get on a boat and leave.

With the end of the Zelaya  regime, a period of instability took hold in Nicaragua that was supposed to end with the naming of mining accountant Adolfo Díaz as president.

 A member of a shaky  Conservative coalition that was supported by only a small minority of Nicaraguans, Díaz  did not lead many except his immediate followers and members of his household.

 Soon he had a rebellion on his hands when two generals -one Conservative, General Mena, and one Liberal, General Benjamín Zeledón- joined forces at Masaya, formed a  rival government, and threatened to march on Managua. Díaz hit the panic button and  asked for the Marines to land and save his regime.

Mena’s forces had commandeered  U.S.-owned river steamers and the railroad for strategic reasons, and so the U.S.  obliged and sent 3,000 Marines to protect “American lives and property.

” They  marched on Masaya and Granada.

 General Mena finally capitulated and agreed to keep his garrison in its barracks in  Granada, but Zeledón still had to be disarmed. In 1910, at the age of 31, Zeledón had been Minister of War in the cabinet of Zelaya’s presidential appointee José Madriz, earning that post for his fame as a hero in the victorious war with Honduras and El Salvador in 1907.

Zeledón -born in San Rafael del Norte, Jinotega- was strongly  opposed to the U.S. intervention and was prepared to die in order to defend his country
 from what he called “foreign despotism.”

 By 1912 he was the last leading Liberal still in the field who actively desired the
 immediate toppling of the Díaz government, which he regarded as a puppet of the  Americans. Zeledón’s hostility toward the Díaz regime, and subsequently toward the  U.S. Marines, brought on the confrontation at Coyotepe in October 1912.

 Storm the heights

 Located on the end of the Masaya Lagoon are two large hills, one called Coyotepe and the other called La Barranca.

 Before the Marines showed up, Liberal forces fortified both hills. Coyotepe was the more strategic of the two as the main railroad leading from
 Granada to Managua passes directly under its heights; a few small pieces of artillery on  Coyotepe can effectively disrupt traffic since it also overlooks the main road between  Masaya and Granada. It was obvious that the Marines would have to take the hill in  order to control access to Granada and defeat the rebel coalition of Zeledón and Mena.

 Telegrams were exchanged between the U.S. forces and Zeledón: the Marines asked  him to leave Coyotepe: he politely refused and told them they would have to fight him.

 Before dawn on October 4, 1912,

Company “C” of the First Battalion, First Provisional Regiment, U.S. Marines, Nicaraguan Expedition, under the command of Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton, assembled at the foot of Coyotepe Hill and made ready their  assault.

 At first light they started up the hill. They shot their way to the top, and took control of  Coyotepe Hill. Zeledón’s forces had retreated off the hill as the Marines approached the  summit. Irregulars from Conservative forces began combing the area for Zeledón and his men.

The next morning near Diriomo, Zeledón ran into a Conservative force and
 shot it out with them.

 He was struck in the spine by a bullet. He was taken by mule or by wagon, according  to different versions, to Catarina. The wound had been fatal and he was dead on arrival.
 Another version

 has Zeledón being captured in Catarina and taken to Masaya where he
 was executed on orders from the Marines. The corpse was then paraded through the streets. A young Augusto César Sandino may have witnessed this procession, or perhaps his burial in the cemetery at Catarina. Zeledón lay there, unremarked upon, until Sandinista Comandante Tomás Borge dedicated a large monument in the form of a Winchester rifle to him in 1980. Charge!

Regarding the assault, the only accurate account of the battle and the condition of
 the hill at the time of the battle is found in an address that Colonel Pendleton gave in
 1913 at the dedication of a plaque to honor the dead who took part in that battle. That
 plaque is mounted on a wall in the Marine barracks in Boston, where the great
 majority of the men who took part in the assault had come from. Pendleton finally
 told what happened on the hill outside of Masaya.

 Commanded in the field by Captain Fortson, Company “C” had made it part way up the
 hill before they were detected by a sentry stationed on the summit of Coyotepe, who
 started waving a sword.

 The strategy of the Marines was to have one group of soldiers pin down the defenders
 with accurate rifle fire as the others climbed the hill. This worked until the Marines
 reached an open space right under the summit. A machine gun had been placed to
 cover it, and it was also blocked with barbed wire.

 As soon as the Marines made it there, three were shot dead and several others were
 wounded seriously. A fourth Marine named Durham continued forward and was shot
 down, but not before he had managed to cut the barbed wire. The Marines then took
 the summit. The assault on Coyotepe was over. American losses were four killed and
 several wounded; Nicaraguan losses unknown.

 It is also clear from Pendleton’s description that the summit of Coyotepe was lined with
 trenches and that there were no buildings there at that time. This lays waste to versions
 that have the fortress being built late last century.

 Judging from the architecture, it appears that the fortress was built between the two
 world wars. Though it surely does command the Masaya Highway and old railway line
 to Granada, it could easily be destroyed by one 500-pound bomb.

 In the mid-1960s, the Somoza family had turned the old fortress over to the Boy
 Scouts, who used it for their annual jamboree. Somoza’s National Guard apparently
 used it briefly during the insurrection against him in 1979 to shell the Masaya. The
 dungeons below were reportedly used to isolate political prisoners then, and again
 during the 1980s when the Sandinistas were in power. However, the tales of brutal
 torture of prisoners during either regime are undocumented, though they lend an aura of
 intrigue while one walks around inside. In the early years of the Sandinista revolution,
 the authorities turned Coyotepe over for use by the Association of Sandinista Children,
 a Nicaraguan version of the Pioneers in Cuba.

 By 1988, it was completely abandoned, adorned with spray-painted graffiti, including
 some elaborately drawn pornographic sketches. It has been returned once again to the
 Boy Scouts, probably its most effective use. Meanwhile, you can visit the installation
 and let your imagination run rampant as you walk the underground corridors past the
 cells in this 20th century dungeon.

Fortaleza de El

  Pío Blandón Arróglia (left) and Pedro Blandón Arróglia, ca. 1930.    Two archived copies of the same photo.  Both of these men were Sandinista sub-jefes in the area from El Jícaro to La Concordia-La Pavona and Condega from at least late 1929 (this is NOT the better-known Sandinista General Pedro Blandón).  The two brothers, cousins of EDSN jefe Doroteo Blandón, are mentioned by old-time Sandinista Martín Blandón Rodríguez, IES 033: 7, and in PC30.01.20 Uhrig Contact Report; Pedro Arróglia is also mentioned as a Sandinista jefe in IR30.01.18 and IR30.03.22 and other reports from the first six months of 1930.  On the rear of the second photo is the following:


   Damage at La Luz Mine from Sandinista raid of April 1928.     

For US-generated records describing the events surrounding the destruction of the mine,.


George Marshall, Superintendent La Luz Mine (April-May 1928).   George Marshall, superintendent at La Luz Mine, was seized by the Sandinistas and died in captivity, though evidence indicates he died of dysentery, not Sandinista mistreatment; in fact it appears the rebels treated him well.  These photos show Marshall during his captivity.  In the last photo (3C), the arrow on the left points to “Arcadio Herrera,” and on the right, to what looks like “J. M. Lopez”.


 Sandino’s wedding to Blanca Aráuz, May 1927.  

Augusto Calderón Sandino and Blanca Aráuz, day of their wedding, May 19, 1927.

The wedding party, outskirts of San Rafael del Norte, May 19, 1927.  The last cropping is of Pedro Altamirano, or Pedrón.


 Sandino and Blanca Aráuz in camp, ca. 1930. 



 Sandino and Liberals in Jinotega during the Civil War?   The man labeled “1-Sandino” looks very much like Sandino.  “2” is labeled Pedro Lopez.  Pedro López’s name appears exactly once in extant Sandinista correspondence, in the early stage of the war   What’s the man doing with the handkerchief in the left foreground?  Judging from the position of the roof corner in the building in the background, this photo was probably snapped a few moments after the photo below, as the photographer moved along with the crowd and horsemen.If the writing on this photo says “Sandino,” it’s probably wrong.  Note that the photographer faces the middle of a large tall windowless building with elaborate molding to the left, suggesting a church.  The photographer is probably moving to his left, following the flow of the horses and procession, and will soon get to the corner of the building and roof, at which point Sandino and Pedro López ride by and he snaps the first photo.  That seems likeliest anyway.These two photos present something of a puzzle.  They were pasted onto the page of a Marine Corps photo album with the title “Groups of Sandino’s Bandits, July 1928,” as seen in the thumbnail above.  The two were clearly taken the same day during the same event, by someone in the street near the town plaza, watching a passing parade of Liberal or Sandinista soldiers.  The troops were probably entering a bigger town — evidenced by the size of the building in the background, probably the church. The likeliest places are Ocotal, Jinotega, Estelí, or Matagalpa.  The only time Sandino rode triumphantly through major towns was during the Civil War and right after.  It thus seems reasonable to surmise that these two photos were taken in a bigger Segovian town around February-March 1927, while the Civil War still raged.  These were probably Liberal Sandinistas.


 Sandinistas in the Western Segovias, 1927-28. 

This photo, and the four to follow, appear to be in the Western Segovias, probably around San Lucas-Somoto. Note the characteristic half-moon shape of the horsemen’s formation, with rifles raised and the skull-and-crossbones red-and-black flag in the center.

 Similar half-moon formation.

Evidently a mock battle being staged in the center of the half-moon formation.  Appears almost ritualized, and certainly theatrical. Such mock combat is also seen in the next photo.

Pointing rifles directly in each other’s faces. The piled-stone and thatch dwelling suggests an area of longtime indigenous settlement, such as around Somoto-San Lucas.


  EDSN Sargeant Major Alejandro Molina.   

The illegitimate son of wealthy Estelí landowner Blas Miguel Molina, Alejandro Molina served as a Sergeant Major in Sandino’s Ejército Defensor for about 15 months (from December 1927 to February 1929), after which he went into exile in Honduras with his mother.  Soon after he was arrested, imprisoned at the National Penitentiary in Managua.  Was this photograph found on his person?  How did it end up in a “July 1928” Marine photo album? 


 Sandinistas and Ismael Peralta in Jinotega.  

The man on the far right is identified as Ismael Peralta, a Sandinista general in the Yalí-Constancia district, which suggests that this photo was taken somewhere around Jinotega.  The men seem especially interested in brandishing their weapons. Two separate prints of the same photo, followed by a second version, of much higher quality, from the collection of Walter C. Sandino.  That a poor quality version of this photo found its way into the Marines’ archives suggests that this image circulated widely during the period.


Sandinista anti-aircraft battery in the jungle. 

Three versions of the same photograph, again suggesting its widespread circuation at the time.  The first two images, of lesser quality, are in RG127; the third is from the collection of Walter C. Sandino.  Caption of the top photo reads, “A BANDIT LEWIS MACHINE GUN.”  In this photo, four men point their weapons skyward — three rifles on the left, and a Lewis machine gun resting on a man’s right shoulder on the right.  The man in the white shirt in the center seems to direct the two men in front of him.  All this suggests these six rebels were posing in an offensive posture directed against airplanes.  The third image, of higher quality, reveals another individual, in the background whose hat protrudes over the extended right arm of the man in the white shirt.  This makes eight men total:  seven in the photo plus the photographer, marked by his shadow.

The lettering here looks like “Explorando el campo, 13 de mayo de 1928.”  The photo album page says July 1928, which is probably close, perhaps in the Eastern Segovias or Jinotega area.

No title, EDSN column in the jungle, ca. 1928.


Augusto Sandino, Francisco Estrada, Juan Gregorio Colindres, 1928.

No date. Sandino on left, Francisco “Pancho” Estrada in middle, Juan Gregorio Colindres on the right. Probably 1927-28.


 Lorenzo Blandón, Carlos Salgado, Clemente Torres H.

Probably 1928, probably the Western Segovias.  Carlos Salgado, of course, was one of the leading Sandinista generals in this region from the end of the Civil War till the end of the rebellion, and one of the shrewdest and most capable of all rebel chieftains.


  Sandinista horsemen. 

No title, no date, ca. 1928, two archived copies of the same photo.



  Sandinista Generals Manuel María Girón Ruano and Francisco Estrada.

This photo, and the next one (Photo 16) were taken a few moments apart by the same person standing in the same place, as one can see by comparing the corner of the roof.  The place was probably La Luz Mine, the time April 1928 (see Photo Cluster 2 on this page).  The inscriptions read “Jiron,” “Estrada,” and (in Photo 16) “Carlos Quesada.”  On the capture and execution of Girón in Feb-March 1929


  Sandinista Colonel Carlos Quesada.

This and the previous photo (Photo 14) appear to have been taken a few moments apart.


 jefes Pedro Torres, Celestino Zeledon? and Carmen Torres?

My best interpretation of the lettering on this photo  is: “3. Pedro Torres. 2. Celestino Zeledon. 1. Carmen Torres.”  The latter’s name appears frequently as a Sandinista sub-jefe; the other two names do not correspond to any names in my databases.  Were these men Sandinistas?  Liberals?  Conservatives?  Unknown.


Major General Joseph H. Pendleton, USMC


In consequence my Government desires that the Government of the United States guarantee with its forces security for the property of American Citizens in Nicaragua and that it extend its protection to all the inhabitants of the Republic.[25]

U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933,[26] except for a nine month period beginning in 1925. From 1910 to 1926, the conservative party ruled Nicaragua. The Chamorro family, which had long dominated the party, effectively controlled the government during that period. In 1914, the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was signed, giving the U.S. control over the proposed canal, as well as leases for potential canal defenses.[27] Following the evacuation of U.S. Marines, another violent conflict between liberals and conservatives took place in 1926, known as the Constitutionalist War, which resulted in a coalition government and the return of U.S. Marines.[28]

From 1927 until 1933,



 Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, who withdrew upon the establishment of a new Liberal government. Sandino was the only Nicaraguan general to refuse to sign the el tratado del Espino Negro agreement and then headed up to the northern mountains of Las Segovias, where he fought the U.S. Marines for over five years.[29] When the Americans left in 1933, they set up the Guardia Nacional (National Guard),[30] a combined military and police force trained and equipped by the Americans and designed to be loyal to U.S. interests. Anastasio Somoza García, a close friend of the American government, was put in charge. He was one of the three rulers of the country, the others being Sandino and

the President Juan Bautista Sacasa.

After the U.S. Marines withdrew from Nicaragua in January 1933, Sandino and the newly elected Sacasa government reached an agreement by which he would cease his guerrilla activities in return for amnesty, a grant of land for an agricultural colony, and retention of an armed band of 100 men for a year.[31] But a growing hostility between Sandino and Somoza led Somoza to order the assassination of Sandino.[30][32][33] Fearing future armed opposition from Sandino, Somoza invited him to a meeting in Managua, where Sandino was assassinated on February 21 of 1934 by soldiers of the National Guard. Hundreds of men, women, and children from Sandino’s agricultural colony were executed later.[34]

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1954 overthrew the democratically elected Guatemalan government, in a mission that was among the first for the newly created agency. Jacobo Arbenz, president of Guatemala at the time of the coup d’etat, adopted New Deal era polices to reform the economy of his country but what had healed the American economy was an impermissible affront to U.S. corporate interest in the country. I

t was an event that would have a lasting impression on an Argentinean who witnessed it, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who a few years later, by then a revolutionary leader, vowed that – “Cuba will not be Guatemala”. With no government or any one group in control of Guatemala, fiasco ensued, which led to thirty years of civil war. Under this chaos in 1966 the U.S. created and managed the “first sustained campaign of death-squad-executed ‘disappearances’ of political dissidents.”

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By the early eighties the atrocities in Guatemala reached a genocidal scale. Between 1981 and 1983 a hundred thousand Mayan peasants were killed giving the country the tragic distinction of suffering the highest number of casualties among its neighbors.


With the genocide raging in all its vigor Regan met Guatemalan president Efrain Rios Montt, an evangelical Christian and one of the principal figures behind the atrocities, and complemented him as a man “totally committed to democracy.”

 Extermination of Mayan peasants was not the only game in town.

Three decades after the overthrow of Arbenz as the 70s came to an end and the United States prepared to change directions to the right of the political spectrum, the Nicaraguan Revolution triumphed. The 1979 revolution brought to power a coalition of “progressive capitalist, socialist, Marxists, and Catholics” that Washington found intolerable.

This event, more that any other, was the catalyst that sparked renewed attention to the region. The FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) forcefully removed the autocratic government of the Somoza family, who had enjoyed a longstanding relationship with the United States. The Sandinistas, who took their name from the country’s anti-imperialist fighter earlier in the century, throughout their years in power battled insurgent forces sponsored by the United States. Washington and it allies in the region recruited former members of Nicaragua’s National Guard and organized them into an insurgent force that came to be know as the Contras. To finance and supply the anti-Sandinista rebel group the U.S. turned to various illicit activities. The Pentagon, in violation of the U.S. arms embargo, sold weapons to Iran and siphoned the proceeds to the Contras. Drug traffickers that loaned their airplanes to ship weapons and other supplies into Nicaragua in exchange were provided with access to the American market.

It was support of the Contras that allowed the former Viet Cong fighter to manipulate the story and pose itself as a defender of grassroots freedom fighters. Of course, eventually the operation erupted in the Iran-Contra scandal that sent Reagan officials to prison and tarnished the reputation of the administration. Another legacy of the conflict was the withdrawal of the U.S. from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. When the international body ordered the U.S. to pay billions of dollars in damages to Nicaragua for “mining its harbor and conducting an illegal war of aggression” Washington refused to acquiesce with the court’s verdict and retired the country from its authority.6 No damages were paid but a very high cost was levied on Nicaragua: 30,000 civilians dead, mostly in the hands of the Contras.7 In one of those events that reveal that history more often than not can be read as farce, the leader of the Sandinistas Daniel Ortega recently won the presidential elections in Nicaragua, although the newly elected leader plagued by corruption scandals is a far cry from the promise of the revolutionary rhetoric of decades ago.



To contain Nicaragua and stop the spread of Marxism in the region, besides enacting an embargo and carryout an “illegal war of aggression”, the U.S. reinforced the surrounding governments. The next battlefield would be a neighbor of the Central American country, El Salvador. The U.S. had reason to be concerned about Nicaragua. It presented a real threat to U.S. Cold War discourse because it was an attempt (much like the Salvador Allende government in Chile) to prove that Marxism and democracy could coexist, the Sandinista government could not be summarily dismissed as a totalitarian regime. Nicaragua enjoyed the support and political recognition of Mexico as well as that of many social democrat governments in Western Europe. The Sandinistas threatened the agenda of American style democracy – liberalism and free market economics – that the White House pushed at home and abroad. In response the Reagan Administration assembled a group called National Security Planning. Composed of the President and some of the highest members of his cabinet (The Vice-President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Director of Central Intelligence…), the group drafted a document titled United States Policy in Central America and Cuba Through F.Y.’84 in which it outlined a plan for the prevention of a “proliferation of Cuba-model states” and the aid, military and economic, the U.S. was to provide to allied governments in Central America.8

Secretary of Sate for Ronald Reagan, Alexander Haig stated we “draw the line” against Communism in El Salvador and lobbied Congress (and obtained) a doubling of U.S. aid for the country.9 This intensification of the conflict would result in $4 billion in American assistance that yielded a prolonged civil war that lasted over a decade and left many more thousands of dead Salvadorians.10 El Salvador was not new to U.S. military support. The country had been a recipient of U.S. assistance under the Carter administration, but it had been a tumultuous relationship. Even before that, during the Alliance for Progress when Washington was fortifying the intelligence apparatus of governments across Latin America in El Salvador to agencies were create to monitor and suppress dissidence (death squads were among its methods of persuasion), the Agencia Nacional de Servicios Especiales (ANSESAL) and Organización democrática Nacionalista (ORDEN). Full support, however, was not to come until the advent of the “Reagan Revolution” and the revival of American “hard power”. The times of fragile patriarchy under Presidents Ford and Carter and the rampant feminism that had weakened the “moral fiber” of America were over, and the days of a return to masculine voracity just beginning.

El Salvador provided the battleground to relive and rewrite Vietnam, but with the important difference that American forces maintained a low-profile. A paradox of all the bellicose rhetoric emanating from Washington was that the U.S. was willing to fund the war but not fight it. The “Vietnam Syndrome” had not been completely overcome. Legislators knew there constituency was weary of seeing American soldiers return home in body bags and shied away from the responsibility of committing its soldiers to fight communist guerrillas. The U.S. learned an important lesson in Vietnam: outsource the dirty ground work. Congress placed restrictions on the number of military personnel that could operate in the country (limited to 55 advisers, although the real number was three times as high) and consequently the size of the Salvadorian army was increased from 5,000 to 53,000 and many officers were trained by the ARMY at the School of Las Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.11 The military campaign against the rebel group Frente Faribundo Marti para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) was accompanied by rhetoric about reform. With consent from Washington in 1984, Jose Napoleon Duarte, of the Christian Democratic Party, was elected (with the consent of Washington) as President of El Salvador. His lection was championed by the U.S. as evidence that reform minded politicians were taking control of the country. The U.S. supported many initiatives like land reform and democracy. But U.S. insistence on free trade policies coupled with the ever constant threat of a military coup severely incapacitated the possibilities of Duarte and in 1989 his party lost to the National Republican Alliance (ARENA), a party described by Reagan’s Ambassador to the country, Robert White, as a fascist party modeled after the Nazis.12


Through the decade a continuous flow of funding and advisors arrived as long as certain “moral standards” were promised by the recipient governments. To be eligible for U.S. assistance governments had to be “certified” by the Executive Branch as non-violators of human rights when the President requested congressional appropriation of funds. And in the case of El Salvador the White House did certify it despite all the evidence of atrocities committed by the government. Even U.S. Ambassador Deane R. Hinton acknowledged “serious excesses in human rights abuses” in a report he sent to Secretary Haig, placing the majority of the responsibility on government soldiers.13 The absurdity of the battle for freedom from Communism did not elude Salvadorians; as one Roman Catholic Church spokesman in the country pointed out President Reagan’s appeal to “light a candle as an expression of solidarity with the people of Poland at a time when there had been seven Polish workers killed […] was totally contradictory to the President’s conclusion that the human rights situation here [El Salvador] was improving.”14 He was of course making a contrast to events happening in Poland while the country was under Soviet martial law.

All the war in El Salvador accomplished after 12 years of war and $6 billion in U.S. aid was the murder of as many as 90,000 people.15 Contradictions and military assistance to totalitarian governments was the legacy of American intervention in its poor neighbors to the south. In 1991, with the end of the Cold War the U.S. forced the FMLN and the Salvadorian government to the negotiating table the rebel group demanded implementation by the government of many of the reform policies the American government had advocated but to which it never gave its full support. The nation with perhaps the strongest history of freedom, liberty and democracy – and the zeal to bringing those ideals to the world – has been remarkably unsuccessful exporting them.


1 Greg Grandin, Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United Sates, and the rise of the New Imperialism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), 71.

2 Grandin, 96.

3 Grandin, 90.

4 Grandin, 110.

5 Grandin, 112.

6 Grandin, 118.

7 Grandin, 116.

8 Raymond Bonner, “President Approved Policy on Preventing ‘Cuba-Model States’”, The New York Times, April 7, 1983.

9 Mark Danner, The massacre at El Mozote: a parable of the Cold War (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 40.

10 Danner, 10.

11 Grandin, 101.

12 Grandin, 103.

13 Raymond Bonner, “Reagan’s Salvador Rights Report: The Balance Sheet,” The New York Times, February 26, 1982.

14 Raymond Bonner, “Reagan’s Salvador Rights Report: The Balance Sheet,” The New York Times, February 26, 1982.

15 Grandin, 108.


Satellite image of Central America

Daniel Noriega




 Nicaragua Postal History


 Image Image

 the Nicaragua set shown earlier.  the story that this stamp changed history. Someone, possibly a competitor nation, posted letters bearing this stamp to all the members of the committee planning the Nicaragua Canal project. This was to link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and would bring wealth and jobs to Nicaragua. The committee saw the hidden message and did more research and found that there were activ volcanoes in Nicaragua and the whole project was moved to Panama.

 the oldest nicargua volcano stamp :


Nicaragua 1931 Will Rogers Airmail Stamps on FDC

1931 Will Rogers Flight to Nicaragua after Managua Earthquake

Centenary in 1962:

Chronology history collections


The Somoza dynasty (1936–79)

Nicaragua has experienced several military dictatorships, the longest being the hereditary dictatorship of the Somoza family for much of the 20th century. The Somoza family came to power as part of a US-engineered pact in 1927 that stipulated the formation of the Guardia Nacional, or the National Guard, to replace the US marines that had long reigned in the country.[35] Somoza slowly eliminated officers in the National Guard who might have stood in his way, and then deposed Sacasa and became president on January 1, 1937 in a rigged election.[30] Somoza was 35 at the time.

Nicaragua declared war on Germany on December 8, 1941, during World War II.[36] Although war was formally declared, no soldiers were sent to the war, but Somoza did seize the occasion to confiscate attractive properties held by German-Nicaraguans, the best-known of which was the Montelimar estate which today operates as a privately owned luxury resort and casino.[37] In 1945 Nicaragua was among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Charter.[38]

Throughout his years as dictator, “Tacho” Somoza ‘ruled Nicaragua with a strong arm’.[34] He had three main sources for his power: control of Nicaraguan economy, military support, and support from the US. When Somoza used the National Guard to take power in 1937, he destroyed any potential armed resistance.[39] Not only did he have military control, but he controlled the National Liberal Party (LPN), which in turn controlled the legislature and judicial systems, giving him complete political power.

Despite his complete control, on September 21, 1956, Somoza was shot by Rigoberto López Pérez, a 27-year-old liberal Nicaraguan poet. Somoza was attending a PLN party to celebrate his nomination for the Presidency. He died eight days later. After his father’s death, Luis Somoza Debayle, the eldest son of the late dictator, was appointed President by the congress and officially took charge of the country.[30] He is remembered by some for being moderate, but was in power only for a few years and then died of a heart attack. Then came president René Schick Gutiérrez whom most Nicaraguans viewed “as nothing more than a puppet of the Somozas”.[40] Somoza’s brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, a West Point graduate, succeeded his father in charge of the National Guard, controlled the country, and officially took the presidency after Schick.

Nicaragua experienced economic growth during the 1960s and 1970s largely as a result of industrialization,[41] and became one of Central America’s most developed nations. Due to its stable and high growth economy, foreign investments grew, primarily from U.S. companies such as Citigroup, Sears, Westinghouse, Coca Cola, Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Bank, “Morgan Guaranty Trust and Wells Fargo Bank.[citation needed] Other investors included London Bank and the Bank of Montreal.[citation needed]

The capital city of Managua suffered a major earthquake in 1972 which destroyed nearly 90% of the city, creating major losses,[42] and leveling a 600-square block area in the heart of Managua. Some Nicaraguan historians see the 1972 earthquake that devastated Managua as the final ‘nail in the coffin’ for Somoza. Instead of helping to rebuild Managua, Somoza siphoned off relief money to help pay for National Guard luxury homes, while the homeless poor had to make do with hastily constructed wooden shacks. The mishandling of relief money also prompted Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente to personally fly to Managua on 31 December 1972, but he died enroute in an airplane accident.[43] Even the economic elite were reluctant to support Somoza, as he had acquired monopolies in industries that were key to rebuilding the nation,[44] and did not allow the businessmen to compete with the profits that would result.

In 1973, the year of reconstruction, many new buildings were built, but the level of corruption in the government prevented further growth. Strikes and demonstrations developed as citizens became increasingly angry and politically mobilized. The elite were angry that Somoza was asking them to pay new emergency taxes to further his own ends. As a result, more of the young elite joined the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN). The ever increasing tensions and anti-government uprisings slowed growth in the last two years of the Somoza dynasty.

 Nicaraguan Revolution

In 1961 Carlos Fonseca turned back to the historical figure of Sandino, and along with two others founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).[30] Fonseca turned to the KGB and Cuba’s DGI for arms and assistance. The FSLN was a small party throughout most of the 1960s, but Somoza’s apparent hatred of it and his heavy-handed treatment of anyone he suspected to be a Sandinista sympathizer gave many ordinary Nicaraguans the idea that the Sandinistas were much stronger.[citation needed]

After the 1972 earthquake and Somoza’s apparent corruption, alleged mishandling of relief aid, and refusal to rebuild Managua, the ranks of the Sandinistas were flooded with young disaffected Nicaraguans who no longer had anything to lose.[39] These economic problems propelled the Sandinistas in their struggle against Somoza by leading many middle- and upper-class Nicaraguans to see the Sandinistas as the main hope for removing the brutal Somoza regime.

In December 1974, a group of FSLN, in an attempt to kidnap U.S. Ambassador Tuner Shelton, held some Managuan partygoers hostage (after killing the host, former Agriculture Minister Jose Maria Castillo), until the Somozan government met their demands for a large ransom and free transport to Cuba. Somoza granted this, then subsequently sent his National Guard out into the countryside to look for the perpetrators of the kidnapping, described by opponents of the kidnapping as ‘terrorists’. While searching, the National Guard allegedly pillaged villages and imprisoned, tortured, raped, and executed hundreds of villagers. This led to the Roman Catholic Church withdrawing support of the Somoza regime. Around this time, Chilean president Salvador Allende was removed from power in a military coup that prompted Allende to take his own life as the presidential palace came under fire. With right-wing Augusto Pinochet in power in Chile, several hundred committed Chilean revolutionaries joined the Sandinista army in Nicaragua.[45]

On January 10, 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the national newspaper La Prensa and ardent opponent of Somoza, was assassinated.[46] This allegedly led to the extreme general disappointment with Somoza. It is alleged that the planners and perpetrators of the murder were at the highest echelons of the Somoza regime and included the dictator’s son, “El Chiguin” (“The Kid”), the President of Housing, Cornelio Hueck, the Attorney General, and Pedro Ramos, a Cuban expatriate and close ally, who commercialized blood plasma.[46]

Nicaraguan refugees, 1979

The Sandinistas, supported by some of the populace, elements of the Catholic Church, and regional governments (including Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Venezuela), took power in July 1979. The Carter administration, refusing to act unilaterally, decided to work with the new government, while attaching a provision for aid forfeiture if it was found to be assisting insurgencies in neighboring countries.[47] A group of prominent citizens known as Los Doce, “the Twelve”, denounced the Somoza regime and said that “there can be no dialogue with Somoza … because he is the principal obstacle to all rational understanding … through the long dark history of Somocismo, dialogues with the dictatorship have only served to strengthen it”, Somoza fled the country and eventually ended up in Paraguay, where he was assassinated in September 1980, allegedly by members of the Argentinian Revolutionary Workers Party.[48]
To begin the task of establishing a new government, the Sandinistas created a Council (or junta) of National Reconstruction of five members: Sandinista militants Daniel Ortega, Moises Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado (a member of Los Doce), businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro). Sandinista supporters thus comprised three of the five members of the junta.

The non-Sandinistas Robelo and Chamorro later resigned because they had little actual power in the junta. Sandinista mass organizations were also powerful: including the Sandinista Workers’ Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), and the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos).

On the Atlantic Coast a small uprising occurred in support of the Sandinistas. A group of Creoles led by a native of Bluefields, Dexter Hooker (known as Commander Abel), raided a Somoza-owned business to gain access to food, guns and money before heading off to join Sandinista fighters who had liberated the city of El Rama. The ‘Black Sandinistas’ returned to Bluefields on July 19, 1979 and took the city without a fight. The Black Sandinistas were challenged by a group of mestizo Sandinista fighters. The ensuing standoff between the two groups, with the Black Sandinistas occupying the National Guard barracks (the cuartel) and the mestizo group occupying the Town Hall (Palacio), gave the revolution on the Atlantic Coast a racial dimension absent from events in other parts of the country. The Black Sandinistas were assisted in their power struggle with the Palacio group by the arrival of the Simón Bolívar International Brigade from Costa Rica.

One of the brigade’s members, an Afro-Costa-Rican called Marvin Wright (known as Kalalu) became known for his rousing speeches, which included elements of Black Power ideology, in his attempts to unite all black militias that had formed in Bluefields. The introduction of a racial element into the revolution was not welcomed by the Sandinista National Directorate, which expelled Kalalu and the rest of the brigade from Nicaragua and sent them to Panama.[49]

Sandinistas and the Contras

ARDE Frente Sur Contras in 1987

Robert Pastor, President Carter’s National Security Advisor on Latin America explained why the administration had to back Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza untill he could no longer be sustained to then move to bar the FSLN from power through the “preservation of existing institutions, especially the National Guard” [50] even though it had been massacring the population “with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy.”:

“The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations in the region, but it also did not want to allow developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect U.S. interests adversely.” [51]

Shortly after Somoza fled to Miami, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski declared that “we have to demonstrate that we are still the decisive force in determining the political outcomes in Central America.” [52] As the Sandinista forces entered the capital, the Carter administration “began setting the stage for a counter revolution,” Peter Kornbluh observes. On July 19, a U.S. plane disguised with Red Cross markings evacuated the remnants of the National Guard to Miami. The old Guardia was then built into the counter revolutionary force known as the ‘Contras’ by the C.I.A. [53]]


Nicaragua 1978



MANAGUA, Nicaragua—President Anastasio Somoza Debayle opening a new session of the National Congress, 1978.


Nicaragua: June, 1978 – July, 1979″. Photographs by Susan Meiselas; edited with Claire Rosenberg; Pantheon Books; #0394512650; c1981; est. 105 pages. The work has been reprinted in various formats, with various pagination; it was just reprinted c2008 as, “Susan Meiselas: Nicaragua”, by Aperture Press: #59711071X, and this edition includes a bonus DVD interview with the photographer on her work in Nicaragua.

Meiselas is responsible for some of the most recognizable images of the early Sandinista Revolution. Her work was adapted (without permission) by both sides in the conflict. Later, her images, particularly those from Esteli, were the subject of several well-known infringement/illegal use cases in the U.S. and abroad (one such example is depicted in a fairly recent Harper’s Magazine article, On the rights of Molotov Man, named after one of the most recognizable images from Meiselas.

The work is divided into three broad sections: “June 1978 – The Somoza Regime”; “September, 1978 – Insurrection”; “June, 1979-July, 1979 – The Final Offensive”. The work also includes a detailed section of captions, quotations, and an historical chronology. Even if you don’t believe a “picture is worth a 1000 words”, the images stand on their own merits. It is an rather impressive time-capsule look at Nicaragua.
Though small when compared to some of the Latin American image collections that followed (there are just over 70 plates in the volume), it has had lasting impact. Meiselas later won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for outstanding courage in reporting, as well as the Cabot Prize Photojournalism from Columbia University for her extended coverage of Latin America. Her Nicaragua work later led to her inclusion in Adam Weinberg’s “On the Lind: The New Color Photojournalism” (unlike most other photographers there at the time, Meiselas was not shooting traditional b&w news stock films).

Meiselas is represented by Magnum Photos. Their archive includes samples of her work, and their one will find much more than the Nicaragua project reviewed here. Those interested can use the “Photographer” link at the top, then her name, then the portfolio link in the lower left corner of the Magnum page. Additional information and select audio commentary can be found on her homepage – though not all aspects of the web page were functioning as of this summer. She is also often featured on The Museum of Contemporary Photography.
Of particular interest is that years later, Meiselas, with this book in hand, went back to Nicaragua to learn what had become of the people she photographed. This was the focus of the documentary film, Pictures from a Revolution, not another book, as if often said on the internet. The film is quite interesting regardless of whether or not you have seen the original collection of images, are interested in documentary photography, or the role it plays in historical works and/or journalism. There is an extended comment here on, TV Guide, aNew York Times story/review on the film, and a note mention of it, here on this site.

Other works by Susan Meiselas include the exhibition catalogs and book-length efforts: “Carnival Strippers”, “El Salvador: The Work of 30 Photographers”, “Pandora’s Box”, “Chile from Within”, “Encounters with Dani”, “Learn to See”, and, “Kurdistan – In the Shadow of History”. She has also been included in “Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers” & “On the Lind: The New Color Photojournalism”. She has co-directed (w/ Richard P. Rogers and Alfred Guzzetti) two documentary films: “Living at Risk: The Story of a Nicaraguan Family” & “Pictures from a Revolution: A Memoir of the Nicaraguan Conflict”, and co-created the multi-media project, “Mined in China”. She also did the associated photographic work for one of the better autobiographical accounts of life in Central America, “Don’t Be Afraid, Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart – The Story of Elvia Alvarado” (as told by Alvarado, translated and edited by Medea Benjamin. Harper Collins, #006097205X, c1989, a reprint of the same, formerly printed at least twice by, The Institute for Food and Development).









MANAGUA, Nicaragua—A student demonstration is broken up by the National Guard with the use of tear gas, June 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MONIMBO, Nicaragua—Wall graffiti on a Somoza supporter’s house burned in Monimbó, asks, “Where is Norman González? The dictatorship must answer,” 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MONIMBO, Nicaragua—A motorcycle brigade, followed by a crowd of 100,000, leading Los Doce (“The Twelve”) into Monimbó, July 5, 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


NICARAGUA—New National Guard recruits practice dismantling a U.S.-made M-16 rifle while blindfolded, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MATAGALPA, Nicaragua—Muchachos await a counterattack by the National Guard, 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


ESTELI, Nicaragua—Fleeing the bombing to seek refuge outside of Esteli, 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MONIMBO, Nicaragua—A woman carries her dead husband home to be buried in their back yard, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MASAYA, Nicaragua—Returning home, September 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


NICARAGUA—Searching everyone traveling by car, truck, bus, or on foot, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MANAGUA, Nicaragua—”Cuesta del Plomo” hillside outside Managua, a well-known site of many assassinations carried out by the National Guard. People search here daily for missing persons, 1978.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


ESTELI, Nicaragua—Sandinistas at the walls of the Esteli National Guard headquarters, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


ESTELI, Nicaragua—The final assault on the Esteli National Guard headquarters, July 16, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MANAGUA, Nicaragua—Near the central plaza, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


Nicaragua 1979


MANAGUA, Nicaragua—A street fighter, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


MASAYA, Nicaragua—National Guard reinforcements entering Masaya besieged by FSLN, 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

June 1979


MANAGUA, Nicaragua—A neighborhood bomb shelter dug under the street in anticipation of renewed air attacks, June 1979.

© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos


During the summer of 1979, the Nicaraguan capital of Managua fell to Sandinista guerrillas, days after President Anastasio Somoza Debayle fled the country. Susan Meiselas’ photographs of the revolution in Nicaragua form a compelling narrative, showing what rebellion in the Third World involves. Meiselas returned to Nicaragua to interview participants in the revolution. Excerpts from these interviews, edited with the help of French journalist Claire Rosenberg, accompany the more than 70 images in this extraordinary book.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua—President Anastasio Somoza Debayle opening a new session of the National Congress, 1978.



Rally of 600,000 Celebrates 32nd
Anniversary of Sandinistas’ Victory

Managua, Nicaragua, July 19, 2011

On July 19, a mass celebration was held in central Managua, Nicaragua, to mark the 32nd anniversary of the victory of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) over U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza. The July 19, 1979 overthrow of the four-decade-long Somoza dictatorship is the most important event on the Sandinista calendar and coincides this year with the 50th anniversary of the FSLN’s founding in 1961, as the organization that led the Nicaraguan people’s independence struggle.

The people’s forces celebrate victory over the Somoza dictatorship in central Managua, July 20, 1979.

TML sends its warmest greetings to the Nicaraguan people and their revolutionary Party on this significant anniversary. Since the historic victory 32 years ago, brought about through great sacrifice by the revolutionary forces, the people have continued their struggle for control over their destiny, free from outside interference, and to build a human-centred society.

The people’s confidence in the revolutionary process and the leadership of President Daniel Ortega, elected in 2006, was amply expressed by the more than 600,000 people gathered at the main square in Managua, where the proceedings were overseen by President Ortega, First Lady and fellow revolutionary Rosario Murillo, and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo.

The cardinal congratulated the government, the president and first lady for all their achievements in the interests of the people. He described himself as a “witness to the works” that drive the government, giving the example of the schools and hospitals that have been built in the country.

First Lady Murillo expressed her great pleasure at seeing the massive participation of the people in the square to celebrate the epic struggle of all Nicaraguans to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship, which she called one of the bloodiest of the past century in Latin America and the Caribbean.

President Ortega acknowledged the many guests and messages of greeting received from foreign dignitaries. He mentioned in particular the message of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and wished him well in his recuperation from his recent illness. He also called on the U.S. government to release the five Cuban patriots unjustly imprisoned in its jails.

News agencies reported that some of the other notable participants included retired general and FSLN candidate for vice president in the fall election Omar Hallesleven, representatives of the different state bodies and institutions, as well as special guests such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu, Miguel Diaz Canel, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Cuba and that country’s Minister of Higher Education.


FSLN: Summation of the People’s Struggle

First Lady Rosario Murillo and President Daniel Ortega.

President Ortega spoke of the significance of the FSLN, saying that the Party represents the summation of the Nicaraguan people’s struggle for their freedom and ensures a revolutionary present and future.

Ortega noted that one of the outstanding features of the insurrection in 1979 was that it united all the people in struggle against the Somoza dictatorship, at a time when it had been strengthened by the support of the U.S. and some Central American military regimes.

He said that with this awareness, guerrilla uprisings emerged in cities across the country “until finally, in a total national insurrection, it was possible to end the long tyranny imposed by the Yankees.”

“It was a heroic battle and the Sandinista Front was the soul and focus of that struggle. Without the Sandinista Front, this great victory would not have occurred,” he said.

Referring to famous revolutionary and national hero General Augusto Sandino, whose name the FSLN bears, he pointed out that it was Sandino who began to outline a clearly revolutionary program for Nicaragua, which stated that victory would only be achieved by the unity of the workers and peasants. He said that on this basis, the FSLN has been forging the unity of all sectors to fight poverty and hunger which are the main challenges of this new era. The president affirmed that the red and black flag of the FSLN will continue to be raised in defence of Nicaragua’s blue and white flag, as did General Sandino.

Ortega made special mention of the revolutionary youth of Nicaragua militating in the ranks of the FSLN, saying that the conscious work to incorporate these youth into the struggles of the present will ensure the revolution carries on into the future.

As concerns the near future, President Ortega, who will again run for office in the presidential election on November 6, 2011, said the FSLN’s political program for a next presidential term will be announced in August when the campaign officially begins. However, he pointed out that it is the same as that which is being implemented at the present, referring to the pro-social programs that are improving the people’s standard of living and well- being. News agencies report that Ortega is considered the favourite to prevail.

Call for U.S. Payment of Reparations and Debt to U.S.

President Ortega also raised the issue of the debt owed to the U.S. and reparations to be paid by the U.S. for its dastardly role in the country’s civil war. He proposed a referendum on whether to demand reparations of $17 billion from the U.S. for the damage it caused. The proposal was warmly received by all present.

Of U.S. imperialism’s dirty wars in Latin America and the Caribbean, its role in backing the Somoza regime and the counter- revolutionary Contras which followed the dictatorship’s downfall, are amongst the most infamous.

In 1986, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled in favour of a lawsuit filed by Nicaragua that the U.S. had violated international law by funding the Contras and mining Nicaragua’s harbours. The ICJ ordered compensation to be paid, although it did not fix an amount. For its part, the U.S. government blocked implementation of the ruling by vetoing a UN resolution requiring its compliance. It has since opposed all subsequent demands to make amends for its crimes.

The ruling took place during President Ortega’s first administration (1985-1990). However, the subsequent administration of pro-U.S. President Violeta Chamorro, 1990 to 1997, relinquished the claim. Notably, the U.S., which backed Chamorro’s campaign politically and financially, only stopped funding the Contras following Chamorro’s election.

“I want to advance and submit to the decision of Nicaraguans a first proposal, considering that U.S. leaders, the U.S. government was condemned by the International Court of Justice in The Hague for their acts of war against Nicaragua, terrorism against Nicaragua, and that the same court ordered it to compensate Nicaragua,” he said.

Regarding the debt owed to the U.S. in cases of U.S. citizens who had their land confiscated and expropriated during the 1980s, the president explained that Nicaragua has been honouring the debt owed. “To date we have paid more than $500 million,” said President Ortega. “For this reason it is considered that the debt the U.S. has with the Nicaraguan people is paid.”

Women Salute Achievements of Sandinista Government

The participation of women was a significant feature in July 19 celebrations and reflects the achievements of the Sandinista government’s social programs in ensuring women’s rights and their participation in the social and political life as an integral part of the nation’s development.

“The women feel happy and celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Revolution proudly next to the Nicaraguan President, Daniel, because he is the only one who has given us the place we deserve,” one participant said. She added that women have been advancing their rights through various government programs like the Zero Usury credit program, the Zero Hunger food program, supportive housing, etc.

“We are joyful to be in the square today celebrating the triumph of the Revolution with President Daniel and his partner Rosario [who has held various leadership roles, including government minister — TML Ed. Note] because the government has given many opportunities to women,” said another.

Through the Sandinista government women have regained their dignity, said one woman, while another cited as one of the government’s most important achievements the fifty per cent participation of women in state institutions and the FSLN.

(, Voz del Sandinismo, Prensa Latina)



At the Intercon, Managua, Nicaragua 1979



Photo by Susan Meiselas from her book Nicaragua featuring images she took during the Sandinista revolution in 1979. A decade later she returned to Nicaragua and co-directed a video, Pictures from a Revolution, documenting that trip. Few of the films and videos made during the Sandinista revolution that circulated in the United States in the ’80s are still in distribution.

In this way, two contradictory factors enter into my desire for an archive of video documenting “Nicaragua Libre,” as Sandinista Nicaragua was known. I know the window for preserving the video taken in those years is very short, due both to what gets thrown out and videotape’s rate of decay. But I also feel an obligation to protect those in the videos, both those in the foreground, who may be giving interviews, and those in the background, perhaps attending a union meeting or gathering on the street. As independent videomakers, we take a lot of time to complete our documentaries; but the state apparatus that now also “data mines” images has lots more technology and personnel at its disposal to scan and use these images quickly and effectively for surveillance and identification.

In retrospect, we know that the Stasi in East Germany collected huge dossiers of photos and reports on individuals, and it has taken years for the extent of this paper empire to come to public awareness (fictionalized in The Lives of Others, 2006). More recently, mobile phones were widely used in protests during Iran’s disputed elections and consequently monitoring technology led to activists’ persecution and arrests. Cell phone messages, photos and video, Flickr, YouTube, Skype—all these are powerful tools for activism, but they have other consequences as well.

I do not have a way around these contradictions. But they keep me from romanticizing the archive, much as I seen the need to preserve these documents from a revolution. We need these videos for an in-depth understanding of a moment when we could see a people’s optimism and social change


Memories of the 1979 Final Offensive

Photo shows the Sandinistas headquartered at Hoyt’s house.

On the Occasion of the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution
By Katherine Hoyt
[Hoyt is National Co-Coordinator of the Nicaragua Network]

Right after Bayardo [Dr. Bayardo Gonzalez of Matagalpa, Nicaragua] and I were married in 1967, my father had told us, “When ‘comes the revolution,’ you send us the kids!” At that time, the Somoza family looked well-entrenched in power with no revolution in sight and we certainly had no kids. But, of course, the revolution did come and we did send the kids


Nicaragua by its statues

Paul Baker Hernandez reflects on the meaning of some of Nicaragua’s public art:

  1. 1979. Revolution.
A gun and a digging tool. Sandino said: “Only the workers and the peasants will endure to the end.”

And he established a self-sustaining community at Wiwilí: rooted in cooperation and the land, it was his model for a sustainable Nicaragua.

In these days of belated realization of the catastrophe of Northern greed, he is a truly global figure – his model vital for the very survival of the planet under global warming. Somoza destroyed the Wiwilí community when he murdered Sandino.

As Cheney put it more recently, “The Amurican Way of Life is not negotiable.”


2. Post Revolution Phase1.
Workers back in their proper place and attitude; no sign of Sandino.


3. Post.Revolution Phase 2.
Woman back in her place, barefoot, pregnant, on her knees.In the background, hidden by trees and a high wall, the ruins of the 1972 earthquake that demolished the heart of Managua and killed 10,000 people.Fixing them up instead of making maudlin statues would at least ensure that more families actually had ktchens.
4.Post-Revolution. Phase 3. The Return of Religosity:
“Pilgrims will come from all over the the world to see these great works of art,” they said. The few that come, come to snigger.
 The first statue of the Virgin had to be replaced: her off-balance pose earned her the title of  “Drunken Virgin”. The second statue is better, marginally. Intriguingly, the photo is from an event to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the Moncada barracks in Cuba. Among other speakers, Comandante Tomas Borge.    “Beach Ball Jesus” speaks for Himself. Unfortunately. Some evangelical literalist has sprayed “Check Deuteronomy” on the base. Presumably referring to the command: “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image”. Vive la difference! As we gleefully sang at school: “You’ll know they are Christians by their guns, by their guns …”
5.Revolution Post-Revolution.View from the warrior peasant, which is located just up the road from the newly re-constituted Revolutionary Square.The statue of the newly repressed workers is in front, and, beyond them, that of the pregnant woman.Despite attempts to blow it up, the statue still stands defiant and proud.  
  6. Sandino:
Bloodied but Unbowed.
The Carrion store is aptly named. Like vultures, carrion crows feed on dead animals, offal and road kill. So “savage consumerism” is consuming itself. As he stands atop Somoza’s last bunker, brooding over high water mark of consumerism’s catastrophic stupidity within Nicaragua, Sandino offers us all a more intelligent, sustainable, and indeed happy, way of life, reminding us of the fate of all civilizations that get too big for their boots – their roots in the Earth:

“I met a traveler from an antique land
 Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
 Stand in the desert…. Near them, on the sand,
 Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
 And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
 Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
 Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
 The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
 And on the pedestal these words appear:
 ‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
 Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
 Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
 Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
 The lone and level sands stretch far away.” 

 after revolution


On assuming office in 1981, US President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting Marxist revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. Reagan said he was also concerned about the growing Soviet and Cuban presence in Nicaragua, and the Soviet hope to turn Nicaragua into a “second Cuba”.

In contrast to the administration’s warnings of a ‘Soviet beachead’ in Nicaragua, the June 1984 Bureau of Intelligence and Research report, “Soviet Attitudes Towards, Aid to, and Contacts with Central American Revolutionaries,” reported that “Soviet military aid to Nicaragua is unobtrusive and sometimes ephemeral.” The author of the report, Dr. Carl Jacobsen found that “the limited amounts of truly modern equipment acquired by the Sandinistas . . . came from Western Europe not the Eastern bloc.” The report concluded that “all too many US claims proved open to question” and that “the scope and nature of the Kremlin’s intrusion are far short of justifying the President’s exaggerated alarms.” [54]

Furthermore, the International Court of Justice determined that “the evidence is insufficient to satisfy the Court that, since the early months of 1981, assistance has continued to reach the Salvadorian armed opposition from the territory of Nicaragua on any significant scale, or that the Government of Nicaragua was responsible for any flow of arms at either period.” [55]

Under the Reagan Doctrine, his administration authorized the CIA to have paramilitary officers from their elite Special Activities Division begin financing, arming, training and advising rebels, some of whom were the remnants of Somoza’s National Guard, as anti-Sandinista guerrillas that were branded “counter-revolutionary” by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish).[56] This was shortened to Contras, a label the anti-socialist forces chose to embrace. Edén Pastora and many of the indigenous guerrilla forces unassociated with the “Somozistas” also resisted the Sandinistas. The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south.[56] As was typical in guerrilla warfare, they were engaged in a campaign of economic sabotage in an attempt to combat the Sandinista government and disrupted shipping by planting underwater mines in Nicaragua’s Port of Corinto,[57] an action condemned by the International Court of Justice as illegal.[58] The US also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo.[59]

US support for this Nicaraguan insurgency continued in spite of the fact that impartial observers from international groupings such as the European Economic Community, religious groups sent to monitor the election, and observers from democratic nations such as Canada and the Republic of Ireland concluded that the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984 were completely free and fair. The Reagan administration disputed these results, despite the fact that the government of the United States never had any observers in Nicaragua at the time.

The Reagan administration critisized the elections as a “sham” based on the charge that Arturo Cruz, the candidate nominated by the Coordinadora Democrática Nicaragüense, comprising three rightwing political parties, did not participate in the elections. However, the administration privately argued against Cruz’s participation for fear his involvement would legitimize the elections. U.S. officials admitted to the New York Times that “The Administration never contemplated letting Cruz stay in the race because then the Sandinistas could justifiably claim that the elections were legitimate, making it much harder for the United States to oppose the Nicaraguan Government.” [60]

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras (the Iran–Contra affair).[61] When this scheme was revealed, Reagan admitted that he knew about the Iranian “arms for hostages” dealings but professed ignorance about the proceeds funding the Contras; for this, National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North took much of the blame.

Senator John Kerry‘s 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra-drug links concluded that “senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems.”[62] According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel Noriega, a Panamanian general and the de facto military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989 when he was overthrown and captured by a U.S. invading force.[63] He was taken to the United States, tried for drug trafficking, and imprisoned in 1992.[64]

In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance, linking the origins of crack cocaine in California to the Contras.[65] Freedom of Information Act inquiries by the National Security Archive and other investigators unearthed a number of documents showing that White House officials, including Oliver North, knew about and supported using money raised via drug trafficking to fund the Contras. Sen. John Kerry’s report in 1988 led to the same conclusions; major media outlets, the Justice Department, and Reagan denied the allegations.[66]

The International Court of Justice, in regard to the case of Nicaragua v. United States in 1984, found; “the United States of America was under an obligation to make reparation to the Republic of Nicaragua for all injury caused to Nicaragua by certain breaches of obligations under customary international law and treaty-law committed by the United States of America”.[67] United States however rejected and did not comply with the judgement under the ‘Connally Amendment’ (part of the conditional participation of USA in the International court of Justice, which excludes from ICJ’s jurisdiction “disputes with regard to matters that are essentially within the jurisdiction of the United States of America, as determined by the United States of America”).[68

 the edn @ copyright 2012



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