The Sandinista Uprising
1926, Jan. 14 > May 2
When a Liberal insurrection was started by GEN.
AUGUSTO CÉSAR SANDINO (1895-1934), the U.S. government hastily
landed forces. Dedicated to freeing the country of foreign domination
and improving the lot of Nicaraguan peasants, Sandino would fight a
war against U.S. Marines and the National Guard for the next eight years.
A brief armistice was effected by the U.S. (Sept. 23); Chamorro then
1928, Nov. 4
José Moncada (Liberal) was elected, with
the U.S. government supervising the polling. Sandino, who had continued
the fighting on his own account and who had gone so far as to attack
American troops, withdrew to Mexico, but in 1931 he resumed the struggle.
1933, Jan. 1
With the Sandino forces numbering over 3,000,
the U.S. Marines gave up the fight in Nicaragua. In keeping with the
turn toward a less interventionist policy, initiated by Herbert Hoover
and made official by Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. created a National
Guard, staffed and directed by Nicaraguans. U.S.-educated GEN. ANASTASIO
SOMOZA GARCÍA (1896-1956) was appointed head of the guard, which
was conceived as a peacekeeping force that would remain politically
1934, Feb 21
During a U.S.-mediated negotiation between the
government and Sandino, Somoza ordered Sandino's execution. In the following
weeks scores of Sandino's followers were rounded up and executed, crushing
Carlos Fonseca, Silvio Mayorga, and Tomás
Borge founded the FRENTE SANDINISTA DE LIBERACIÓN NACIONAL (FSLN),
composed largely of students, which sought to overthrow the Somozas
through guerrilla warfare. The Sandinistas were almost wiped out by
the late 1960s.
1974, Dec. 27
During a Christmas party held to honor the U.S.
ambassador, FSLN guerrillas stormed in and took 40 hostages, including
high-ranking officials. The raid brought worldwide recognition to the
FSLN. Somoza announced a state of siege, leading to brutal repression
in rural areas.
FSLN founder and leading ideologue Carlos Fonseca
was ambushed and killed.
1978, Jan. 10
PEDRO JOAQUÍN CHAMORRO WAS ASSASSINATED,
allegedly by Somoza gunmen. The murder touched off demonstrations, strikes,
and widespread violence. It moved many middle-class and elite groups
to join the movement to end the dictatorship. The Catholic Church also
withdrew its support of the government. The FSLN, meanwhile, had moderated
its platform and was seeking to ally itself with all opponents of the
1978, Jan. 10 > Feb
Indians in Monimbo, Masaya, rose up in support
of the FSLN but were bombed into submission.
1978, Jan. 10 > Aug. 22
An FSLN unit stormed the National Palace during
a session of Congress, taking over 2,000 prisoners and demanding the
release of political prisoners and publication of their agenda. Numerous
Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, and
Cuba, had extended offers of both material aid and safe haven to the
1978, Jan. 10 > Sept. 8
The FSLN launched insurrections in five cities,
but was defeated by National Guard assaults preceded by extremely heavy
bombing of urban areas. In the “cleanup” operation, government
forces killed over 5,000 persons. In the aftermath the FSLN grew radically,
as grassroots groups emerged to oppose Somoza. In the U.S., the Carter
administration announced an arms freeze against Nicaragua.
As Somoza bombed several major cities, Sandinista
forces called for a general strike and final offensive to overthrow
the dictator. A broad insurrection, including all classes of Nicaraguans,
rallied behind the Sandinista forces to overthrow Somoza.
1979, June > June 8
The FSLN launched an attack on Managua, whereupon
Somoza used National Guard planes to bomb the capital. The capital was
completely encircled within a month. During this time U.S. secretary
of state Cyrus Vance proposed that an OAS peacekeeping force be sent
to Nicaragua, but he was rebuffed by all sides.
The FSLN came to power in Nicaragua after years
of Cuban assistance. The Cuban government immediately pledged aid to
the regime. By June 1982 there were over 2,000 Cuban military advisers
1979, June > July 18
The new ruling junta, composed of three Sandinistas
but including moderates Alfonso Robelo and Violeta Chamorro, entered
Managua in triumph. The toll of the war was an estimated 50,000 dead,
over $1.3 billion in damages, and a foreign debt totaling $1.6 billion.
The five-member junta, along with a legislative and consultative assembly,
was responsible to the nine-member FSLN directorate.
Led by FSLN leader DANIEL ORTEGA SAAVEDRA (b.
1945), the government engaged in a series of important economic and
social reforms. During the fall of 1979, Sandinista Defense Committees
tackled the damage done by nearly a decade of war and the 1972 earthquake.
In 1980-81, a literacy crusade swept through the countryside, doubling
the literacy rate. The Sandinistas nationalized the Somoza holdings,
creating state enterprises and a land base for agrarian reform, which
eventually placed one-third of the arable land in the public sector.
Many large landowners remained but faced new labor and commercial regulations.
The Luisa Amanda Espinosa Association of Nicaraguan Women (AMNLAE),
an FSLN affiliate, also pushed through numerous initiatives for women.
The government introduced social welfare programs, bringing medical
care to almost 80 percent of the population. The FSLN sought to consolidate
its hold on the state, putting the military under Sandinista control
and centralizing authority in the FSLN Directorate.
Angry over Sandinista power in the government,
moderates Alfonso Robelo and Violeta Chamorro resigned from the five-person
Governing Junta of National Reconstruction.
1984, March 13 > Nov
Under pressure from the international community,
the government held elections for a president, vice president, and a
90-member National Assembly. Although the elections were boycotted by
certain right-wing groups, seven parties won representation in the election.
Eighty-four percent of eligible voters cast ballots, awarding the FSLN
67 percent of the vote and electing Sandinista Daniel Ortega Saavedra
At Pres. Reagan's urging, the U.S. Congress voted
$100 million in aid for the Contra rebels. Though military victory for
the Contras was viewed as impossible, an ongoing guerrilla war seemed
likely to harm the Sandinistas. The economy had been declining since
1983, with the GNP falling by over 30 percent in 1985 alone and inflation
growing at an alarming rate. By the mid-1980s, the Contras were attacking
Sandinista economic and social projects as fast as they could be built.
The government promulgated the first constitution
since the Sandinistas took power. The document promised a pluralistic
democracy, a mixed economy, basic human and social rights, and autonomy
for ethnic minorities. This last feature reflected the struggles of
the Miskito Indians against the abusive treatment they had received
from the FSLN in the early 1980s.
In national elections, VIOLETA CHAMORRO, CANDIDATE
OF THE NATIONAL OPPOSITION UNION (UNO), defeated FSLN candidate Ortega.
With the nation in severe economic crisis and fearful of renewed U.S.
support for the Contras in the event of a Sandinista victory, Chamorro
took 55 percent of the vote to Ortega's 41 percent. UNO also won a narrow
majority in the National Assembly. Chamorro quickly announced a severe
austerity program. The FSLN kept control of the military and the unions.
1990, Feb > July
The first major confrontation between Sandinista
unions and Chamorro occurred with a ten-day general strike, which brought
the unions wage increases and political concessions.
1992, Dec.-1993, Jan
Disgruntled by the Chamorro government's conciliatory
policies and claiming that they were in danger from Sandinista soldiers,
numerous ex-Contras rearmed and began new military actions.
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Academia Semillas del Pueblo
"If Brown (vs. Board
of Education) was just about letting Black people into a White
school, well we don’t care about that anymore. We don’t
necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is
teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching.
We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain...We
don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of
segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is
all within the box of White culture and White supremacy. We should
not still be fighting for what they have. We are not interested
in what they have because we have so much more and because the
world is so much larger. And ultimately the White way, the American
way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead
to our own destruction. And so it isn’t about an argument
of joining neo liberalism, it’s about us being able, as
human beings, to surpass the barrier."
- Marcos Aguilar
(Principal, Academia Semillas del Pueblo)
a Mexica Garden
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