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Sandinista National Liberation Front

Sandinista National Liberation Front
Leader Daniel Ortega
Founded 1961
Headquarters Managua, Nicaragua
Ideology Sandinismo
Social democracy[1]
Democratic socialism
Christian left[2][3][4]
Internal factions:
 • Socialism of the 21st century
 • Communism
Political position Left-wing
International affiliation Socialist International
Foro de São Paulo
Colors Red and black
Seats in the National Assembly
63 / 92
Party flag
Politics of Nicaragua
Political parties

The Sandinista National Liberation Front (Spanish: Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or FSLN) is today a social democratic[5][6] political party in Nicaragua. Its members are called Sandinistas in both English and Spanish. The party is named after Augusto César Sandino who led the Nicaraguan resistance against the United States occupation of Nicaragua in the 1930s.[7]

The FSLN overthrew Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979, ending the Somoza dynasty, and established a revolutionary government in its place.[8][9] Following their seizure of power, the Sandinistas ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, first as part of a Junta of National Reconstruction. Following the resignation of centrist members from this Junta, the FSLN took exclusive power in March 1981. They instituted a policy of mass literacy, devoted significant resources to health care, and promoted gender equality.[10] A militia, known as the Contras was formed in 1981 to overthrow the Sandinista government and was funded and trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency.[11] In 1984 elections were held and described as free and fair by international observers[12] but were boycotted by some opposition parties. The FSLN won the majority of the votes,[13] and those who did oppose the Sandinistas won approximately a third of the seats. The Contras continued their rebellion, until 1989. After revising the constitution in 1987 and after years of resisting the United States-supported Contras the FSLN lost the election in 1990 to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, but they retained a plurality of seats in the legislature.

The FSLN remains one of Nicaragua's two leading parties. The FSLN often polls in opposition to the Constitutional Liberal Party, or PLC. In the 2006 Nicaraguan general election, former FSLN President Daniel Ortega was re-elected President of Nicaragua with 38.7% of the vote compared to 29% for his leading rival, bringing in the country's second Sandinista government after 16 years of the opposition winning elections. Ortega and the FSLN were re-elected again in the presidential election of November 2011.


  • History 1
    • Origin of the term "Sandinista" 1.1
    • Founding (1961–70) 1.2
    • Rise (1970–76) 1.3
    • Split (1977–78) 1.4
    • Insurrection (1978) 1.5
    • Reunification (1979) 1.6
    • Nicaraguan Revolution 1.7
    • Sandinista rule (1979–90) 1.8
      • State of Emergency (1982–88) 1.8.1
    • Sandinistas vs. Contras 1.9
    • Elections 1.10
      • 1984 election 1.10.1
      • 1990 election 1.10.2
    • Opposition (1990–2006) 1.11
    • Back in government 1.12
      • "Zero Hunger Project" 1.12.1
  • Ideology 2
  • Principles of government 3
  • Policies and programs 4
    • Foreign policy 4.1
      • Cuban assistance 4.1.1
        • Cuban assistance after the revolution
      • Relationship with eastern bloc intelligence agencies 4.1.2
        • Pre-Revolution
        • Cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies during the 1980s
    • Educational assistance 4.2
      • 1980 literacy campaign 4.2.1
    • Health care 4.3
    • Vocational assistance 4.4
    • Industry and infrastructure 4.5
    • Ministry of Culture 4.6
    • Economy 4.7
  • Women in revolutionary Nicaragua 5
  • Relationship with the Catholic Church 6
  • Human rights violations by the Sandinistas 7
    • Politicization of human rights 7.1
  • US government allegations of support for foreign rebels 8
  • Symbols 9
  • Popular culture 10
  • Presidents of the Executive 11
  • Presidential Candidates 12
  • Prominent Sandinistas 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • Notes 16
  • External links 17


Origin of the term "Sandinista"

The Sandinistas took their name from Augusto César Sandino (1895–1934), the charismatic leader of Nicaragua's nationalist rebellion against the US occupation of the country during the early 20th century (ca. 1922–1934). Sandino was assassinated in 1934 by the Nicaraguan National Guard (Guardia Nacional), the US-equipped police force of Anastasio Somoza, whose family ruled the country from 1936 until they were overthrown by the Sandinistas in 1979.[7]

Founding (1961–70)

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The FSLN originated in the milieu of various oppositional organisations, youth and student groups in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The University of Tomás Borge lived long enough to see the Sandinista victory in 1979.

The term "Sandinista", was added two years later, establishing continuity with Sandino's movement, and using his legacy in order to develop the newer movement's ideology and strategy.[16] By the early 1970s, the FSLN was launching limited military initiatives.[17]

Rise (1970–76)

On December 23, 1972, a powerful earthquake leveled the capital city, Managua. The earthquake killed 10,000 of the city's 400,000 residents and left another 50,000 homeless.[18] About 80% of Managua's commercial buildings were destroyed.[19] President Anastasio Somoza Debayle's National Guard embezzled much of the international aid that flowed into the country to assist in reconstruction,[20][21] and several parts of downtown Managua were never rebuilt. The president gave reconstruction contracts preferentially to family and friends, thereby profiting from the quake and increasing his control of the city's economy. By some estimates, his personal wealth soared to US$400 million in 1974.[22]

In December 1974, a guerrilla group affiliated with FSLN directed by Eduardo Contreras and Germán Pomares seized government hostages at a party in the house of the Minister of Agriculture in the Managua suburb Los Robles, among them several leading Nicaraguan officials and Somoza relatives. The siege was carefully timed to take place after the departure of the US ambassador from the gathering. At 10:50 pm, a group of 15 young guerrillas and their commanders, Pomares and Contreras, entered the house. They killed the Minister, who tried to shoot them, during the takeover.[17] The guerrillas received US$2 million ransom, and had their official communiqué read over the radio and printed in the newspaper La Prensa.

Over the next year, the guerrillas also succeeded in getting 14 Sandinista prisoners released from jail, and with them, were flown to Cuba. One of the released prisoners was Daniel Ortega, who would later become the president of Nicaragua.[23] The group also lobbied for an increase in wages for National Guard soldiers to 500 córdobas ($71 at the time).[24] The Somoza government responded with further censorship, intimidation, torture, and murder.[25]

In 1975, Somoza imposed a state of siege, censoring the press, and threatening all opponents with internment and torture.[25] Somoza's National Guard also increased its violence against individuals and communities suspected of collaborating with the Sandinistas. Many of the FSLN guerrillas were killed, including its leader and founder Carlos Fonseca in 1976. Fonseca had returned to Nicaragua in 1975 from his exile in Cuba to try to reunite fractures that existed in the FSLN. He and his group were betrayed by a peasant who informed the National Guard that they were in the area. The guerrilla group was ambushed, and Fonseca was wounded in the process. The next morning Fonseca was executed by the National Guard.[26]

Split (1977–78)

Following the FSLN's defeat at the battle of Pancasán in 1967, the organization adopted the "Prolonged Popular War" (Guerra Popular Prolongada, GPP) theory as its strategic doctrine. The GPP was based on the "accumulation of forces in silence": while the urban organization recruited on the university campuses and collected funds through bank holdups, the main cadres were to go permanently to the north central mountain zone. There they would build a grassroots peasant support base in preparation for renewed rural guerrilla warfare.[27]

As a consequence of the repressive campaign of the National Guard, in 1975 a group within the FSLN's urban mobilization arm began to question the viability of the GPP. In the view of the young orthodox Marxist intellectuals, such as Jaime Wheelock, economic development had turned Nicaragua into a nation of factory workers and wage-earning farm laborers.[28] Wheelock's faction was known as the "Proletarian Tendency".

Shortly after, a third faction arose within the FSLN. The "Insurrectional Tendency", also known as the "Third Way" or Terceristas, led by Daniel Ortega, his brother Humberto Ortega, and Mexican-born Victor Tirado Lopez, was more pragmatic and called for tactical, temporary alliances with non-communists, including the right-wing opposition, in a popular front against the Somoza regime.[29] By attacking the Guard directly, the Terceristas would demonstrate the weakness of the regime and encourage others to take up arms.

In October 1977, a group of prominent Nicaraguan professionals, business leaders, and clergymen allied with the Terceristas to form "El Grupo de

Preceded by
Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños
Presidency of Nicaragua
(Junta of National Reconstruction)

Succeeded by
Daniel Ortega Saavedra
  • 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Sandinista Revolution at NicaNet
  • End of the Sandinistas and US Response from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
  • Sandinistas and the Catholic Church from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives.
  • History of the Sandinista Revolution: the union of a whole nation at ViaNica.
  • Revista Envío - Nicaraguan magazine, "critically supportive" of the Sandinistas, with archive documenting events throughout the 1980s
  • Art, Truth & Politics — Harold Pinter delivers Nobel Prize in Literature lecture in which he explains the Sandinista conflict and condemns the U.S.
  • Daniel Ortega interview highlights, March 10, 2009
  • Many Nicaragua Revolutionaries feel Betrayed by the Revolution by Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2009
  • Attacks attributed to the FSLN on the START database

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  4. ^ Redacción Central (2013-03-13). "Celebró Rosario en nombre del pueblo y el gobierno elección del papa Francisco - LVDS". Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
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  • Dawes, Greg. Aesthetics and Revolution, Nicaraguan Poetry 1979–1990. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-8166-2146-0
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See also

  • Bayardo Arce (es), hard-line National Directorate member in the 1980s
  • Patrick Arguello, a Sandinista involved with the Dawson's Field hijackings
  • Nora Astorga, Sandinista UN ambassador
  • Idania Fernandez, member of the Rigoberto López Pérez Regional Command; killed in action
  • Gioconda Belli, novelist and poet, handled media relations for the FSLN government
  • People's War tendency in the 1970s, Minister of Interior in the 1980s
  • Omar Cabezas, Sandinista leader; also an author and politician
  • Ernesto Cardenal, poet and Franciscan priest; Minister of Culture in the 1980s
  • Fernando Cardenal, a Jesuit priest and brother of Ernesto, directed the literacy campaign as Minister of Education
  • Luis Carrión, 1980s National Directorate member
  • Rigoberto Cruz (aka Pablo Ubeda), early FSLN member
  • Joaquín Cuadra, internal front leader, later chief of staff of the army
  • Miguel D'Escoto, a Maryknoll Roman Catholic priest; served as Nicaragua's foreign minister
  • Carlos Fonseca, one of the FSLN's principal founders and leading ideologist in the 1960s
  • Herty Lewites, former mayor of Managua, opponent of Daniel Ortega in 2005
  • es), FSLN co-founder
  • Daniel Ortega, post-revolution junta head, then President from 1985, lost presidential elections in 1990, 1996, and 2001, but continues to control the FSLN party
  • Humberto Ortega, leader of the FSLN Insurrectional Tendency (Tercerista) in the 1970s, chief strategist of the anti-Somoza urban insurrection; Minister of Defense in the 1980s during the Contra war
  • Edén Pastora "Comandante Cero", social democratic guerrilla leader who joined the Terceristas during the anti-Somoza insurrection, broke with FSLN to lead center-left ARDE contra group based in Costa Rica during the early 1980s
  • Sergio Ramirez, novelist and civilian Sandinista, architect of alliance with moderates in the 1970s, Vice President in the 1980s, opponent of Daniel Ortega in the 1990s
  • Henry Ruíz, "Comandante Modesto", FSLN rural guerrilla commander in the 1970s, member of the National Directorate in the 1980s
  • Casimiro A. Sotelo, architect, OAS, Ambassador to Canada, Canadian Dean of Latin American Ambassadors.
  • Arlen Siu, a Chinese Nicaraguan who became one of the first female martyrs of the Sandinista revolution.
  • Dora María Téllez, a Nicaraguan historian most famous as an icon of the Sandinista Revolution
  • Jaime Wheelock, leader of the FSLN Proletarian Tendency, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Prominent Sandinistas

Won in National Elections held on November 6, 2011 was the amount of 1,569,287 for 62.46% of the total valid votes, what became the Commander Daniel Ortega Saavedra in the presidential candidate who won more votes in a Presidential election in the history of Nicaragua, in addition to that obtained a lead of more than 30% of valid votes doubling the number of votes obtained by radial businessman Fabio Gadea Mantilla on behalf of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI) who obtained the amount of 778.889 votes recorded for 31.00%. The big loser of these elections was the former President Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo candidate Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) who was located in a distant third with a 5.91% equivalent to 148.507 votes. These results demonstrate that the presidential Ortega was the right which caused the change in the correlation of political forces in the country.

Won, getting the 37.99% of the valid votes cast, 930.802 votes equivalent to relatively higher than the two main opposition parties. They were the party of the Second Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) with the degree candidate Eduardo Montealegre Rivas who won 693.391 votes recorded corresponding to a 28.30% and third place went to the Constitutionalist Liberal Party with Dr. José Rizo Castellón who earned a total 664.225 of valid votes corresponding to 27.11%.

Lost, as 915,417 A total valid votes equivalent to 42.30%, well below that obtained by the main opposition Enrique Bolaños Geyer candidate Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) who won by getting 1,216,863 valid votes equivalent to 56.30%.

Lost, as 669,443 A total valid votes equivalent to 37.75%, well below that obtained by his main opponent on Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo candidate of the Liberal Alliance (AL) who won 904.908 to obtain valid votes equivalent to 51.03%.

Lost, as 579.886 A total valid votes equivalent to 40.82%, well below that obtained by the main opposition Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro candidate of the National Opposition Union (UNO) who won 777.552 to obtain valid votes equivalent to 54.74%.

Won, getting the 67.20% of the valid votes cast 735.067 votes equivalent to well above the second party of the Democratic Conservative Party (PCD ) who just won 154.127 corresponding to a 14.00% of the valid votes.

Presidential Candidates

The party has given the following Presidents of the Republic, namely:

Daniel Ortega.

Presidents of the Executive

The 2010 video game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker includes a group of FSLN Revolutionaries forced into Costa Rica as an important group of supporting characters, including Amanda. The Anti-Somoza revolution itself figures prominently into the plot of the game as well, being described within the game's narrative as being started by the KGB agent Vladimir Zadornov in order to make Nicaragua a communist state so the Soviet Union could force the United States out of Central America entirely.

The 1983 film Last Plane Out about journalist Jack Cox's experiences in Nicaragua portrayed the Sandanistas as crazed communist psychopaths while making Anastasio Somoza Debayle look like a sympathetic hero.

In an episode of the 1980s American sitcom The Golden Girls, Blanche, Dorothy, and Rose return home to find Sophia bound, gagged, and tied to a chair. When Dorothy removed the gag and asked who had done this to her, Sophia replied "the Sandinistas!" (It was really a released prisoner named Merrill, who was searching for Blanche.)

In 2007, the popular Puerto Rican Reggaeton–rap band Calle 13 mentioned the Sandinista movement in their song "Llegale a mi guarida". The lyrics claimed: "Respeto a Nicaragua y a la lucha sandinista" ("I respect Nicaragua and the Sandinista struggle").

Chilean new wave group Los Prisioneros mention the Sandinistas in their song ¿Quién mató a Marilyn?, in a passage asking who killed Marilyn Monroe.

English anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba recorded the song "An Interlude: Beginning To Take It Back" on their album "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records". The song chronicles the history of the Sandinistas, as well as their conflict with the Contras, and reflects an optimistic hope for the future of Nicaragua.

As a reaction to an anti-Sandinista statement by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her proposal to ban the use of the word itself, punk rock group The Clash used the title Sandinista! for their 1980 triple album. The album contains the song "Washington Bullets" which references the Sandinistas and other events and groups involved in Latin American history, starting from 1959.

Since the conflict with Nicaragua in the 1980s, variations of the term "Sandinista" are now sometimes used in the United States to refer to fanatical supporters of a certain cause. In the Spanish language, the suffix "-ista" is used to indicate a predilection towards the root. (It is the equivalent of "-ist" in English)

Popular culture

In recent times, there has been a dispute between the FSLN and the dissident Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) about the use of the red and black flag in public activities. Although the MRS has its own flag (orange with a silhouette of Sandino's hat in black), they also use the red-and-black flag in honor of Sandino's legacy. They state that the red-and-black flag is a symbol of Sandinismo as a whole, not only of the FSLN party.

The flag of the FSLN consists of an upper half in red, a lower half in black, and the letters F S L N in white. It is a modified version of the flag Sandino used in the 1930s, during the war against the U.S. occupation of Nicaragua which consisted of two vertical stripes, equally in size, one red and the other black with a skull (like the traditional Jolly Roger flag). These colors came from the Mexican anarchist movements that Sandino got involved with during his stay in Mexico in the early 1920s.[125]

US Marines with the captured flag of Augusto César Sandino, Nicaragua, 1932


There were also accusations of subversive activities in Honduras, Costa Rica, and Colombia and in the case of Honduras and Costa Rica outright military operations by Nicaraguan troops.[124]

The first allegation supporting the FMLN rebels in El Salvador with safehaven; training; command-and-control headquarters and advice; and weapons, ammunition, and other vital supplies. As evidence was cited captured documents, testimonials of former rebels and Sandinistas, aerial photographs, tracing captured weapons back to Nicaragua, and captured vehicles from Nicaragua smuggling weapons.[124] El Salvador was in the midst of a Civil War in the period in question and the US was heavily supporting El Salvador against the FMLN guerrillas.

The United States State Department accused the Sandinistas of many cases of illegal foreign intervention.[124]

US government allegations of support for foreign rebels

Throughout the 1980s the Sandinista government was regarded as "Partly Free" by Freedom House.[123]

The Heritage Foundation stated that: "While elements of the Somoza National Guard tortured political opponents, they did not employ psychological torture."[121] The International Commission of Jurists stated that under the Somoza regime cruel physical torture was regularly used in the interrogation of political prisoners.[122]

On the other hand, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states: "During its on-site observation in 1978 under the Government of General Somoza, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights in Nicaragua, (CPDH) gave the Commission notable assistance, which certainly helped it to prepare its report promptly and correctly." and in 1980 "It cannot be denied that the CPDH continues to play an important role in the protection of human rights, and that a good number of people who consider that their human rights have been ignored by the Government are constantly coming to it."[118] The IACHR also continued to meet with representatives of the Permanent Commission and report their assessments in later years.[119][120]

The Nicaraguan based magazine Revista Envio, which describes its stance as one of "critical support for the Sandinistas", refers to the report: "The CPDH: Can It Be Trusted?" written by Scottish lawyer Paul Laverty. In the report, Laverty observes that: "The entire board of directors [of the Permanent Commission], are members of or closely identify with the 'Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Committee' (Coordinadora), an alliance of the more rightwing parties and COSEP, the business organization." He goes on to express concern about CPDH's alleged tendency to provide relatively few names and other details in connection with alleged violations. "According to the 11 monthly bulletins of 1987 (July being the only month without an issue), the CPDH claims to have received information on 1,236 abuses of all types. However, of those cases, only 144 names are provided. The majority of those 144 cases give dates and places of alleged incidents, but not all. This means that only in 11.65% of its cases is there the minimal detail provided to identify the person, place, date, incident and perpetrator of the abuse."[117]

According to the CIIR report, Amnesty International and Americas Watch stated that there is no evidence that the use of torture was sanctioned by the Nicaraguan authorities, although prisoners reported the use of conditions of detention and interrogation techniques that could be described as psychological torture. The Red Cross made repeated requests to be given access to prisoners held in state security detention centers, but were refused. The CIIR was critical of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights (PCHR or CPDH in Spanish), claiming that the organisation had a tendency to immediately publish accusations against the government without first establishing a factual basis for the allegations. The CIIR report also questioned the independence of the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, referring to an article in the Washington Post and New York Times supporting military aid to the Contras. The Permanent Commission denies that it received any money which it claims was instead used by others for translating and distributing their monthly reports in other nations.[117]

In 1987, a report was published by the UK based NGO Liberation theology.[115] The report, "Right to Survive: Human Rights in Nicaragua",[116] discussed the politicisation of the human rights issue: "The Reagan administration, with scant regard for the truth, has made a concerted effort to paint as evil a picture as possible of Nicaragua, describing it as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. Supporters of the Sandinistas ... have argued that Nicaragua has a good record of human rights compared with other Central American countries and have compared Nicaragua with other countries at war." The CIIR report refers to estimates made by the NGO Americas Watch which count the number of non-battle related deaths and disappearances for which the government was responsible up to the year 1986 as "close to 300".

Human Rights Watch also stated in its 1989 report on Nicaragua that: "Under the Reagan administration, U.S. policy toward Nicaragua's Sandinista government was marked by constant hostility. This hostility yielded, among other things, an inordinate amount of publicity about human rights issues. Almost invariably, U.S. pronouncements on human rights exaggerated and distorted the real human rights violations of the Sandinista regime, and exculpated those of the U.S.-supported insurgents, known as the contras."[114]

The issue of human rights also became highly politicised at this time as human rights is claimed to be a key component of propaganda created by the Reagan administration to help legitimise its policies in the region. The Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA) in its Newsletter stated in 1985 that: "The hostility with which the Nicaraguan government is viewed by the Reagan administration is an unfortunate development. Even more unfortunate is the expression of that hostility in the destabilization campaign developed by the US administration. ... An important aspect of this campaign is misinformation and frequent allegations of serious human rights violations by the Nicaraguan authorities."[112] Among the accusations in the [112] On the other hand, some elements of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, among them Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo, strongly criticized the Sandinistas. The Archbishop stated "The government wants a church that is aligned with the Marxist-Leninist regime."[104] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states that: "Although it is true that much of the friction between the Government and the churches arises from positions that are directly or indirectly linked to the political situation of the country, it is also true that statements by high government officials, official press statements, and the actions of groups under the control of the Government have gone beyond the limits within which political discussions should take place and have become obstacles to certain specifically religious activities."[113]

Politicization of human rights

The 1992 annual report by the same organization contains details of mass graves and investigations which suggest that mass executions had been carried out. One such grave contained 75 corpses of peasants who were believed to have been executed in 1984 by government security forces pretending to be members of the contras. Another grave was also found in the town of Quininowas which contained six corpses, believed to be an entire family killed by government forces when the town was invaded. A further 72 graves were reported as being found, containing bodies of people, the majority of whom were believed to have been executed by agents of the state and some also by the contras.[111]

The 1991 annual report by the same organization, "In September 1990, the Commission was informed of the discovery of common graves in Nicaragua, especially in areas where fighting had occurred. The information was provided by the Nicaraguan Pro Human Rights Association, which had received its first complaint in June 1990. By December 1991, that Association had received reports of 60 common graves and had investigated 15 of them. While most of the graves seem to be the result of summary executions by members of the Sandinista People's Army or the State Security, some contain the bodies of individuals executed by the Nicaraguan Resistance."[110]

The Sandinistas sent Soviet helicopter gunships and elite army units to attack the Miskito Indians; carried out mass arrests, jailings and torture; burned down 65 Indian communities; inflicted ethnic cleansing on 70,000 Indians; and tried to starve the Indians by cutting off food supplies. The Sandinistas boasted that they were "ready to eliminate the last Miskito Indian to take Sandinism to the Atlantic Coast".[109]

A 1983 report from the same source documented allegations of human rights violations against the Miskito Indians, which were alleged to have taken place after opposition forces (the Contras) infiltrated a Miskito village in order to launch attacks against government soldiers, and as part of a subsequent forced relocation program. Allegations included arbitrary imprisonment without trial, "disappearances" of such prisoners, forced relocation, and destruction of property.[107] In late 1981, the CIA conspiracy "Operation Red Christmas" was exposed to separate the Atlantic region from the rest of Nicaragua. Red Christmas aimed to seize territory on Nicaragua's mainland and overthrow the Nicaraguan government. The Nicaraguan government responded to the provocations by transferring some 8500 Miskitos 50 miles south to a settlement called Tasba Pri. The U.S. government accused Nicaragua of "genocide". The U.S. government produced a photo alleged to showed Miskito bodies being burned by Sandinista troops; however, the photo was actually of people killed by Somoza's National Guard in 1978.[108]

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in a 1981 report found evidence for mass executions in the period following the revolution. It stated "In the Commission's view, while the government of Nicaragua clearly intended to respect the lives of all those defeated in the civil war, during the weeks immediately subsequent to the Revolutionary triumph, when the government was not in effective control, illegal executions took place which violated the right to life, and these acts have not been investigated and the persons responsible have not been punished."[106] The IACHR also stated that: "The Commission is of the view that the new regime did not have, and does not now have, a policy of violating the right to life of political enemies, including among the latter the former guardsmen of the Government of General Somoza, whom a large sector of the population of Nicaragua held responsible for serious human rights violations during the former regime; proof of the foregoing is the abolition of the death penalty and the high number of former guardsmen who were prisoners and brought to trial for crimes that constituted violations of human rights."[106]

Nicaragua's Permanent Commission on Human Rights reported 2,000 murders in the first six months and 3,000 disappearances in the first few years. It has since documented 14,000 cases of torture, rape, kidnapping, mutilation and murder.[105]

Time magazine in 1983 published reports of human rights violations in an article which stated that "According to Nicaragua's Permanent Commission on Human Rights, the regime detains several hundred people a month; about half of them are eventually released, but the rest simply disappear." Time also interviewed a former deputy chief of Nicaraguan military counterintelligence, who stated that he had fled Nicaragua after being ordered to eliminate 800 Miskito prisoners and make it look like they had died in combat.[104] Another article described Sandinista neighbourhood "Defense Committees", modeled on similar Cuban Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, which according to critics were used to unleash mobs on anyone who was labeled a counterrevolutionary. Nicaragua's only opposition newspaper, La Prensa, was subject to strict censorship. The newspaper's editors were forbidden to print anything negative about the Sandinistas either at home or abroad.[104]

Human rights violations by the Sandinistas

The Sandinistas' relationship with the Roman Catholic Church deteriorated as the Contra War dragged on. The hierarchy refused to speak out against the counterrevolutionary activities of the contras and failed to denounce American military aid. State media accused the Catholic Church of being reactionary and supporting the Contras. According to former President Ortega, "The conflict with the church was strong, and it costs us, but I don't think it was our fault. ... There were so many people being wounded every day, so many people dying, and it was hard for us to understand the position of the church hierarchy in refusing to condemn the contras." The hierarchy-state tensions were brought to the fore with Pope John Paul II 1983 visit to Nicaragua. Hostility to the Catholic Church became so great that at one point, FSLN militants shouted down Pope John Paul II as he tried to say Mass.[103] Therefore, while the activities of the 'popular church' contributed to the success of the Sandinista revolution, the hierarchy's opposition was a major factor in the downfall of the revolutionary government.

Soon after the Sandinistas assumed power, the hierarchy began to oppose the Sandinistas government. The Archbishop was a vocal source of domestic opposition. The hierarchy was alleged to be motivated by fear of the emergence of the 'popular church' which challenged their centralized authority. The hierarchy also opposed social reforms implemented by the Sandinistas to aid the poor, allegedly because they saw it as a threat to their traditionally privileged position within society. In response to this perceived opposition, the Sandinistas shut down the church-run Radio Católica radio station on multiple occasions.

The Catholic hierarchy initially disapproved of the Sandinistas' revolutionary struggle against the Somoza dynasty. In fact, the revolutionaries were perceived as proponents of "godless communism" that posed a threat to the traditionally privileged place that the Church occupied within Nicaraguan society. Nevertheless, the increasing corruption and repression characterizing the Somoza rule and the likelihood that the Sandinistas would emerge victorious ultimately influenced Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo to declare formal support for the Sandinistas' armed struggle. Throughout the revolutionary struggle, the Sandinistas enjoyed the grassroots support of clergy who were influenced by the reforming zeal of Vatican II and dedicated to a "preferential option for the poor" (for comparison, see liberation theology). Numerous Christian base communities (CEBs) were created in which lower level clergy and laity took part in consciousness raising initiatives to educate the peasants about the institutionalized violence they were suffering from. Some priests took a more active role in supporting the revolutionary struggle. For example, Father Gaspar García Laviana took up arms and became a member of FSLN.

The Roman Catholic Church's relationship with the Sandinistas was extremely complex. Initially, the Church was committed to supporting the Somoza regime. The Somoza dynasty was willing to secure the Church a prominent place in society as long as it did not attempt to subvert the authority of the regime. Under the constitution of 1950 the Roman Catholic Church was recognized as the official religion and church-run schools flourished. It was not until the late 1970s that the Church began to speak out against the corruption and human rights abuses that characterized the Somoza regime.

Relationship with the Catholic Church

Nicaraguan women also organized independently in support of the revolution and their cause. Some of those organizations were the Socialist Party (1963), Federación Democrática (which support the FSLN in rural areas), and Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinosa, AMNLAE). However, since Daniel Ortega, was defeated in the 1990 election by the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO) coalition headed by Violeta Chamorro, the situation for women in Nicaragua was seriously altered. In terms of women and the labor market, by the end of 1991 AMNLAE reported that almost 16,000 working women—9,000 agricultural laborers, 3,000 industrial workers, and 3,800 civil servants, including 2,000 in health, 800 in education, and 1,000 in administration—had lost their jobs.[101] The change in government also resulted in the drastic reduction or suspension of all Nicaraguan social programs, which brought back the burdens characteristic of pre-revolutionary Nicaragua. The women were forced to maintain and supplement community social services on their own without economic aid or technical and human resource.[99][102]

Supporters of the Sandinistas see their era as characterized by the creation and implementation of successful social programs which were free and made widely available to the entire nation. Some of the more successful programs for women that were implemented by the Sandinistas were in the areas of Education Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign, Health, and Housing. Providing subsidies for basic foodstuffs and the introduction of mass employment were also memorable contributions of the FSLN. The Sandinistas were particularly advantageous for the women of Nicaraguan as they promoted progressive views on gender as early as 1969 claiming that the revolution would "abolish the detestable discrimination that women have suffered with regard to men and establish economic, political and cultural equality between men and women." This was evident as the FSLN began integrating women into their ranks by 1967, unlike other left-wing guerilla groups in the region. This goal was not fully reached because the roots of gender inequality were not explicitly challenged. Women's participation within the public sphere was also substantial, as many took part in the armed struggle as part of the FSLN or as part of counter-revolutionary forces.[100]

The women of Nicaragua prior to, during and after the revolution played a prominent role within the nation's society as they have commonly been recognized, throughout history and across all Latin American states, as its backbone. Nicaraguan women were therefore directly affected by all of the positive and negative events that took place during this revolutionary period. The victory of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1979 brought about major changes and gains for women, mainly in legislation, broad educational opportunities, training programs for working women, childcare programs to help women enter the work force and greatly increased participation and even leadership positions in a whole range of political activities.[98] This, in turn, reduced the great burdens that the women of Nicaragua were faced with prior to the revolution. During the Sandinista government, women were more active politically. The great majority of members of the neighborhood committees (Comités de Defensa Sandinista) were women. By 1987, 31% of the executive positions in the Sandinista government, 27% of the leadership positions of the FSLN, and 25% of the FSLN's active membership were women.[99]

Women in revolutionary Nicaragua

In its eleven years in power, the Sandinista government never overcame most of the economic inequalities that it inherited from the Somoza era. Years of war, policy missteps, natural disasters, and the effects of the United States trade embargo all hindered economic development. The early economic gains of the Sandinistas were wiped out by seven years of sometimes precipitous economic decline, and in 1990, by most standards, Nicaragua and most Nicaraguans were considerably poorer than they were in the 1970s.[97]

Measures taken by the government to lower inflation were largely wiped out by natural disaster. In early 1988, the administration of Daniel José Ortega Saavedra (Sandinista junta coordinator 1979–85, president 1985–90) established an austerity program to lower inflation. Price controls were tightened, and a new currency was introduced. As a result, by August 1988, inflation had dropped to an annual rate of 240 percent. The following month, however, Hurricane Joan cut a devastating path directly across the center of the country. Damage was extensive, and the government's program of massive spending to repair the infrastructure destroyed its anti-inflation measures.[97]

Economic growth was uneven in the 1980s. Restructuring of the economy and the rebuilding immediately following the end of the civil war caused the GDP to jump about 5 percent in 1980 and 1981. Each year from 1984 to 1990, however, showed a drop in the GDP. Reasons for the contraction included the reluctance of foreign banks to offer new loans, the diversion of funds to fight the new insurrection against the government, and, after 1985, the total embargo on trade with the United States, formerly Nicaragua's largest trading partner. After 1985 the government chose to fill the gap between decreasing revenues and mushrooming military expenditures by printing large amounts of paper money. Inflation skyrocketed, peaking in 1988 at more than 14,000 percent annually.[97]

However, the ideology of the Sandinistas put the future of the private sector and of private ownership of the means of production in doubt. Even though under the new government both public and private ownership were accepted, government spokespersons occasionally referred to a reconstruction phase in the country's development, in which property owners and the professional class would be tapped for their managerial and technical expertise. After reconstruction and recovery, the private sector would give way to expanded public ownership in most areas of the economy. Despite such ideas, which represented the point of view of a faction of the government, the Sandinista government remained officially committed to a mixed economy.[97]

The new government, formed in 1979 and dominated by the Sandinistas, resulted in a socialist model of economic development. The new leadership was conscious of the social inequities produced during the previous thirty years of unrestricted economic growth and was determined to make the country's workers and peasants, the "economically underprivileged", the prime beneficiaries of the new society. Consequently, in 1980 and 1981, unbridled incentives to private investment gave way to institutions designed to redistribute wealth and income. Private property would continue to be allowed, but all land belonging to the Somozas was confiscated.[97]


The ministry also developed a new anthology of Ruben Dario, a Nicaraguan poet and writer, established a Ruben Dario prize for Latin American writers, the Leonel Rugama prize for young Nicaraguan writers, as well as public poetry readings and contests, cultural festivals and concerts.[95] The Sandinista regime tried to keep the revolutionary spirit alive by empowering its citizens artistically.[91] At the time of its inception, the Ministry of Culture needed according to Cardenal, “to bring a culture to the people who were marginalized from it. We want a culture that is not the culture of an elite, of a group that is considered ‘cultivated,’ but rather of an entire people.”[92] Nevertheless, the success of the Ministry of Culture had mixed results and by 1985 criticism arose over artistic freedom in the poetry workshops.[91] The poetry workshops became a matter for criticism and debate.[91] Critics argued that the ministry imposed too many principles and guidelines for young writers in the workshop, such as, asking them to avoid metaphors in their poetry and advising them to write about events in their everyday life.[91] Critical voices came from established poets and writers represented by the Asociacion Sandinista de Trabajadores de la Cultura (ASTC) and from the Ventana both of which were headed by Rosario Murillo.[96] They argued that young writers should be exposed to different poetic styles of writing and resources developed in Nicaragua and elsewhere.[96] Furthermore, they argued that the ministry exhibited a tendency that favored and fostered political and testimonial literature in post-revolutionary Nicaragua.[92]

The objective of the workshops was to recognize and celebrate neglected forms of artistic expression.[91] The ministry created a program of cultural workshops known as, Casas de Cultura and Centros Populares de Cultura.[92] The workshops were set up in poor neighbourhoods and rural areas and advocated universal access and consumption of art in Nicaragua.[91] The ministry assisted in the creation of theatre groups, folklore and artisanal production, song groups, new journals of creation and cultural criticism, and training programs for cultural workers.[92] Moreover, the ministry created a Sandinista daily newspaper named Barricada and its weekly cultural addition named Ventana along with the Television Sandino, Radio Sandino and the Nicaraguan film production unit called the INCINE.[92] There were existing papers which splintered after the revolution and produced other independent, pro-Sandinista newspapers, such as El Nuevo Diario and its literary addition Nuevo Amanecer Cultural.[92] Furthermore, Editorial Nueva Nicaragua a state publishing house for literature was created.[92] The ministry collected and published political poetry of the revolutionary period, known as testimonial narrative, a form of literary genre that recorded the experiences of individuals in the course of the revolution.[94]

After the Nicaraguan revolution, the Sandinista government established a Ministry of Culture in 1980. The ministry was spearheaded by Ernesto Cardenal, a famous poet and priest. The ministry was established in order to socialize the modes of cultural production.[91] This extended to various art forms, including dance, music, art, theatre and poetry.[91] The project was created to democratize culture on a national level.[92] The aim of the ministry was to "democratize art" by making it accessible to all social classes as well as protecting the right of the oppressed to produce, distribute and receive art.[91] In particular, the ministry was devoted to the development of working class and campesino, or peasant culture.[91] Therefore, the ministry sponsored cultural workshops throughout the country until October 1988 when the Ministry of Culture was integrated into the Ministry of Education because of financial troubles.[93]

Ministry of Culture

Another significant feat was the building of the Tipitapa-Malacatoya sugar mill. It was completed and inaugurated during a visit by Fidel Castro in January 1985. The plant used the newest technology available and was built by workers trained in Cuba. Also during this visit Castro announced that all debts incurred on this project were absolved.[89] Cuba also provided numerous technicians to aid in the sugar harvest and assist in the rejuvenation of several old sugar mills. Cubans also assisted in building schools and similar projects.

Cuba helped Nicaragua in huge projects such as building roads, power plants and sugar mills. Cuba also attempted to help Nicaragua build the first overland route linking Nicaragua's Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The road was meant to traverse 260 miles of jungle, but completion of the road and usage was hindered by the Contra war, and it was never completed.

Industry and infrastructure

Cuba has participated in the training of Nicaraguan workers in the use of new machinery imported to Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan revolution put the country's government on the United States' black book; therefore the Sandinistas would not receive any aid from the United States. The United States embargo against Nicaragua, imposed by the Reagan administration in May 1985,[90] made it impossible for Nicaragua to receive spare parts for US-made machines, so this led Nicaragua to look to other countries for help. Cuba was the best choice because of the shared language and proximity and also because it had imported similar machinery over the years. Nicaraguans went to Cuba for short periods of three to six months and this training involved close to 3,000 workers.[83] Many countries, including Canada and the UK, sent farm equipment to Nicaragua.

Vocational assistance

Health care was another area where the Sandinistas made incredible gains and are widely recognized for this accomplishment, e.g. by Oxfam. In this area Cuba also played a role by again offering expertise and know-how to Nicaragua. Over 1,500 Cuban doctors worked in Nicaragua and provided more than five million consultations. Cuban personnel were essential in the elimination of polio, the decrease in whooping cough, rubella, measles and the lowering of the infant mortality rate. Gary Prevost states that Cuban personnel made it possible for Nicaragua to have a truly national health care system reaching a majority of its citizens.[89]

Health care

The basic reader which was disseminated and used by teacher was called "Dawn of the People" based on the themes of Sandino, Carlos Fonseca, and the Sandinista struggle against imperialism and defending the revolution. Political education was aimed at creating a new social values based on the principles of Sandinista socialism, such as social solidarity, worker's democracy, egalitarianism, and anti-imperialism.[84][85][86][87][88]

The 1980 Literacy Campaign is considered to have been a major contribution to Nicaraguan society during the Sandinista rule. The goals of the literacy campaign were socio-political, strategic as well as educational. It was the most prominent campaign with regards to the new education system. Illiteracy in Nicaragua was significantly reduced from 50.3% to 12.9%. One of the government's major concerns was the previous education system under the Somoza regime which did not see education as a major factor on the development of the country. As mentioned in the Historical Program of the FSLN of 1969, education was seen as a right and the pressure to stay committed to the promises made in the program was even stronger. 1980 was declared the "Year of Literacy" and the major goals of the campaign that started only 8 months after the FSLN took over. This included the eradication of illiteracy, the integration of different classes, races, gender and age. Political awareness and the strengthening of political and economic participation of the Nicaraguan people was also a central goal of the Literacy Campaign. The campaign was a key component of the FSLN's cultural transformation agenda.

1979 FSLN poster. Text of the image: "Consolidate the Revolution in the rearguard and with literacy." (Spanish: a consolidar la Revolución en la Retaguardia y la Alfabetización)

1980 literacy campaign

Cuba was instrumental in the Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign. Nicaragua was a country with a very high rate of illiteracy, but the campaign succeeded in lowering the rate from 50% to 12%. The revolution in Cuban education since the ousting of the US-backed Batista regime not only served as a model for Nicaragua but also provided technical assistance and advice. The Literacy Campaign was one of the success stories of the Sandinistas' reign and Cuba played an important part in this, providing teachers on a yearly basis after the revolution. Prevost states that "Teachers were not the only ones studying in Cuba, about 2,000 primary and secondary students were studying on the Isle of Youth and the cost was covered by the host country (Cuba)".[83]

Educational assistance

Other researchers have documented the contribution made from other Warsaw Pact intelligence agencies to the fledgling Sandinista government including the East German Stasi, by using recently declassified documents from Berlin[81] as well as from former Stasi spymaster Markus Wolf who described the Stasi's assistance in the creation of a secret police force modeled on East Germany's[82]

Cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies during the 1980s

Khrushchev sent the memo with his approval to his deputy Frol Kozlov and on August 1 it was, with minor revisions, passed as a CPSU Central Committee directive. The KGB and the Soviet Ministry of Defense were instructed to work out more; specific measures and present them for consideration by the Central Committee.[80]

In July 1961 during the Cuba and with the "Revolutionary Front Sandino". Shelepin proposed to make appropriations from KGB funds in addition to the previous assistance $10,000 for purchase of arms.

According to Andrew, Mitrokhin says during the following three years the KGB handpicked several dozen Sandinistas for intelligence and sabotage operations in the United States. Andrew and Mitrokhin say that in 1966, this KGB-controlled Sandinista sabotage and intelligence group was sent to northern Mexico near the US border to conduct surveillance for possible sabotage.[79]

According to guerrilla warfare against the government of Luis Somoza Debayle. After several failed attempts to attack government strongholds and little initial support from the local population, the National Guard nearly annihilated the Sandinistas in a series of attacks in 1963. Disappointed with the performance of Shelepin's new Latin American "revolutionary vanguard", the KGB reconstituted its core of the Sandinista leadership into the ISKRA group and used them for other activities in Latin America.


Relationship with eastern bloc intelligence agencies

The early years of the Nicaraguan revolution had strong ties to Cuba. The Sandinista leaders acknowledged that the FSLN owed a great debt to the socialist island. Once the Sandinistas assumed power, Cuba gave Nicaragua military advice, as well as aid in education, health care, vocational training and industry building for the impoverished Nicaraguan economy. In return, Nicaragua provided Cuba with grains and other foodstuffs to help Cuba overcome the effects of the US embargo.

Cuban assistance after the revolution

The Cubans would like to have helped more in the development of Nicaragua towards socialism. Following the US invasion of Grenada, countries previously looking for support from Cuba saw that the United States was likely to take violent action to discourage this.

Beginning in 1967, the Havana on July 27, 1979, at which diplomatic ties between the two countries were re-established after more than 25 years. Julián López Díaz, a prominent DGI agent, was named Ambassador to Nicaragua. Cuban military and DGI advisors, initially brought in during the Sandinista insurgency, would swell to over 2,500 and operated at all levels of the new Nicaraguan government.

Cuban assistance

Foreign policy

Policies and programs

It is accepted by many scholars that the period of the FSLN guiding the Nicaraguan revolution through the control of the state was a living experiment in an attempt to construct a truly democratic and revolutionary socialism. Bruce E. Wright claims that "this was a crucial contribution from Fonseca's work that set the template for FSLN governance during the revolutionary years and beyond."[78]

  1. Political Pluralism – The ultimate success of the Sandinista Front in guiding the insurrection and in obtaining the leading fore within it was based on the fact that the FSLN, through the tercerista guidance, had worked with many sectors of the population in defeating the Somoza dictatorship. The FSLN and all those whom would constitute the new provisional government were diverse; "they were plural in virtually all senses".[76]
  2. Mixed Economy – Fonseca's understanding of the fact that Nicaragua was not, in spite of Browderist interpretations, simply a feudal country and that it had also never really developed its own capitalism surely made it clear that a simple feudalism-capitalism-socialism path was not a rational way to think about the future development of Nicaragua. It was not reasonable, nor was it responsible, to simply believe that the FSLN was the vanguard of the proletariat revolution. Everyone recognized that the proletariat was but a minor fraction of the population. A complex class structure in a revolution based on unity among people from various class positions suggested more that it made sense to see the FSLN as the "vanguard of the people".
  3. Popular Participation and Mobilization – This calls for more than simple representative democracy. The inclusion of the mass organizations in the Council of State clearly manifested this conception. In Article 2 of the Constitution this is spelled out as follows: "The people exercise democracy, freely participating and deciding in the construction of the economic, political and social system what is most appropriate to their interest. The people exercise power directly and by their means of their representatives, freely elected in accord with universal, equal, direct, free, and secret suffrage."[77]
  4. International Non-alignment – This is a clear result of the fundamentally Bolivarist conceptions of Sandino as distilled through the modern understanding of Fonseca. It was clear that the U.S. government and large U.S. economic entities were a significant part of the problem for Nicaragua. But experiences with the traditional parties allied with the Soviet Union had also been unsatisfactory. Thus it was clear that Nicaragua must seek its own road.

For purposes of making sense of how to govern, the FSLN drew four fundamental principles from the work of Carlos Fonseca and his understanding of the lessons of Sandino. According to Bruce E. Wright, "the Governing Junta of National Reconstruction agreed, under Sandinista leadership, that these principles had guided it in putting into practice a form of government that was characterized by those principles."[74] It is generally accepted that these following principles have evolved the "ideology of Sandinismo."[75] Three of these (excluding popular participation, which was presumably contained in Article 2 of the Constitution of Nicaragua) were to ultimately be guaranteed by Article 5 of the Constitution of Nicaragua. They are as follows:

Principles of government

Nevertheless, while ideologies varied between FSLN leaders, all leaders essentially agreed that Sandino provided a path for the Nicaragua masses to take charge, and the FSLN would act as the legitimate vanguard. The extreme end of the ideology links Sandino to Roman Catholicism and portrays him as descending from the mountains in Nicaragua knowing he would be betrayed and killed. Generally however, most Sandinistas associated Sandino on a more practical level, as a heroic and honest person who tried to combat the evil forces of imperialist national and international governments that existed in Nicaragua's history.

  • The guerra popular prolongada (GPP, "prolonged popular war") faction was rural-based and sought long-term "silent accumulation of forces" within the country's large peasant population, which it saw as the main social base for the revolution.
  • The tendencia proletaria (TP, "proletarian tendency"), led by Jaime Wheelock, reflected an orthodox Marxist approach that sought to organize urban workers.
  • The tercerista/insurrecctionista (TI, "third way/insurrectionist") faction, led by

During the long struggle against Somoza, the FSLN leaders' internal disagreements over strategy and tactics were reflected in three main factions:

Through the media and the works of FSLN leaders such as Carlos Fonseca, the life and times of Augusto César Sandino became the unique symbol of this revolutionary force in Nicaragua. The ideology of Sandinismo gained momentum in 1974, when a Sandinista initiated hostage situation resulted in the Somoza government adhering to FSLN demands and publicly printing and airing work on Sandino in well known newspapers and media outlets.


The families that benefit from the project will be required to pay back 20 percent of the amount that they receive in order to create a rural fund that will guarantee the continuity of the program. NGOs and representatives from each community will be in charge of managing the project.

"Zero Hunger" with its budget of US$150 million plans to deliver a US$2,000 bond or voucher to 75,000 rural families between 2007 and 2012. The voucher will consist of the delivery of a pregnant cow and a pregnant sow, five chickens and a rooster, seeds, fruit-bearing plants and plants for reforestation.[73] The project's short-term objective is to have each rural family capable of producing enough milk, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables and cereals to cover its basic needs while its medium range objective is to establish local markets and export certain products.

The "Zero Hunger Program", which aims to reduce poverty in the rural areas over a five-year period, was inaugurated by President Daniel Ortega and other members of his administration in the northern department of Jinotega. The program was designed to achieve the first objective of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, "to eradicate extreme poverty and reduce hunger to zero."

"Zero Hunger Project"

The FSLN also won 38 seats in the congressional elections, becoming the party with the largest representation in parliament. The split in the Constitutionalist Liberal Party helped to allow the FSLN to become the largest party in Congress, however it should be noted that the Sandinista vote had a minuscule split between the FSLN and MRS, and that the liberal party combined is larger than the Frente Faction. In 2010, several liberal congressmen raised accusations about the FSLN presumably attempting to buy votes in order to pass constitutional reforms that would allow Ortega to run for office for the 6th time since 1984.[71] In 2011, Ortega was re-elected as President.[72]

In 2006, Daniel Ortega was elected president with 38% of the vote (see Nicaraguan general election, 2006). This occurred despite the fact that the breakaway Sandinista Renovation Movement continued to oppose the FSLN, running former Mayor of Managua Herty Lewites as its candidate for president. However, Lewites died just several month before the elections.

Back in government

Daniel Ortega was once again re-elected as leader of the FSLN in March 2002 and re-elected as president of Nicaragua in November 2006.

Daniel Ortega was re-elected as leader of the FSLN in 1998. Municipal elections in November 2000 saw a strong Sandinista vote, especially in urban areas, and former Tourism Minister Herty Lewites was elected mayor of Managua. This significant result led to expectations of a close race in the presidential elections scheduled for November 2001. Daniel Ortega and Enrique Bolaños of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) ran neck-and-neck in the polls for much of the campaign, but in the end the PLC won a clear victory. The results of these elections were that the FSLN won 42.6% of the vote for parliament (versus 52.6% for the PLC), giving them 41 out of the 92 seats in the National Assembly (versus 48 for the PLC). In the presidential race, Ortega lost to Bolaños 46.3% to 53.6%.

Daniel Ortega remained the head of the FSLN, but his brother Humberto resigned from the party and remained at the head of the Sandinista Army, becoming a close confidante and supporter of Chamorro. The party also experienced a number of internal divisions, with prominent Sandinistas such as Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez resigning to protest what they described as heavy-handed domination of the party by Daniel Ortega. Ramírez also founded a separate political party, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS); his faction came to be known as the renovistas, who favor a more social democratic approach than the ortodoxos, or hardliners. In the 1996 Nicaraguan election, Ortega and Ramírez both campaigned unsuccessfully as presidential candidates on behalf of their respective parties, with Ortega receiving 43% of the vote while Arnoldo Alemán of the Constitutional Liberal Party received 51%. The Sandinistas won second place in the congressional elections, with 36 of 93 seats.

After their loss, most of the Sandinista leaders held most of the private property and businesses that had been confiscated and nationalized by the FSLN government. This process became known as the "piñata" and was tolerated by the new Chamorro government. Ortega also claimed to "rule from below" through groups he controls such as labor unions and student groups. Prominent Sandinistas also created a number of nongovernmental organizations to promote their ideas and social goals.

Reasons for the Sandinista loss in 1990 are disputed. Defenders of the defeated government assert that Nicaraguans voted for the opposition due to the continuing U.S. economic embargo and potential Contra threat. Others have alleged that the United States threatened to continue to support the Contras and continue the civil war if the regime was not voted out of power.[70] Opponents claim that Contra warfare had largely died down, and that the Sandinistas had grown increasingly unpopular, particularly due to conscription and crackdowns on political freedoms. An important reason, regardless of perspective, was that after a decade of the U.S. backed war and embargo, Nicaragua's economy and infrastructure were badly damaged and the United States obviously supported only parties in opposition to the Sandinista. The U.S. also helped keep the rightist factions united so there would not be two strong rightist candidates.

In 1987, due to a stalemate with the Contras, the Esquipulas II treaty was brokered by Costa Rican President Nicaraguan communists. UNO's candidate, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, replaced Daniel Ortega as president of Nicaragua.

Opposition (1990–2006)

on Nicaragua states: Library of Congress Country Studies The [69]Years of conflict had left 50,000 casualties and $12b of damages in a society of 3.5m people and an annual GNP of $2b. After the war, a survey was taken of voters: 75.6% agreed that if the Sandinistas had won, the war would never have ended. 91.8% of those who voted for the UNO agreed with this. (William I Robinson, op cit)

In August 1989, the month that campaigning began, the Contras redeployed 8,000 troops into Nicaragua, after a funding boost from Washington, continued their guerrilla war. No fewer than 50 FSLN candidates were assassinated. The Contras also distributed thousands of UNO leaflets.

[68] When Violetta Chamorro visited the White House in November 1989, the US pledged to maintain the embargo against Nicaragua unless Violeta Chamorro won.[67][66] The elections of 1990, which had been mandated by the constitution passed in 1987, saw the Bush administration funnel $49.75 million of 'non-lethal' aid to the

1990 election

Daniel Ortega and Sergio Ramírez were elected president and vice-president, and the FSLN won an overwhelming 61 out of 96 seats in the new National Assembly, having taken 67% of the vote on a turnout of 75%.[64] Despite international validation of the elections by multiple political and independent observers (virtually all from among U.S. allies) the United States refused to recognize the elections, with President Ronald Reagan denouncing the elections as a sham. According to a detailed study, since the 1984 election was for posts subordinate to the Sandinista Directorate, the elections were no more subject to approval by vote than the Central Committee of the Communist Party is in countries of the East Bloc.[65] Daniel Ortega began his six-year presidential term on January 10, 1985. After the United States Congress turned down continued funding of the Contras in April 1985, the Reagan administration ordered a total embargo on United States trade with Nicaragua the following month, accusing the Sandinista government of threatening United States security in the region.[64]

Although initially willing to stand in the 1984 elections, the UNO, headed by Arturo Cruz (a former Sandinista) declined participation in the elections based on their own objections to the restrictions placed on the electoral process by the State of Emergency and the official advisement of President Ronald Reagan's State Department, who feared that their participation would legitimize the election process. Among other parties that abstained was COSEP, who had warned the FSLN that they would decline participation unless freedom of the press was reinstituted. Coordinadora Democrática (CD) also refused to file candidates and urged Nicaraguans not to take part in the election, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), headed by Virgilio Godoy Reyes announced its refusal to participate in October.[64] Consequently, when the elections went ahead the U.S. raised objections based upon political restrictions instituted by the State of Emergency (e.g., censorship of the press, cancellation of habeas corpus, and the curtailing of free assembly).

A broad range of political parties, ranging in political orientation from far-left to far-right, competed for power.[61] Following promulgation of a new populist constitution, Nicaragua held national elections in 1984. Independent electoral observers from around the world—including groups from the U.S. government.[63]

While the Sandinistas encouraged grassroots pluralism, they were perhaps less enthusiastic about national elections. They argued that popular support was expressed in the insurrection and that further appeals to popular support would be a waste of scarce resources.[58] International pressure and domestic opposition eventually pressed the government toward a national election.[58] Tomás Borge warned that the elections were a concession, an act of generosity and of political necessity.[59] On the other hand, the Sandinistas had little to fear from the election given the advantages of incumbency and the restrictions on the opposition, and they hoped to discredit the armed efforts to overthrow them.[60]

1984 election


The Contra war unfolded differently in the northern and southern zones of Nicaragua. Contras based in Costa Rica operated on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, which is sparsely populated by indigenous groups including the Miskito, Sumo, Rama, Garifuna, and Mestizo. Unlike Spanish-speaking western Nicaragua, the Atlantic Coast is predominantly English-speaking and was largely ignored by the Somoza regime. The costeños did not participate in the uprising against Somoza and viewed Sandinismo with suspicion from the outset.

Senator John Kerry's 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on links between the Contras and drug imports to the US 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."[56] According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel Noriega, the US-backed president of Panama. The Reagan administration's support for the Contras continued to stir controversy well into the 1990s. In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance,[57] linking the origins of crack cocaine in California to the CIA-Contra alliance. 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. However, the Justice Department denied the allegations.

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras through the Boland Amendment in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by raising money from foreign allies and covertly selling arms to Iran (then engaged in a vicious war with Iraq), and channelling the proceeds to the Contras (see the Iran-Contra Affair).[55] When this scheme was revealed, Reagan admitted that he knew about 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.

The contras also carried out a systematic campaign to disrupt the social reform programs of the government. This campaign included attacks on schools, health centers and the majority of the rural population that was sympathetic to the Sandinistas. Widespread murder, rape, and torture were also used as tools to destabilize the government and to "terrorize" the population into collaborating with the Contras. Throughout this campaign, the contras received military and financial support from the CIA and the Reagan Administration.[52] This campaign has been condemned internationally for its many human rights violations. Contra supporters have often tried to downplay these violations, or countered that the Sandinista government carried out much more. In particular, the Reagan administration engaged in a campaign to alter public opinion on the contras that has been termed "white propaganda".[53] In 1984, the International Court of Justice judged that the United States Government had been in violation of International law when it supported the contras.[54]

The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica (see Edén Pastora cited below) to the south. 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 Corinto harbour,[50] an action condemned by the World Court as illegal. The U.S. also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and, as with Cuba, the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo.[51]

Upon assuming office in 1981, U.S. President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting "Marxist" revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. His administration authorized the CIA to begin financing, arming and training rebels, most of whom were the remnants of Somoza's National Guard, as anti-Sandinista guerrillas that were branded "counter-revolutionary" by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish).[49] This was shortened to Contras, a label the force chose to embrace. Edén Pastora and many of the indigenous guerrilla forces, who were not associated with the "Somozistas", also resisted the Sandinistas.

ARDE Frente Sur Contras in 1987

Sandinistas vs. Contras

Some emergency measures were taken before 1982. In December 1979 special courts called "Tribunales Especiales" were established to speed up the processing of 7,000-8,000 National Guard prisoners. These courts operated through relaxed rules of evidence and due process and were often staffed by law students and inexperienced lawyers. However, the decisions of the "Tribunales Especiales" were subject to appeal in regular courts. Many of the National Guard prisoners were released immediately due to lack of evidence. Others were pardoned or released by decree. By 1986 only 2,157 remained in custody and only 39 were still being held in 1989 when they were released under the Esquipulas II agreement.[45]

On October 5, 1985 the Sandinistas broadened the 1982 State of Emergency and suspended many more civil rights. A new regulation also forced any organization outside of the government to first submit any statement it wanted to make public to the censorship bureau for prior censorship.[48]

The rights affected also included certain procedural guarantees in the case of detention including habeas corpus.[45] The State of Emergency was not lifted during the 1984 elections. There were many instances where rallies of opposition parties were physically broken up by Sandinsta youth or pro-Sandinista mobs. Opponents to the State of Emergency argued its intent was to crush resistance to the FSLN. James Wheelock justified the actions of the Directorate by saying "... We are annulling the license of the false prophets and the oligarchs to attack the revolution."[47]

All independent news program broadcasts were suspended. In total, twenty-four programs were cancelled. In addition, Sandinista censor Nelba Cecilia Blandón issued a decree ordering all radio stations to take broadcasts from government radio station La Voz de La Defensa de La Patria every six hours.[46]

Under the new "Law for the Maintenance of Order and Public Security" the "Tribunales Populares Anti-Somozistas" allowed for the indefinite holding of suspected counter-revolutionaries without trial. The State of Emergency, however, most notably affected rights and guarantees contained in the "Statute on Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans".[45] Many civil liberties were curtailed or canceled such as the freedom to organize demonstrations, the inviolability of the home, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the freedom to strike.[45]

In March 1982 the Sandinistas declared an official State of Emergency. They argued that this was a response to attacks by counter-revolutionary forces.[44] The State of Emergency lasted six years, until January 1988, when it was lifted.

State of Emergency (1982–88)

The opposition militias were initially organized and largely remained segregated according to regional affiliation and political backgrounds. They conducted attacks on economic, military, and civilian targets. During the Contra war, the Sandinistas arrested suspected members of the Contra militias and censored publications they accused of collaborating with the enemy (i.e. the U.S., the FDN, and ARDE, among others).

By 1980, conflicts began to emerge between the Sandinista and non-Sandinista members of the governing junta. Violeta Chamorro and Alfonso Robelo resigned from the governing junta in 1980, and rumours began that members of the Ortega junta would consolidate power amongst themselves. These allegations spread, and rumors intensified that it was Ortega's goal to turn Nicaragua into a state modeled after Cuban Socialism. In 1979 and 1980, former Somoza supporters and ex-members of Somoza's National Guard formed irregular military forces, while the original core of the FSLN began to splinter. Armed opposition to the Sandinista Government eventually divided into two main groups: The Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense (FDN), a U.S. supported army formed in 1981 by the CIA, U.S. State Department, and former members of the widely condemned Somoza-era Nicaraguan National Guard; and the Alianza Revolucionaria Democratica (ARDE) Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, a group that had existed since before the FSLN and was led by Sandinista founder and former FSLN supreme commander, Edén Pastora, a.k.a. "Commander Zero".[42] and Milpistas, former anti-Somoza rural militias, which eventually formed the largest pool of recruits for the Contras. Although independent and often at conflict with each other, these guerrilla bands—along with a few others—all became generally known as "Contras" (short for "contrarrevolucionarios", en. "counter-revolutionaries").[43]

The FSLN also created neighborhood groups similar to the Cuban Contras").

The FSLN's literacy campaign, which saw teachers flood the countryside, is often noted as their greatest success. Within six months, half a million people had been taught rudimentary reading, bringing the national illiteracy rate down from over 50% to just under 12%. Over 100,000 Nicaraguans participated as literacy teachers. One of the stated aims of the literacy campaign was to create a literate electorate which would be able to make informed choices at the promised elections. The successes of the literacy campaign was recognized by UNESCO with the award of a Nadezhda Krupskaya International Prize.

Upon assuming power, the FSLN's official political platform included the following: nationalization of property owned by the Somozas and their supporters; land reform; improved rural and urban working conditions; free unionization for all workers, both urban and rural; price fixing for commodities of basic necessity; improved public services, housing conditions, education; abolition of torture, political assassination and the death penalty; protection of democratic liberties; equality for women; non-aligned foreign policy; formation of a "popular army" under the leadership of the FSLN and Humberto Ortega.

The FSLN also established a Council of State, subordinate to the junta, which was composed of representative bodies. However, the Council of State only gave political parties twelve of forty-seven seats; the rest of the seats were given to Sandinista mass-organizations.[41] Of the twelve seats reserved for political parties, only three were not allied to the FSLN.[41] Due to the rules governing the Council of State, in 1980 both non-FSLN junta members resigned. Nevertheless, as of the 1982 State of Emergency, opposition parties were no longer given representation in the council.[41] The preponderance of power also remained with the Sandinistas through their mass organizations, including the Sandinista Workers' Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Nicaraguan Women's Association (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos), and most importantly the Sandinista Defense Committees (CDS). The Sandinista-controlled mass organizations were extremely influential over civil society and saw their power and popularity peak in the mid-1980s.[41]

The Sandinistas inherited a country in ruins with a debt of 1.6 billion dollars (US), an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 war dead, 600,000 homeless, and a devastated economic infrastructure.[39][40] To begin the task of establishing a new government, they created a Council (or junta) of National Reconstruction, made up of five appointed members. Three of the appointed members belonged to FSLN, which included—Sandinista militants Daniel Ortega, Moises Hassan, and novelist Sergio Ramírez (a member of Los Doce "the Twelve"). Two opposition members, businessman Alfonso Robelo, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro), were also appointed. Only three votes were needed to pass law.

Sandinista rule (1979–90)

On July 19, the FSLN army entered Managua, culminating the first goal of the Nicaraguan revolution. The war left approximately 30,000-50,000 dead and 150,000 Nicaraguans in exile. The five-member junta entered the Nicaraguan capital the next day and assumed power, reiterating its pledge to work for political pluralism, a mixed economic system, and a nonaligned foreign policy.[38]

On July 9, the provisional government in exile released a government program, in which it pledged to organize an effective democratic regime, promote political pluralism and universal suffrage, and ban ideological discrimination, except for those promoting the "return of Somoza's rule". On July 17, Somoza resigned, handed over power to Francisco Urcuyo, and fled to Miami. While initially seeking to remain in power to serve out Somoza's presidential term, Urcuyo seceded his position to the junta and fled to Guatemala two days later.

On June 4, a general strike was called by the FSLN to last until Somoza fell and an uprising was launched in Managua. On June 16, the formation of a provisional Nicaraguan government in exile, consisting of a five-member Daniel Ortega (FSLN), Moisés Hassan (FPN), Sergio Ramírez (the "Twelve"), Alfonso Robelo (MDN) and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the widow of La Prensa '​s director Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. By the end of that month, with the exception of the capital, most of Nicaragua was under FSLN control, including León and Matagalpa, the two largest cities in Nicaragua after Managua.

The FSLN evolved from one of many opposition groups to a leadership role in the overthrow of the [37]

Nicaraguan Revolution

The "Twelve" abandoned the coalition in protest and formed the "National Patriotic Front" (Frente Patriotico Nacional – FPN) together with the "United People's Movement" (MPU). This strengthened the revolutionary organizations as tens of thousands of youths joined the FSLN and the fight against Somoza. A direct consequence of the spread of the armed struggle in Nicaragua was the official reunification of the FSLN that took place on 7 March 1979. Nine men, three from each tendency, formed the National Directorate which would lead the reunited FSLN. They were: Bayardo Arce (es), and Henry Ruiz (GPP faction); and Jaime Wheelock, Luis Carrión and Carlos Núñez.[35]

In early 1979, President Jimmy Carter and the United States no longer supported the Somoza regime, but did not want a left-wing government to take power in Nicaragua. The moderate "Broad Opposition Front" (Frente Amplio Opositor - FAO) which opposed Somoza was made up of a conglomeration of dissidents within the government as well as the "Democratic Union of Liberation" (UDEL) and the "Twelve", representatives of the Terceristas. The FAO and Carter came up with a plan that would remove Somoza from office but left no part in government power for the FSLN.[36] The FAO's efforts lost political legitimacy, as Nicaraguans protested that they did not want "Somocismo sin Somoza" (Somocism without Somoza).

Reunification (1979)

A few days later six Nicaraguan cities rose in revolt. Armed youths took over the highland city of Matagalpa. Tercerista cadres attacked Guard posts in Managua, Masaya, León, Chinandega and Estelí. Large numbers of semi-armed civilians joined the revolt and put the Guard garrisons of the latter four cities under siege. The September Insurrection of 1978 was subdued at the cost of several thousand, mostly civilian, casualties.[34] Members of all three factions fought in these uprisings, which began to blur the divisions and prepare the way for unified action.[35]

[33] In August, the Terceristas staged a spectacular hostage-taking. Twenty-three Tercerista commandos led by

On January 10, 1978, Somoza asserted his intention to stay in power until the end of his presidential term in 1981. The United States government showed its displeasure with Somoza by suspending all military assistance to the regime, but continued to approve economic assistance to the country for humanitarian reasons.[32]

Insurrection (1978)

The new strategy of the Terceristas also included unarmed strikes and rioting by labor and student groups coordinated by the FSLN's "United People's Movement" (Movimiento Pueblo Unido – MPU). [30]

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