Aug 25, 2005

Suffering Sandinista and Slimy Somoza

Nicaragua is one of two countries in this hemisphere that pulled off an honest to goodness peoples revolution. In the first third of the last century, there was a charismatic figure named Augusto Cesar Sandino who had a unique brand of socialism. He championed socialist causes, human rights and rallied the poor people to his cause by speaking of the disparity between the rich and poor as well as his own, personal, connection to God. He was enormously popular and gaining steam until General Anastasio Somozo became head of the National Guard and ordered him killed in 1934. And with a shot it was over for a long time to come.

Three years later with no one left to stop him the same Somozo rigged the elections and became president. He was awful and ran the country as his own personal estate with a population of slaves. People were killed left and right including when things got rough, Somoza himself in 1956. It didn't affect things, Somozos kids picked up where he left off, and things kept getting worse.

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In 1972 there was a powerful earthquake here, 10,000 people died and five times that number were left homeless. The Somoza clan stepped up to the plate to 'help.' They deposited a huge fraction of the emergency aid pouring in from other countries into personal bank accounts and took the emergency donations of supplies to sell at a profit to the victims. Nice guys. Real nice.

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In May 1979 two things critically important happened in the history of Nicaragua. One was the Sandinistas, named after Sandino, started fighting back. They fought for a say in their own country, a more socially benovelent government and finally to break the stranglehold Somoza had on their country for four decades. By July 19, 1979 the Sandinistas took the capital. They won.

The second critically important event was one half of the MacAllen duo which would later steal the hearts of this country over a quarter century later, Tyler, was born.

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The US responded to a brand new democracy in the hemisphere like a big brother. A vicious, repressive and controlling big brother (You be quiet, Tyler). President Reagan had $20 Million spent training and rearming the old National Guard members, Somozas crew, before sending them home. If funding right wing death squads in a country who won a democracy for idealists doesn't make me feel patriotic I don't know what would. Well, one thing that would is when the US Congress figured out how brutal the Contrarevolucionarios(aka, Contras) were they used their 'power of the purse' to cut all funding of these thugs. Its a pity Oliver North then went ahead and sold American Military weapons to the Iranians (wait, aren't those very same Neo-Cons in power now talking about war with Iran?) and sent the proceeds to the Contras. As a child of the 80s I was bored to tears by the Iran-Contra affair as it played out as hours and hours of congressional investigations on TV all the time. Now I finally get to see what it was all about. For the blatant disregard of Congresses demands, not to mention the thousands upon thousands of dead Nicaraguans, a lot of people in Reagans government got in trouble. Until, of course, Bush Sr. was elected and pardoned every one of them.

There is a happy ending. In 1988 the Sandinistas and the Contras signed a cease fire and this country has been a mostly functioning democracy ever since. Although the Sandinistas were voted out of power in 1990 there is still an air of respect and a people proud of their own fighting history. To this day there is lot of political street art and bumper stickers proclaiming 'Sandinista Siempre,' 'Sandinistas Always'.

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1 comment:

  1. I love this story. In April 1986 I went to my first and only major "Demonstration" in Washington DC. It was in protest of what was being built up as a war in Nicaragua. I was passionately opposed knowing what I knew about the history and the misuse of funding after that terrible earthquake. I actually wrote a feature article in the Democratic Socialist Newsletter regaling my experience. I felt a part of the end of that "war" and of the "peaceful resolution" Now to read my son's account is very satisfying indeed.

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