Nicaragua 1

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Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the eastSony PCG-71313M battery. The country's physical geography divides it into three major zones: Pacific lowlands; wet, cooler central highlands; and the Caribbean lowlands. On the Pacific side of the country are the two largest fresh water lakes in Central America—Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. The Island of Ometepe Island is located inside Lake NicaraguaSony PCG-71212M battery, and is well known for its popularity among tourists. Surrounding these lakes and extending to their northwest along the rift valley of the Gulf of Fonseca are fertile lowland plains, with soil highly enriched by ash from nearby volcanoes of the central highlands. Nicaragua's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contribute to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot. Nicaragua is one of the richest countries in Central AmericaSony PCG-71311M battery.

The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. Nicaragua achieved its independence from Spain in 1821. Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship, and fiscal crisis—the most notable causes that led to the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Nicaragua is a representative democratic republicSony PCG-71213M battery, and has experienced economic growth and political stability in recent years. In 1990, Nicaragua elected Violeta Chamorro as its president, making it the first country in Central American history and the second in the Western Hemisphere to democratically elect a female head of state.

The population of Nicaragua, approximately 6 million, is multiethnic. Roughly a quarter of the population lives in the capital city, Managua; it is the third-largest city in Central America. Segments of the population include indigenous native tribes from the Mosquito CoastSony PCG-61211M battery, Europeans, Africans, Asians, and people of Middle Eastern origin. The main language is Spanish, although native tribes on the eastern coast speak their native languages, such as Miskito, Sumo, and Rama, as well as English Creole. The mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in art and literature, particularly the latter given the various literary contributions of Nicaraguan writers, including Rubén Darío, Ernesto Cardenal, and Gioconda Belli. Sony VAIO PCG-31114M battery The biological diversity, warm tropical climate, and active volcanoes make Nicaragua an increasingly popular tourist destination.

The origin of the name "Nicaragua" is somewhat unclear; in one theory it is a portmanteau coined by Spanish colonists based on the name Nicarao, chief of the most populous indigenous tribe and agua, the Spanish word for water.

Main article: History of Nicaragua

See also: Spanish colonization of the Americas and Political history of Nicaragua

2,100-year-old human footprints preserved in volcanic mud near Lake ManaguaSony VAIO PCG-31113M battery

In pre-Columbian times, in what is now known as Nicaragua, the indigenous people were part of the Intermediate Area, between the Mesoamerican and Andean cultural regions, and within the influence of the Isthmo-Colombian area. It was the point where the Mesoamerican and South American native cultures metSony VAIO PCG-31112M battery. This is confirmed by the ancient footprints of Acahualinca, along with other archaeological evidence, mainly in the form of ceramics and statues made of volcanic stone, such as the ones found on the island of Zapatera in Lake Nicaragua and petroglyphs found on Ometepe island. The Pipil migrated to Nicaragua from central Mexico after 500 BCSony VAIO PCG-31111M battery

By the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous peoples related by culture to the Mesoamerican civilizations of the Aztec and Maya, and by language to the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area. They were primarily farmers who lived in towns, organized into small kingdomsSony VAIO PCG-41112M battery.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by other peoples, mostly Chibcha language groups. They had coalesced in Central America and migrated also to present-day northern Colombia and nearby areas. They lived a life based primarily on hunting and gathering.[13] Joined by waters, the people of eastern Nicaragua traded withSony VAIO PCG-41111M battery, and were influenced by, other native peoples of the Caribbean. Round thatched huts and canoes, both typical of the Caribbean, were commonly crafted and used in eastern Nicaragua.

In the west and highland areas, occupying the territory between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Coast, the Niquirano were governed by chief Nicarao, or Nicaragua. The wealthy ruler lived in Nicaraocali, site of the present-day city of RivasSONY VAIO PCG-21212M battery. The Chorotega lived in the central region of Nicaragua. Without women in their parties, the Spanish conquerors took Niquirano and Chorotega wives and partners, beginning the multi-ethnic mix of native and European stock now known as mestizo, which constitutes the great majority of population in western Nicaragua.[11] Within three decades after European contactSONY VAIO PCG-21211M battery, what had been an estimated Indian population of one million plummeted. Scientists and historians estimate approximately half of the indigenous people in western Nicaragua died from the rapid spread of new infectious diseases carried by the Spaniards, such as smallpox and measles, to which the Indians had no immunity. The indigenous people of the Caribbean coast escaped the epidemics due to the remoteness of their area. Their societies continued more culturally intact as a resultSONY VAIO PCG-51212M battery.

The Spanish conquest

Main article: Conquista

Farthest extent of Spanish colonization in America.

Red: Farthest extent of Spanish colonies under the House of Bourbon in the 1790s.

Pink: Disputed claims of Spanish colonial administration.

Purple: Portuguese colonies under dual Spanish colonial administration- conquest, settlement and political rule over much of the Western Hemisphere

Colonial expansion under the Spanish Empire was initiated by the Spanish conquistadores and developed by the Monarchy of Spain through its administrators and missionaries. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Christian faith through indigenous conversionsSONY VAIO PCG-51211M battery.

In 1502, Christopher Columbus was the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua as he sailed southeast toward the Isthmus of Panama. On his fourth voyage, Columbus explored the Misquito Coast on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua. The first attempt to conquer what is now known as Nicaragua was by Gil González Dávila, who arrived in Panama in January 1520SONY VAIO PCG-51112M battery.

González claimed to have converted some 31,000 indigenous peoples to Christianity and discovered a possible trans-isthmian water link. After exploring and gathering gold in the fertile western valleys, González was attacked by the indigenous people, some of whom were commanded by Nicarao and an estimated 3,000 led by the chief Diriangén.SONY VAIO PCG-51111M battery González later returned to Panama, where Governor Pedro Arias Dávila tried to arrest him and confiscate his treasure, some 90,000 pesos of gold. González escaped to Santo Domingo.

It was not until 1524 that the first Spanish permanent settlements were founded.[15] Conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded two of Nicaragua's principal towns in 1524: Granada on Lake Nicaragua was the first settlementSONY VAIO PCG-81212M battery, followed by León at a location west of Lake Managua. Córdoba soon built defenses for the cities and attacked against incursions by the other conquistadors. Córdoba was later publicly beheaded following a power struggle with Pedro Arias Dávila. His tomb and remains were discovered during 2000 in the ruins of León Viejo. Sony VAIO PCG-81112M battery

The clashes among Spanish forces did not impede their destruction of the indigenous people and their culture. The series of battles came to be known as The War of the Captains.[18] By 1529, the conquest of Nicaragua was complete. Several conquistadors came out winners, while they executed or murdered others. Pedro Arias Dávila was a winner—although he had lost control of Panama, he moved to Nicaragua and successfully established his base in LeónSONY VAIO PCG-71111M battery. Through adroit diplomatic machinations, he became the first governor of the colony.[17]

The land was parceled out to the conquistadors, who were most interested in the western portion. They enslaved many indigenous people as labor to develop and maintain estates there. Others were put to work in mines in northern Nicaragua, some were killed in warfare. The great majority were sold as slavesSONY VAIO PCG-7196M battery, and shipped to other Spanish colonies in the New World, at a significant profit to the newly landed aristocracy. Many indigenous people died as a result of new infectious diseases, compounded by neglect by the Spaniards, who controlled their subsistence.[15]

Colonization to independence

Corn Island off the Atlantic Coast was a British protectorate until it was ceded along with the rest Mosquito Coast to NicaraguaSONY VAIO PCG-7195M battery

The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception was constructed in the late 17th century to protect locals in neighboring Granada from pirate attacks. Today, it is one of the country's main tourist attractions.

Founding members of the Deutsche Club in Nicaragua 1901

In 1536, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established. By 1570, the southern part of New Spain was designated the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The area of Nicaragua was divided into administrative "parties" with León as the capitalSONY VAIO PCG-7194M battery. In 1610, the Momotombo volcano erupted, destroying the capital. It was rebuilt northwest of what is now known as the Ruins of Old León.

During the American Revolutionary War, Central America was subject to conflict between Britain and Spain, as Britain sought to expand its influence beyond coastal logging and fishing communities in present-day Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua. Horatio Nelson led expeditions against San Fernando de Omoa in 1779 and the San Juan in 1780, which had temporary success before being abandoned due to diseaseSONY VAIO PCG-7192M battery. In turn, the Spanish colonial leaders could not completely eliminate British influences along the Mosquito Coast.

The Captaincy General of Guatemala was dissolved in September 1821 with the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire, and Nicaragua became part of the First Mexican Empire. After the monarchy of the First Mexican Empire was overthrown in 1823SONY PCG-8113M battery, Nicaragua joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America, which was later renamed as the Federal Republic of Central America. Nicaragua finally became an independent republic in 1838.

Rivalry between the liberal elite of León and the conservative elite of Granada characterized the early years of independence and often degenerated into civil war, particularly during the 1840s and 1850sSONY PCG-8112M battery . Invited by the Liberals in 1855 to join their struggle against the Conservatives, a United States adventurer and filibuster named William Walker set himself up as president of Nicaragua, after conducting a farcical election in 1856. Costa Rica, Honduras and other Central American countries united to drive Walker out of Nicaragua in 1857, after which a period of three decades of Conservative rule ensuedSONY PCG-7134M battery.

Great Britain, which had claimed the Mosquito Coast as a protectorate since 1655, delegated the area to Honduras in 1859 before transferring it to Nicaragua in 1860. The Mosquito Coast remained an autonomous area until 1894. José Santos Zelaya, president of Nicaragua from 1893–1909, negotiated the annexation of the Mosquito Coast to the rest of Nicaragua. In his honor, the region was named Zelaya DepartmentSONY PCG-7131M battery.

In the 19th century, Nicaragua attracted many immigrants, primarily from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium emigrated to set up businesses with money they brought from Europe. They established many agricultural businesses, such as coffee and sugar-cane plantations, and also newspapers, hotels and banksSONY PCG-7122M battery .

Throughout the late 19th century, the United States (and several European powers) considered a scheme to build a canal across Nicaragua, linking the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.[23] A bill was put before the U.S. Congress in 1899 to build the canal, which failed to pass; construction of the Panama Canal was begun insteadSONY PCG-7121M battery.

United States intervention (1909–33)

See also: United States occupation of Nicaragua and Nicaragua Canal

Augusto César Sandino

In 1909, the United States provided political support to conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua's potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya's attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) SONY PCG-7113M batterywere executed by order of Zelaya. The U.S. justified the intervention by claiming to protect U.S. lives and property. Zelaya resigned later that year.

In August 1912 the President of Nicaragua, Adolfo Díaz, requested that the Secretary of War, General Luis Mena, resign for fear that he was leading an insurrection. Mena fled Managua with his brother, the Chief of Police of Managua, to start an insurrection. When the U.S. Legation asked President Díaz to ensure the safety of American citizens and property during the insurrection he replied that he could not and thatSONY PCG-7112M battery...

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

U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933, except for a nine month period beginning in 1925. From 1910 to 1926, the conservative party ruled NicaraguaSONY PCG-8Z3M battery. The Chamorro family, which had long dominated the party, effectively controlled the government during that period. In 1914, the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was signed, giving the U.S. control over the proposed canal, as well as leases for potential canal defenses. Following the evacuation of U.S. Marines, another violent conflict between liberals and conservatives took place in 1926, known as the Constitutionalist War, which resulted in a coalition government and the return of U.S. MarinesSONY PCG-8Z2M battery.

From 1927 until 1933, Gen. Augusto César Sandino led a sustained guerrilla war first against the Conservative regime and subsequently against the U.S. Marines, who withdrew upon the establishment of a new Liberal government. Sandino was the only Nicaraguan general to refuse to sign the el tratado del Espino Negro agreement and then headed up to the northern mountains of Las Segovias, where he fought the U.S. Marines for over five years. SONY PCG-8Z1M battery When the Americans left in 1933, they set up the Guardia Nacional (National Guard),[29] a combined military and police force trained and equipped by the Americans and designed to be loyal to U.S. interests. Anastasio Somoza García, a close friend of the American government, was put in charge. He was one of the three rulers of the country, the others being Sandino and the President Juan Bautista SacasaSONY PCG-8Y3M battery.

After the U.S. Marines withdrew from Nicaragua in January 1933, Sandino and the newly elected Sacasa government reached an agreement by which he would cease his guerrilla activities in return for amnesty, a grant of land for an agricultural colony, and retention of an armed band of 100 men for a year.[30] But a growing hostility between Sandino and Somoza led SomozaSONY PCG-8Y2M battery to order the assassination of Sandino. Fearing future armed opposition from Sandino, Somoza invited him to a meeting in Managua, where Sandino was assassinated on February 21 of 1934 by soldiers of the National Guard. Hundreds of men, women, and children from Sandino's agricultural colony were executed later.[33]

Anastasio Somoza García and his sons Luis Somoza Debayle (left) and Anastasio Somoza Debayle (right) SONY PCG-7Z1M battery.

Nicaragua has experienced several military dictatorships, the longest being the hereditary dictatorship of the Somoza family, who ruled for 43 years during 20th century.[34] The Somoza family came to power as part of a US-engineered pact in 1927 that stipulated the formation of the Guardia Nacional, or the National Guard, to replace the US marines that had long reigned in the country. SONY PCG-6W2M battery  Somoza slowly eliminated officers in the National Guard who might have stood in his way, and then deposed Sacasa and became president on January 1, 1937 in a rigged election.[29] Somoza was 35 at the time.

Nicaragua declared war on Germany on December 8, 1941, during World War II.[36] Although war was formally declared, no soldiers were sent to the war, but Somoza did seize the occasion to confiscate attractive properties held by German-NicaraguansSONY PCG-5J5M battery, the best-known of which was the Montelimar estate which today operates as a privately owned luxury resort and casino.[37] In 1945 Nicaragua was among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Charter.[38]

Throughout his years as dictator, "Tacho" Somoza 'ruled Nicaragua with a strong arm'.[33] He had three main sources for his powerSONY PCG-5K2M battery: control of Nicaraguan economy, military support, and support from the US. When Somoza used the National Guard to take power in 1937, he destroyed any potential armed resistance.[39] Not only did he have military control, but he controlled the National Liberal Party (LPN), which in turn controlled the legislature and judicial systems, giving him complete political powerSONY PCG-5K1M battery.

On September 21, 1956, Somoza was shot by Rigoberto López Pérez, a 27-year-old liberal Nicaraguan poet. Somoza was attending a PLN party to celebrate his nomination for the Presidency. He died eight days later. After his father's death, Luis Somoza Debayle, the eldest son of the late dictator, was appointed President by the congress and officially took charge of the country.[29] He is remembered by some for being moderateSONY PCG-5J4M battery, but was in power only for a few years and then died of a heart attack. Then came president René Schick Gutiérrez whom most Nicaraguans viewed "as nothing more than a puppet of the Somozas".[40] Somoza's brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, a West Point graduate, succeeded his father in charge of the National Guard, controlled the country, and officially took the presidency after SchickSONY PCG-5J1M battery .

In the 1950s, Nicaragua experienced some agricultural diversification. With the help of foreign advice, production figures increased: bananas, sugarcane, livestock and cotton. By the mid-1950s, cotton had become the nation's second largest source of income, after coffee.

Import-substitution industrialization provided for some additional economic growth in the 1960s which was halted when regional integration failed in 1969SONY PCG-5G2M battery. The economy continued to grow through the 1970s, yet rather as a reflection of fluctuation in demand. The biggest rise in the GDP of 13% in 1974 was largely due to the jump in construction after the 1972 earthquake in Managua, which destroyed much of Nicaragua's industrial infrastructure. This boom mainly benefited construction, in great parts owned by the Somoza family. The public expenses were covered by foreign loans and in the late 1970s, Nicaragua had the highest level of foreign indebtedness in the regionSony VAIO PCG-8131M battery.

The Somoza family was among a few families or groups of influential firms which reaped most of the benefits of the country's growth from the 1950s to the 1970s. Most notably the Somozas with wide holdings in almost every segment of society controlled most of Nicaragua's production. The other major players were the Banamérica Group, owned by the conservative elite of Granada with strong interests in sugar, rum, cattle, coffeeSony VAIO PCG-8152M battery, and retailing and the Banic Group with its roots in the liberal families of León tied to the Nicaraguan Bank of Industry and Commerce (Banco Nicaragüense de Industria y Comercio—Banic) and the cotton, coffee, beer, lumber, construction, and fishing industries.

The Somoza's finances were handled by the Central Bank of Nicaragua (Banco Central de Nicaragua) as if it were a commercial bankSony VAIO PCG-31311M battery. It frequently made personal loans to the Somozas, often never repaid. The Somozas managed to guard their financial interests by controlling the government and its institutions. The family owned approx. 10 to 20% of the country's arable land, was heavily involved in Nicaragua's food processing and in control of import-export licenses. It also controlled the nation's transportation industrySony VAIO PCG-31111M battery, either through ownership, or at least through controlling interest in the country's main seaports, the national airline and the maritime fleet. A large part of the profits was reinvested in real estate holdings in the U. S. and Latin America. It has been estimated that by the mid-1970s, the Somozas owned or controlled 60% of the nation's economic activity. When Anastasio Somoza Debayle was deposed by the Sandinistas in 1979, the family's worth was estimated to be between US$ 500 million and US$ 1.5 billionSony VAIO PCG-8112M battery.

The 1972 earthquake destroyed nearly 90% of Managua, creating major losses, and leveling a 600-square block area in the heart of Managua. Some Nicaraguan historians see this earthquake as the final 'nail in the coffin' for Somoza. Instead of helping to rebuild Managua, Somoza siphoned off relief money to help pay for National Guard luxury homes, while the homeless poor had to make do with hastily constructed wooden shacksSony VAIO PCG-7186M battery. The mishandling of relief money also prompted Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente to personally fly to Managua on 31 December 1972, but he died enroute in an airplane accident.[43] Even the economic elite were reluctant to support Somoza, as he had acquired monopolies in industries that were key to rebuilding the nation,[44] and did not allow the businessmen to compete with the profits that would resultSony VAIO PCG-7171M battery.

In 1973, the year of reconstruction, many new buildings were built, but the level of corruption in the government prevented further growth. Strikes and demonstrations developed as citizens became increasingly angry and politically mobilized. The elite were angry that Somoza was asking them to pay new emergency taxes to further his own ends. As a result, more of the young elite joined the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN) Sony VAIO PCG-9Z1M battery. The ever increasing tensions and anti-government uprisings slowed growth in the last two years of the Somoza dynasty.

Nicaraguan Revolution

Main articles: Nicaraguan Revolution, FSLN, and Junta of National Reconstruction

In 1961 Carlos Fonseca turned back to the historical figure of Sandino, and along with two others (one of which was believed to be Casimiro Sotelo who was later assassinated) founded the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).Sony VAIO PCG-5S1M battery Fonseca turned to the KGB and Cuba's DGI for arms and assistance. The FSLN was a small party throughout most of the 1960s, but Somoza's apparent hatred of it and his heavy-handed treatment of anyone he suspected to be a Sandinista sympathizer gave many ordinary Nicaraguans the idea that the Sandinistas were much strongerSony VAIO PCG-5P1M battery.

After the 1972 earthquake and Somoza's apparent corruption, alleged mishandling of relief aid, and refusal to rebuild Managua, the ranks of the Sandinistas were flooded with young disaffected Nicaraguans who no longer had anything to lose.[39] These economic problems propelled the Sandinistas in their struggle against Somoza by leading many middle- and upper-class Nicaraguans to see the Sandinistas as the main hope for removing the brutal Somoza regimeSony VAIO PCG-5N2M battery.

In December 1974, a group of FSLN, in an attempt to kidnap U.S. Ambassador Tuner Shelton, held some Managuan partygoers hostage (after killing the host, former Agriculture Minister Jose Maria Castillo), until the Somozan government met their demands for a large ransom and free transport to Cuba. Somoza granted this, then subsequently sent his National Guard out into the countryside to look for the perpetrators of the kidnappingSony VAIO PCG-3C2M battery, described by opponents of the kidnapping as 'terrorists'. While searching, the National Guard allegedly pillaged villages and imprisoned, tortured, raped, and executed hundreds of villagers. This led to the Roman Catholic Church withdrawing support of the Somoza regime. Around this time, Chilean president Salvador Allende was removed from power in a military coup that prompted Allende to take his own life as the presidential palace came under fireSony VAIO PCG-8161M battery. With right-wing Augusto Pinochet in power in Chile, several hundred committed Chilean revolutionaries joined the Sandinista army in Nicaragua.[45]

On January 10, 1978, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the editor of the national newspaper La Prensa and ardent opponent of Somoza, was assassinated.[46] This allegedly led to the extreme general disappointment with SomozaSony VAIO PCG-8141M battery. It is alleged that the planners and perpetrators of the murder were at the highest echelons of the Somoza regime and included the dictator's son, "El Chiguin" ("The Kid"), the President of Housing, Cornelio Hueck, the Attorney General, and Pedro Ramos, a Cuban expatriate and close ally, who commercialized blood plasmaSony VAIO PCG-3J1M battery.

Nicaraguan refugees, 1979

The Sandinistas, supported by some of the populace, elements of the Catholic Church, and regional governments (including Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Venezuela), took power in July 1979. The Carter administration, refusing to act unilaterally, decided to work with the new government, while attaching a provision for aid forfeiture if it was found to be assisting insurgencies in neighboring countries. Sony VAIO PCG-3H1M battery A group of prominent citizens known as Los Doce, "the Twelve", denounced the Somoza regime and said that "there can be no dialogue with Somoza ... because he is the principal obstacle to all rational understanding ... through the long dark history of Somocismo, dialogues with the dictatorship have only served to strengthen it", Somoza fled the country and eventually ended up in Paraguay, where he was assassinated in September 1980Sony VAIO PCG-3F1M battery, allegedly by members of the Argentinian Revolutionary Workers Party.

To begin the task of establishing a new government, the Sandinistas created a Council (or junta) of National Reconstruction of five members: Sandinista militants Daniel Ortega, Moises Hassan, novelist Sergio Ramírez Mercado (a member of Los Doce), businessman Alfonso Robelo Callejas, and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro). Sandinista supporters thus comprised three of the five members of the juntaSony VAIO PCG-3C1M battery.

The non-Sandinistas Robelo and Chamorro later resigned because they had little actual power in the junta. Sandinista mass organizations were also powerful: including the Sandinista Workers' Federation (Central Sandinista de Trabajadores), the Luisa Amanda Espinoza Association of Nicaraguan Women (Asociación de Mujeres Nicaragüenses Luisa Amanda Espinoza), and the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos) Sony VAIO PCG-9Z2L battery.

On the Atlantic Coast a small uprising occurred in support of the Sandinistas. A group of Creoles led by a native of Bluefields, Dexter Hooker (known as Commander Abel), raided a Somoza-owned business to gain access to food, guns and money before heading off to join Sandinista fighters who had liberated the city of El RamaSony VAIO PCG-9Z1L battery. The 'Black Sandinistas' returned to Bluefields on July 19, 1979 and took the city without a fight. The Black Sandinistas were challenged by a group of mestizo Sandinista fighters. The ensuing standoff between the two groups, with the Black Sandinistas occupying the National Guard barracks (the cuartel) and the mestizo group occupying the Town Hall (Palacio), gave the revolution on the Atlantic Coast a racial dimension absent from events in other parts of the countrySony VAIO PCG-9131L battery. The Black Sandinistas were assisted in their power struggle with the Palacio group by the arrival of the Simón Bolívar International Brigade from Costa Rica.

One of the brigade's members, an Afro-Costa-Rican called Marvin Wright (known as Kalalu) became known for his rousing speeches, which included elements of Black Power ideology, in his attempts to unite all black militias that had formed in Bluefields. The introduction of a racial element into the revolution was not welcomed by the Sandinista National DirectorateSony VAIO PCG-8161L battery, which expelled Kalalu and the rest of the brigade from Nicaragua and sent them to Panama.[49]

Sandinistas and the Contras

Main articles: FSLN, Contras, Iran-Contra scandal, and Nicaragua v. United States

ARDE Frente Sur Contras in 1987

Robert Pastor, President Carter's National Security Advisor on Latin America explained why the administration had to back Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza until he could no longer be sustained to then move to bar the FSLN from power through the "preservation of existing institutions, especially the National Guard"Sony VAIO PCG-8152L batteryeven though it had been massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy.":

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

Shortly after Somoza fled to Miami, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski declared that "we have to demonstrate that we are still the decisive force in determining the political outcomes in Central America." Sony VAIO PCG-8141L batteryAs the Sandinista forces entered the capital, the Carter administration "began setting the stage for a counter revolution," Peter Kornbluh observes. On July 19, a U.S. plane disguised with Red Cross markings evacuated the remnants of the National Guard to Miami. The old Guardia was then built into the counter revolutionary force known as the 'Contras' by the CIA and Argentine trainersSony VAIO PCG-8131L battery.

On assuming office in 1981, US President Ronald Reagan condemned the FSLN for joining with Cuba in supporting Marxist revolutionary movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador. Reagan said he was also concerned about the growing Soviet and Cuban presence in Nicaragua, and the Soviet hope to turn Nicaragua into a "second Cuba"Sony VAIO PCG-81312L battery.

In contrast to the administration's warnings of a 'Soviet beachhead' in Nicaragua, the June 1984 Bureau of Intelligence and Research report, "Soviet Attitudes Towards, Aid to, and Contacts with Central American Revolutionaries," reported that "Soviet military aid to Nicaragua is unobtrusive and sometimes ephemeral." The author of the report, Dr. Carl Jacobsen found that "the limited amounts of truly modern equipment acquired by the SandinistasSony VAIO PCG-81214L battery. .. came from Western Europe not the Eastern bloc." The report concluded that "all too many US claims proved open to question" and that "the scope and nature of the Kremlin's intrusion are far short of justifying the President's exaggerated alarms."[54]

Furthermore, the International Court of Justice determined that "the evidence is insufficient to satisfy the Court that, since the early months of 1981Sony VAIO PCG-81115L battery, assistance has continued to reach the Salvadorian armed opposition from the territory of Nicaragua on any significant scale, or that the Government of Nicaragua was responsible for any flow of arms at either period."[55]

Under the Reagan Doctrine, his administration authorized the CIA to have paramilitary officers from their elite Special Activities Division begin financing, armingSony VAIO PCG-81114L battery, training and advising rebels, some of whom were the remnants of Somoza's National Guard, as anti-Sandinista paramilitaries that were branded "counter-revolutionary" by leftists (contrarrevolucionarios in Spanish).[56] This was shortened to Contras, a label the anti-socialist forces chose to embrace. Edén Pastora and many of the indigenous paramilitary forces unassociated with the "Somozistas" also resisted the SandinistasSony VAIO PCG-81113L battery. The Contras operated out of camps in the neighboring countries of Honduras to the north and Costa Rica 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 Port of Corinto,[57] an action condemned by the International Court of Justice as illegal. Sony VAIO PCG-7142L battery The US also sought to place economic pressure on the Sandinistas, and the Reagan administration imposed a full trade embargo.

US support for this Nicaraguan insurgency continued in spite of the fact that impartial observers from international groupings such as the European Economic Community, religious groups sent to monitor the election, and observers from democratic nations such as Canada and the Republic of Ireland concluded that the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984 were completely free and fair. Sony VAIO PCG-7141L battery The Reagan administration disputed these results, despite the fact that the government of the United States never had any observers in Nicaragua at the time.

The administration criticized the elections as a "sham" based on the charge that Arturo Cruz, the candidate nominated by the Coordinadora Democrática Nicaragüense, comprising three rightwing political parties, did not participate in the electionsSony VAIO PCG-71111L battery. However, the administration privately argued against Cruz's participation for fear his involvement would legitimize the elections. U.S. officials admitted to the New York Times that "The Administration never contemplated letting Cruz stay in the race because then the Sandinistas could justifiably claim that the elections were legitimate, making it much harder for the United States to oppose the Nicaraguan GovernmentSony VAIO PCG-61411L battery."

Other criticisms of the election, according to a detailed study by Martin Kriele, included that the election was “no more subject to approval by vote than the Central Committee of the Communist Party is in countries of the East Bloc,” since the 1984 election was for posts subordinate to the Sandinista Directorate. Also by evading the secret ballot, “the authorities had had the opportunity to check on how individuals had voted.” Sony VAIO PCG-61112L batteryAlso, “the finally announced results of the election were determined through administrative manipulation – that is, they were rigged,” according to Martin Kriele.

After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channeling the proceeds to the Contras (the Iran–Contra affair). When this scheme was revealed, Reagan admitted that he knew about the Iranian "arms for hostages" dealings but professed ignorance about the proceeds funding the Contras; for this, National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North took much of the blameSony VAIO PCG-61111L battery.

Senator John Kerry's 1988 U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra-drug links concluded that "senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras' funding problems."[67] According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel NoriegaSony VAIO PCG-5T4L battery, a Panamanian general and the de facto military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989 when he was overthrown and captured by a U.S. invading force. He was taken to the United States, tried for drug trafficking, and imprisoned in 1992.

In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance, linking the origins of crack cocaine in California to the ContrasSony VAIO PCG-5T3L battery. Freedom of Information Act inquiries by the National Security Archive and other investigators unearthed a number of documents showing that White House officials, including Oliver North, knew about and supported using money raised via drug trafficking to fund the Contras. Sen. John Kerry's report in 1988 led to the same conclusions; major media outlets, the Justice Department, and Reagan denied the allegationsSony VAIO PCG-5T2L battery.

The International Court of Justice, in regard to the case of Nicaragua v. United States in 1984, found; "the United States of America was under an obligation to make reparation to the Republic of Nicaragua for all injury caused to Nicaragua by certain breaches of obligations under customary international law and treaty-law committed by the United States of America"Sony VAIO PCG-5S3L battery. United States however rejected and did not comply with the judgement under the 'Connally Amendment' (part of the conditional participation of USA in the International court of Justice, which excludes from ICJ's jurisdiction "disputes with regard to matters that are essentially within the jurisdiction of the United States of America, as determined by the United States of America")Sony VAIO PCG-5S2L battery.

1990s and the post-Sandinista era (movement towards Socialism)

Violeta Chamorro in 1990 became the first female president democratically elected in the Americas.

The Nicaraguan general election, 1990 saw the defeat of the Sandinistas by a coalition of anti-Sandinista (from the left and right of the political spectrum) parties led by Violeta Chamorro, the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro. The defeat shocked the SandinistasSony VAIO PCG-5S1L battery, as numerous pre-election polls had indicated a sure Sandinista victory, and their pre-election rallies had attracted crowds of several hundred thousand people.[75] The unexpected result was subject to extensive analysis and comment. Commentators such as Noam Chomsky and Brian Willson attributed the outcome to the U.S./Contra threats to continue the war if the Sandinistas retained power, the general war-weariness of the Nicaraguan population, and the abysmal Nicaraguan economic situationSony VAIO PCG-5R2L battery.

The C.I.A. manual, "Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare" under the subheading, "Implicit and Explicit Terror" instructs the Contras that "If the government police cannot put an end to the guerrilla activities, the population will lose confidence in the government, which has the inherent mission of guaranteeing the safety of citizens." Sony VAIO PCG-5R1L battery "The United States wanted the contras kept intact in their Honduran bases to ensure Nicaraguan compliance with commitments to democratic and electoral change," the Washington Post reported. Boston Globe editor Randolph Ryan observed, Washington is sending "an implicit the Nicaraguan electorate: If you want a secure peace, vote for the opposition." Sony VAIO PCG-5P4L battery

The Canadian Observer Mission's four-week investigation of the electoral process in Nicaragua reported that the U.S. "is doing everything it can to disrupt the elections set for next year": "American intervention is the main obstacle to the attainment of free and fair elections in Nicaragua," the report stated. It added further that the Contras are "waging a campaign of intimidation with the clear messageSony VAIO PCG-5P2L battery,`if you support the (Sandinista government), we will be back to kill you'." The observer mission estimates that the contras killed 42 people in "election violence" in October.[80] In its review of 1989, Human Rights Watch condemned the Bush administration for trying to sabotage the elections by sustaining the death squads with aid and encouraging attacks on the electoral processSony VAIO PCG-5N4L battery.

On November 8, 1989, the White House announced that the embargo against Nicaragua would continue unless Violeta Chamorro won. The Bush administration also financed Chamorro's campaign with a $9 million election aid package through the National Endowment for Democracy. Edgar Chamorro, a former Contra leader who later became a critic of the CIA-Contra warSony VAIO PCG-5N2L battery, said 'For Nicaraguans, the choice was simple: continued war, poverty and inflation or opposition candidate Violeta Barrios de Chamorro'.."They were not electing a president, they were electing a way out." President elect Chamorro surmised that ensuing problems such as 16,000% inflation "eroded the credibility of the government" and led people to realize that "if the Sandinistas won, the pain would continue." Sony VAIO PCG-51513L battery

Time Magazine acknowledges that U.S. policy was to: "wreck the economy and prosecute a long and deadly proxy war until the exhausted natives overthrow the unwanted government themselves. Since 1985 Washington has strangled Nicaraguan trade with an embargo. It has cut off Nicaragua's credit at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The contra war cost Managua tens of millions and left the country with wrecked bridgesSony VAIO PCG-51511L battery, sabotaged power stations and ruined farms. The impoverishment of the people of Nicaragua was a harrowing way to give the National Opposition Union (U.N.O.) a winning issue. Nicaragua had been devastated by a 40% drop in G.N.P., an inflation rate running at 1,700% a year and constant shortages of food and basic necessities. At least 30,000 people had been killed in the war, and 500,000 more had fledSony VAIO PCG-51412L battery."

Thomas Walker, a specialist on Central America, writes: "The voters chose a candidate of Washington's choice with a 'gun held to their heads', as was clear to many impartial observers."

P. J. O'Rourke countered the US-centered criticism in his book Give War a Chance, saying "the unfair advantages of using state resources for party ends, about how Sandinista control of the transit system prevented UNO supporters from attending ralliesSony VAIO PCG-51411L battery, how Sandinista domination of the army forced soldiers to vote for Ortega and how Sandinista bureaucracy kept $3.3 million of U.S. campaign aid from getting to UNO while Daniel Ortega spent millions donated by overseas people and millions and millions more from the Nicaraguan treasury ..."Sony VAIO PCG-51312L battery

Exit polls of Nicaraguans reported Chamorro's victory over Ortega was achieved with 55% majority.[87] Violeta Chamorro was the first female President of Nicaragua, and also the first woman to be popularly elected for this position in any American nation. Exit polling convinced Daniel Ortega that the election results were legitimate, and were instrumental in his decision to accept the vote of the people and step down rather than void the electionSony VAIO PCG-51311L battery. Ortega vowed that he would govern desde abajo (from below);[88] in other words due to his widespread control of institutions and Sandinista individuals in all government agencies, he would still be able to maintain control and govern even without being president.

President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, in 2008

Chamorro came to office with an economy in ruins. The per capita income of Nicaragua had been reduced by over 80% during the 1980sSony VAIO PCG-51211L battery, and a huge government debt had ascended to US$12 billion, primarily due to the financial and social costs of the Contra war with the Sandinista-led government.[89] Much to the surprise of the U.S. and the contra forces, Chamorro did not dismantle the Sandinista Popular Army, although the name was changed to the Nicaraguan Army. Chamorro's main contribution to Nicaragua was the disarmament of groups in the northern and central areas of the countrySony VAIO PCG-41112L battery. This provided the stability which the country had lacked for over ten years.

In the next election, the Nicaraguan general election, 1996, Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas of the FSLN were again defeated, this time by Arnoldo Alemán of the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC).

11 years after toppling the Sandinistas, Nicaragua remained the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere next to Haiti, its 5 million residents beset by hunger, crime, and unemploymentSony VAIO PCG-3A4L battery. For much of the campaign, Ortega had been leading in the polls, and many observers expected him to regain the presidency.

In "The Lost Revolution", Mother Jones reports: "Ortega's political resurrection alarmed the Bush administration, which dispatched diplomat Lino Gutierrez to Managua in June to rail against the front-runner. "If the CIA had any brains," says one political analyst in ManaguaSony VAIO PCG-3A3L battery, "they'd have figured out by now that the Sandinistas not only don't represent a Marxist threat, but that long ago the party was taken over by opportunistic yuppies." Beneath the cynicism, few in Nicaragua see any way out of the current plight. Many prominent Sandinistas have left the party, saying a victory by Ortega holds no promise of meaningful change." Sony VAIO PCG-3A2L battery

In the 2001 elections, the Bush administration attempted to link the Sandinistas with the "War on Terror" as a means of intimidating the population into voting for the U.S. backed candidate. A State Department press release stated that "we have grave reservations about the FSLN's historySony VAIO PCG-3A1L battery."

John F. Keane, Director of the Office of Central American Affairs at the State Department warned: "It would be dishonest of me not to acknowledge that the possibility of the election of a Sandinista government is disconcerting to the US government. We cannot forget that Nicaragua became a refuge for violent political extremists from the Middle East, from Europe and from Latin AmericaSony VAIO PCG-394L battery. We are reminded of it daily by the continuing presence of some members of the FSLN leadership, including some very close to candidate Ortega, such as Tomás Borge, Lenín Cerna and Álvaro Baltodano, who perpetrated many of these abominations. Given their past record, why should we believe their statements that they have changed if they have done nothing concrete to demonstrate it…? We are confident that the Nicaraguan people will reflect on the nature and history of the candidates and choose wiselySony VAIO PCG-393L battery."

In response, Daniel Ortega maintained, "We have already expressed our readiness to support the fight against international terrorism. But any action must be based on the consensus of the international community, respect for international law, and not run counter to the system of the United NationsSony VAIO PCG-391L battery."

In the 2001 elections, the PLC again defeated the FSLN, with Enrique Bolaños winning the Presidency. The Washington Post explained the victory. The U. S. supported candidate "focused much of his campaign on reminding people of the economic and military difficulties of the Ortega eraSony VAIO PCG-384L battery."

President Bolaños subsequently brought forward allegations of money laundering, theft and corruption against former President Alemán. The ex-president was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement, money laundering, and corruption.[94] Liberal members who were loyal to Alemán and also members of congress reacted angrily, and along with Sandinista parliament membersSony VAIO PCG-383L battery, stripped the presidential powers of President Bolaños and his ministers, calling for his resignation and threatening impeachment. The Sandinistas alleged that their support for Bolaños was lost when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told Bolaños to keep his distance from the FSLN. This "slow motion coup d'état" was averted partially due to pressure from the Central American presidents, who vowed not to recognize any movement that removed BolañosSony VAIO PCG-382L battery; the U.S., the OAS, and the European Union also opposed the "slow motion coup d'état".[96] The proposed constitutional changes, to be introduced in 2005 against the Bolaños administration, were delayed until January 2007 after the entrance of the new government. One day before they were due to be enforced, the National Assembly postponed their enforcement until January 2008Sony VAIO PCG-381L battery.

Before t

he general elections on 5 November 2006, the National Assembly passed a bill further restricting abortion in Nicaragua 52-0 (9 abstaining, 29 absent). President Enrique Bolaños supported this measure, and signed the bill into law on 17 November 2006.[97] As a result, Nicaragua is one of five countries in the world where abortion is illegal with no exceptions, along with Chile, Malta, El Salvador,[98] and the Vatican CitySony VAIO PCG-7185L battery.

In the 2006 elections, Paul Trivelli, the US ambassador to Nicaragua issued a vigorous warning to the electorate against supporting Daniel Ortega. The ambassador said that an Ortega administration talked of a mixed economy and renegotiating CAFTA, the trade agreement between the U.S. and Central America – would force Washington to "re-evaluate" relationsSony VAIO PCG-7184L battery. "He has made it pretty clear what kind of model he would put in place. And I think that under those conditions. .. [bilateral relations] would definitely be re-examined – and not only by the executive or the State Department or the White House but by the US Congress," he said.

The Financial Times emphasized: "It is no secret that the US is determined to prevent the spread of populist politics along the lines practised by Mr ChávezSony VAIO PCG-7183L battery."

Roger Noriega, the Bush administration’s envoy to Latin America, in the Managua newspaper La Prensa warned the population that Nicaragua will "sink like a stone and reach depths such as those of Cuba" if the Sandinistas returned to office – Referring to the 50 year old United States embargo against Cuba.

Otto Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs declared: "If he [Ortega] wins, there will be no foreign investment and no US aidSony VAIO PCG-7182L battery."

Legislative and presidential elections took place on November 5, 2006. Daniel Ortega returned to the presidency with 37.99% of the vote. This percentage was enough to win the presidency outright, due to a change in electoral law which lowered the percentage requiring a runoff election from 45% to 35% (with a 5% margin of victory) Sony VAIO PCG-7181L battery.

Nicaragua's 2011 general election resulted in re-election of Daniel Ortega.

Main article: Politics of Nicaragua

Politics of Nicaragua takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislatureSony VAIO PCG-7174L battery.

Between 2007–2009, Nicaragua's major political parties discussed the possibility of going from a presidential system to a parliamentary system. Their reason: there would be a clear differentiation between the head of government (Prime Minister) and the head of state (President). Nevertheless, it was later argued that the true reason behind this proposal was to find a legal way for current President Ortega to stay in power after January 2012 Sony VAIO PCG-7173L battery (this is when his second and last government period ends).

C-47 is used in Nicaragua and Air Force equipment.

The armed forces of Nicaragua consists of various military contingencies. Nicaragua has an Army, Navy and Air Force. There are roughly 14,000 active duty personnel, which is much less compared to the numbers seen during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Although the army has had a rough military history, a portion of its forcesSony VAIO PCG-7172L battery, which were known as the National Guard became integrated with what is now the National Police of Nicaragua. In essence, the police became a gendarmerie. The National Police of Nicaragua are rarely, if ever, labeled as a gendarmerie. The other elements and manpower that were not devoted to the National Police were sent over to cultivate the new Army of NicaraguaSony VAIO PCG-7171L battery.

The age to serve in the armed forces is 17 and conscription is not imminent. As of 2006, the military budget was roughly 0.7% of Nicaragua's expenditures.

Departments and municipalities

Main articles: Departments of Nicaragua and Municipalities of Nicaragua

Departments of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a unitary republic. For administrative purposes it is divided into 15 departments (departamentos) and two self-governing regions (autonomous communities) based on the Spanish model. The departments are then subdivided into 153 municipios (municipalities). Sony VAIO PCG-7162L battery The two autonomous regions are 'Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte' and 'Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur', often referred to as RAAN and RAAS, respectively; until they were granted autonomy in 1985 they formed the single department of Zelaya.

Nicaragua occupies a landmass of 130,967 km2 (50,567 sq mi), comparable to that of Greece or the state of AlabamaSony VAIO PCG-7161L battery. It lies between latitudes 10° and 15°N, and longitudes 82° and 88°W.

Nearly one fifth of the territory is designated as protected areas like national parks, nature reserves, and biological reserves. The country is bordered by Honduras to the north, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Geophysically, Nicaragua is surrounded by the Caribbean Plate, an oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Cocos Plate. Since Central America is a major subduction zoneSony VAIO PCG-7154L battery, Nicaragua hosts most of the Central American Volcanic Arc.

Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific lowlands, fertile valleys which the Spanish colonists settled, the Amerrisque Mountains (North-central highlands), and the Mosquito Coast (Atlantic lowlands). The low plains of the Atlantic Coast are 60 miles wide in areas. They have long been exploited for their natural resources.

Nicaragua is known as the land of lakes and volcanoes; pictured is Concepción volcano, as seen from Maderas volcanoSony VAIO PCG-7153L battery.

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