2.2. In the 20 th century
In 1912 the U.S. Marines subjugated Nicaragua for 13 years until 1925 to quell revolutionary movements against President Adolfo Diaz.
The second time U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua was from 1926 to 1933 to fight civil commotion. 3 General Augusto César Sandino tried to liberate his country as well from the U.S. occupants as from the client regime they had imposed. Even though the Marines withdrew in 1933 Sandino lost his battle; as for their departure they installed another bodythe National Guard (originated and trained by the U.S. Marines) to sustain and support the pro- American President Anastacio Somoza Garcia.
Later on Sandino was assassinated as an opponent to Somoza’s regime by National Guardsmen. 4
2.3. Origins of the 1980s crisis
Until 1979 Anastacio Somoza Garcia respectively his sons could uphold the power over Nicaragua. During this period of time Nicaragua had become an important assistant to the U.S. in terms of an operation platform during the U.S. interventions in Guatemala and Cuba. After a wasteful earthquake the country, eroded by bribery started moldering and finally collapsed economically as well as socially since Somoza did not use the international aid he had received to rebuild Nicaragua. This event helped the opposition to his regime in growing stronger. The anti-Somoza guerrilla forces under the leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) began to oppose violently the existing military shortly later the country was overdrawn with a virtual civil war. The U.S. government was so worried that a Communist regime would emerge from the chaos which had taken over Nicaragua that they urged Somoza to resign so that a moderate group could take power. Somoza did in fact resign on July 17 of 1979 and flew to Miami in exile. 5 The Sandinistas took control of the country and created a junta of five individuals to rule. Facing enormous obstacles, they tried to get the country back on its economic feet.
3. Reasons for U.S. involvement in Nicaragua during the 1980s
3 See: Der Neue Brockhaus- Bd. 4 p.8
4 See: Phillip Berryman in 1985 in Inside Central America- U.S. policy in its new Vietnam, p. 13
5 See: Peter Kornbluh in 1989 in Intervention in the 1980s-U.S. Foreign Policy in the Third World, pp. 238-239;
See also: Phillip Berryman in 1985 in Inside Central America- U.S. policy in its new Vietnam, p. 30
3.1. Official rationales and aims
The new rulers of Nicaragua evoked different responses from the U.S. government. Until 1981 Jimmy Carter, a liberal, was President of the U.S. He continued financial support to the new government indeed in terms of a guarantee of not using the money for an export of the revolutionary thoughts into other Central American countries. 6 When Ronald Reagan came to power in early 1981 the U.S. foreign policy towards Nicaragua experienced an intensification. All kinds of supports to the Sandinistas were ceased almost immediately as the U.S. administration accused Nicaragua of shipping arms from Soviet-bloc countries to Salvadoran rebels who fought against a U.S.-backed regime. This calumny was most vigorously rejected by the Nicaraguan Junta 7 but came out to be true at last in these days. 8
Thereinafter, when the U.S. public opinion was not longer willing to accept this single aim as a possible trigger for a new Vietnam, President Reagan came up with new proposals for the U.S. involvement in Nicaragua. Like in 1984 he demanded the restoration of democracy and the holding of elections, which the Sandinistas considered as not necessary because in their eyes the people of Nicaragua had voted by supporting the revolution. In 1985 Reagan finally came out with the real goal the U.S. probably tried to achieve from the beginning: the removal of the Sandinista government and the cooperation of the new governor and the U.S. 9
3.2. Unofficial rationales and aims
Relying on their own Intelligence Service the U.S. government had reason to believe in an Marxist/Leninist expansion starting from Russia. As a result from this opinion the U.S. derivated some more reasons for intervening in Nicaragua. First of all Reagan apprehended a chance of emphasizing the U.S.’ hegemony, after it had to accept a certain failure in Vietnam. 10 In fact the U.S. intervention in Nicaragua could be seen as a mini-east-westconflict by some people in which Nicaragua, and El Salvador were vested by the Soviet Union while Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica fought U.S.-supported. In other opinions the conflict was also seen as a test case for the Reagan Doctrine of Rollback fighting communism in the Third World. As President Reagan once Reagan
6 See: Michael Krennerich in 1996 in Wahlen und Antiregimekriege in Zentralamerika, pp. 251-252
7 See: William Goodfellow in Reagan versus the Sandinistas- The undeclared war on Nicaragua, p. 144
8 See: The Miami Herald, July 18, 1999, We shipped weapons, Sandinistas say
9 See: Peter Kornbluh in 1987 in Nicaragua- The Price of Intervention - Reagan’s Wars against the Sandinistas, p.191
10 See: Peter Kornbluh in 1987 in Nicaragua- The Price of Intervention - Reagan’s Wars against the Sandinistas, p.10
For it was no defacto action, but a vague threat the U.S. American anti- intervention movements had no reason to grow to a “full scale antiwar movement” 18 ., yet. Approximate ideas had risen for the first time when U.S. agents mined Nicaraguan ports in 1984 and initially blamed the Contras or ordered them to take responsibility for it. A few weeks later the Wall Street Journal disclosed the truth about the incident and reported the World about Reagan’s fallaciousness 19 .
4.2. Hidden U.S. involvement
The U.S. government had to combine two major interests. On the one hand they wanted to depose the Sandinista government, but on the other hand they feared the backdrop of the “Vietnam Syndrome” 20 - the widespread public opposition to U.S. military involvement in third World conflicts. The only way to elude the negative feedback was to operate through a seemingly independent organization. In late 1981 President Reagan signed a paper assuring first National Security groups in Nicaragua of financial and personnel support the paper was called NSDD 17. The three centerpieces of Reagan’s “low intensity warfare” 21 strategy were the following:
4.2.1. Paramilitary War
Although the CIA- backed overthrow strategies of former times failed, the CIA decided on intervening in Nicaraguan politics. The Central Intelligence Agency unionized former National Guard officers and malcontent Nicaraguan and Cuban exiles into one political party- the FDN 22 But this organization did not only act inside the parliament, but also became known as the Contras on whose face was the tendency to interdict the arms sales to El Salvador 23 . But their declared goal was to bring direct pressure on Nicaragua’s fragile political, economic, and military institutions. This way Washington could deny all responsibility for the Contras’ actions towards Congress and the American public. Actions for which the Contras’ took responsibility were for example “vicious attacks on small villages, state owned Agricultural cooperatives, rural health clinics, bridges, electrical
18 Phillip Berryman 1985 in Inside Central America- U.S. Policy in its New Vietnam, p.90
19 See: Peter Kornbluh in 1987 in Nicaragua- The Price of Intervention- Reagan’s Wars against the Sandinistas, pp. 48- 50
20 Peter Kornbluh in 1989 in Intervention in the 1980s - U.S. Foreign Policy in The Third World, p.241
21 Peter Kornbluh in 1989 in Intervention in the 1980s - U.S. Foreign Policy in The Third World, p.241
22 Nicaraguan Democratic Force
23 See: Peter Kornbluh in 1989 in Intervention in the 1980s - U.S. Foreign Policy in The Third World, p.242