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Nicaraguan Revolution, 1970s–1980s

Robert Sierakowski

Subject History » Political History

Place Americas » Central America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics democracy, foreign interventionism, guerilla war, human rights, revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01100.x


The Sandinistas of the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979 stand out in Latin American history as the only successful guerilla movement of the numerous revolutionary organizations that formed in the wake of the Cuban Revolution . To understand both the roots and outcomes of the revolutionary struggle to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship, it is necessary to understand Nicaragua's political and economic development, as well as its long history of relations with the United States. Emerging as a relative backwater of the Spanish Empire, for much of the post-Independence nineteenth century Nicaragua was torn by warfare between two elite factions: the Liberals and Conservatives. Nicaragua's strategic location as a transit point between the Atlantic and Pacific would soon draw the imperial gaze of the United States. In 1855 North American adventurer William Walker (1824–60), who was brought to fight by the Liberals, promptly declared himself president of Nicaragua, legalized slavery, and had his government duly recognized by the United Sates. Though Walker was soon forced out of power by a combined Liberal-Conservative force, the attention of the United States would not fade. In the second half of the century coffee emerged as the country's main export crop, leading to an expansion of capitalism and dependence on the international economy. When the government of José Santos Zelaya (1853–1919) ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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