>Pictured here: The Moscow-Managua Axis personified: Stepashin the “letter boy” (see below) with Soviet client Ortega in Nicaragua, January 10, 2007.
Traditional relations of friendship have always been the foundation for the development of an equal dialogue between our states. We value your sincere desire to boost bilateral cooperation on the basis of our positive achievements of the past years. For our part, we are prepared to carry on constructive efforts to attain our immediate goals, notably to expand trade, resume economic, research, technological and cultural partnership, and strengthen the relevant legislation. We intend to promote constructive contacts with Nicaragua on the key issues of the global and regional agendas. In our opinion, closer cooperation in the struggle against modern challenges and threats, such as international terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking, meets the common interests of our countries and peoples. I am convinced that our concerted efforts will ensure progress in all spheres of Russian-Nicaraguan relations.
— Letter to President Daniel Ortega from Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, presented by Putin’s personal envoy, former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, on occasion of Ortega’s inauguration, January 10, 2007
The Sandinista Comandante’s commitment to world revolution is still active. On December 1, 2006 then President-Elect Daniel Ortega attended ceremonies organized in Havana in honor of Cuban Tyrant Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday. On that occasion, the state-run Cuban New Agency reports, Comrade Dan affirmed: “I wish to express my recognition to the man who has served as a source of inspiration and teacher for our movement to fight for justice and freedom. The exchange with Fidel turns us more sensitive each day, more humane, friendly and supportive, firm and determined to defend the noblest ideas of humanity.”
Here at Once Upon a Time in the West we are still waiting for reports of President Ortega’s first trip to the neo-Soviet Union and the East Bloc in more than two decades. Be assured, should that event occur, it will be eagerly analyzed here. While visiting Moscow in 1985 Ortega contrasted US versus Soviet policy toward Nicaragua in the following diatribe: “The Soviet Union has been cooperating with Nicaragua in support of life. What the U.S. has been doing is to send death to Nicaragua.”
Republic of Nicaragua
Type of state: “Post”-communist “multi”-party state under overt communist control, exercised through Sandinista National Liberation Front
Independence: September 15, 1821 (from Spain)
Type of installation: Communist insurgency; Nicaraguan, or Sandinista, Revolution, 1979
Neo-communist renewal: “Collapse of communism”; Sandinistas defeated in general election, 1990
1) Sandinista National Liberation Front (split from communist Nicaraguan Socialist Party): 2007-present
2) El Pacto, consisting of Sandinista National Liberation Front (split from communist Nicaraguan Socialist Party) and Constitutionalist Liberal Party (formerly Liberal Alliance): 1999-2007
3) Liberal Alliance, during which time FSLN controls military, police, and judiciary: 1996-1999
4) National Opposition Union (consisting of Communist Party of Nicaragua, Nicaraguan Socialist Party (communist), Social Democratic Party, Popular Conservative Alliance, Nicaraguan Democratic Movement, National Action Party, National Conservative Party, Democratic Party of National Confidence, Central American Integrationist Party, Liberal Party, Liberal Alliance, Independent Liberal Party), during which time FSLN controls military, police, and judiciary: 1990-1996
5) Sandinista National Liberation Front (split from communist Nicaraguan Socialist Party): 1985-1990
6) Junta of National Reconstruction, consisting of Daniel Ortega Saavedra (FSLN), Sergio Ramírez Mercado (FSLN), Moisés Hassan Morales (FSLN), Arturo José Cruz Porras (pro-FSLN Group of Twelve), Alfonso Robelo Callejas (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement), Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and Rafael Angel Cordova Rivas: 1979-1985
Pictured here: The man who is still red, 20 years later.
1) During the Nicaraguan, or Sandinista, Revolution in 1979, the Soviet- and Cuban-backed Sandinista National Liberation Front, which was dominated by communists, overthrew the Somoza dynasty that had ruled the country for more than four decades.
2) During the Nicaraguan Civil War that followed the revolution and which spanned the 1980s an ideologically diverse group of organizations known as the Contras endeavored to dislodge the Sandinista regime.
The first group of Contras included the Anti-Sandinista Guerrilla Special Forces, 15th of September Legion, and National Army of Liberation. Ex-members of Somoza’s National Guard dominated the core leadership of this group. Businessman José Francisco Cardenal, who initially supported the Sandinistas, went into exile and founded the Nicaraguan Democratic Union (UDN). The Nicaraguan Revolutionary Armed Forces served as the UDN’s armed wing.
A second group of Contras, consisting of peasant militias led by former Sandinistas, was formed in Honduras between 1980 and 1981. These militias were initially known as MILPAS, but later organized themselves as the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), which operated under the command of former National Guard Colonel Enrique Bermúdez and Jaime Irving Steidel, a Honduran-born field commander. Nicaraguan businessman and anti-Sandinista politician Adolfo Calero formed a joint political directorate for the FDN in February 1983.
A third group of Contras was organized in Costa Rica, in April 1982, by Edén Pastora (Comandante Cero), a former Sandinista, under the name Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE). The armed wing of ARDE was called the Sandino Revolutionary Front. Pastora opposed the increased influence of Soviet, East Bloc, and Cuban officials in the Managua junta.
A fourth group of Contras, the Misurasata, was organized among the Miskito, Sumo, and Rama aboriginal peoples of Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast.
Pictured here: Comandante Ortega’s red friends: Hugo and Evo.
1) Communist Party of Nicaragua (PCdeN): Founded as the Socialist Workers’ Party (POS) on April 23, 1967, the PCdeN’s original leadership consisted of former members of the communist Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN): Juan Lorio, Augusto Lorío, Elí Altamirano, and Manuel Pérez Estrada. The PCdeN promoted armed struggle against the Somoza regime, a policy that the Moscow-allied PSN opposed. In 1970 the POS adopted its current name. In 1990 the party collaborated with the right-wing National Opposition Union to topple the Sandinista government.
2) Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN): Founded in 1944 by Dr. Mario Flores Ortiz, the PSN operates as Nicaragua’s official communist party. After the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which traces its origins to the PSN, seized power in 1979, the PSN was politically marginalized. In 1976 some PSN members split from the main party to form the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (de los Sánchez). In the late 1970s the PSN, reversing its earlier policy–which provoked some members to defect and form the FSLN and Communist Party of Nicaragua in the 1960s–created the Military Organization of the People (OMP) to carry out an armed struggle against the Somoza regime. OMP executed a few attacks against the regime. In 1990 the party collaborated with the right-wing National Opposition Union to topple the Sandinista government. The PSN still exists, but is no longer a communist party. The party organ is El Popular.
3) Revolutionary Unity Movement (MUR): Formed in 1988 MUR consists of defectors from the Marxist-Leninist Party of Nicaragua, Communist Party of Nicaragua, and Sandinista National Liberation Front. Ex-FSLN member Moisés Hassán, who was formerly Managua’s Sandinista major, founded the organization. Hassan contested the 1990 presidential election, while the party won one out of 110 seats in the National Assembly. As of 2004 the president of MUR is Francisco Samper.
4) Revolutionary Workers’ Party (PRT): Founded in 1971 as Towards a Popular Revolution, the PRT initially attracted students with Marxist and Trotskyist tendencies. The party joined the Trotskyist United Secretariat of the Fourth International in 1975 and restyled itself as the Marxist Revolutionary League. The PRT fought alongside the Sandinista National Liberation Front, but after the Nicaraguan Revolution the party remained illegal and its leaders were imprisoned for criticizing the new government. The party adopted its current name in 1984 and obtained legal status after the 1984 election.
1) National Opposition Union (UNO): The UNO was a wide-ranging coalition of parties that opposed Sandinista President Ortega in the February 25, 1990 general election. Opposition candidate and former Ortega ally Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was elected as the new president. The UNO traced its origins back to the Nicaraguan Democratic Coordinating Group (CDN), which was organized in 1982 by several opposition groups. At the time of the election, the UNO consisted of 14 political parties, including four conservative, seven centrist, and three leftist. In that the communist parties of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were then implementing the perestroika deception by abandoning their public monopoly of power, it is worth noting that the Communist Party of Nicaragua and the communist Nicaraguan Socialist Party aligned with their ideological enemies in the UNO to “oust” the Sandinistas, who were also Marxists, from the FSLN’s public monopoly of power. Astute scholars of communist deception should consider the distinct possibility that the FSLN executed a strategic withdrawal at this time from the international limelight so as to further consolidate its hold on Nicaragua without any notice by policymakers in Washington.
During her election campaign Chamorro pledged to end the military draft, promote reconciliation between the country’s warring factions, and stimulate economic growth. The administration of President George H.W. Bush Sr., moreover, warned that the USA would only resume aid to Nicaragua if the UNO was elected. In April 1989 the US Congress approved a package of $49.75 million in “nonlethal” aid to the Contras. Several months later, in June, the National Endowment for Democracy received $2 million from Congress, which was then diverted to fund the Contras’ pro-UNO publicity campaign. Before the election, according to some reports, the Contras threatened to murder Sandinista sympathizers if they voted for the FSLN. In the presidential election held on February 25, 1990, Chamorro won 55 percent of the popular vote against Ortega’s 41 percent. The UNO dissolved in the mid-1990s.
Violeta was the husband of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, owner of La Prensa, and an early supporter of the Sandinistas. Pedro was assassinated on January 10, 1978. President Anastasio Somoza Debayle insisted that a Cuban-American businessman had murdered Chamorro. Speaking about her husband to the participants of the 1998 World Congress of the International Press Institute in Moscow, Violeta stated: “During his whole life, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro was a tireless fighter for democracy in Nicaragua and against the dictatorship of Somoza. This cost him incarceration, torture, exile and finally death. He was warned many times that plans existed to assassinate him, yet no threat detained him from fulfilling his mission to impart the truth and preach democracy.” At this conference a number of prominent Russian communists and “ex”-communists presided, including Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Communist Party of the Russian Federation Chair Gennady Zyuganov, and Yukos Chair Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Presidents of communist and “post-communist” Nicaragua:
1) Daniel Ortega Saavedra (Sandinista National Liberation Front): January 10, 2007-present
2) Enrique Bolaños (Constitutional Liberal Party, Alliance for the Republic): January 10, 2002-January 10, 2007
3) Arnoldo Alemán (Liberal Party/Alliance, Constitutional Liberal Party): January 10, 1997-January 10, 2002
4) Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (National Opposition Union): April 25, 1990-January 10, 1997
5) Daniel Ortega Saavedra (Sandinista National Liberation Front): January 10, 1985-April 25, 1990
6) Junta of National Reconstruction, consisting of Daniel Ortega Saavedra (FSLN), Sergio Ramírez Mercado (FSLN), Moisés Hassan Morales (FSLN), Arturo José Cruz Porras (pro-FSLN Group of Twelve), Alfonso Robelo Callejas (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement), Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and Rafael Angel Cordova Rivas: July 18, 1979-January 10, 1985
Results of last presidential election: In the last election presidential election, which occurred on November 5, 2006, former communist dictator José Daniel Ortega Saavedra (Sandinista National Liberation Front) won the presidency with 38.1% of the popular vote, Eduardo Montealegre (Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance) 29.0%, José Rizo Castellón (Constitutionalist Liberal Party) 26.6%, Edmundo Jarquín Calderón (Sandinista Renovation Movement, dissidents from FSLN) 6.4%, and Edén Atanacio Pastora Gómez (Alternative for Change) 0.3%.
Political composition of national legislature: In the last election for the National Assembly of Nicaragua, which occurred on November 5, 2006, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (communist) won 38 out of 90 seats, Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC, liberal) 25, Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (liberal, dissidents from PLC) 22, and Sandinista Renovation Movement (communist, dissidents from FSLN) 5.
After the dissolution of the FSLN-Convergence alliance in 2005, the FSLN formed United Nicaragua Triumphs, which includes: Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (YATAMA), a party of indigenous Nicaraguans from the Atlantic Coast; Christian Democratic Union; Christian Unity Movement; Popular Conservative Alliance; dissidents from the Constitutionalist Liberal Party and Conservative Party of Nicaragua; and a fraction of members from the Nicaraguan Resistance Party (founded by the Contras), and the Liberal Nationalist Party (founded by Somoza family).
In the 2001 election the FSLN won 46 seats, Constitutionalist Liberal Party (formerly Liberal Alliance) 43, and Conservative Party of Nicaragua 1.
In the 1996 election the Liberal Alliance won 42 seats, FSLN 36, Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path 4, Nicaraguan Conservative Party 3, National Project 2, Nicaraguan Resistance Party 1, Sandinista Renovation Movement (communist, dissidents from FLSN) 1, Unity Alliance 1, Independent Liberal Party 1, National Conservative Action 1, and UNO-96 Alliance 1.
In the 1990 election the National Opposition Union (consisting of Communist Party of Nicaragua, Nicaraguan Socialist Party (communist), Social Democratic Party, Popular Conservative Alliance, Nicaraguan Democratic Movement, National Action Party, National Conservative Party, Democratic Party of National Confidence, Central American Integrationist Party, Liberal Party, Constitutionalist Liberal Party, and Independent Liberal Party) won 51 seats, FSLN 39, Democratic Conservative Party 3, Popular Social Christian Party 3, Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement 3, Revolutionary Unity Movement (communist) 1, and Social Christian Party 1.
In the 1984 election the FSLN won 61 seats, Democratic Conservative Party 14, Independent Liberal Party 9, Popular Social Christian Party 6, Communist Party of Nicaragua 2, Nicaraguan Socialist Party (communist) 2, and Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement 2.
As a result of the 2004 municipal election, the FSLN-Convergence controlled 87 out of 152 municipalities, Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) 57, Alliance for the Republic 4, Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (FSLN ally) 3, and Nicaraguan Resistance Party (FSLN ally after 2006) 1.
Next general elections: Nicaragua’s next general elections are scheduled for 2011.
Pictured here: The Islamo-Marxist nexus personified: Iranian President Mahmoud (“Iwannajihad”) Ahmadinejad and Comrade Dan in Managua.
Communist Bloc memberships: United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Central American Parliament, Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
Socialist International presence: Sandinista National Liberation Front
Sao Paulo Forum presence: Sandinista National Liberation Front
Moscow-Beijing-Havana-Caracas Axis political/economic/military presence: Before abandoning its public monopoly of power in 1990, the FSLN received military, intelligence, and logistical support from the Soviet Union and Cuba. In late October 2001, shortly after the 911 terror attacks in the USA, Russia signed an agreement to upgrade the Nicaraguan Armed Forces, but the deal was suspended and no shipments were made. Although the Sandinista People’s Army (EPS) is no longer referred to as such, the Nicaraguan Armed Forces are still under the control of the Sandinistas. After the Sandinistas lost the 1990 general election, a new law, enacted in April of that year, placed the EPS under the direct control of President Chamorro, who also held the defense ministry portfolio. Since 1990, however, Sandinistas have retained operational control over the allegedly depoliticized Nicaraguan National Army.
In spite of the president’s titular control over the armed forces, Sandinista General Humberto Ortega, Daniel’s brother, retained authority over promotions, military construction, and force deployments. Indeed, Sandinista officers remained at the head of all general staff directorates and military regions. The chief of the army, Major General Joaquín Cuadra Lacayo, for example, continued in his pre-Chamorro position.
Challenging international pressure from Washington, General Ortega refused to step down from his position until February 21, 1995, when Sandinista General Cuadra assumed Ortega’s position. Cuadra retired in 2000 and founded the National Unity Movement, which is aligned with the Sandinista Renovation Movement, itself a split from the FLSN. The current commander of the Nicaraguan military is Omar Halleslevens Acevedo, who assumed his post on February 21, 2005. General Halleslevens is a Sandinista. The previous commander, General Javier Carrion, was also a Sandinista. General Carrion visited Moscow in 2002 to confer with Anatoly Kvashnin, then Chief of the Russian General Staff.
A law enacted in 1998 is unclear with respect to the line of command from the army’s top brass to the president of the republic or to the president’s minister of defense.
On January 11, 2007, the day after FSLN executive Daniel Ortega was inaugurated as President of Nicaragua, Ortega signed an agreement with former Russian Federation Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who attended the ceremony as personal envoy for President Vladimir Putin.
The anti-Sandinista regimes that governed Nicaragua during the 1990s and early 2000s downgraded Managua’s relationship with Havana to the charge d’affaires level. After his January 10, 2007 inauguration President Ortega proclaimed his intention to restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. On March 20, on the occasion of receiving the new Cuban ambassador Luís Hernandez Ojeda, President Ortega reaffirmed Nicaragua’s solidarity with Cuba. The March 20 issue of La Voz del Sandinismo, the mouthpiece of the FLSN, exclaimed that Nicaragua would now offer “unrestricted support” for Cuba in international forums. “I am sure that this step which we are giving is in correspondence with the political, ideological, historical, and revolutionary bonds that unite us with the people of Cuba, with Fidel Castro, with his Revolution,” Ortega stated. “After 16 years, we again have an ambassador of socialist Cuba, free, heroic, in the land of Sandino,” he added, referring to the governments that existed between his two presidencies as aligning with US “imperialism.”
Under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which is coordinated by the Havana-Caracas Axis and to which Managua came on board only one day after Ortega’s inauguration, Nicaragua is joining the left-leaning pan-Latin American television network teleSUR. The February 25, 2007 issue of Prensa Latina reported that Nicaragua and Cuba were “re-launching” cultural ties. Among other ceremonies, President Ortega awarded Cuba’s visiting Culture Minister Abel Prieto, a member of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Politburo, with the Ruben Dario Cultural Independence Order.
Committed to rescue cultural relations between Cuba and Nicaragua, Cuba’s Culture Minister Abel Prieto and his delegation returned to Havana on Monday, after a brief but intensive visit to the Central American nation.
The delegation fulfilled an intense agenda during their 24-hour stay in Nicaragua, from the moment of their welcome by President Daniel Ortega and his wife, poet Rosario Murillo.
The member of the Cuba Communist Party’s Political Board was awarded with the Ruben Dario Cultural Independence Order, a distinction given in the name of all cultural and academic institutions of the Caribbean island.
“This has been the first contact since the Sandinista National Liberation Front victory, and we must establish an extensive cooperation, above all in film production,” stated Omar Gonzalez, president of the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industries.
The delegation was also made up of Afro-Cuban culture ethnologist and academic Rogelio Martinez Fure, Wilfredo Lam Center director Ruben del Valle and Tablas theater magazine director Omar Valillo.
A mixed commission will facilitate Nicaragua’s integration into the other elements of ALBA.
Cuba not only served as model for the first Sandinista regime’s Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign, but also Nicaraguan teachers and 2,000 primary and secondary students studied in Cuba, the tab of which was picked up by the host country. Previously, Nicaragua boasted a high rate of illiteracy, but the campaign lowered the rate from 50% to 12%. Under the neo-Sandinista regime, educational exchanges between Nicaragua and Cuba are again being implemented. Nicaragua and numerous other communist states in Latin America and elsewhere, as reported by the March 22, 2007 issue of Prensa Latina, are employing Cuba’s “Yes, I Can” reading and writing literacy program. “Venezuela, the first to massively apply the Cuban method,” exclaims the mouthpiece of Cuban communism, “was declared free of illiteracy on October 28, 2005, second in Latin America after Cuba which achieved such a feat in 1961, when over 1.5 million of its citizens learned to read and write.”
During the first Sandinista regime more than 1,500 Cuban doctors worked in Nicaragua where they assisted the Sandinistas in establishing a national health care system, eliminated polio, decreased the rate of measles, and lowered the infant mortality rate. Upon returning to the presidency in January 2007, Ortega is again welcoming Cuban doctors to Nicaragua. On January 31, 2007 Reuters reported: “Cuba plans to send doctors and medicine to Nicaragua, extending its so-called medical diplomacy to the new government of leftist President Daniel Ortega, a longtime ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Cuba’s top diplomat in Nicaragua, Manuel Guillot, said on Wednesday the doctors would work along the Caribbean coast, the most impoverished part of a country second only to Haiti as the poorest in the Americas.”
Nicaraguan patients are also traveling to Cuba where they are receiving free surgery and other health care, as reported by Prensa Latina on February 14, 2007: “A group of 41 Nicaraguans traveled today to Havana to receive free eye surgery as part of the Operation Miracle, a solidarity program boosted by Cuba and Venezuela.” The same article states: “Since last June, date when the Central American nation began to benefit from this program, over 1,650 Nicaraguans have been operated on free of charge in Cuba.” Nicaraguan patients are also traveling to Venezuela: “Another group of 600 were treated in Venezuela, said Marcos Lopez, of the Nicaragua Association of Democratic Mayors, [the] entity in charge of coordinating the trips and selecting the patients.” The March 21 issue of Prensa Latina reported that Cuba will establish three eye clinics in Managua, Puerto Cabezas, and Bluefields.
Between 1985 and 1990 Washington imposed a trade embargo on Nicaragua, which was forced to import new machinery from Cuba and send its workers to the island state in order to receive technical training. Nearly 3,000 Nicaraguans trained in Cuba for three- to six-month periods. Under the auspices of ALBA, the Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported on February 14, 2007, Cuban and Venezuelan technicians are currently installing and bringing online at least 25 electrical generators—gifts from Havana and Caracas—to aid energy-starved Nicaragua. The ACN quotes Cuban engineer and project manager Mario Gutierrez: “Gutierrez pointed out that work has been finished ahead schedule thanks to Nicaraguan technicians from the National Electric Transmission Company (ENTRESA) under the supervision of Cuban and Venezuelan experts.”
Lastly, Cuba was responsible for rebuilding Nicaragua’s infrastructure, including roads, schools, power plants, and sugar mills, destroyed during the revolution. In January 1985 Castro visited Nicaragua and personally opened the new Tipitapa-Malacatoya sugar mill, announcing that all debts incurred by the Sandinista regime for the project would be forgiven. The communist regime in Havana also tried to construct Nicaragua’s first overland route between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in order to expedite the release of the $1 billion in Soviet military aid to Cuba. The road was designed to traverse 260 miles of jungle, but the civil war with the Contras hindered completion of the project. During the 1990s Nicaragua’s proposed coast-to-coast highway remained one of many unfulfilled dreams of the Sandinistas. The neo-Sandinista regime, however, has resurrected the project. On January 22, 2007 the India Daily reported that Venezuela will assume the task of building the highway no later than 2013: “The Venezuelan army will build a 300-mile road in Nicaragua that will link the Pacific to the Atlantic region, El Universal reported Jan. 22. The construction, set to begin in a year and be completed in at least five years, will cost an estimated $350 million and will be financed by Venezuela as a donation.”
The FSLN also organized neighborhood groups similar to the Cuban Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, called Sandinista Defense Committees (CDS). In the early months of revolutionary Nicaragua, the CDS’s served as de facto units of local governance. The committees policed neighborhoods, apprehended remnants of the National Guard, and distributed food rations. Later, during the civil war with the Contras, the CDS’s also organized civilian defense efforts against Contra attacks and a network of intelligence systems in order to apprehend supporters. After the initiation of full-scale US military involvement in support of the Contras, the CDS was empowered to enforce wartime bans on political assembly and association with counter-revolutionary parties. The neo-Sandinista regime appears to be resurrecting its earlier practice of “citizen involvement” in the revolution by advocating a restructuring of the constitution whereby the president’s powers would be diminished and the national legislature’s increased. The February 20, 2007 issue of Prensa Latina reports: “The Sandinista deputies in the National Assembly will try to establish a participative democratic system in Nicaragua, as opposed to the current presidential system.”
Pictured here: Fidel Castro and his minion Daniel Ortega, more than 20 years ago.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front, the Cuban DGI, and the Soviet KGB
The FSLN acquired its name from Augusto César Sandino (1895–1934), who led the country’s communist-inspired nationalist rebellion against the US occupation of Nicaragua between 1927 and 1934. Following the Constitutionalist War, US Marines supervised the scheduled presidential election, contested by Nicaragua’s warring liberal and conservative factions, and remained for another six years to maintain order.
For some months the Soviet Union and the Communist International quietly and approvingly assessed Sandino’s guerrilla tactics against US soldiers and the Nicaraguan National Guard, which was trained and equipped by the US military. As a result, the Pan-American Anti-Imperialist League, which was coordinated by the South American Bureau of the Comintern, published several statements lauding Sandino’s rebellion of national liberation. The US chapter of the Comintern’s Anti-Imperialist League, in particular, played a pivotal role in opposing the US occupation. Sandino’s half-brother Socratés, who lived in New York, was a featured speaker at rallies organized by the League and the Communist Party USA. The Sixth World Congress of the Comintern, which convened in Moscow in the summer of 1928, released a statement “expressing solidarity with the workers and peasants of Nicaragua and the heroic army of national emancipation of General Sandino.” In China, the Beijing division of the Kuomingtang army, which was committed to non-communist social revolution, was named the Sandino brigade. In June 1929 Sandino dispatched a representative to the Second Congress of the World Anti-Imperialist League in Frankfurt. This conference was attended by Jawaharlal Nehru and Madame Sun Yat-sen.
The National Guard assassinated Sandino in 1934, enabling Anastasio Somoza García to consolidate his control of the country in 1936. Sandino’s “heirs,” the Sandinistas, overthrew the Somoza family in the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution.
The Sandinistas trace their origins to a cell of student activists at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Managua. This cell was committed to removing the Somoza regime by armed struggle. The FSLN, according to the party website, was formally founded in 1961 by Santos Lopez, KGB recruit Carlos Fonseca Amador, Silvio Mayorga, Tomás Borge Martínez, German Pomares Ordonez, Jorge Navarro, Julio Buitrago, Faustino Ruiz, Rigoberto Cruz, and Jose Benito Escobar Perez. Only Tomás Borge Martínez lived long enough to see the Sandinista victory in 1979. Originally known simply as the National Liberation Front, “Sandinista” was added in 1963 to create continuity with Sandino’s movement three decades before. The life and ideology of Augusto César Sandino subsequently became the cherished symbol of Nicaraguan communism.
Since Somoza’s National Guard possessed superior manpower and firepower, the FSLN’s Final Offensive consisted of dividing the enemy’s forces through urban insurrection and a general strike. By April 1979 the FSLN has established five guerrilla fronts, including one in Managua. Young Sandinistas fought National Guardsmen daily in cities throughout the country. The FSLN called the strike on June 4 and insisted that it would last until Somoza fell. Twelve days later a multiparty junta assembled in Costa Rica. The Junta of National Reconstruction consisted of Daniel Ortega Saavedra (FSLN), Sergio Ramírez Mercado (FSLN), Moisés Hassan Morales (FSLN), Arturo José Cruz Porras (pro-FSLN Group of Twelve), Alfonso Robelo Callejas (Nicaraguan Democratic Movement), Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and Rafael Angel Cordova Rivas. By the end of June the FSLN controlled most of Nicaragua, except the capital.
On July 9 the provisional government in exile released a program that promoted a genuinely democratic regime, political pluralism, universal suffrage, a mixed economy, and a non-aligned foreign policy, and prohibited ideological discrimination, except for those supporting the return of the Somoza dynasty. Anastasio Somoza Debayle resigned on July 17 1979 and fled to Miami. On July 19 the FSLN army proper entered Managua, while the five-member junta followed the next day and assumed power. Approximately 50,000 civilians and combatants died in the revolution, while 150,000 Nicaraguans fled the country.
During the long insurgency against the Somoza regime, disagreements over strategy and tactics within the FSLN National Directorate led to the development of three factions:
1) The “prolonged popular war” faction supported a long-term “silent accumulation of forces” within the country’s large peasant population. Maoist, former Interior Minister, and current National Assembly deputy and ambassador to Peru Tomas Borge belonged to this faction.
2) The “proletarian tendency,” led by Jaime Wheelock, reflected an orthodox Marxist approach that sought to organize urban workers.
3) The “third way/insurrectionist” faction, led by Humberto and brother Daniel Ortega Saavedra, supported a rapid insurrectional strategy in alliance with diverse segments of society, including business owners, churches, students, middle class, unemployed youth and shantytown residents. The “terceristas” attracted popular and international support by sponsoring “the Twelve,” a group of prominent Nicaraguan professionals, business leaders, and clergymen who called for Somoza’s removal and organized a provisional government from Costa Rica. Ortega’s practice of forming ideologically diverse alliances continued to the 2006 general election, when the FSLN established the United Nicaragua Triumphs coalition.
Beginning in 1967 the Cuban General Intelligence Directorate (DGI) established links with Nicaragua’s revolutionary organizations. Three years later the DGI had trained hundreds of Sandinista guerrilla leaders and exerted considerable influence over the FSLN. In 1969 the DGI financed and organized an operation to free the jailed Sandinista leader Carlos Fonseca from a Costa Rican prison. Police recaptured Fonseca, but after Sandinistas hijacked an aircraft carrying United Fruit Company executives, Fonesca was released and fled to Cuba.
DGI chief Manuel “Redbeard” Piñeiro affirmed that “of all the countries in Latin America, the most active work being carried out by us is in Nicaragua.” For example, the DGI, with Fidel Castro’s personal approval, colluded with the FSLN in the failed assassination attempt on the US ambassador to Nicaragua Turner Shelton, a supporter of the Somoza dynasty. In another incident, the Sandinistas obtained several hostages and swapped them for safe passage to Cuba and a one million dollar ransom.
After the fall of the Somoza regime, DGI rapidly extended its tentacles of influence in the new Sandinista government expanded rapidly. A meeting in Havana on July 27, 1979, only weeks after the Nicaraguan Revolution, reestablished diplomatic relations between the two countries after more than 25 years. Well-known DGI agent Julián López Díaz was named ambassador to Nicaragua. The Cuban military and DGI advisors who accompanied the FSLN army rose to over 2,500 in number after the Sandinistas assumed the reins of power. Cuban military and intelligence personnel operated at all levels of the new Nicaraguan government. Sandinista defector Álvaro Baldizón alleged that Cuban influence in Nicaragua’s Interior Ministry, under the control of Maoist Borge, was more extensive than was widely believed at the time. Cuban “advice” and “observations” were accepted as commands. Cuban aid arrived in the form of educational assistance, health care, vocational training, and industry building. Once the Sandinistas assumed power, in fact, Cuba aid in the form of grants and unconditional loans became an essential component of Nicaraguan development strategy.
According to Cambridge University historian Christopher Andrew, who reviewed the Mitrokhin Archive, the FSLN represented one element in KGB Director Alexander Shelepin’s “grand strategy” of employing national liberation movements to advance communism in the Third World. In 1960 the KGB organized financing and training for twelve guerrillas that Fonseca handpicked to comprise the core of the new National Liberation Front (FLN). By 1963 Somoza’s National Guard practically exterminated the FLN, prompting the KGB to reassign the organization, now called the FSLN, to intelligence and sabotage operations in the USA. Andrew and former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin contend that in 1966 the KGB deployed FSLN members to the US-Mexican border. In the event of a hot war between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Sandinista saboteurs were tasked with attacking NORAD facilities in the border states and blowing up the oil pipeline running from El Paso, Texas to Costa Mesa, California. A support group, disguised as migrant farm workers, was tasked with smuggling arms caches into the USA.
In addition to Andrew and his source Mitrokhin, other official sources have testified of clandestine relations between the FSLN and Soviet Bloc intelligence agencies. These sources include US President Ronald Reagan (died 2004), US ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick (died 2006), and the director of East German foreign intelligence Markus Wolf (died 2006). President Reagan often cited intelligence reports on clandestine Soviet activity in Nicaragua when articulating his case for US intervention on behalf of the Contras.