Nicaraguan Consulate in São Paulo
Republic of Nicaragua - History
Nicaragua is the largest republic of Central America bounded in the north by the Gulf of Fonseca (across which is El Salvador) and Honduras, the Caribbean Sea on the east (with the Colombian islands of San Andrés and Providencia just off the coast), Costa Rica in the south and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Managua is its capital.
As the country has no reliable indigenous records, the origin of its name is uncertain, therefore one has to rely on the chronicles of the first Spaniards to reach the country. In these chronicles much was said about the hahuatl peoples that lived between the big lake (later called Lake Nicaragua) and the Pacific Ocean; the natives referred to the lake as nic-alt-nahuac which means “next to the water”, word that the Spaniards came to pronounce as Nicaragua, as it is today. Other studies, however, believe that the word developed from the expression Nican-nahuan that, in turn, means “here live the nahuans” (another people that inhabited the region).
Influenced by the revolutionary movements of Mexico and El Salvador, in 1811 a revolt took place firstly at León and subsequently at Granada that were dominated without any violence. In 1821, the Spanish captain general of Guatemala proclaimed independence. Granada joined the new country, but León declared its independence. The Mexican empire of Agustin Iturbide annexed the territory for a brief time and when Mexican domination collapsed, Nicaragua, in 1823, became part of the Federation of United Provinces of Central America (with Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica). Granada, however, revolted declaring itself a republic, before Agustin Iturbide´s abdication(1823).
In 1826, in light of the first Constitution, the whole of Nicaragua joined the Federation of United Provinces of Central America. The fight between the liberals and conservatives became the marked characteristic of the political life of Nicaragua. The liberals, intent on founding an independent nation, proclaimed a republic in 1823, abandoning the Federation, although civil conflict continued. On November 12 of that year, the government of José Núñez, promulgated a new Constitution which defined Nicaragua as a sovereign and independent state.
With the intention of opening a canal between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific that would give access to the Atlantic through the San Juan River, the British in 1848 again occupied San Juan del Norte, known as the Mosquito coast, named after an American Indian tribe. The United State had a similar interest and, a few years later, Cornelius Vanderbilt implanted in Nicaragua a system of boats and land vehicles that would permit crossing from one ocean to the other. In 1850, both countries agreed to respect the independence of the area and neutrality of the planned canal, but it was never built.
The conflicts between the liberals of León and the conservatives of Granada allowed, in 1855, the American filibuster William Walker take control of the country and proclaim himself president (1856-1857). However, he was deposed in 1857 by the joint efforts of neighbouring countries, Vanderbilt and the liberals, who had contracted him to take Granada. His expulsion contributed to uniting the country, establishing peaceful relations with Great Britain and recognition of the kingdom of Mosquito.
Throughout the century, politics of Nicaragua were dominated by power struggle between the liberals of León and the conservatives of Granada. For this reason, due to a compromise signed in 1857, Managua became the country´s capital, alleviating the conflict between León and Granada. The United Kingdom returned its possession of the east coast, which became an autonomous Indian reservation; coffee plantations were set up; and the Granada-Corinto railway was built.
Nicaragua has had both constitutional and autocratic governments. The conservatives governed during the second half of the XIX century, but in 1893, the liberals won the presidency and started persecuting their opponents.
The beginning of XX century found the country under the firm control of the liberal José Santos Zelaya that governed the country dictatorially between 1893 and 1909 and extended the Nicaraguan authority over the Mosquito kingdom reservation.
The financial insolvency of Nicaragua and apprehension on the part of the United States concerning its financial link with Great Britain, motivated the intervention of the United States that supported the revolution of 1907 that deposed Zelaya, and did not recognize his successor, José Madriz. The Americans took control of customs, the central bank and the railways. Adolfo Diaz was elected president.
The national humiliation led to the 1912 revolution. After this revolt against his government, Díaz asked for military help from the United States, that occupied the country. Marines were sent to the country to support the new government. His successors, Emiliano Chamorro (1871-1966) and Diego Manuel Chamorro (1861-1923), also received American support.
With the withdrawal of the marines in 1925, conflict between the liberals and conservatives led to civil war. The marines returned to the country to end the conflict, which happened in 1927.
A new intervention occurred in 1926 when Adolfo Díaz, during his second presidential term (1926-1928) again asked for the help of the American marines. The liberal leaders José Maria Moncada, Juan Bautista Sacasa and Augusto César Sandino rebelled, but the former two pulled back when the Americans promised to guarantee free elections.
Augusto Cesar Sandino
In 1928 and 1932 the United States supervised the elections that elected two liberal presidents: Moncada (1928-1933) and Secassa (1933-1936). American troops left the country in 1933 after having trained the Nicaraguan National Guard, founded by the Americans during Díaz´s presidency with the objective of maintaining internal order. With the withdrawal of the marines, Sandino laid down arms and reconciled with Sacasa. The following year, the commander of the National Guard, general Anastasio (Tacho) Somoza García, nephew of Sacasa, gave assent to the assassination of the liberal rebel leader, Augusto César Sandino.
In 1936, Anastasio Somoza won the presidential elections and during 20 years governed the country with an iron fist, directly or through intermediaries, until being assassinated in 1956 by the poet Rigoberto López Pérez. He was succeeded by his son, Luís Somoza Debayle (1957-1963). René Schick Gutiérrez (1963-1966), who died in office, was succeeded by Lorenzo Guerrero Gutiérrez (1966-1967), followed by Anastasio (Tachito) Somoza Debayle (1967-1972 and 1974-1979), younger brother of Luís and the last member of the Somoza family to take office.
Democratic appearances disappeared in 1971 when Somoza revoked the Constitution and dissolved Congress. Taking advantage of the 1972 earthquake that devastated Managua, Somoza obtained from Congress unlimited powers.
During forty years the Somoza family ran a dictatorial regime, sustaining their own commercial interests and increasing their personal wealth. Violent protests emerged against Somoza. The opponents belonged to the Sandinist National Liberation Front (FSLN), a guerilla organization founded in 1962 by Carlos Fonseca Amador in honour of Augusto Sandino, guerilla executed in 1934. The Sandinist group obtained growing support of the landless peasants and engaged the National Guard (1976-1979).
Flag of The Sandinist National Liberation Front - FSLN
In January 1978, the opposition leader, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, owner of the country´s most important newspaper, La Prensa, was assassinated. The president was accused of complicity and the resulting conflict turned into a civil war. On August 22, 1978, the Sandinist, commanded by Edén Pastora, Commandant Zero, took the National Palace in Managua and over a thousand hostages. Somoza was obliged to meet the demands of the guerillas and on July 17, 1979, the rebels forced his resignation. He took refuge in the United States and afterwards in Paraguay, where he was assassinated in 1980. The civil war cost the lives of over thirty thousand people and destroyed the country´s economy. An interim National Reconstruction Junta assumed power.
Pedro Joaquín Chamorro
The National Reconstruction Junta revoked the Constitution, dissolved Congress and substituted the National Guard by the Sandinist People´s Army. Until a new Constitution could be drawn up, a Statute of Rights and Guarantees was promulgated. Most industries were nationalized and a central planning system introduced. The Sandinists expropriated land of big landowners, which were distributed among peasants. The United States opposed the regime´s leftist policies and started to support an anti-Sandinist guerilla movement, the “Contras”. While moderates protested against the postponement of elections and assumed opposition, the Contras, about two thousand ex-members of the National Guard, based in Honduras, engaged in guerilla attacks in Nicaragua. They joined the Mosquito Amerindians, contrary to imposed integration measures of their people.
The 1980´s was marked by armed conflicts between the Sandinist government and the Contras. The result was the regime increasingly became more radical. Mines and forests were nationalized and relations with the United States deteriorated. In 1981, the States interrupted economic help and the Sandinist government was accused of receiving support from Cuba and the Soviet Union. A new civil war started between the Sandinist government and the Contras. The Reagan Administration tried to obtain support from Congress to help the exiled forces of the Contras in Honduras and Miami, but was seriously setback by the disclosure, in 1986-1987, of deviation of funds to the exiled Contras from sales of American arms to Iran (the Iran-Contras Scandal).
In November 1984, elections were held for president and for a Constituent Assembly, with the boycott of most of the opposition. Elected with over 60% of votes, the FSLN leader, Daniel Ortega Saavedra, assumed the presidency in January 1985. The FSLN also obtained the majority in the Constituent Assembly. The United Stated decreed a total embargo of Nicaragua. In January 1987, the new Constitution was promulgated. According to the 1987 Constitution, Nicaragua became a unicameral presidential republic, with a National Assembly consisting of 92 members elected by direct vote for a six years mandate. The Constitution, that acknowledged the principle of plurality in politics and mixed economy, also recognized the social-economic rights of the population. Administratively, the country was divided into 16 departments. However, the fight against the Contras and attrition with the United States continued, a situation that the efforts of the Contadora Group (Mexico, Venezuela, Panama and Colombia) was unable to offset. In 1988 and 1987an agreement was signed at Esquipulas, Guatemala, for the development of a plan aimed at disarming and repatriate the Contras based in Honduras. In 1988, the government and Contras initiated negotiations for a ceasefire. When president Bush took office, in 1989, the direct military funding of Contras was suspended, which led to the disarmament of the rebels.
President Commandant Daniel Ortega
In 1988, after liberating nearly two thousand ex-members of the National Guard, Ortega signed an electoral reform law which included the undertaking of ample and free elections in 1990, and a new media law that guaranteed the opposition more access to communication vehicles. To supervise the elections a Supreme Electoral Council was created, with three Sandinist members and two from the opposition. In 1989, the Supreme Electoral Council set out to prepare the 1990 elections.
In the 1990 presidential elections, under the supervision of the international community, the opposition groups received a generous financial support from the United States. The Sandinists lost to an anti-Sandinist coalition group headed by Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, of the National Opposition Union (UNO), widow of the leader assassinated in 1978. The transition of power was peaceful and, notwithstanding reluctance of some factions, disarmament and ceasefire agreements were signed.
President Violeta Chamorro
In taking office, Violeta Chamorro maintained Humberto Ortega in command of the military. The Contras laid down their arms, but rearmed the next year. Notwithstanding having obtained a loan of US$300 million from the United States, Chamorro was unable to contain a serious economic recession, with the GDP dropping 5.5% and unemployment reaching about 1.5 million. Various protests followed against the increase of inflation, of unemployment and the general economic crisis. Thanks to international help, the situation began to improve and, from 1990 on, Chamorro was able to govern Nicaragua in a conciliatory manner. She obtained a narrow victory against rightist pressure for the return of land confiscated by the Sandinists to their original owners. In 1992, violent fighting took place between armed Contras and “reformed” Sandinists.
In 1996, Arnoldo Alemán won the presidential elections.
President Arnoldo Alemán
In 2001, Enrique Bolaños Geyer won the presidential elections.
President Enrique Bolanõs
In 2006, Daniel Ortega, the Sandinist leader, was re-elected President of Nicaragua. The next election will be in 2011.
President Commandant Daniel Ortega
In 2011, Daniel Ortega, the Sandinist leader, was re-elected President of Nicaragua. The next election will be in 2016.
President Commandant Daniel Ortega
San Cristobal Vulcano
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