Somoza’s Reign of Terror

William A. Lee Chesty Puller Nic Soldiers

U.S. Soldiers and Nicaraguan National Guard Members

In 1967 Somoza ordered the killing of six hundred people at a demonstration. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s the United States trained the Nicaraguan National Guard and sent arms.  When Nicaragua suffered an earthquake in 1972, Somoza stole most of the money sent by international aid organizations and governments to repair the damage and help the people.  Somoza’s power rested on the ruthlessness of the National Guard and the support of the United States, who considered him a trusted friend because he always voted with the United States at the United Nations.  When the Central Intelligence Agency invaded Guatemala in 1954, they used Nicaragua as a base of operation.

In the late 1970s even the middle class became disgusted with Somoza and worked for his removal.  Somoza’s assassination of popular newspaper editor Pedro Chamorro, galvanized the whole nation for the battle to oust the dictator.

In 1878 the Sandinistas took the lead as the people looked to them for direction.  A number of popular insurrections spread throughout Nicaragua in 1977 and 1978.  Somoza sent in the National Guard to brutally suppress the revolts.  They killed thousands of people, including children playing in the streets, but they realized that even with their superior weaponry they were no match for the poorly armed people.  The people refused to give up even in the fact of massive losses.

Insurrection followed insurrection.  The Sandinistas made another daring raid, this time on the National Palace, and held hostage many of Somoza’s family and close associates.  Again Somoza was forced to give in to their demands.  This action prepared the way for the final insurrections and battles leading to the triumph of the revolution on July 19, 1979.

-George Black, Triumph of the People

El Naranjo, 1974: Fire from the Mountain

Omar Cabezas 1983

Omar Cabezas

It was only a few years ago that he was a university student and organizer for the FSLN. In 1970, he had made the momentous decision to leave the city and join the guerrillas in the mountains. Omar Cabezas will some day be a Sandinista leader. Now he is still battling the mud and exhaustion of the mountains. He and his companeros are always wet. Some days they only eat three spoonfuls of corn meal while marching up and down the mountains. They contract a skin disease called mountain leprosy that rots the skin from their legs and arms. He sleeps on the ground with a piece of plastic for a bed. Mud is everywhere and in the mountains it is cold, and like the cold nights, the loneliness penetrates to the bone. But a transformation is taking place:

As if the mountains and the mud, the mud, and also the rain and the loneliness, as if all these things were cleansing us…

That is why we said that the genesis of the new person was in the FSLN. The new person began to be born with the fungus infections and… feet oozing worms; the new person began to be born with loneliness and eaten alive by mosquitos… That’s the outer part, because inside, by dint of violent shocks day after day, the new person was being born with the freshness of the mountains. A person—it might seem incredible—but an open, un-egotistical person, no longer petty—a a tender person who sacrifices… for others, who suffers when others suffer and who also laughs when others laugh… You always cultivated that tenderness in the mountains. I took care not to lose my capacity for that beauty. The new person was born in the mountains.


-Omar Cabezas, Fire From the Mountains, 87

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