The First Sandinistas


Augusto Caesar Sandino

Augusto Caesar Sandino and the twenty-nine men who refused to surrender took to the hills of Segovia, mountainous jungles jungle, perfect for guerilla warfare.  Sandino’s army grew, as did the popularity of his cause.  Under the slogan “Free Country or Death,” his main goals became driving the “gringos” from Nicaraguan soil.

At first the untrained and ill-equipped army suffered defeats.  Then they began to change their tactics and develop real guerrilla war maneuvers.  The local population acted as spies and assisted with developing a communications network, allowing Sandino to learn quickly about U.S. troop movements.  As Sandino’s forces began scoring victories over the “Yanqui invaders,” the United States turned to using air power against Sandino.  However, even with their vastly superior air power, the United States could not defeat the Sandinistas.

Sandino became a folk hero throughout most of Central and Latin America, but in the U.S. press he was portrayed as a “bandit.”  Cecil B. De Mille wanted to a movie about him but the State Department did not allow it.

By 1930, the United States planned to leave Nicaragua, but not before training and equipping a Nicaraguan National Guard which would act as an agent of U.S. interests.  The clear advantage of this arrangement was protecting U.S. interests without risking the lives of U.S. citizens.  In 1932, U.S. troops left Nicaragua, leaving Anastasio Somoza as head of the National Guard.  Somoza would soon become dictator, and his family ruled Nicaragua until 1979, the longest dictatorship in Central America.  In 1933, Somoza lured Sandino to Managua under the pretext of signing a peace agreement.  With approval and direction from the United States, Somoza arranged the assassination of the great leader and folk hero.

-Gregorio Selser, Sandino and George Black, Triumph of the People

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