The Second Sandinistas

For forty years the Somoza family ruled as a dictatorship becoming the nation’s largest landholders.  The U.S. government calculated their worth at close to a billion dollars by the 1970s.  That wealth was in stark contrast to the poverty suffered by the majority of Nicaraguans.

Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN)

somoza falls

In 1961 the Sandinista Front was born, taking its name and aspirations from Sandino.  By 1963, sixty combatants grouped in Honduras, among them Santos Lopez, a soldier who fought with Sandino.  The early years brought depravation, sacrifice, and only a few victories. The guerrilla force established itself on the Rio Coco on the Honduran/Nicaraguan border.

As one combatant related: “There was nothing to eat, not even animals.  There was no salt.  It wasn’t just hunger that was terrible, but constant cold twenty-four hours a day, because we spent all our time in the river.  We were always wet through with the clinging rain of that part of the country, the cold a kind of unrelieved torture, mosquitoes, wild jungle animals, and insects.  No shelter, no change of clothes, no food.” (Black, 78)

All recruits to the guerrilla force had to commit themselves to live as campesinos.  In the late 1960s the guerrilla force remained on the move and hidden while at the same time building the credibility of the movement in the cities and rural areas.  In 1974 the Sandinistas boldly broke their silence by kidnapping wealthy landowners and government officials close to Somoza.  The raid harmed no one; in exchange for release of the hostages, the Sandinistas received from Somoza two million dollars, release of Sandinista prisoners of war, and access to the press to proclaim their political program.  The daring action gave new visibility to the FSLN among the people.

Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 1961: Resurrection

Three former university students, Tomas Borge, Carlos Fonseca Amador and Silvio Mayorga meet in the Honduran capital to discuss creating a national liberation front in Nicaragua. They have devoured the writings and autobiography of Augusto Caesar Sandino and see that many of Sandino’s goals are the same for them: stopping U.S. intervention, creating real independence, and forming a guerilla army in the mountains that will build local support among the campesinos.

They emerge from the meeting committed to national liberation. Their name: Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN), the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

In Nicaragua some now dare to speak the name of Sandino.

-George Black, Triumph of the People, 75-76

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