Reagan and the Sandinistas

Nicaragua is a country in Central America. In the 1970s it was ruled by a right-wing dictator named Somoza, who had close ties with the United States. Left-wing rebels organized a guerilla army to fight Somoza. The rebels called themselves Sandinistas, after a guerilla leader named Cesar Augusto Sandino, who had fought against the American occupation of Nicaragua during the 1920s and 1930s.

The Sandinistas were supported by peasants, workers, priests and many business people. In 1979 they drove Somoza from the country and set up a new government. They promised the people of Nicaragua land reform, social justice and democratic government.


A Nicaraguan Contra rebel with Redeye missile supplied by the U. S.


A poster in Managua, Nicaragua proclaims that Reagan is on his way out, hut the revolution is here to stay.

At first the United States government welcomed the Sandinistas. President Carter offered them economic aid. But when Ronald Reagan became President in 1981 this policy changed.

Reagan believed that the Sandinistas were under the influence of the Soviet Union and Cuba. Soon he was describing their government as a com-, munist dictatorship. Its aim, he said, was to spread revolution to other parts of Central America and he gave money and weapons to rebels who were trying to overthrow it. Most people called the rebels ‘‘contras” from the Spanish word for “counter-revolutionaries.” President Reagan, however, called them “freedom fighters.”

Many Americans criticized Reagan’s policies. They warned that his enmity was forcing the Sandinistas into the arms of the Soviet Union. Other Americans supported the President. They bcheved that the safety of the United States depended on stopp ng Sandinista ideas from spreading to other nearby countries.

In February 1990 an election was held in Nicara­gua. When the Sandinistas lost, they handed over power to a new government whose leaders were more acceptable to the United States and hopes for peace increased.

As soon as the war ended fresh calls of “Yankee, go home” were heard. To try to reduce anti-Amet ican feeling, in 1945 the United States took the lead in setting up the Organization of American States (OAS). The idea of the OAS was to encourage the countries of Latin America to cooperate with one another, and with the United States, as partners. One of its aims was to improve living standards.

But hardship and hunger continued to be widespread in Latin America. In most countries there, extremes of poverty for the many and wealth for the few existed side by side. Oppressive governments controlled by the rich and backed by soldiers did little to improve the lives of the people.

Updated: 18th July 2015 — 3:17 pm