Pre-World War II

1900s - 1920s

  • At the beginning of the twentieth century, the U.S. was beginning to politically establish itself in Central America and Nicaragua happened to be the lever for the direction of politics on the isthmus. Once the U.S. favored building a canal in Panama instead of Nicaragua, Nicaraguan president José Santos Zelaya, understanding that he and the elite he represented would no longer benefit from U.S. investments, turned to more nationalist politics in terms of uniting the Central American countries for promoting their own economic interests, e.g. without foreign influence.(25)
  • Over the course of this period, the U.S. began to look down on Zelaya as he was gaining in popularity across Central America and intruding on American businesses like imposing export taxes on the American banana companies.(26)
  • In 1909, the U.S. mobilized right-wing forces to remove Zelaya from power and sent in the Marines in order to cement this objective. Zelaya eventually resigned only so that Conservative party leader and former treasure for an American company, Adolfo Díaz, could become president.
  • From 1909 to the mid-1910s, Nicaragua was marred by political instability because of a very weak government. This instability ranged from military coups to infighting between liberal and conservative forces within the country. The U.S., who wanted to maintain hegemony over trade in Central America, decided to send more troops for a complete occupation of Nicaragua. This lasted into the 1930s.(27)


  • A movement against the occupation of Nicaragua unfolded after 1927. Its principal spokesperson was Augusto C. Sandino. The guerilla movement successfully was able to ward off U.S. troops and caused the U.S. to withdraw its troops from the ongoing battle. The Sandinists were only prematurely successful, because reactionary forces in Nicaragua were able to start the Nicaragua National Guard with the help of the U.S. The National Guard became the efficient means of crushing the Sandinist resistance under the leadership of Anastasio Somoza García. This was the beginning of four gruesome decades of the infamous Somoza dictatorship that ruled Nicaragua with an iron hand until its overthrow in 1979.(28)


Post-World War II

The Nicaraguan Revolution & Civil War - 1980s

  • The popular revolt in 1979 led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front is arguably the most important event in Central American history, especially in terms of the involvement of the U.S. It became a central feature of the Cold War and the American right-wing's agenda of stomping out revolutions and struggles around the world in the name of "stopping the spread of communism."




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