The Nicaragua Campaign: Overview

In Nicaragua, the ruling Marxist Sandinista government had come to power after overthrowing the Somoza dynasty in 1979. On gaining power, the Sandinistas persecuted former Somoza loyalists who became disgruntled and went underground. Other than Somoza’s disaffected former loyalists, other indigenous guerrilla groups such as the Pastora faction also had differences from the Sandinista regime. Eden Pastora, a former Sandinista had moved to Costa Rica and formed a new opposition group called ARD that wished to liberate Nicaragua from the overtly Castroist leanings of the Sandinista regime. All these anti-Sandinista forces were collectively called as ‘counterrevolutionaries’ or ‘Contras’ for short since they were counter to the Marxist revolution of the Sandinistas. The most prominent of these groups was the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) comprised basically of ex-Somoza officers who were based in Honduras.

These Contras were given extensive training and arms by the CIA to carry out guerrilla activities in Nicaragua. Camps were opened in Honduras and Argentina where contra rebels were given training, and logistics and allowed to build up an organization. The Sandinista government unleashed a brutal regime of suppression to hunt down the rebels, in the process, many innocent civilians too became targets of oppression. The war between the US-backed Contra rebels and the Sandinista government destroyed the country’s economy leading to severe poverty and more and more people became disenchanted with the Sandinistas inability to provide security and prosperity and thus the ranks of the Contras swelled. Hence, the US and the CIA used dissatisfaction and rebels to initiate the war against the Sandinistas.

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