Nicaragua Recent History

In 1944 the adverse weather created many problems for Nicaragua which had to suspend food exports. At the social level, changes were made to the Constitution with the introduction of the “Atlantic Charter”, which would have allowed a second re-election of Somoza; immigration of the Chinese was allowed; relations with the USSR were established; a reconstitution of the Central American Federation was studied, and labor legislation was expanded; Liberals promoted women’s suffrage and press freedom.

In July 1945, the new Labor Code came into force which established, among other things, the obligation of immigrants to take possession of rural areas. According to Abbreviationfinder, in 1946 Somoza called for free elections and restored all the constitutional guarantees suspended during the war.

However, there were unrest and a general strike and this made it necessary to extend the government in office until April 30, 1947. Somoza did not want to re-present himself as a candidate but advised the election of L. Arguello, unpopular with conservatives and independent liberals.

On 1st May 1947 L. Arguello took office but on the 25th of the same month a coup d’état deposed him. On 15 August the same year, Victor Roman y Reyes, Foreign Minister of Somoza and his relative, was elected President. Died in 1950, the following year in May Somoza returned to power for another six years and in October Nicaragua became part of the Organization of Central American States. However, relations with Costa Rica and Guatemala were always tense, and to avoid an armed conflict between them, the OAS had to intervene in January 1955.

Nicaragua was the first state to sign a Military Pact with the United States, which supported Somoza for its anti-communist ideas.

Inside, however, both conservatives and liberal dissidents expressed their discontent with the strong ways of Somoza, who on September 21, 1956 suffered an attack and died eight days later in a hospital in Panama. The dictator, who had never granted any democratic freedom during his long tenure in government, had amassed a huge personal fortune.

Despite this, the Congress of Nicaragua, in February 1957, assigned the office of president to his son Luis Somoza, who attempted some constitutional reform; but he was always opposed by the opposition, so he was forced to proclaim the state of siege. Also in 1957 Nicaragua created a free trade area together with Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Nicaragua Recent History

Luis Somcza, educated in the United States, mindful of his father’s glorious end, gradually moderated his policy by starting to restore some freedom to the press; officially recognized the rights of the opposition and allowed workers to form their organizations. Then he started industrialization and gave strong impetus to the production of cotton. Only the agrarian reform found it difficult to take off, as it certainly would have heavily affected the interests of the rich landowners. The great majority of the people represented the lower class and bordered on misery.

In February 1963, no member of the Somoza family ran for presidential election, but they supported R. Schick Gutierrez, who was in fact elected.
He honestly ruled and managed to force all capitalists to pay taxes. However, he did not arrive at the end of his mandate because in August 1966 he died.
The following year Anastasio Somoza de Bayle, called the “tachito”, became president. On the death of his brother Luis he inherited the enormous family patrimony.

In 1970 the opposition forced the president to renounce the right of re-election until 1977, sanctioned by a constitutional amendment. He in 1971, in agreement with F. Aguero, head of the conservative party, established that with the subsequent elections a Assembly would be formed to study and elaborate a new Constitution, and to appoint a triumvirate who would hold a provisional government for thirty months.

In February 1972 the elections designated the vast majority of the liberal party of Somoza. In December of the same year, a terrible earthquake destroyed Managua, causing thousands of deaths. Aid came especially from the United States. With these Somoza made the reconstruction go between the accusations of favoritism towards friends and military. However, the 1974 elections saw him again victorious with a mandate that would expire in 1981. Shortly after his inauguration he was forced to proclaim martial law to tame sudden guerrilla actions of the FSLN (Sandinista Front of National Liberation).

In August in 1978 a riot broke out in Matagalpa, Leon and Jinotepe; it also extended to Managua, and involved all social strata, students and the military. The Somoza dictatorship, on the other hand, was able to avail itself of the National Guard, liberals and conservatives; however he was forced to leave the country and power was taken over by a provisional government.

This dissolved the National Guard and replaced it with a Popular Army, passed a Statute of Human Rights, abolishing the death penalty and annulling the current Constitution; established a Council of State in 1980; frozen the elections in order to give priority to the reconstruction of the country; nationalized the banks, the mineral resources and a part of the industries; expropriated the lands of the Somoza and started an agrarian reform; gave a significant boost to education, health and residential construction.
Conflicts on political choices arose briefly among the members of the provisional government, so the representatives of the bourgeoisie and the middle class resigned.

Anti-Sandinista guerrilla actions began, led by the “contras”, which operated from Honduras and also backed by the United States, under the Reagan administration.

In 1982 a state of emergency was proclaimed in Nicaragua, which was suspended at the end of 1984, when the elections that brought Ortega Saavedra (leader of the FSLN) to power could take place. In January 1985 he dissolved the Council of State and
the provisional government; in 1987 he promulgated the new Constitution which established the direct election of the President and the National Assembly every 6 years.

The economic situation remained difficult also due to a total embargo decreed by the United States since 1985.
In 1988, although the guerrilla war continued, the state of emergency was lifted and relaxing talks began between the government and the “contras”.

In 1990 the elections were won by V. Barrios de Chamorro, widow of the assassinated leader, who also assumed the Ministry of Defense, and exercised a moderate policy in which the FSLN participated, albeit in a lukewarm form.

By the summer of 1993, however, the relations of the FSLN and the government of V.Chamorro had deteriorated more and more, so as to provoke the exit of the Front itself from the coalition with a serious reduction of the majority that had just been formed.

Nicaragua has an even more agricultural economy than all other Central American states. There are 3 basic crops:
coffee, sesame (from which oil is extracted) and banana. Followed by: cocoa, sugar cane, coconut and corn. Forests occupy more than half of the country and supply huge quantities of valuable timber. Nicaragua is a strong gold producer with over 6200 kg per year, it is in twelfth place in the world ranking.

In September 1993 Chamorro decided to replace the then commander of the armed forces, General H. Ortega Saavedra, brother of the leader of the Sandinista Front.

The United States, in favor of this replacement, readmitted Nicaragua in the list of countries to be supported with aid, but a dangerous rift occurred within the government, between those who continued to support Ortega Saavedra and those who feared a takeover by on the far right.

Ortega resigned and in January 1994 a majority was formed within the National Assembly with the task of reforming the Constitution, in place since 1987.

All this in February 1994 brought a climate of relaxation to the north of the country where the right-wing guerrillas pledged to lay down their weapons. Shortly thereafter, however, the attacks and violent dynamite actions by both branches of the guerrilla, Sandinista and right-wingers, resumed the disappointment over Chamorro’s too austere politics. This, in May 1994, obtained a very strong loan from the International Monetary Fund, with which it intended to carry out all the programs developed since 1990, for the reduction of the state deficit, unemployment and national poverty.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly was carrying out constitutional reforms and already in August 1994 a new organization of the armed forces was promulgated. They were not to be politicized; each member of the army was not to be registered with a political party; the commander was elected in office for 5 years and no one among the president’s relatives could take up this position.

In February 1995 General J. Cuadra Lacayo, deputy of Ortega, assumed command of the armed forces since 1979.
But as early as November 1994, amendments had been drafted which limited the powers of the President and the executive and instead strengthened those of the Parliament. The result was a crisis carried out by President Chamorro in that relatives of the Head of State were forbidden to present their candidacy for the highest office. It was believed that the measure was intended to affect precisely A. Lacayo, son-in-law of Chamorro and his prime minister, who at the time was responsible for bringing the president closer to the Sandinistas.

In July 1995, all disputes were settled and the reforms drawn up by Parliament were approved, including the one that carried both the office of the president and that of deputies from six to five years. Another important reform was that which asked Parliament whether or not to apply for international loans or to enter into international trade treaties. Between May and December 1995 and January 1996 the country reached the highest negative point in the social field, due to various gigantic strikes, with which road hauliers, farmers, students and university professors joined.

In October 1996, following a very turbulent election campaign, A. Aleman Lacayo won the presidential election with over 51% of the votes, against D. Ortega, of the Sandinista Front, which had 37.7%. For the formation of the National Assembly, Lacayo won 42 out of 90 seats against the 36 of the Sandinistas.

Aleman Lacayo continued the administration of the state according to the previous scheme and promulgated in September 1997 a law with which he recognized the restitution of all agricultural and real estate properties previously unjustly expropriated.
But social tension remained high as the economic situation in the country remained difficult. In April 1999 there was a great strike by road hauliers, increasingly penalized by the increase in the price of fuel. The repression carried out by the police was tough.

Meanwhile, the Sandinista Front had greatly weakened due to the exit of many members from moderate ideas, who had also publicly denounced the unorthodox methods put in place by the Front to unduly requisition agricultural properties, industrial enterprises and credit institutions. Thus a new political party was born, the Partido Popular Nicaraguense, which positioned itself at the center of the parliamentary political array.