July 19, 1979- Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle is overthrown in a coup headed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. His removal brings an end to a thirty year reign of tyranny and oppression from the Somoza family, supported by the United States. Somoza joins a long list of puppet dictators enabled and sustained by U.S. foreign policy guided by financial interests. Today, Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Americas behind Haiti. In some areas, residents are forced to live on as little as $1 per day. And on September 21, 2016, Congress passed the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act which mandates that any loans to Nicaragua are to be withheld unless there are signs of fair elections and the implementation of democratic processes. The Act is eerily similar to the actions in the early 1900s when the U.S. tried to seize control of the Banco Nacional, the country’s main bank. The recent law by Congress highlights the long and tragic relationship between Washington and the fascinating Latin American nation.
Let us for a minute examine Latin America under U.S. foreign policy. El Salvador. Guatemala. Panama. Cuba. The aforementioned nations are just some the examples of the failures of U.S. foreign policy and its disastrous and in some cases, deadly effects. Coup d’etat was the primary weapon on choice and many rising stars would fall victim to it. Nicaragua joins this list and the history which we learn in the is exceptional account by Michael Gobat is the key to understanding modern-day Nicaragua. Today, the name William Walker is unknown to most Americans, but there was a time when his name was one of infamy, following his attempt with the of the filibuster, to take control of Nicaragua which had been determined to be the best passage for international shipping. The Panama canal later claimed the title, but that did not suspend of terminate the interest of Washington in Nicaraguan society. Although Walker failed in his attempts, Washington would be provided with several more opportunities to enforce its will as the overseer of the Americas. And as Gobat shows us, the repercussions for Nicaragua were catastrophic.
Civil wars and the occupation by the United States Marine Corps., created an unusual paradox that defied logic on many levels. The structure of Nicaragua society which at the time was modeled after the U.S., and the rising anti-imperialism movement, formed a contradictory relationship between the conservative elites and the man who threatened to changed Nicaragua forever, Augusto Sandino (1895-1934). His tragic fate and the assumption of power by Anastasio Somoza Garcia, plunged Nicaragua into decades of conflict in which thousands lost their lives and the horrific policies of the United States came to light.
Central America is a stronghold of civil unrest, poverty and skyrocketing murder rates. Political instability and corruption continue to plague the region and the future is uncertain for many of them. Honduras currently has one of the highest murder rates in the world and the story of El Salvador has been told many times over. What they all have in common is that they are all the victims of imperialistic intervention. The United Fruit Company and other U.S. companies operating in the Caribbean and Latin America, helped turned the region into a group of “Banana Republics”. Today, we have all but forgotten Nicaragua. It is rarely mentioned and the majority of Americans remain ignorant of our dark relationship with our Central American neighbor. The truth that we should acknowledge is that Nicaraguan history is American history for our actions and policies towards the small nation exemplify our misguided attempts to enforce democracy and exploit the defenseless. This investigation report by Gobat is the truth about a time we would rather forget. But his words and the research he has done, show us what happened and why.
Che Guevara once called the United States the enemy of humanity. His words may sound extreme, but we are required to recall that he was present in Guatemala in 1954 when the government of Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a CIA backed coup. His witnessing to the aggression by the United States and the destitute conditions forced upon Latin America helped shaped his revolutionary ideology which he carried with him all the way to the jungles of Bolivia. His sentiments have been echoed by millions of people throughout the Americas disillusioned with the false promises and nefarious acts utilized by Washington. But if we are to understand Nicaragua and its tragic history, then we must begin with books such as this. And then we will learn the true story of the forgotten republic.