The first successful Communist takeover on the American mainland occurred in July 1979, when the Sandinista National Liberation Front ( Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional or FSLN) seized power in Nicaragua. Subsequent Sandinista domestic policies provide a valuable laboratory and a largely accessible case study of how a Marxist-Leninist system is imposed and adapted in a developing country.
In assessing the FSLN's objectives, achievements, and setbacks in its planned "transition to socialism," this study will focus primarily on the confrontations between the Sandinista regime and Nicaragua's rural population, particularly the ladino or mestizo (mixed Caucasian and Amerindian) peasantry and the Indian and black indigenous minorities of the Atlantic Coast region. To understand the principles and operations of newly formed Leninist regimes in Third World nations requires an examination of the political, social, and economic impact of government policies on the rural sector. In developing states such as Nicaragua, agrarian capitalists, peasant proprietors, and landless farm workers often form a majority of the economically active population, and their output is usually crucial for both domestic consumption and foreign export earnings. Even though Nicaragua's ethnic minorities constitute a small percentage