Nicaragua: The Chamorro Years

Nicaragua: The Chamorro Years

Nicaragua: The Chamorro Years

Nicaragua: The Chamorro Years


David Close examines the impact of Violeta Chamorro's term as head of state in Nicaragua on the nation's political actors and government institutions. He concludes with an analysis of the 1996 elections and the lasting effects of the revolution.


For most of the more than 175 years that Nicaragua has been independent, it has been ruled by tyrants or oligarchs. Democracy—government in the interest of, chosen by, and accountable to all the people—did not figure into the country's politics. All of this was supposed to change when the Sandinistas overthrew the last ruling Somoza, General Anastasio Somoza Debayle, on 19 July 1979. Though the nation has become more democratic since the fall of the dictatorship, times have been anything but tranquil.

Since the start of the last big Sandinista push against the Somoza regime began in September 1978, Nicaragua has been in a constant state of political flux. The expulsion of the Somozas ushered in the “new Nicaragua, ” revolutionary, bold, and hopeful. This new Nicaragua was to make a transition to socialism different from all others in history, because it would permit a measure of political pluralism and would see the private sector coexisting with the state-centered economy.

By 1984, however, the new Nicaragua was already a part of history. The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) still governed but did so with different political institutions and distinct economic policies. More important, the Sandinista state had replaced revolutionary transformation with the institutionalization of the revolution as its principal political objective. In practice, this meant adapting the machinery of constitutional democracy (elections and representative government) to the needs of an embattled revolutionary state. In spite of its new state machinery and approach to governing, the FSLN had not given up the idea of building socialism in Nicaragua. Thus, its democracy was still a radically egalitarian one that aimed to limit the power of private wealth.

On 25 February 1990, this reformed Sandinista Nicaragua joined the original edition in the pages of history after the FSLN lost a general election to its conservative opponent, the National Union of the Opposition . . .

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