U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua

U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua

U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua

U.S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua

Synopsis

As President Carter's ambassador to Nicaragua from 1977-1979, Mauricio Solaún witnessed a critical moment in Central American history. In U. S. Intervention and Regime Change in Nicaragua, Solaún outlines the role of U. S. foreign policy during the Carter administration and explains how this policy with respect to the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979 not only failed but helped impede the institutionalization of democracy there. Late in the 1970s, the United States took issue with the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. Moral suasion, economic sanctions, and other peaceful instruments from Washington led to violent revolution in Nicaragua and bolstered a new dictatorial government. A U. S.-supported counterrevolution formed, and Solaún argues that the United States attempts to this day to determine who rules Nicaragua. Solaún explores the mechanisms that kept Somoza's poorly legitimized regime in power for decades, making it the most enduring Latin American authoritarian regime of the twentieth century. Solaún argues that continual shifts in U. S. international policy have been made in response to previous policies that failed to produce U. S.- friendly international environments. His historical survey of these policy shifts provides a window on the working of U. S. diplomacy and lessons for future policy-making.

Excerpt

In the spring of 1977 I was recruited from my academic post as a specialist in the political sociology of Latin America to become the U.S. ambassador to the Somoza regime. Washington had opted to implement a pro– human rights policy in the region that targeted several dictatorships. Anastasio Somoza Debayle was singled out in this humanitarian crusade because of the notoriety of his family's dynasty. Since 1974, under his leadership in his second term as president, the regime had experienced repressive retrogression and increased corruption. With the consolidation of his absolute rule, Somoza's personal life had decayed as well, which culminated in July 1977 in his serious illness and temporary absence from Nicaragua. Nevertheless, he had succeeded in keeping control of the military and civilian organs of the state in a society with minimal political participation outside government circles, ruled as it was under a strict state of siege. When I arrived in Nicaragua in September 1977, the strongman intended to remain president until the end of his current term (in 1981) and to retain the virtual political sovereignty by keeping control of the army. in the meantime the dynasty was supposed to continue through the meteoric military career of the dictator's son, Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero.

The plan seemed to be working—under some conditions repression can maintain regimes. the customary unarmed and armed opposition activity had been deflated into fragmented, very small groups; at the time of my arrival a truly national opposition movement did not exist. But neither did the regime count solid supporters among the broader society. There was also great expectation about the role that the United States was to play, with its new policy of distancing itself from the Nicaraguan government and encouraging opposition to it. Crucial social sectors were available to pursue a changed Nicaragua. Dynastic rule was increasingly anachronistic in the nation.

In this context convalescent Somoza decided to govern with a new face. Despite his premonitions that if he liberalized the regime he would be challenged by escalated, even tumultuous opposition, just before my presentation of credentials he ended state-of-siege rule and opened the door for the developing of opposition activities under the constitutional guarantees provided by . . .

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