When the Sandinistas seized power in July 1979, they embarked on a "socialist transformation" of Nicaraguan society. In confronting major internal and external obstacles, however, the Sandinista regime opted for some economic flexibility without abandoning its longer-term political objectives. The regime's Leninist political arrangements were therefore combined with a quasi-Communist economic program. The Sandinistas captured and remodeled all levers of social control, including the state apparatus, the armed forces, and the security network, and fortified those mechanisms that could most effectively extend Sandinista domination. But to uphold productivity, obtain vital agro-export revenues, prevent international isolation, and minimize economic dislocation, political opposition, and social unrest, Managua implemented a transitional "mixed economy" and continued to tolerate a politically emasculated private sector.
In evaluating the impact of Sandinista political, economic, and social programs, this study focuses principally on the confrontations between the regime and Nicaragua's rural population, particularly the ladino peasantry and the Indian and black indigenous minorities of the Atlantic Coast region. It concentrates on the Sandinistas' agrarian