IN many ways, Nicaragua paralleled its neighbors. The agriculturally based economy created a wide gap between rich and poor, and the government served the interests of the farmer. After 1936, dictator Anastasio Somoza ruled with an iron hand, firmly supported by the national guard. Opposition to him came from elite groups, no less authoritarian, but only anti-Somoza. In 1944 the idealistic middle sector, encouraged by the fall of Ubico and Hernández, demonstrated for constitutional reform, but thereafter made no political impact. Until 1949 Somoza remained in full control because of the guard's continued loyalty. When his handpicked successor, Leonardo Argüello, tried to wrest control of the guard from him in 1947, he was deposed and replaced by Somoza's uncle Victor Ramon y Reyes, who presided until his death in 1950. Throughout these years, the lower classes remained apolitical, and opposition came only from elite groups, most of which were in exile.
Coffee was Nicaragua's primary crop. Sesame, sugar, cereals, timber, and rubber were other important products. Since 1938 American capital had developed the gold mines, and in 1943 gold constituted the largest single export. The United States was the primary importer of Nicaraguan