Anastasio Somoza

Anastasio Somoza

Anastasio Somoza, the son of a wealthy coffee planter, was born in San Marcos, Nicaragua, in 1896. Educated in the United States, he returned to Nicaragua where he became one of the leading supporters of the American-backed regime.

A general election was due to held in 1926. Fearing a left-wing victory, the United States sent troops, who landed on the Caribbean coast in May 1926, ostensibly to protect United States citizens and property. A civil war now broke out and General José María Moncada emerged as the leader of those fighting for an independent Nicaragua.

In April 1927, the United States sent Henry L. Stimson to mediate the civil war. The following month Moncada agreed to a plan in which both sides - the government and Moncada's forces - would disarm. In addition, a new military force, the Nicaraguan National Guard, would be established under United States supervision. Somoza became the leader of this National Guard.

Another rebel leader, Augusto Sandino, refused to sign the peace treaty. Sandino now resumed his battle against United States troops. He gained most of his support from the rural areas and although he only had about 300 men his guerrilla war caused significant damage in the Caribbean coast and mining regions. Sandino argued that he would continue the war until American troops left Nicaragua.

The United States troops left Nicaragua in January 1933. Sandino now ended his guerrilla war and began peace talks with President Juan Bautista Sacasa. During their meetings, Sacasa offered Sandino a general amnesty as well as land and safeguards for him and his guerrilla forces. However, Sandino, insisted that the Nicaraguan National Guard be dissolved.

Without consulting President Juan Bautista Sacasa, Somoza gave orders for Sandino's assassination. On 21st February, 1934, while leaving the presidential palace, Augusto Sandino and two of his generals were arrested by National Guard officers acting under Somoza's instructions. They were then taken to the airfield, executed, and buried in unmarked graves. After Sandino's execution, the National Guard launched a new campaign against Sandino's supporters. In less than a month, Sandino's army was totally destroyed.

Somoza and his National Guard forced President Juan Bautista Sacasa to resign in 1937. Somoza established a military dictatorship and forced his opponents into exile. His power from three main sources: the ownership or control of large portions of the Nicaraguan economy, the military support of the National Guard, and his acceptance and support from the United States.

His tyrannical and corrupt rule made him extremely unpopular and there were several attempts to oust him. For protection, he constructed a secure compound within his residence and kept personal bodyguards with him wherever he went. However on 21st September, 1956, while attending a party in León, he was assassinated by Rigoberto López Pérez, a twenty-seven-year- old Nicaraguan poet.

Somoza was replaced by his son Luis Somoza Debayle as military dictator of Nicaragua.