from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
FDR once remarked of Nicaragua's dictator,
"Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."
So when a later Somoza (the son of our son of a bitch) was overthrown
in 1979, we spared no effort until Nicaragua was ours again.
When President Carter saw that the younger
Somoza's days were numbered, he tried to ease him out of power,
unaware that retired CIA agents were providing him with further
weaponry. Carter's plan was to keep Somoza's private army, the
National Guard, in power, while Somoza escaped to enjoy his $900
Most Nicaraguans, having suffered 46 years
of the Guard's unrelenting brutality, were not thrilled with that
plan. When Somoza fell, so did his hated National Guard.
Many of the Guard were evacuated on US
planes. We reassembled them, armed and supplied them, had them
trained by Argentinean death squads and sent them back to harass
the new regime. Because the Guard was so despised in Nicaragua,
they were given a new name-the contras (an abbreviation of the
Spanish word for counter-revolutionaries).
The resulting bloodshed was perhaps the
least covert of all CIA covert operations. President Reagan was
perfectly candid about the goals-the second-poorest nation in
the hemisphere was to be "pressured" until "they
The methods became part of the public
record too-though not intentionally-when the CIA's Freedom Fighters
Manual was leaked to the press. It gave detailed instructions
on assassination, sabotage, kidnapping, blackmail and the slaughter
The US lavished military and financial
aid on the contras, whom they used to terrorize rural Nicaragua.
Since many peasants were delighted that the new government was
providing them with teachers and doctors (for the first time ever),
the contras particularly targeted those professionals.
The CIA mined harbors and blew up fuel
tanks, then told the contras to claim credit. The agency flew
supplies to the contras, attempted to assassinate the Nicaraguan
leadership and pumped millions of dollars into opposition politicians.
And, as in Chile, they made the economy "scream".
Finally, in 1989, after ten years of warfare-
both economic and military-the Nicaraguans gave up and voted for
the US-backed slate of candidates. If any of them wondered what
would happen should they fail to do so, they only needed to look
south to Panama, which had just been invaded by the US the month