Timeline and Pictures


Quote: Oath of the FSLN

Timeline of the Nicaraguan Revolution

Nicaragua in Pictures


Before the image of Augusto César Sandino and Ernesto Che Guevara; before the memory of the heroes and martyrs of Nicaragua, Latin America, and humanity as a whole; before history: I place my hand on the black and red flag that signifies ‘Free Homeland or Death,’ and I swear to defend the national honor with arms in hand and to fight for the redemption of the oppressed and exploited in Nicaragua and the world.  If I fulfill this oath, the freedom of Nicaragua and all the peoples will be the reward; if I betray this oath, death in disgrace and dishonor will be my punishment.

-          Carlos Fonseca, Oath of the FSLN in “Nicaragua: Zero Hour,” 1969[i]




A Brief Nicaraguan History from 1823 – 1990



US President James Monroe issued the Monroe Doctrine, claiming the Western Hemisphere as a US sphere of influence


US adventurer, William Walker, enters Nicaragua, claims himself President, re-introduces slavery, until he is deposed a year later


US backs an uprising against President Jose Santos Zelaya, who was forced to resign after refusing US demands for exclusive rights to use Nicaraguan lands to build a canal


US Marines enter Nicaragua to crush a revolt against the US-supported government; they will stay for the next thirteen years


US Marines return to quell an uprising led by Liberal General Moncada, who agrees to surrender in 1927.  Liberal officer Augusto César Sandino rejects the US terms and launches a guerrilla war against the US.


US withdraws Marines from Nicaragua after they are unable to defeat Sandino’s guerrillas.  In place of the Marines they leave the US-trained National Guard under Sergeant Anastasio Somoza Garcia.  Sandino agrees to a truce


After a State dinner with Somoza, Sandino is assassinated by a detachment of the National Guard.  Somoza, now a general, seizes total power, and begins one of the most repressive dictatorships in Latin American history.


Somoza is assassinated by poet Rigoberto Lopez Perez.  Somoza’s eldest son, Luis Somoza Debayle, becomes President


Carlos Fonseca Amador, Tomas Borge, Silvio Mayorga and others found the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN), or the Sandinista Front for National Liberation and begin clandestine organizing and guerrilla attacks to bring down the Somoza dynasty.


Luis Somoza dies of a heart attack and his younger brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle assumes the Presidency and begins the most repressive era of the Somoza dynasty.


An earthquake kills thousands and destroys hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguan homes.  Relief that is given to the country from around the world is taken by Somoza and the National Guard for they’re own private gain.


The FSLN carries out successful guerrilla actions


Carlos Fonseca’s death sparks a new roar in the Sandinista movement.


Full-scale guerrilla war envelops Nicaragua

January 1978

Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, publisher of the popular conservative newspaper, La Prensa, is murdered. Somoza is suspected of ordering the crime.  Chamorro’s death drives many members of the business and professional classes into the anti-Somoza camp

August 1978

An FSLN commando unit seizes the National Palace and forces Somoza to release political prisoners. A strike is called by the broad opposition front.

September 1978

An FSLN-led insurrection in major towns in northern Nicaragua is put down with massive repression and bombing by the National Guard.

April 1979

The US cuts off Somoza following the televised murder by a National Guard lieutenant of ABC newsman Bill Stewart.

July 17, 1979

Somoza flees Nicaragua.

July 19, 1979

The National Guard surrenders to the FSLN.


Government of National Reconstruction, led by the Sandinistas, takes power.

December 1981

US President Reagan authorizes a CIA covert action against Nicaragua, a force of 500 men to “interdict” alleged arms traffic from Nicaragua to rebels in El Salvador.  Nicaraguans report raids by contrarevolucionarios (Contras) on the northern border.


Former Sandinista official, Eden Pastora, forms a Contra organization based in Costa Rica, opening a two-front guerrilla war against the Sandinistas.

Nov. 1984

January 1984

The FSLN holds elections that result in Daniel Ortega becoming President

Contras take credit for mining Nicaraguan harbors.  An investigation reveals that the mining was done by the CIA.

May 1984

An assassination attempt on the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border wounds Pastora and leaves several journalists dead and wounded.  The CIA is suspected to be behind it.


The International Court of Justice at The Hague sides with the Sandinistas against the US.  In elections, the Sandinistas win over 60% of the vote for parliamentary seats.  The US refuses to recognize the election results.  The US Congress cuts off aid to the Contras, but national security officials continue to fund the Contras from money derived from surreptitious arms sales to Iran.


Beginning in the summer of 1986, a Contra company infiltrates into northern Nicaragua, but is forced to retreat under a Sandinista counteroffensive.  Battles continue to rage on many fronts, with the Contras unable to hold a piece of Nicaraguan Territory.  War casualties number 30,000.


Sandinistas lose the national election.  Violeta Chamorro, widow of slain Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, backed by the US, wins the election for President.  Washington immediately stops the Contra war.







[i] Oath found in Rosset and Vandermeer’s The Nicaragua Reader, 126-38.

                All pictures were found at www.gettyimages.com, using the search term Nicaragua.

            Timeline can be found in:

            Saul Landeau, The Guerilla Wars of Central America:  Nicaragua, El

  Salvador, and Guatemala (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993).




Nicaragua in Pictures