Monday, July 09, 2007

Overthrow #5: Nicaragua


This week's focus is on Nicaragua, and I I'll try to make it shorter than last week's (kids today and their attention spans...). This one sets a precedent we'll use over and over again- a popular leader's nationalism threatens our economic interests so we fund, equip, and pick somebody from their country to lead a revolt that we pretend we're only peripherally connected to. But the details...

The Inciting Incident
Zelaya came to power in 1893, and was a pretty great leader. He focused both on improving the infrastructure (building schools, paving streets, adding railways) and on being business friendly. He was considered the strongest leader in Central America and even preached uniting the whole area into 1 state. Nicaragua appeared to have a pretty decent future.

But if you fuck w/ the bull... A few things happened that would lead to Zelaya's demise. First of all, Nicaragua lost the major canal to Panama (an interesting story in it own right) and now the US did not have to make nice w/ him. Secondly, he got in a tiff w/ a Boston lumber merchant. Zelaya had let him cut down the forests in exchange for a rail line and a promise that 2 trees would be planted for every 1 cut down. The Bostonian did neither. This alone (him messing w/ an American businessman) may have gotten Zelaya tossed, but he actually agreed to the lumber merchants demands and paid him off.

Problem averted, at least for a moment, but then Zelaya had the nerve, the audacity, to get a loan from Europe to help fund a coast-to-coast railroad. Didn't he know he was only supposed to borrow from American banks? Oops. Soon, Knox (the secretary of state, who had mining interests in Nicaragua), started a negative PR campaign against Zelaya which peaked w/ President Taft asserting that the US would not, "tolerate and deal with such a medieval tyrant."

The Take Over
There were sort of 2 takeovers. First, they found a Nicaraguan governor, General Estrada, angling for power. Then American companies started sending him money. Soon he had a militia and started his American-backed revolution. Still, the march to Managua was not as easy as hoped and Zelaya quickly began crushing it. But Zelaya then made a fatal error (I guess, although his fate seemed to be already sealed). 2 Americans fighting for Estrada were caught laying mines for the "rebels" and were killed by firing squad. This resulted in Knox (the Secretary of State) writing a letter demanding Zelaya's abdication. Zelaya saw no way out against the powerful US and after some attempts to appease us, stepped down in December 1909.

The new guy, a Liberal Jurist named Jose Madriz, would be overthrown immediately in a really weird military operation. Basically, Madriz sent men to fight the "rebels" and the Marines showed up. But instead of the Marines actually firing, they told the Nicaraguan army they couldn't shoot b/c it endangered Americans (themselves). Even worse, the Americans said the "rebels" could shoot b/c they were firing in the opposite direction. Talk about tacit! Here's a quote from the US major in charge, Smedley Butler: "We sent an American beachcomber on ahead to Rama to be sure there would be another American life to protect, and then reenacted the farce at Bluefields. We forbade shooting by the government forces, and they finally melted away, convinced of the hopelessness of opposing the revolutionists backed by the Marines. The revolution ended then and there."

The Aftermath
The aftermath is the only part of Nicaraguan history we ever hear about. And it's always just made me think that Nicaragua was a pretty fucked up country. I had no idea we started the chaos. Let's see, quick version... The new presidents will do whatever the US says and by 1912 Americans will control Nicaragua's customs, national bank, steamships, and railways.
This will result in endless revolts by unhappy Nicaraguans. Benjamin Zeledon will die fighting the Marines in 1912. And his cause will be continued by Augosto Sandino, whose guerrilla warfare will result in a 1933 victory, when Hoover had enough and brought the Marines home. He'll be assassinated immediately though, it being set up by a Nicaraguan in the American created National Guard named General Somoza, who will later be assassinated (1956). The new revolutionaries called themselves the Sandinistas (named after Sandino) and they will eventually seize power in 1979, only to have to deal with the US funded Contras (remember the Iran-Contra Affair?). The war will end in 1988 and the Sandinistas will be voted out in 1990. Today, Nicaragua is peaceful. And even though they reelected recently an ex-Sandinista, they seem to have moved on from their century long struggle between US supported generals and revolutionaries.
Ranking (Worst to Least Worst)
1. Nicaragua

I'm going to put Nicaragua right up at the top. Zelaya may not have been perfect (he gained power through a coup, sent troops into other Central American countries), but he was reelected twice and did some great things for Nicaragua. And he wasn't a radical. He was pro-business and made no attempts (that I know of) to get rid of decent American businesses. This was a leader we should have supported. And that we overthrew him b/c he was looking for loans outside of us? The nerve. What additionally makes me place Nicaragua at the top is the century of civil wars that followed our intervention. Nicaragua's woes can definitely by laid on our doorstep.

I've also decided to swap Cuba and The Philippines b/c of the utter brutality of our suppression in The Philippines and b/c I think Cuba is pretty freakin' cool when I think about it. Well, looks like it got long again. Whatevah. If I haven't bored you to tears yet, tune in next week when we take down Honduras.

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Blogger michael5000 said...

The U.S. takes on Latin America, and who wins? The ChuckDaddy Xpress readership, that's who.

Keep it comin', Chuck, I'm enjoying the synopses and learning a lot. The list is a nice touch.

10:00 pm  
Blogger Kadonkadonk said...

That's shorter?

8:34 am  
Blogger chuckdaddy2000 said...

Thank you Michael5000, good to have you back. I think this is a goal I can accomplish too (only 9 overthows to go!).

Kadonkadonk- yeah, not really shorter. But I'm trying...

11:17 am  
Blogger 5 of 9er said...

The only thing I know about Nicaragua is that my friends travel there to go surfing every year. They love it.

1:07 pm  
Anonymous The Fabulous Craigeoke said...

As a frequent traveler to Nicaragua (OK, I've been twice), and having been in Nicaragua during the Novemeber election that returned Ortega to power, I must say that I was given every sense that their election was a more judicious democratic exercise than any observed within our United States in recent memory. Jimmy Carter agreed in his synopsis. BTW- bonus fact- Ortega changed his party colors from the ubiquitous "red and black" to a soothing pink, and the locals refer to him as El Presedente Pepto-Bizzzmall!

11:26 am  

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