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The Confusing mess that was Iran/Contra

US Nicaraguan Relations

A Brief History

1903: The US negotiates the Panama Canal Treaty and establishes control over the canal zone.

1909: Dictator Jose Santos Zelaya is overthrown in Nicaragua. Chaos and instability follow, leading to US financial and military intervention. (1911-1933)

1927: Potential peace accord among fighting factions in Nicaragua provides basis for US occupation and subsequent elections. General Augusto C. Sandino refuses to accept peace accord and leads a guerrilla force against the US Marines.

1933: General Anastasio Somoza Garcia is named director of the new "non- partisan" National Guard in Nicaragua. The US Marines withdraw.

1934: Sandino is murdered by members of the Nicaraguan National Guard; Guard chief Anastasio Somoza Garcia dominates the country until 1956.

1937: Somoza officially becomes president.

1956: Anastasio Somoza is assassinated. His sons, Luis and Anastasio Jr., retain control of Nicaragua.

1961: The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) is founded in Nicaragua.

1961: The Central American Common Market is formed. The Common Market establishes free trade among five nations and helps to strengthen their economies.

1967: Anastasio Somoza Debayle is "elected" President of Nicaraguain a fixed election.

1969: A war breaks out between El Salvador and Honduras causing the collapse of the Common Market.

1972: An earthquake devastates Managua; Somoza's mishandling of crisis and of international relief funds increases antipathy to the regime.

1978: US and OAS fail in mediation attempts with Nicaragua; US suspends military aid to Somoza.

1979: Somoza is overthrown and a new governing coalition dominated by the Marxist FSLN assumes power ( The Sandinistas).

1981: The US under Reagan administration ends aid to Nicaragua after finding evidence that Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union are supplying arms to Salvadorian rebels.

1982: The US House of Representatives passes the Boland Amendment, which prohibits the US from supplying the Nicaraguan Contras (Sandinista opposition forces) with arms for overthrowing the Sandinista government.

1984: The CIA mines Nicaragua's harbors in a covert operation. Both US enemies and allies condemn the action. Nicaragua sues the US in the World Court, and in June 1986 the Court finds the US guilty of violating international law.

1984: Daniel Ortega, leader of the FSLN, is elected president of Nicaragua.

1985: The US suspends talks with Nicaragua. US president Ronald Reagan describes the Nicaraguan contras as "freedom fighters" and compares them to America's founding fathers. Reagan initiates economic sanctions against Nicaragua. The US Congress approves humanitarian aid package for the Nicaraguan Contras.

1986: The Nicaraguan government closes La Prensa, an opposition newspaper. A plane carrying US military supplies to the Contras is shot down and the only American survivor is captured. The US government announces that contrary to the Boland Amendment, the US has been providing military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras. The supplies were purchased with funds diverted form the sale of US arms to Iran. The covert operation became known as the Iran-Contra affair.

1987: Daniel Ortega, the FSLN leader and President, begins a trip to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe seeking military and economic aid. The US Congress approves 7.7 million in humanitarian aid to the Contras. Peace talks between the Sandinistas and the Contras break down. Ortega confirms rumors that the Soviets plan to supply Nicaragua with more military aid.

1988: Reagan requests 36.65 million in nonlethal aid and 3.6 in military aid for the Contras, but is rejected. The Sandinistas and Contras begin a cease-fire. The House and Senate approve 47.9 million in humanitarian aid for the Contras and children of the injured.

1990: Violeta Barios Chamorro of the UNO party (National Opposition Union) defeats the FSLN's Daniel Ortega in internationally observed presidential elections. Sandinistas and Contras sign a permanent cease- fire. The Contras begin to demobilize.

1993: Contras take 38 hostages in an attempt to force Humberto Ortega, Daniel Ortega's brother and Chamorro's appointee as chief of the army, to resign.

1995: In February Ortega is replaced by Joaquin Lacayo as per Chamorro's orders, thus enacting the first peaceful transfer of Nicaragua's top military post in history!

1997: Arnoldo Aleman is inaugurated as President with around 49 percent of the vote compared to Daniel Ortega's 39 percent.

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