Somoza family

The Somoza Dynasty was an influential political dynasty who ruled Nicaragua as a family dictatorship from 1936 to 1979.

Republic of Nicaragua

República de Nicaragua
Location of Nicaragua
Common languagesSpanish
GovernmentMilitary dictatorship
President of Nicaragua 
LegislatureNational Congress of Nicaragua
Historical eraInterbellum, World War II, Cold War
January 1 1936
• Disestablished
July 17 1979
CurrencyNicaraguan córdoba
ISO 3166 codeNI
Preceded by
Succeeded by


Anastasio Somoza García assumed the presidency after luring rebel leader Augusto César Sandino to peace talks, and murdering Sandino soon afterwards. Anastacio amended the Nicaraguan Constitution, concentrating power in his hands and installed his relatives and cronies in top government positions.[1] Although the Somoza only held the presidency for 30 of those 43 years, they were the power behind the other presidents of the time through their control of the National Guard. The differences in the Somoza's ruling style only reflected their adaptation to the U.S.-Latin American policy.[2] Their regime was overthrown by the Sandinista National Liberation Front during the Nicaraguan Revolution.

For more than four decades in power, the Somoza family accumulated wealth through corporate bribes, industrial monopolies, land grabbing, and foreign aid siphoning. By the 1970s, the family owned 23 percent of land in Nicaragua while the family wealth reached $533 million, which already amounted to half of Nicaragua's debt and 33 percent the country's 1979 GDP.[3]

Three of the Somozas served as President of Nicaragua. They were:

Other members of the Somoza family include:

External links


  1. ^ Newton, Michael (2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 539. ISBN 9781610692854.
  2. ^ Keen, Benjamin; Haynes, Keith (2009). A History of Latin America, Eight Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. p. 450. ISBN 9780618783182.
  3. ^ Birdsall, Nancy; Williamson, John; Deese, Brian (2002). Delivering on Debt Relief: From IMF Gold to a New Aid Architecture. Washington, D.C.: Peterson Institute. p. 134. ISBN 0881323314.
1936 Nicaraguan presidential election

A presidential election was held in Nicaragua on 9 June 1936.

On 31 May 1936 Somoza's forces attacked Managua.

On 6 June President Juan Bautista Sacasa and Vice-President Rodolfo Espinosa R. resigned and Julián Irías (Minister of Gobernacion) was appointed acting president.

On 6 June Sacasa sailed for exile in El Salvador.

“Julián Irías' term as President was very brief. Somoza made one attempt to see him, but Irias was drunk and nothing was accomplished”. On 9 June the Congress unanimously accepted the resignations of the President Juan Bautista Sacasa and Vice President Rodolfo Espinosa R. and unanimously selected Somoza’s choice as Provisional President, Carlos Alberto Brenes Jarquín. “The Conservatives in Congress justified their vote by saying they were interested in a peaceful solution to the present crisis but that they wanted to be known as the party of opposition and reserved the right to name a candidate in the presidential elections”. “All relatives of incumbent presidents were forbidden by the constitution from standing for office for a period of six months. Somoza, as the husband of ex-President Sacasa’s niece, came into this category. Somoza sorted out this problem by having the elections put back from November to December”.

1963 Nicaraguan general election

A general elections were held in Nicaragua to elect a president and National Congress of Nicaragua on February 3, 1963.

“Evidence of massive impending fraud caused the Traditional Conservative Party to abandon its loyalist stance of the previous decade and to boycott the 1963 elections, thereby raising the party’s credibility among the public at large”.“The elections were held in an atmosphere of overwhelming apathy, and the official returns, which in some areas showed more voters than the total adult population, gave Schick a victory margin of better than ten to one”.

“Both the OAS and the U.S. embassy served as observers, although embassy officials later admitted that the accuracy of the preliminary and final vote count ‘will never be known”.

Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Anastasio "Tachito" Somoza DeBayle (Spanish: [anasˈtasjo soˈmosa ðeˈβaile]; 5 December 1925 – 17 September 1980) was a Nicaraguan dictator and officially the President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979. He was the last member of the Somoza family to be President, ending a dynasty that had been in power since 1936. After being overthrown in an insurrection led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Spanish: Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional; FSLN), he fled Nicaragua and power was ceded to the Junta of National Reconstruction. He was eventually assassinated while in exile in Paraguay.

Anastasio Somoza García

Anastasio "Tacho" Somoza García (1 February 1896 – 29 September 1956) was officially the 21st President of Nicaragua from 1 January 1937 to 1 May 1947 and from 21 May 1950 to 29 September 1956, but ruled effectively as dictator from 1936 until his assassination. Anastasio Somoza started a dynasty that maintained absolute control over Nicaragua for 55 years.

The son of a wealthy coffee planter, Somoza was educated in the United States. After his return to Nicaragua, he helped oust President Adolfo Díaz. He became the foreign secretary and took the title of "General". With the help of the US Marine Corps, which occupied Nicaragua at the time, Somoza became the head of the National Guard. This gave him the power base to remove his wife's uncle, Juan Bautista Sacasa, from the presidency, and make himself president in 1937. In 1947, an ally nominally succeeded him, but he retained power.

A month after his successor had been inaugurated, Somoza used the military to carry out a coup. The president was declared 'incapacitated' by Congress and Somoza served in his stead. Returning to power in his own name in 1951, he maintained an iron grip on his own Liberal Party while making a deal with the Conservatives; thus, he faced no opposition. This left him free to amass a huge personal fortune. On 21 September 1956, he was shot by poet Rigoberto López Pérez. Mortally wounded, he was flown to the Panama Canal Zone where he died a week later. His eldest son Luis Somoza Debayle who was Speaker of the House at the time of Somoza Garcia's Death took over and was elected in his own right in 1957 to serve until 1963, to be succeeded by Dr. Rene Schick who served until his death in 1966. His term was completed by Lorenzo Guerrero. In 1967 his younger brother Anastasio Somoza Debayle was elected to serve until 1972. He was reelected in 1974 after a Constituent Assembly that lasted from 1972 to 1974. During that time the country was ruled by a coalition Junta of conservatives and Liberals. Somoza Debayle was forced to resign in 1979 and was assassinated in exile in Paraguay the following year.

Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero

Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero (born 1 February 1951) is a Nicaraguan heir, Colonel and businessman.

Augusto César Sandino

Augusto C. Sandino (American Spanish: [auˈɣusto C. sanˈdino]; May 18, 1895 – February 21, 1934), also known as Augusto Nicolás Calderón Sandino, was a Nicaraguan revolutionary and leader of a rebellion between 1927 and 1933 against the U.S. military occupation of Nicaragua. He was referred to as a "bandit" by the United States government; his exploits made him a hero throughout much of Latin America, where he became a symbol of resistance to United States' domination. He drew units of the United States Marine Corps into an undeclared guerrilla war. The United States troops withdrew from the country in 1933 after overseeing the election and inauguration of President Juan Bautista Sacasa, who had returned from exile. The re-call of the Marines was largely due to the Great Depression.

Sandino was assassinated in 1934 by National Guard forces of Gen. Anastasio Somoza García, who went on to seize power in a coup d'état two years later. After being elected by an overwhelming vote as president in 1936, Somoza García resumed control of the National Guard and established a dictatorship and Somoza family dynasty that would rule Nicaragua for more than 40 years. Sandino's political legacy was claimed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which finally overthrew the Somoza government in 1979.

Sandino is revered in Nicaragua, and in 2010 was unanimously named a "national hero" by the nation's congress. Sandino's political descendants, along with the icons of his wide-brimmed hat and boots, and influence of his writings from the years of warfare against the U.S. Marines, continue to help shape the national identity of Nicaragua.

Central American University (Managua)

Central American University – Managua (Universidad Centroamericana – UCA) is a university located in Managua, Nicaragua. It was founded in July 1960 by the Society of Jesus on land donated by the Somoza Family and was the first private university in Central America. It numbers among its alumni Daniel Ortega who did not graduate, Daisy Zamora, and Ernesto Leal. (Another Jesuit institution called "UCA" was founded in El Salvador in 1965 and is more fully named Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas.)


Continuismo (English: Continuism) is the practice by incumbents of keeping themselves in office beyond the legal term. Some Latin American heads of state indefinitely extend their rule by way of reducing or abolishing term limits, via constitutional revision. Examples are (Juan Perón, Argentina; Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguay; Evo Morales, Bolivia). Another tactic is legislative enactment, such as with (Jorge Ubico, Guatemala in 1941). A third tactic is by plebiscite (Carlos Castillo Armas, Guatemala [1954]) and Marcos Pérez Jiménez ,Venezuela, 1958)) and the 1988 failed attempt by Augusto Pinochet in Chile. A further type is internal coup (Getulio Vargas, Brazil). Yet another way is the imposition of a weak successor candidate allowing rule by the outgoing incumbent (Emilio Portes Gil and Abelardo Rodríguez in Mexico allowing Plutarco Elías Calles, "el jefe máximo", to continue ruling, a period known as the Maximato). The extension of family rule occurred in Nicaragua with the Somoza family; in Argentina with Juan Perón; and then more recently Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; and in Cuba with Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl Castro. Despite Peru's one term limit established by its 1979 constitution, Alberto Fujimori illegally extended his rule to ten years through two re-elections.

Corruption in Nicaragua

Corruption remains a serious problem for doing business in Nicaragua. Transparency International's 2017 Corruption Perception Index ranks the country 151st place out of 180 countries. According to Freedom House, since the election of Daniel Ortega in 2006, corruption had increased in Nicaragua.

Hope Portocarrero

Hope Portocarrero, also known as Madame Somoza (June 28, 1929 – 5 October 1991) was the First Lady of Nicaragua, the wife of dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle and mother of Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1968.

Lillian Somoza de Sevilla Sacasa

Lillian ("'Lilly"' or "'Lilita"') Somoza de Sevilla Sacasa (May 3rd 1921 – May 17th 2003) was a member of the Somoza family in Nicaragua. She was the daughter of dictator president Anastasio Somoza García and Salvadora Debayle de Somoza, married to Guillermo Sevilla Sacasa, and sister of the president-dicators Luis Somoza Debayle and Anastasio Somoza Debayle. She was also Garcia's last surviving child.

She attended the exclusive young ladies finishing school Gunston Hall School for Girls and in 1940 she was chosen queen of the Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, Virginia.

She died in Washington Hospital Center on May 17, 2003, a fortnight after her 82nd birthday

Lorenzo Guerrero

Lorenzo Guerrero Gutiérrez (13 November 1900 – 15 April 1981) was a Nicaraguan politician and a close associate of Somoza family. Guerrero was the president of the upper chamber of National Congress of Nicaragua 1949-1950, 1953-1954, 1956-1957 and 1962. Guerrero served as one of the Vice Presidents in the administration of René Schick from May 1963 to August 1966 and became President of Nicaragua on 4 August 1966 following the death of Schick. Guerrero served the remainder of Schick's term and handed over the presidency to Anastasio Somoza Debayle on 1 May 1967, who in turn appointed Guerrero as his Foreign Minister. He was a relative of his predecessor René Schick.

Luis Somoza Debayle

Luis Anastasio Somoza Debayle (18 November 1922 – 13 April 1967) was the 26th President of Nicaragua from 21 September 1956 to 1 May 1963, but was effectively dictator of the country from 1956 until his death.

Somoza Debayle was born in León. At the age of 14, he and his younger brother Anastasio attended Saint Leo College Prep near Tampa, before transferring to La Salle Military Academy on Long Island. Luis was then educated at Louisiana State University, where he was a member of Fi Sigma Alfa Hispanic fraternity. Following the assassination of his father, Anastasio Somoza García, Luis was tapped as acting president, and was elected president in his own right later that year. His rule was somewhat milder than that of his father. However, civil liberties remained restricted, and corruption remained widespread.

His brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, headed the National Guard and was the second most powerful man in the country during his older brother's rule. Although Luis declined to run for reelection in 1963, he and Anastasio saw to it that the presidency was held from 1963 onward by politicians loyal to the Somozas. As a result, Luis remained the real power in Nicaragua until his death in 1967, when he suffered a massive heart attack in Managua at the age of 44.

Luis Somoza was the president of the lower chamber of National Congress of Nicaragua 1950-1953 and 1954-1956, and the president of the Senate 1965-1966.Under Luis Somoza's regime, Nicaragua played a key role leading to the creation of the Central American Common Market, with the Alliance for Progress backing that common market's creation. During the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he allowed the CIA-trained Cuban rebels to embark from Puerto Cabezas, on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. The Sandinistas began their struggle against the government in 1963—a struggle that would oust his brother in 1979.

He is entombed at Cementerio Occidental with his father, in the National Guard Mausoleum in Managua, Nicaragua. His wife died in 2014.

National Guard (Nicaragua)

The National Guard (Spanish: Guardia Nacional, otherwise known as la Guardia) was a militia and a gendarmerie created during the occupation of that country by the United States from 1909 to 1933. It became notorious for human rights abuses and corruption under the regime of the Somoza family.

Nicaragua Betrayed

Nicaragua Betrayed, published in 1980, is the memoir of former Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza Debayle (as told to Jack Cox), who had been toppled the previous year by the Sandinista insurgency. At the time of the book's publication, Somoza was living in Asunción, Paraguay, as a personal guest of President Alfredo Stroessner.In the book Somoza gave his account of his administration, his downfall, and what he perceived to be the American betrayal of his country; he was particularly critical of the Carter Administration.Shortly after the book's publication, Somoza and his chauffeur were assassinated in downtown Asunción by members of the Argentine People's Revolutionary Army.He is buried in Miami, Florida, at Woodlawn Park North Cemetery and Mausoleum.A Spanish edition of the book, titled Nicaragua Traicionada, was also published.

Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal

Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal (23 September 1924 Granada, Nicaragua – 10 January 1978 Managua) was a Nicaraguan journalist and publisher. He was the editor of La Prensa, the only significant opposition newspaper to the long rule of the Somoza family. He is a 1977 laureate of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize of the University of Columbia (New York). He married Violeta Barrios de Chamorro who later went on to become President of Nicaragua (1990-1996). In 1978, he was shot to death, one of the precipitating events of the overthrow of the Somoza regime the following year.

Political history of Nicaragua

Nicaragua gained its independence in 1821, and after a period of instability, was ruled by the Somoza family from 1927 to 1979.

Puppet ruler

A puppet ruler is a person who has a title indicating possession of political power, but who, in reality, is controlled by outside individuals or forces. Such outside power can be exercised by a foreign government, in which case the puppet ruler's domain is called a puppet state. But the puppet ruler may also be controlled by internal forces, such as non-elected officials.

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