Tag Archives: Anastasio Somoza Debayle

Ernesto Cardenal and Venezuelan Solidarity

The Following images are from the April/May 1977 issue of Gaceta Sandinista, which was published by the Venezuelan Committee in Solidarity with the People of Nicaragua. The group was composed primarily of students and members of leftist political parties, as evinced by the imagery of Karl Marx. The issue from which these images were taken chronicled a visit to Venezuela by Father Ernesto Cardenal, a Nicaraguan poet and religious leader who opposed the Somoza regime and clandestinely worked with the Sandinistas. Prior to the success of the Sandinista Revolution Cardenal traveled the globe as a member of “the Twelve,” a group of twelve Nicaraguan exiles who traveled the globe speaking out against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza Debayle and garnering support for the revolutionary cause. The actions of Cardenal and other members of “the Twelve” helped raise awareness about the plight of Nicaraguans under the dictatorship and placed pressure on the Carter administration to withdraw for Somoza Debayle.

Sandino and Cardenal
The above image is the front cover of Gaceta Sandinista, which depicts Cardenal standing with Augusto Sandino. Cardenal and the Sandinistas were the heirs to Sandino’s revolutionary movement against U.S. intervention in Nicaragua between 1927 and 1933.

Cardenal 2

Cardenal and monster
As these cartoons accurately depict, Catholicism and leftist political ideals formed the two main pillars of the Nicaraguan Revolution. The Nicaraguan Revolution utilized both Liberation Theology and Marxist thought in their struggle against Somoza Debayle.


Cardenal and Marx

Cardenal and Marx 2
These cartoons were drawn by the well-known Venezuelan cartoonist Abilio Padron, who created pieces sympathetic to national liberation struggles. Before producing these cartoons for Venezuelan Committee in Solidarity with the People of Nicaragua, Abilio had created pieces protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

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Somoza: Murderous Nazi Pig

My previous post examined collages of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the brutal dictator of Nicaragua deposed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1978, which highlighted the corruption and greed of the regime. Today’s images are series of cartoons depicting Somoza as a murderous Nazi pig. Like the images in the last blog post, these cartoons came from Gaceta Sandinista, the FSLN’s publication operating out of Cuba and were part of a propaganda campaign aimed at influencing opinion in Nicaragua and internationally against Somoza Debayle.

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In each cartoon the dictator is shown as a pig in the garb of a military officer with Somoza Debayle’s trademark horn-rimmed glasses. The cartoonist, whose mark can be found at the bottom of each image, clearly sought to highlight not only the brutality of the Somoza regime (swastikas, bloody weaponry, sharp teeth) but also emphasize the regimes corruption and greed, hence depicting him as a pig. Each cartoon also emphasizes Somoza Debayle’s connections to the United States, notice that his tail spells out “CIA” or the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States.

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Following his election in 1976, Jimmy Carter pressured Somoza Debayle to democratize and respect human right. In order to appease his main benefactor Somoza Debayle liberalized Nicaragua, however these reforms were superficial and did little to mitigate the dictators brutal practices. In the cartoon above Somoza Debayle is saying “I am for human rights” while holding a bloody ax and standing over the grave of  los desaparecidos or “the disappeared ones,” the victims of Latin America’s military regimes. The image above represents Somoza Debayle’s lip-service to human rights while continuing the bloody suppression of the Nicaraguan people.

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The final cartoon is another representation of the relationship between Somoza Debayle and the United States. In the cartoon above Somoza Debayle is using the legs of an eagle (the United States) as stilts. The Somoza regime maintained its hold on power largely through the support of the United States, which provided significant amounts of military and monetary aid to Somoza Debayle and his personal military, the National Guard. This support proved crucial to propping up the Somoza Debayle and once it was removed his regime quickly crumbled. The Carter administration facilitated the decline of the dictator by cutting military aid in an effort to bring about democratization and human rights

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Poking Fun at the Dictator

The images below are taken from Gaceta Sandinista the official voice of the FSLN in Cuba during the 1970s. The FSLN published the journal out of Cuba and drew heavily on the internationalist sentiments of the Cuban Revolution. Gaceta Sandinista largely reported on the situation in Nicaragua, heralding the achievements of the FSLN and decrying the abuses of the Somoza regime and the United States. Besides its articles and political essays, Gaceta Sandinista featured many cartoons, illustrations, and collages. Images, such as those below, were an important means of conveying the political message of the FSLN, especially in Nicaragua where the illiteracy rate remained over seventy percent during the 1970s.

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An overweight man, many images in Gaceta Sandinista, such as the one above, mocked Somoza’s girth. The text at the bottom of the image translates as “a comment in respect to,” which is both a comment on Somoza’s faltering regime and a joke about the dictators weight.

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The writers of Gaceta Sandinista also used Somoza’s plumpness as a means of highlighting the kleptocratic nature of his regime. Somoza notoriously stole millions of dollars from the people of Nicaragua while at the same time murdering thousands of them. The text reads “Archive of Somocista Corruption” and is the header to a section of the journal dedicated to cataloging the abuses of the Somoza regime.

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The final image depicts Somoza as Rocky Balboa who is fighting for the dollars of his trainer Mickey Goldman, representing the United States. Although not a complete puppet of the United States, Somoza sought to appease the United States and regularly toed-the-line, knowing that without U.S. support his regime would crumble.

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Summer research and the Partido Social Cristiano

Summer is here and with it comes more time to blog. Between conferences and the end of the semester this poor little blog was ignored. However, I am back in the thick of it. I am currently working my way through a number of microfilm collections and I will be making a research trip to the Truman Presidential Library next week. I found the posters below in the humungous microfilm collection of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). NACLA has thousands of documents covering the Nicaraguan Revolution from 1976 to 1990. The posters below belong to the Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), which opposed both the Somoza regime and the Sandinistas. The PSC was one of Nicaragua’s more popular political parties, placing fourth in the 1990 presidential elections. As you might gather from its name the PSC was a Christian political party. They relied heavily on biblical imagery, hence the dove and the Ichthys. I am not very familiar with the PSC so I can not say with certainty that pacifism was a central tenet of the party, but the posters make a strong case for that. Ironically many of the European and North American religious groups that operated in Nicaragua worked with the Sandinistas and not the PSC. This was due largely to the fact that the FSLN held power and therefore had more resources.

PSC poster #1
I’m not sure exactly who the JRSC is but I can assume that it is probably the youth division of the PSC. The message in the top right corner translates as “Nonviolence. The only path to peace and democracy.”

PSC poster #2
Clearly the PSC advocated against the violence in Nicaragua, and Central America more broadly. The message at the top of this poster translates as “No to violent solutions.” The Ichthys with PSC within, found in the bottom right, was the official emblem of the party.

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French Feminist Solidarity

Last week I received a package in the mail from Toulouse, France, which contained a booklet from a feminist Nicaraguan-solidarity organization in Paris. I had originally found a copy of this booklet in the Gabi Guttwald collection at the Archiv Grünes Gedächtnis, but while looking into the organization I found a copy online. I have not found many sources from French solidarity groups, this booklet being my only piece so far.

“Nicaragua Women”


Printed shortly after the fall of Somoza in July 1979, this booklet contains accounts of events in Nicaragua and Nicaraguan women’s efforts in helping to oust the Somoza regime. Early in its history the FSLN adopted a policy of gender equality within its ranks, allowing women the same rights and opportunities within the organization as its male members. During the revolution women served in support as well as front line positions. After the revolution women remained in significant roles in the organization and by the mid-1980s one quarter to one third of the leadership positions in the FSLN government and party were held by women.

I was not able to track down this Sandino quote and I do not know French well enough to give it a proper translation, or at least one that makes sense.

“Women and Armed Struggle”

“The Women’s Struggle After Victory”

Karen Kampwirth, Women and Guerrilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003)

Victoria Gonzalez and Karen Kampwirth, Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001)

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Western Labor in Solidarity with Nicaragua, or Creepy Somoza’s



The first day I was in the archive I found some creepy drawings of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in a small book entitled Ein vereintes Volk wird nie besiegt werden: was in Nicaragua geschah is kein Marchen (A People United will never be defeated: What happened in Nicaragua is not a Fairy Tale). This little book was created by the youth division of IG Metall (Industrial Union of Metalworkers) in order to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by the Somoza regime.

This is not the first union I have found engaged in solidarity, especially prior to 1979. Canadian unions pressured their government to take a firm stand against Somoza and send aid to the people of Nicaragua. Labor unions in the North Atlantic, with the exception of those in the United States, tended to support the revolution and looked favorably on the Sandinistas once they came to power, due in large part to a shared ideological background. There was also a practical side to supporting the Sandinistas. In 1985 western labor unions opposed the U.S. embargo of Nicaragua, pressuring their governments to challenge the U.S. policy. Although ideological solidarity and moral outrage largely motivated union resistance, many union leaders feared the loss of Nicaraguan raw materials and the closing of a market for their manufactured goods. However the fears of losing exports or imports to the embargo were minimal considering Nicaragua’s negligible economic relations with Western Europe and Canada. However, the impact on Nicaragua was devastating due to the fact that the United States was the small nation’s largest trading partner.

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Socialist International Congress 1978, Vancouver


At the Congress of the Socialist International in Vancouver in 1978, leaders of the world’s social democratic parties voiced their solidarity with the Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN). Ernesto Cardenal (priest, writer, and leader of the FSLN) represented the Sandinistas and spoke out on the plight of the Nicaraguan people and their abuse at the hands of Anastasio Somoza. As a member of the “Group of 12,” Cardenal (pictured center-right) traveled the globe speaking out against the Somoza regime and garnering international attention for the revolution. Until the late 1980s, the Sandinistas enjoyed the strong support of the Socialist International and socialist parties from around the globe. The Socialist International proved a bastion of international support for the Sandinistas, promoting solidarity and generating aid for the revolution and the people of Nicaragua.

“Socialist International Congress 1978, Vancouver,” Socialist Affairs, January/February 1979, Socialist Internatinal Information, No. 1/79

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