Anastasio Somoza Debayle: Wikis

  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anastasio Somoza Debayle


In office
1 December 1974 – 17 July 1979
Preceded by Liberal-Conservative Junta
Succeeded by Francisco Urcuyo
In office
1 May 1967 – 1 May 1972
Vice President Francisco Urcuyo and Alfonso Callejas Deshón
Preceded by Lorenzo Guerrero
Succeeded by Liberal-Conservative Junta

Born December 5, 1925(1925-12-05)
León, Nicaragua
Died September 17, 1980 (aged 54)
Asunción, Paraguay
Political party Nationalist Liberal Party (PLN)
Spouse(s) Hope Portocarrero

Anastasio ("Tachito") Somoza Debayle (Spanish pronunciation: [anasˈtasjo soˈmoθa ðeˈβaile]) (5 December 1925  – 17 September 1980) was officially the 73rd and 76th 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 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 held power since 1936.

Contents

Name

As is customary in Spanish-speaking countries, he was given both his father's and mother's last names, Somoza being his father's surname and Debayle being his mother's surname. Debayle is of French origin.

Biography

Anastasio Somoza Debayle, nicknamed "Tachito" (Spanish: Little Tacho) by his father, was the third child of Anastasio Somoza García and Salvadora Debayle. At the age of seven, he was enrolled at the Instituto Pedagógica, run by the Christian Brothers. One of his classmates was Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal,[1] who would grow up to become one of the most prominent opponents of the Somoza dynasty. From the age of ten, Tachito was educated in the United States, attending St. Leo College Prep (Florida) and La Salle Military Academy (Long Island). He passed the examination for West Point, entered the United States Military Academy on July 3, 1943, and graduated on June 6, 1946.[2] Two years after his return from West Point, he fathered an illegitimate daughter, Patricia, who was later sent to a series of schools abroad.[3] Also after his return, he was appointed chief of staff of the National Guard by his father, who had previously given many important posts to family members and close personal friends. As commander of the Guard, he was effectively the second most powerful man in Nicaragua. On 10 December 1950, he married Hope Portocarrero, his first cousin, at the Cathedral in Managua by Archbishop Jose Antonio Lezcano. Over 4,000 guests attended the ceremony. The reception was given by President Anastasio Somoza García in the luxurious and modern Palacio de Comunicaciones. They had five children:

Following his father's assassination on 21 September 1956, Somoza's elder brother, Luis Somoza, took over the presidency. Anastasio had a large hand in the government during this time and saw to it that the presidency was held by politicians loyal to his family from 1963 to 1967. On 1 May 1967, shortly before the death of his brother, Anastasio Somoza was himself elected president for the first time. While Luis had ruled more gently than his father had, Anastasio was intolerant of opposition of any sort.

His term in office was due to end in May 1972, due to a law which disallowed immediate re-election. However, prior to that, Somoza worked out an agreement allowing him to stand for re-election in 1974; he would be replaced as president by a three-man junta consisting of two Liberals and one Conservative while retaining control of the National Guard. Somoza and his triumvirate drew up a new constitution that was ratified by the triumvirate and the cabinet on April 3, 1971. He then stepped down as president on May 1, 1972. However, as head of the National Guard, he remained the de facto ruler of the country.

On 23 December 1972, an earthquake struck the nation's capital Managua, killing about 5,000 people, and virtually destroying the city. Martial law was declared, and Somoza took over as head of a National Emergency Committee, making him the country's ruler in name as well as in fact once again. He reportedly embezzled many of the funds sent from across the world to help rebuild Managua. Indeed, some parts of Managua have never been rebuilt or restored, including the National Cathedral. Roberto Clemente, whose ill-fated trip to Managua was intended to safeguard earthquake supplies, died in a plane crash while traveling to Nicaragua.

Somoza was re-elected president in the 1974 election, partially due to his declaring nine opposition parties illegal. By this time, the Catholic church had begun to speak against his government. (Indeed, one of his fiercest critics was Ernesto Cardenal, a leftist Nicaraguan priest who preached liberation theology and would become the Sandinista government's Minister of Culture.) By the late 1970s, human rights groups were condemning the record of the Somoza government, while support for the Sandinistas was growing inside and outside the country.

In 1975 Somoza Debayle launched a violent campaign against the Sandinista Front; individuals suspected of supporting the Front were targeted. The Front, named after Augusto César Sandino, began its guerrilla war against the Somozas in 1963 and was funded by Cuba under Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union. Support for the Sandinistas ballooned after the earthquake, especially when U.S President Jimmy Carter withdrew American support for the regime. Carter, citing human rights reasons, denounced the Somoza regime despite Somoza's claims that he always allowed freedom of speech and the press. This proved critical, due to the paramount influence of the U.S. in the region.

At this point, the opposition to the Somozas included not only Sandinistas, but other prominent figures such as Pedro Chamorro (assassinated on January 10, 1978). Israel was the last supplier of weapons to the Somoza regime, because during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, Somoza's father provided substantial financial support for Israel. Carter forced the Israeli government to call back a ship carrying weapons vital to the survival of the Somoza regime.

In July 1979, Somoza resigned the presidency and fled to Miami in a converted Curtiss C-46. He was denied entry to the U.S. by President Carter. He later took refuge in Paraguay, then under the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. He only had the bodies of his brother and father, eight parrots, his armory and what he could steal from the national treasury. He bought a ranch and a gated house at 433 Espana in Asunción. Somoza's regime only survived him by a day, whereupon the Sandinistas took control of the country.

The Assassination

Somoza was assassinated near his exile home on September 17, 1980. He was then 54 years old. Somoza Debayle was ambushed by a seven-person Sandinista commando team (four men and three women). This was known as "Operation Reptile"

The Sandinista team had two Soviet-made machine guns, two AK-47 assault rifles, two automatic pistols, and an RPG-7 rocket launcher with four anti-tank grenades and two rockets. The leader was Argentinian Marxist revolutionary Enrique Gorriarán Merlo (code named "Ramon"), an ex- Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo member. [4] One of the team members said: "We cannot tolerate the existence of millionaire playboys whilst thousands of Latin Americans are dying of hunger. We are perfectly willing to give up our lives for this cause."

Somoza family mausoleum.

For over six months the Sandinista assassins researched and planned their assault. The team meticulously studied Somoza's movements with a team member who was staked out at a newspaper kiosk near the estate. They waited in ambush for Somoza in Avenida España. Somoza was often driven about the city in a presumed unarmored Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan. Team member Oswaldo, disguised as a paper boy, watched Somoza exit the estate and signaled when he was leaving at 10:10 A.M.

Once in position, Hugo Irarzun (El Capitán Santiago) had the RPG-7. He tried to fire an anti-tank rocket at the car, but the RPG-7 misfired. Ramon then gunned down the chauffeur while Irarzun quickly reloaded the RPG with a new rocket. The second rocket made a direct hit on the sedan. Accounts mentioned that the Mercedes' engine kept on running even after the rocket explosion. Previously the commando team had considered the possibility that Somoza's vehicle might indeed be equipped with forward-paneled armor. This would most likely deflect the rocket projectile upwards if hit from a frontal stance. The Sandinista team decided to engage with a lateral attack which would rule out any projectile deflection. Somoza was killed instantly and charred with the other two passengers in the car, his financial advisor Jou Baittiner and his new driver César Gallardo. Later Media reports in Paraguay stated that Somoza's body was so unrecognizable that forensics had to identify him through his feet. Somoza Car

Of the seven assassins, six escaped. Irarzun was later captured because of his blonde beard.

Somoza was buried in Miami at Woodlawn Park Cemetery and Mausoleum. A few months before Somoza’s death, his memoirs, Nicaragua Betrayed, were published. In them he blamed the Carter Administration for his downfall. His son, Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero, went into exile in Guatemala.

Former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America and Cuba expert, Professor Brian Latell, argues in his book After Fidel, that the plan to assassinate Somoza was devised in Havana with direct input from Fidel Castro. According to him, the Sandinistas had won power in July 1979 with the assistance of massive, covert Cuban military aid. Along with his brother Raúl Castro, the two masterminded a complex multinational covert action to provide the Sandinistas with huge quantites of modern armaments. Cuban intelligence and paramilitary advisors poured into Nicaragua along with the equipment. Latell states that the evidence indicated that the assassination operation was similar to other assassination operations Cuban intelligence had been involved in, and that Somoza was a long-time nemesis of Castro after he provided critical support to the U.S. in preparing for the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in April 1961.

Bibliography

  • Alegria, Claribel, and Flakoll, Darwin J. Death of Somoza. Curbstone Press, 1996.
  • Berman, Karl. Under the Big Stick: Nicaragua and the United States Since 1848. South End Press, 1986.
  • Booth, John A. The End And The Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution. Westview Press, 1985.
  • Christian, Shirley. Nicaragua: Revolution in the Family. Vintage, 1986.
  • Crawley, Eduardo. Dictators Never Die: Nicaragua and the Somoza Dynasty. Palgrave Macmillan, 1979.
  • Diederich, Bernard. Somoza and the Legacy of U.S. Involvement in Central America. Markus Wiener Publishers, 2007.
  • Kinzer, Stephen. Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 2007.
  • Lake, Anthony. Somoza Falling: A Case Study of Washington at Work. University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.
  • Leiken, Robert S. (ed.) and Barry M. Rubin (ed.). The Central American Crisis Reader. Summit Books, 1987.
  • Merrill, Tim (ed.). Nicaragua: A Country Study. Federal Research Division Library of Congress, 1995.
  • Millett, Richard. Guardians of the Dynasty. Orbis Books, 1977.
  • Norsworthy, Kent and Tom Barry. Nicaragua: A Country Guide. Inter-Hemispheric Education Resource Center, 1990.
  • Pastor, Robert A. Condemned to Repetition: The United States and Nicaragua. Princeton University Press, 1987.
  • Persons, David E. A History Of The Nicaraguan Contras. Stephen F. Austin State University, 1988.
  • Pezzullo, Lawrence and Ralph Pezzullo. At the Fall of Somoza. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1994.
  • Rees, John (ed.). Ally Betrayed... Nicaragua. Western Goals, 1980.
  • Somoza, Anastasio (as told to Jack Cox). Nicaragua Betrayed. Western Islands, 1980.
  • Towell, Larry. Somoza's Last Stand: Testimonies from Nicaragua. Red Sea Press, 1990.

References

  1. ^ Diederich, Bernard. Somoza and the Legacy of U.S. Involvement in Central America. p. 14
  2. ^ Somoza, Anastasio and Jack Cox. Nicaragua Betrayed. p. ix
  3. ^ Diederich, p. 42
  4. ^ Gorriarán Merlo, Enrique. Memorias ("Memories") ISBN 950-49-1063-7
Preceded by
Lorenzo Guerrero
President of Nicaragua
1967–1972
Succeeded by
Liberal-Conservative Junta
Preceded by
Liberal-Conservative Junta
President of Nicaragua
1974–1979
Succeeded by
Francisco Urcuyo







Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message