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Sandino: General of the free men (english)
21 Feb 2003
seven decades ago on february 21, 1933, sandino was murdered in Nicaragua, but his spirit arose in the people decades later in a popular rebellion that ousted the somoza dicatatorship in 1979.
Commemorating the “General of Free Men”: Ce`sar A. SANDINO
(murdered February 21, 1933, under orders of Anastasio Somoza, head of the newly installed National Guard. & first of the Somoza family dictators to last five decades)
NICARAGUA, 1929: The People
While Sandino’s guerilla band is fighting in the mountains, the people are waging their own struggle in the cities. Children are refusing to learn English in the schools. The
United States forces them to attend a military parade. The people refuse to sing the National Anthem and instead shout out Sandino’s war cry, ‘’DEATH TO THE TRAITORS’’! The elderly refuse gifts made in the United States.
A reporter writes: Sandino has the whole continent behind him. G.Selser, 228
Sandino became a folk hero in Latin America, but in the US press he was portrayed as a “bandit.” Cecil B. DeMille wanted to do a movie about him but the State Department
Did not allow it.
Sandino, with only a few men at first, refused to surrender. He said that the real problem in Nicaragua was US intervention, and called for a Nicaragua free from outside domination. His fight against US imperialism inspired a new wave of Nicaraguan insurrection that would last decades. See G. Black : Triumph of the People
The First Sandinistas
Augusto Cesar Sandino and the 29 men who refused to surrender took to the hills of the Segovia, mountainous jungle, perfect for guerilla warfare. Sandino’s army grew, as did the popularity of his cause. Under the slogan” Free Country or Death,”, his main goal became driving the “gringos” from Nicaraguan soil.
Art first the untrained and ill equipped army suffered defeats. Then they began to change their tactics and develop real guerilla maneuvers. The local population acted as spies and assisted with developing a communications network, allowing Sandino to learn quickly about US troop movements. As Sandino’s forces began scoring victories over the “Yankee Invaders,” the United States turned to using air power against Sandino. However, even with their vastly superior air power, the US could not defeat the Sandinistas.
By 1930, the US planned to leave Nicaragua, but not before training and equipping a Nicaraguan National Guard which would act as an agent of US interests. The clear advantage of this arrangement was protecting US interests without risking the lives of the US marines. In 1932 US troops left Nicaragua, leaving Anastasio Somoza as head of the National Guard. Somoza would become dictator , and his family ruled Nicaragua until 1979, the longest dictatorship in Central America. In 1933, Somoza lured Sandino to Managua under the pretext of signing a peace agreement. With approval and direction from the United States, Somoza arranged the assassination the great leader and folk hero.
Managua, February 21, 1933: Betrayal
5pm.: Sandino arrives at President Sacasa’s home.
Early evening : The National Guard holds a council of War. At dusk Somoza arrives.
I come from the American Embassy, where I have been conferring with Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane. He has assured me that the Washington government supports and recommends the elimination of Augusto Cesar Sandino, considering him as it does a disturber of the country’s peace. They draw up a document implicating all of them in the assassination plot—an insurance policy against anyone betraying the others.
At the same time Sandino is having supper in the home of President Sacasa, who himself will be overthrown by Somoza in 1936. They talk of peace and gold mining and Nicaragua’s future.
10pm.: Sacasa accompanies Sandino, Gregorio, Sandino’s father; and Sandino’s generals, Umanzor and Estrada to the door. The guests get into the car and head toward the National Guard’s Campo de Marte where they encounter a stalled vehicle. Generals Estrada and Umanzor, sensing an ambush, pull out their revolvers. Sandino urges them not to shoot, since Salvatierra and his father are not fighting men. Major Degadillo, disguised as a Guard corporal, approaches the car and tells them to drop their pistols because they are under arrest. Sandino, Umanzor, and Estrada are ordered into a truck marked GN # 1(Guardia Nacional) while Salvatierra and Gregorio stay behind. The National Guard takes them to a place called La Calavera (the Skull). Sandino is calm. He asks for a drink of water. The request is denied.Estrada says, don’t ask these fellows for anything general, let them kill us. Standing with his hands in his pockets, Sandino refuses to allow them to search him. His last words: “My political leaders have played jokes with me.”
11pm.: Sandino sits on a rock at the right, Umanzor in the middle and Estrada to the left.
A shot crackles in the air, the signal to begin. The machine guns open fire. A bullet enters Sandino’s brain and chest. Umanzor dies with five in the head. Estrada two in the chest. From the distance, Gregorio hears the shots and says; now they’re killing them. It always happens; try to be a redeemer, and you get crucified.
Somoza, knowing the danger of memory, erases the struggle of Sandino’s forces from the Nicaraguan history books and makes it a crime to speak the name of Sandino.