- Historic Sites
Mr. Coolidge’s Jungle War
Forty years ago, American Marines tangled with a tough Latin-American guerrilla leader whose tactics against “the capitalists” would evoke an unhappy shock of recognition in Vietnam today.
December 1967 | Volume 19, Issue 1
Somoza refused to punish those responsible for the assassination. And so the theme of violence, which runs through Nicaraguan political history with the wearying persistence of a Greek tragedy, was sustained. Soon after, Somoza forced Dr. Sacasa to resign, and himself assumed the presidency. Twenty-two years later, still the dictator-president, General Somoza in his turn was assassinated. He has been succeeded in the presidency by his two sons. Early in 1967, Nicaraguan politics again figured in the news, no doubt bemusing veterans of the Marine campaigns of forty years ago who had believed they were bringing the American brand of democracy to that country. Anastasio Somoza, Jr., the younger son, was elected as expected—but only after a flare-up of street fighting in the capital.
The rebellious spirit of Augusto Sandino was not summoned up in any of the news reports of the last election. But it lives on, not only in the mountains where he fought, but as an exemplar throughout the Southern Hemisphere. He was the first to defy the armed power of the Yankee Colossus, and to show that such defiance could be relatively successful if conducted on sound guerrilla principles. Furthermore, his revolution within a revolution, tiny in geographic scope, demonstrated to all who feel that the United States is too quick to intervene in the affairs of its southern neighbors that the American hegemony is maintained by force. The lessons of his rebellion continue to be studied, if not in the U.S. staff colleges, then in the bush camps of Colombia, Venezuela, and other disaffected areas where guerrillas still fight.