AND THE NATIONAL GUARD
p Henrique Mora, the TASS correspondent in Costa Rica, and I were making for La Cruz, on the very border with Nicaragua, to cover a ceremony, about which further.
p As a row of cottages sprung into view on the horizon, the shadow of an airplane flitted by overhead. "Henrique, probably a big shot from San Jose,” I ventured. "No, that rather be Somoza,” he unsmilingly remarked. "Of course,” I said, thinking he was joking, "He’s come to Costa Rica for a cup of coffee, and will at once go back to his Managua bunker.”
p Henrique shook his head "I’m not joking,” he said. "It’s a Nicaraguan airplane. Here is one of the three estates the Somoza family owns in Costa Rica They are the 14,000– hectare Murcielago hacienda, the Santa Rosa estate, and the Las Tablillas ranch, half of the latter in Costa Rica, and the other half in Nicaragua. Which means that if Somoza wants to take a stroll on his land, he can cross from country into country without any bother or formality. He never walks though; each estate has its own Airfield, and Somoza flies in and out of Costa Rica at Ins discretion, as our authorities are in no position to supervise these flights You sop how convenient it is for him The Sorno/a family smuggle acioss plentiful contraband, machinery, and equipment, even bring in farm labourers, who work in Costa Rica in violation of all local laws. Besides, until recently, without the permission of Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly, members of the Somoza family visited 29 the Costa Rican c ity of Liberia, flying across the border on Nicaraguan Air Force planes. That’s how the cookie crumbles, and you fancy he’s come in for a cup of coffee. If he wants to, he can fly in without any of your fancies, as this is sheer reality, borne 14 years back our Legislative Assembly decided to exproprrate part of the Santa Rosa hacienda, but as you know, it’s easy enough to take a decision, and at times far hardei to carry it out.”
p So did I see foi myself one of the Somoza family’s countless possessions.
p When Anastasio Somoza the First, patriarch of the dictatorial dynasty, seized power, all he owned was a small coffee plantation inherited from his father, or rather, even only half of it. But by 1950 he was worth already $60,000,000 and that is the far from complete tally.
p This murderer of Gen. Sandino and founder of a criminal dynasty was exterminated by the Nicaraguan patriot Rigoberto Perez Lopez in September 1956. After his death, his son Luis took over, but from 1 May 1967 his younger son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, has been President. For thirteen years he has usurped the office of Nicaragua’s Chief of State, in fact, occupied the country.
p To provide a notion of the loot plundered over the years by the Somoza clan, let me take you on an armchair excursion around Nicaragua.
p To fly into Nicaragua we shall go to the capital of Costa Rica and board a plane of the Nicaraguan Somoza-owned Lanica Airlines. After touching down in Managua, we shall need no doubt to exchange currency at the local branch of the National Bank, which is, in effect, a Somoza-owned insurance firm. Driving into Managua, we pass several cattle ranches and coffee plantations. The Somoza family own some 50 plantations, more than 50 ranches, numerous sugar cane plantations and refineries, and tobacco and cotton plantations. Some sources say the family owns 20 percent of the entire cultivated crop area, others put it higher, at 30 percent.
p Making for downtown Managua, one will yet, on its approaches, note a steep hill overlooking the surrounding streets. Don’t dare draw near, let alone climb it. For this is Tiscapa 30 Hill, the command height of the Somoza dynasty. One simply won’t be let in, as there are guard towers all around, and national guardsmen at every step. On the top lie the sprawling, sumptuous residences of the Somoza family. The one fronting West was formerly home of Anastasio’s brother, but now living there is the dictator’s son Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero. In the second, a real fort, is the dictator himself, whose den is contained in a special underground bunker. On the southern face a steep bluff descends to the Tiscapa Valley inside the crater of a volcano.
p On the northern side the descent is not as steep, and an excellently paved road runs up the slope. However, about halfway it is blocked by a tall wall of masonry, topped by machine-gun nests manned by National Guardsmen round the clock.
p The other two buildings are an army casino serving as a club for ranking National Guard officers and US instructors and a structure known as the Tribuna Monumental, from which the dictator reviews National Guard march pasts and military parades on the broad square below. The entire territory and every building at the foot and on top of the hill are under special security guards.
p Back to our excursion. One arrives at the Hotel Intercontinental and books a room. The hotel is owned by Somoza. Then one decides to do some shopping at the Sovine, one of the city’s largest stores. It is also owned by Somoza. On the fringe one spots the buildings of the Somoza-owned El Porvenir Textile Mills. Walking through the streets, one glimpses "To let" notices in house window’s and learns that Anastasio Somoza is landlord of nearly 500 buildings. Feeling hungry, one steps into a restaurant, and asks for a beer and a chop, or some fried fish. Somoza owns the brewery, and controls food sales, including meat and fish. Returning to one’s hotel, one switches on a lamp and TV-set. The electricity comes from the Somoza-owned Empresa Nacional de Luz y Fuerza Power Station. Tired of watching a television programme expelling Dictator Somoza (the television and radio stations are also owned by Somoza), one goes out down into the lounge to buy a copy of the newspaper Novedades, to find out what’s on in 31 the country. The newspaper is also owned by the Somoza family.
p Listed is only a small portion of the Somoza clan’s wealth. This is not restricted to plunder only at home. It has invested its filthy lucre in diverse enterprises outside the country as well. Its finances are run by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration. It owns television and radio assembly plants, garment factories, and hotels in various Latin American countries. In Costa Rica alone it owned as of April 1965 real estate to the tune of 100 million colons.
p On 20 May 1977 the Cuban periodical Bohemia observed, "The Somoza family is part of the Sucesion Somoza group, Latin America’s most powerful economic cartel. One shareholder was the well-known North American millionaire Howard Hughes. Relying on connections with Hughes, the cartel planned to engage in oil processing, aviation, tourism, and hotel and casino operations.” Howard Hughes was a close friend of Anastasio Somoza, and after the former’s death in April 1976, the latter acquired part of his cartel shares.
p How the Somoza clan plunders Nicaragua is well illustrated by the following worldwide report.
p On 23 December 1972 a disastrous earthquake struck at Nicaragua, destroying more than 60,000 homes and causing more than 10,000 deaths. Anastasio Somoza had himself appointed head of the Emergency National Committee and Managua Relief Committee. Concentrated in the hands of the first body was full civilian and military authority. Enacted was a law creating the post of a Minister for National Reconstruction, to which Anastasio Somoza had himself appointed. This body received all relief for earthquake victims furnished by various international organisations, and estimated at about $190,000,000. In a manifesto issued in April 1973, Nicaragua’s opposition Social Democratic Party declared that Somoza controlled all resources collected at home and from abroad.
p Recalling the earthquake in an article published on 15 September 1978 under the heading of "The Somoza and Sons Gang”, the Italian magazine L’Europeo noted: "The earthquake only enriched the Somoza family still more. It 32 pocketed all the money coming in from different countries, investing it in its own building firms.”
p The Somoza clan makes up quite a crowd. Its eight chief members include besides Anastasio Somoza Debayle himself, his uncle Luis Manuel Debayle, his half-brother Jose Somoza Rodriguez, his cousin Luis Pallais Debayle, his son Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero, his two nephews Jose Somoza Abrego and Jose Debayle Bonilla, and his brother-m-law Guillermo Sevilla Sacasa. The uncle edits the newspaper Novedades, the half-brother commands an armoured battalion in the National Guard, the cousin and half-brother’s son are in the Chamber of Deputies, and on it goes.
p In its New Year issue for 1979, the American magazine Newsweek noted: "The US Marine Corps put the Somoza family in power 42 years ago, and the current dictator has profited handsomely from that act; he has accumulated a personal fortune estimated at $500 millions.” If anyone, certainly Newsweek knows what it is talking about. Indeed, the Somoza clan owns half the shares in the many US enterprises in Nicaragua.
p Somoza not only has a most intimate link with the Pentagon and a legion of US firms, but also has his own agents in the US Congress. Most active among these are Representatives Charles Wilson and John Michael Murphy. According to General Bermudos, Somoza’s press officer, when the dictator was at West Point, his room-mate was none other than John Michael Murphy, the selfsame Murphy whom the US judiciary investigated in 1979 in connection with bribes received from the Iranian Shah’s now deposed regime.
p In an article on the Somoza regime, the Washington Post noted on 17 October 1978, that Murphy, who has visited Nicaragua at least a hundred times and has always stayed with Somoza, so adroitly manipulated the June 1977 House debate that Nicaragua continued to receive American military aid. Further the newspaper noted that recent Congressional attempts to suspend US military aid to Nicaragua in view of reported violations of human rights there, had been unproductive, firstly, because of the Administration’s resistance, and secondly, because of Somoza’s close personal contacts with 33 certain US officials, who always saved him whenever the USA was particularly disgruntled with his rule.
p According to the New York Times, Edward Koch, a staunch opponent of Somoza’s, had communicated that James Theberge, the former US Ambassador to Nicaragua, seeing him shortly before the House was to decide on military aid to Nicaragua, had assured Koch, that there were no systematic violations of human rights, in Nicaragua. Incidentally, the New York Times added, Theberge’s predecessor had been none other than Col. Blair Shelton, whose friendship with Somoza is reflected on a Nicaraguan treasury denomination.
p We might note in passing that the current dictator’s greatgrandfather once removed—his name was also Anastasio, or Anastasio Bernabe Somo/a in full—was an oidinary killer and thief. In 1849, after many crimes, he was finally apprehended and executed and his dead body was hung from a lamp post. In comparison with Anastasio Somoza, the present thug and thief, his crimes were mere child’s play.
p Anastasio Somoza’s “efforts” to fortify Western-style " democracy" have been acknowledged by many ranking personalities of the "free world”. The list of foreign decorations awarded the dictator fills much space in the American Who’s Who. Among them are the Grand Chain of the Order of Propicias Nubes from Taiwan, the Inter-American Defence Medal from Brazil, the Order of Merit from Haitian dictator Duvalier, and the Federal Cross of Merit from West Germany.
p . . .We were in La Cruz to attend the funeral of 14-year -old Yolanda Guido Obando, whom Somoza’s national guardsmen had shot dead in the Costa Rican border area. The President with his entire cabinet led a procession stretching several blocks and mourning the victim of the latest provocation of the Nicaraguan dictator’s henchmen.
p Indeed, in recent months La Cruz has become a real frontline town, where thousands of Nicaraguans, fleeing from atrocity and harassment, have found a haven. Shortly before our arrival, four Nicaraguan air force planes strafed a neighbourhood near the Santa Cecilia ranch, three kilometres from La 34 Cruz. In this half-hour incursion of Costa Rican airspace, the aircraft machine-gunned peasants working in the fields.
p Several days earlier Costa Rican President Rodrigo Carazo granted political asylum to two defecting Nicaraguan national guardsmen, 24-year-old Placido Vallejo Rodriguez and 23– yearold Edmundo Rosa Vega Loaciga. The first had served with the National Guard a year after call-up, the second had been at an infantry school for seven months. When asking for political asylum in Costa Rica, they said conscience could no longer tolerate service in the National Guard.
p What is this soldiery, whom all Nicaraguans so strongly detest and hate? The National Guard, the USA’s brainchild and backbone of the Somoza dictatorship, is synonymous with pillage, rapine, and club law. When creating it in the 1920s, the USA sought to have a docile instrument with which to implement its policies vis-a-vis the Central American states. Then it was officered by Americans and was not subordinate to Nicaragua’s President.
p On 15 November 1932, the US General Calvin B. Matthews, up till then commanding officer of the National Guard, handed over his powers to Anastasio Somoza the First. In March 1939 Somoza had himself re-elected President. Shortly afterwards he was summoned to Washington to receive fresh instructions. Back home, he announced that a military academy would be founded in Managua to train an officer corps for the National Guard, and that an American would head it. Incidentally, during the American occupation of Nicaragua, Managua has a military academy under a US Army captain by the name of Trumble.
p On 8 April 1942, Somoza signed an agreement with the USA entitling it to build a military base in Corinto and extending additional rights to the exploitation of Nicaragua’s matural resources.
p On 18 November 1953 the US Ambassador Wheelan and the Nicaraguan Foreign Minister signed an agreement under which a US military mission was to arrive to train the National Guard.
p In February 1954 another 54 US officers and some 700 servicemen arrived in Nicaragua for this purpose. The related 35 agreement said that the US army would cooperate with the Nicaraguan Ministry of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and with the officer corps of the Nicaraguan National Guard to raise the National Guard’s combat preparedness, organisation, and administration.
p On 19 April of the same year, negotiations were initiated in Managua to conclude a new military-aid agreement, which was signed six days later, on 25 April.
p When the USA began in 1961 to plan an armed intervention of Cuba, Nicaragua served as a mercenary training centre. Between 17 March and 20 March 1961, three US steamers put in at the port of Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua to unload equipment for a secret US Air Force base in that country. Shortly afterwards, heavily loaded four-engined aircraft bearing no identification marks, but belonging to the US government, touched down at the base. The invasion of Cuba started on 17 April.
p After a briefing by Pesident Johnson in Washington on 6 April, three weeks later, on 1 May 1967, Anastasio Somoza, the commanding officer of the National Guard, was installed as President.
p Several months afterwards, at a special press conference in Managua he announced plans to dispatch Nicaraguan troops to Vietnam. "We will be pigs if we don’t thank the USA for the more than $20,000,000 we have received,” he said.
p On 22 September 1978, under the heading "Nicaraguan Developments Expose Carter Hypocrisy,” the French weekly Temoignage Chretien quoted from the US Army Record showing that between 1970 and 1976 4,252 Nicaraguan servicemen had been trained in the USA at the Inter-American Military Academy at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone, in the psychological and special warfare academy at Fort Bragg, and at the Inter-American Defence College in Washington.
p In that same year, the London Evening Standard commented that the USA really controlled the Nicaraguan National Guard, which on pretext of fighting communism was perpetrating untold crimes inside the country. The paper said that 36 the National Guard was completely under the thumb of the US military mission and embassy.
p When Somoza Junior, Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero, was at the American school for psychological and special warfare at Fort Bragg in 1977, he chummed up there with Mike Echannis and Charles (“Chuck”) Sanders, both Vietnam veterans and experts in "anti-guerilla warfare”. He hiied both cutthroats, importing them in July that year as special instructors of anti-guerilla commandos. Enrique Mora Valverde describes their operations under the heading "A School of Killers,” in the newspaper Libertad on 26 January 1979.
p “Echannis was, in practice, chief of the Nicaraguan Infantry School training the National Guard elite which Nicaraguans have nicknamed the ’School of Killers’. He was also head instructor of dictator Anastasio Somoza’s bodyguard and his special guard. His second-in-command, ’Chuck’, was in charge of two concentration camps, in Waslala and in Rio Blanco, where he directed operations by mercenaries of Vietnamese origin, former soldiers under the Thieu regime, which the people of Vietnam had overthrown.
p “The dictator’s son asked Echannis to compile a special curriculum to incorporate mastery of sophisticated weaponry, war games, and a study of the so-called catechism which Echannis had compiled. Classes in this manual were conducted as follows:
p “An officer would stand in front of a line of cadets and put them questions, which they were to answer in chorus.
p “ ’What must the soldier do?’ the question would come.
p “ ’Kill, kill, and again, kill,’ the cadets would chorus the reply.
p “’Who are you?’
p “ ’Soldiers.’
p “ ’Who are you really?’
p “ ’Tigers.’
p “ ’What do tigers feed on?’
p “ ’Red blood.’
p “ ’Whose blood?’
p “ ’The blood of the people.’ "
p In 1977 alone, 6,000 M-76 rifles were shipped from the 37 USA to Nicaragua for the dictatorship’s repressive machinery. In the six years ending 1977, American weapons deliveries to Somoza put US taxpayers out to a total $ 32,000,000.
p Earlier, I mentioned Somoza’s agents in the US Congress. As for the favour in which he is viewed by top US statesmen, this is well illustrated by the personal message which US President Carter sent Somoza in 1978.
p The contents of the letter, transmitted in mid-July, became known to the US public several days afterwards. On 1 August 1978, the Washington Post reported that in a personal message to Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza, President Carter had congratulated him "for promises to improve the human rights situation" in that country. The paper added that this "could have repercussions in Congress when the House votes on the Administration’s approximately $8 billion fiscal 1979 foreign-aid package”, which includes a $ 150,000 military-training grant for the Nicaraguan National Guard. Incidentally, the said grant was approved.
As one will see, for more than 40 years now, since the installation of killer Anastasio Somoza the First as President, the USA has propped this dictatorship and subsidised and trained the punitive, repressive National Guard.
|<<||CHAPTER TWO -- SANDINO VS. US INTERVENTION||CHAPTER FOUR -- SANDINISTA REVIVAL||>>|
|<<<||MEMO TO THE READER||Sandinista Camp Glimpses||>>>|