|Name||Anastasio Somoza Debayle|
, , Nicaragua
|| December 05, 1925
|| September 17, 1980
Aug 16, 2012 02:49am
|Info||Anastasio Somoza Debayle (December 5, 1925 – September 17, 1980) was officially the forty-fourth and forty-fifth President of Nicaragua from May 1, 1967 to May 1, 1972 and from December 1, 1972 to July 17, 1979. However, as head of the National Guard, he was effectively dictator 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. |
He was the second son of Anastasio Somoza García, who became President of Nicaragua in 1937. The younger Somoza, nicknamed "Tachito" (his father's nickname was "Tacho") was initially educated in St. Leo College Prep (FL) and La Salle Military Academy (Long Island) before graduating from the United States Military Academy on June 6, 1946. The following year, he was appointed head 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 December 10, 1950, he married Hope Portocarrero, with whom he had five children: Anastasio, Julio, Carolina, Carla, and Roberto.
Following his father's assassination on September 21, 1956, Somoza's elder brother, Luis Somoza Debayle, took over the presidency. 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's rule soon resembled that of his father in all significant aspects.
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 reelection 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, signed 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 December 23, 1972, an earthquake hit the nation's capital Managua, killing around ten thousand people, and virtually destroying the city. Martial law was declared, making Somoza ruler of the country once again in name as well as in fact. He took over as head of a National Emergency Committee.
Somoza was reelected president in the 1974 election, partially due to him declaring nine opposition parties illegal. By this time the Catholic church had begun to speak against the 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, some human rights groups were condemning the record of the Somoza government, while support for the Sandinistas was growing in the country.
The Sandinista Front, named after Augusto Cesar Sandino, began its bloody guerrilla war against the Somozas in 1963. Support for the Sandinistas ballooned after the earthquake, especially when Jimmy Carter withdrew American support for the regime. This proved critical, since the Somozas had been able to hold onto power largely because the United States saw it as a bulwark against Communism. In 1979, Somoza resigned the presidency and fled to Miami; his regime only survived him by a day until the Sandinistas took full control. Anastasio Somoza Debayle was assassinated in Asunción, Paraguay, at the age of 54, by a commando team led by the Argentinian Enrique Gorriaran Merlo the ex-ERP (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo) member. This episode is described by Gorriaran Merlo himself in his book "Memorias" (Memories) ISBN 950-49-1063-7. A few months before Somoza death, his memoirs, Nicaragua Betrayed was published, in which he blamed the Carter Administration for his demise. His son, Anastasio Somoza Portocarrero, went into exile in Guatemala.