U.S. intervention in Nicaragua has had lasting consequences for Afrodescendants.
Nicaragua and the United States are approaching the 30-year anniversaries of two periods of national reckoning that took place in the waning years of the Contra War. The conflict erupted in 1981 just two years after the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the Somoza regime, a brutal family dictatorship that had ruled Nicaragua for more than forty years. Once in office, Ronald Reagan, a devout anti-communist crusader, authorized the training and funding of counter-revolutionary forces or contras as part of a campaign to destabilize the Sandinista state. Armed resistance spread to the Atlantic coast region where dissatisfaction with the revolution grew in indigenous and Afrodescendant communities with the imposition of a new ruling order from Managua. By the end of the 1980s, the United States would extend over $400 million USD in aid to the contras, while the war and destabilization campaign would result in more than 30,000 deaths and billions of dollars in losses for Nicaragua.
What has U.S. militarization meant for the people who live in militarized places around the world?
The Contra War continued until 1990 when the Nicaraguan people removed the Sandinistas from power by popular vote. But indigenous and Afrodescendant resistance began to subside in the mid-1980s as the Sandinista state sought to reconcile the revolutionary project with these communities by recognizing their rights to land and regional autonomy. In November 1986, the state enshrined these rights in law with the adoption of a new constitution followed by the passage of an autonomy statute for the Atlantic coast region in 1987. The reforms established the framework for some of the most expansive multicultural citizenship rights in Latin America. It still took more than two decades for the Nicaraguan state to title indigenous and Afrodescendant territories. And even with formal recognition, conditions remain precarious in these territories where deforestation, land dispossession, capitalist intensification, and drug war militarization threaten community life.