Augusto César Sandino

Augusto César Sandino
Augusto César Sandino

Augusto César Sandino was the supreme chief of the Defending Army of Nicaraguan National Sovereignty (Ejército Defensor de la Soberanía Nacional de Nicaragua), which waged a rebellion against U.S. military intervention in Nicaragua from May 1927 to January 1933.

To his supporters, Sandino was a patriotic hero and symbol of resistance against U.S. imperialism. To his detractors, he was a bandit engaged in pillage and criminality in the mountainous north-central part of the country bordering Honduras, where his rebellion was based, a region called Las Segovias.

He was assassinated during peace negotiations on the outskirts of the capital city of Managua on February 21, 1934, by the Nicaraguan National Guard (Guardia Nacional), acting under the orders of its chief director, Anastasio Somoza García. Henceforth, Sandino was considered by many a martyr who died defending the cause of Nicaraguan national sovereignty.

In the 1960s a new generation of Nicaraguan revolutionaries, led by Carlos Fonseca Amador, resuscitated the image of Sandino to launch a prolonged struggle against the Somoza dictatorship under a politico-military organization called the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional).

This second generation of Sandinistas ousted the Somoza dictatorship on July 19, 1979, initiating the period of the Sandinista Revolution (1979–90). The Sandinista party continued to play a leading role in the nation's political life after 1990, as seen in the election of Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega to the Nicaraguan presidency in 2006.

Born in Niquinohomo, Masaya Department, on May 18, 1895, the illegitimate offspring of Gregorio Sandino, a moderately well-to-do landowner, and his Indian servant Margarita Calderón, Augusto Calderón was, by his own account, excluded from the family patrimony until age nine, when he confronted his father with the injustice of his exclusion.

Henceforth, he became Augusto Calderón Sandino, was brought into his father's household on an equal footing with his half-brother Sócrates Sandino, attended school, and became administrator of his father's property and a grain trader. In 1920 he shot and wounded a man in a personal dispute, compelling him to flee the country—first to Honduras and Guatemala and then to the oil fields of Tampico, Mexico, where he worked as a mechanic from 1923 to 1926.

In the ferment of postrevolutionary Mexico, Sandino imbibed revolutionary ideologies that shaped his stance toward U.S. imperialism and his belief in the need to defend Nicaragua's sovereignty by force of arms.

In mid-1926, on learning of the outbreak of civil war in Nicaragua, he returned to his homeland and journeyed north to the U.S.-owned San Albino gold mine, where he worked as a pay clerk. Organizing the workers in the mine, he formed a small revolutionary army that from November 1926 fought against the troops of the ruling Conservative government of Adolfo Díaz, one among many such liberal bands.

His military successes led him to become one of the top liberal generals. With the U.S.-brokered Espino Negro Accord (or Treaty of Tipitapa) of May 4, 1927, Sandino became the only liberal general who refused to disarm. Instead, he launched his rebellion against the U.S. Marines and National Guard, which remained confined principally to the region of Las Segovias.

A provisional peace accord between Sandino's Defending Army and the Nicaraguan government was negotiated in February 1933, a year before Sandino's assassination. Most scholars agree that Sandino was motivated by patriotism and a complex revolutionary ideology. His rebellion and political thought have spawned a voluminous literature.