Acting Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, praises the attempts of the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, to establish discussions with the United States of America, and particularly their Secretary of State, George Schultz, with a view to easing tensions in the relationship between their two countries. Gorbachev makes clear that Soviet troops will remain in Nicaragua until the United States withdraws its forces from the island of Grenada, taken during an invasion between October and December, 1983. To assist Nicaragua, Gorbachev orders the ratification of long-delayed but uncontroversial trade treaties with Brazil and Ecuador, in return for an increase in trade between those two countries and Nicaragua.
The Nicaraguan government initiates a resettlement program for the five northern provinces where the contras are believed to be the strongest, thereby preventing the rebels from hiding out with sympathisers in local villages. Agriculture Minister Jaime Wheelock Roman predicts that, in addition to improving performance against the rebels, the reorganisation will double the national agricultural output by organising subsistence farmers into cooperative enterprises, both publicly and privately owned.
US President Ronald Reagan calls upon Congress to review its decision not to provide further funding to rebels in Nicaragua. The Congress is resistant, and begins to formulate a negative response to the White House demands for further interference in Central America.
The US Congress refuses any further funding to the rebellion against the Nicaraguan government, arguing that the terms defined by President Reagan for the release of funds are “incoherent” and are simply an attempt to bypass Congressional concerns without dealing with them adequately. Representative Stephen Solarz (D-NY) calls for Congress to redirect the funding to Kampuchean rebels in Thailand, who are fighting the Vietnamese occupation of that country.
Despite the decision by Nicaragua to end its aid to FMLN guerrillas in El Salvador, an action encouraged by the Soviets to avoid US retaliation, US President Ronald Reagan imposes sanctions on Nicaragua following a massacre of contra rebel forces. The Soviet Union responds by announcing an increased package of trade and aid, as well as assuming part of Nicaragua’s sovereign debt. Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev calls the sanctions a violation of the terms of previous peace initiatives and states that the White House is being “deliberately provocative”.
Nicaragua announces the suspension of the highly unpopular military draft, only five days after the imposition of US sanctions on the country. Western Europe and Canada are both invited to benefit from the absence of American business in the market after Nicaraguan officials establish that the cost to the nation after one year of sanctions will be $8.8 billion.
Given recent intelligence setbacks, President Reagan once again asks the Congress to reconsider its position on aid to Nicaraguan rebels. The Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, states that this is the first step towards the use of the US military forces in Nicaragua and that he is unwilling to take that step. On the same day, the Nicaraguan government issues a report on a potential US invasion. It states that it would take the Americans three weeks to establish military control over the major cities at a cost of three thousand troops, but expresses the belief that the government would continue to control the countryside and could mount a successful counterinsurgency.
The United States announces its intention to withdraw its troops from Grenada after nearly two years of occupation; they will all be removed by 30 September. In response, the Soviets announce they that will withdraw all advisors and logistical staff from Nicaragua by the end of the first quarter of 1986, disrupting the upcoming vote in the US House of Representatives which has been designed to give aid to the Nicaraguan rebels.
Edgar Chamorro, the former leader and public spokesman for the rebels of Nicaragua, is threatened with deportation from the United States after he writes an op-ed piece for the New York Times. In it, he criticises the Reagan Administration’s policy and questions congressional failures to increase humanitarian aid to his home country.
A group of forty-five American citizens, acting under the banner of an activist group, “Banner For Peace”, are kidnapped by the Nicaraguan contras and spend a day and a half in captivity. Nicaraguan Interior Minister Tomas Borge Martinez states that the contras must be obtaining finances to allow their continued operation and alleges that the United States government must be funding the organisation without Congressional approval. He said that, despite the fact that two hundred rebels had been killed in the last month, it is clear that they are receiving intelligence and financial support from “an outside party”.
The Mexicans agree to act as the convoy for a message of rapprochement between Managua and Washington. The Nicaraguan government claims to have intelligence of use to the Reagan Administration.
Following the murder of Soviet consul Arkadi Katakov in Beirut, Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that he holds Israel responsible, claiming that the recent attack on PLO headquarters has promoted instability in Lebanon. At the same press conference, Gorbachev reveals recent discussions with Nicaraguan Defence Minister Ortega have indicated that the war in Nicaragua will be over within the next six months and has estimated that at least two-thirds of the rebels have been captured or killed.
Adolfo Calero, head of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, the largest faction of the contras, confirms Nicaraguan military statements that the rebel movement is collapsing. He states that lack of access to aid has meant that increasing numbers are abandoning the war, and that Honduran cooperation in the effort to overthrow the Ortega government has weakened considerably.
In Managua, protestors led by Catholic prelate, Miguel Cardinal Obando y Bravo, demand higher wages. Other political factions, beginning to sense the nearing of a post-war era, are also beginning to become restless. To clamp down on possible resistance to his ongoing rule, President Daniel Ortega announces an end to restrictions on certain liberties and pledges that he will step down in 1989 after ten years as leader of Nicaragua.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency is secretly advised by the government of Nicaragua of their willingness to hand over Carlos Lehder, the Mendellin Cartel drug lord, refusing to state how long he has been in custody. They provide evidence of planned drug operations in Colombia with FARC leader Fabian Ramirez, facilitated by General Manuel Noriega, the de facto head of state in Panama.
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua stages a tour around his country to “meet the people”. His offers of new land to campensinos and arms from Vietnam to fight the contras override more recent concerns that the rebels have surface-to-air missiles.
US President Ronald Reagan meets with congressional leaders to convince them to renew aid to the contras, arguing that they are a humanitarian group being attacked by government helicopters in Nicaragua. He expresses confidence that the general populace is turning against the government and preparing to rise up. Congressman Michael Barnes (D-MD) predicts that any restoration of aid to the Nicaraguan rebels will produce a backlash from Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia.
US President Ronald Reagan touches down in Grenada for a five-hour visit. He is interrupted by a young boy, who asks the President if he could give money to Grenada instead of Nicaragua. While Reagan is harassed in the following day’s cartoons, questions were prompted over why Nicaraguan rebels were receiving three times as much attention as a liberated and allied government. Prime Minister Herbert Blaize offers Reagan exuberant tribute.
Costa Rican President-elect Oscar Arias and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sign a bilateral agreement recognising the establishment of a joint border service to prevent any future random violence from spilling out over the Costa Rican border. The feuding neighbours have resumed diplomatic relations and renewed ambassadors during the last month. Secretary of State George Schultz criticises the move, stating that a multilateral settlement, accompanied by US verification, is the only thing that can end US opposition to the government in Managua.
US President Ronald Reagan makes a last-ditch attempt to save the Nicaraguan contra movement, calling on the Congress to commit $100 million in military and humanitarian assistance. He warns that “Congress has been asleep on the watch” while the Soviets attempted to “cover the map of Central America in a sea of red”. Opposition to his proposal means that “you are lining up on the side of Communism”. His insists the only way for conflict to be avoided would be for Nicaragua to expel Soviet advisors and workers. These tactics will backfire with moderate Democrats needed to pass any such legislation and blame will fall on White House Communications Director, Patrick Buchanan.
US Southern Command’s General John Galvin states to the President that even $100 million will not save the rebels in Nicaragua, arguing that they need tactical, strategic and leadership training. During the past year, seventy percent of the leadership have died and two major camps have been destroyed. Membership has sunk to about 3,600 and Costa Rica is driving contras out of its territory. He suggests that, by the time the contras could rebuild, the war would already be done.
The Sandinista government in Nicaragua declares victory in the civil war after an attack on a key rebel base. President Daniel Ortega formally invites the United States to normalise relations with his country, and argues that his nation is not a threat to the United States.
Congressman Les Aspin (D-WI) visits Nicaragua. His analysis is that, despite the government victory, there is minimal support for the government and the youth of Nicaragua are abandoning it in droves to become refugees in neighbouring countries.
A US poll reports that only 38% of Americans believe their country should be involved in supporting the rebels in Nicaragua, showing a massive drop in previously high numbers. Analysts state that it appears the US electoral focus has now shifted significantly to the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf, and the USSR, rather than Latin America.
US President Ronald Reagan meets with Nicaraguan prelate, Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo. By this time, it is realised it will take a full military commitment by the United States in Central America to upset the status quo. With memory of Vietnam just over a decade old, and the recent situation in Libya, it is after this meeting, according to Chief of Staff Regan, that the President accepted the fate of the contras. The Cardinal is seeking aid to be restored for educational and health projects, arguing that he will take responsibility to ensure distribution and has the government’s agreement on this.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) announces that Nicaraguan businessman Adolfo Calero is prepared to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on involvement by the US government in the trade of “crack” cocaine. This produces a belated admission by the White House that the contras had been involved in the drug trade, but not at any time during the last eighteen months. This is disputed by journalist Robert Parry, who claims to have his own “Deep Throat” working within the CIA.
The International Court of Justice rules that the United States has acted in breach of international law in using force to violate the sovereignty of Nicaragua, and has violated its own obligations under Article XIX of the Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1956. It orders the United States to pay reparations. It also finds that the United States is in breach of the Hague Convention of 1907, breaching basic principles of humanitarian law. US President Ronald Reagan claims that the decision is invalid as he had personally amended the Treaty without reference to Congress.
During a pastoral visit to Colombia, Pope John Paul II meets with Bishop Pablo Antonio Vega, the second ranking Catholic prelate in Nicaragua. He confirms UN reports that, despite the end of the war, the Nicaraguan regime continues to engage in torture, denial of due process and suppression of labour unions. The Soviet government will intervene to force President Daniel Ortega to cease interfering in Church affairs, and to reopen a recently banned daily, La Prensa. It is seen as a vital step to prevent further US interference.
President Daniel Ortega announces the end of the “state of siege” and that “we believe we have repelled the attack by the United States on Nicaragua’s sovereignty”. He confirms the gift of a further $100 million from COMECON to “assist in reconstruction programs”.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega makes a visit to the United Nations, appealing for General Assembly endorsement of the recent World Court decision against the United States of America. He states that he is immediately willing to engage in negotiations with the United States and to make commitments regarding the restoration of democratic rule in three years.
Nicaragua pays Honduras $15 million to assist in the expulsion of the remaining members of the Nicaraguan rebellion from its soil. The Contra rebellion’s collapse opens the door for further peace in Central America, but the Administration is attacked by right-wing Republicans to build up support in their districts prior to the Congressional elections.
Nicaragua announces that it has captured three agents of the Central Intelligence Agency in its country, two of them exiles from Cuba. President Daniel Ortega asks, “Can the foreign policy of the United States retain any claim to credibility as long as this President remains in office?” Minnesota Republican Senator, David Durenberger, states that, “Somebody in that Administration knows something about this, and the sooner they speak up, the better for the country.”
The United Nations Security Council declares that the United States must comply with international law and the ICJ judgement in relation to Nicaragua. The vote is unanimous except for the United States, who uses its veto to crush the motion. Among supporters of the motion are Argentina, Brazil, France, India and Italy, who accuse the United States of indulging in “state terrorism”. The only nation willing to defend Washington is Israel.
US President Ronald Reagan admits that he knew about the CIA operation in Nicaragua, but that it does not violate the terms of Congressional bans. He calls upon Nicaragua to release the Americans currently in custody, but admits that it is likely that Managua will not hold the operatives after the end of the trial. President Daniel Ortega states that it proves that the White House is eager to provoke new conflict in Central America.
The Peoples Tribunal in Managua, Nicaragua, finds three CIA agents guilty of espionage and sentences them to thirty years each imprisonment. Nicaragua’s President, Daniel Ortega, immediately issues a conditional parole, giving them house arrest in apartments in the capital. He states that he is prepared to hand over the agents and will fly them immediately into New York when US President Ronald Reagan is prepared to face an open press conference to discuss “being caught a second time openly defying the instructions of the Congress”.
US President Ronald Reagan makes a virulent speech against “Nicaraguan terrorism” and demands that the president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, should cease holding members of the CIA as “hostages”. He warns that there will be “grave consequences for the region and the world” if the prisoners are not immediately turned over, “without condition”, to the United States. It fails to silence critics at home, who have not heard the President publicly in twenty days. It is later suggested sympathetically that, after campaigning, the 75-year-old President needed to recuperate. It is also leaked that the Nicaragua mission had been planned by Lt Col Oliver North, the recently-dismissed National Security Agency officer, and that he may have had a major role in Irangate. Through all this, Reagan is still refusing to hold a press conference.
The Nicaraguan government announces the suspension of Interior Minister Tomas Borge Martinez, allegedly to undertake an investigation concerning his involvement with the Mendellin drug cartel. One of his assistants is dismissed and charged with having worked with the Colombian drug mafia to establish processing labs in Nicaragua. President Daniel Ortega denies all knowledge of the affair, and suggests that his minister will soon be cleared of impropriety.
Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, announces the extradition of the CIA agents held in his prisons to Honduras. From there, they will be flown back to the United States. The Secretary of State George Schultz is with US President Ronald Reagan when the three men arrive at the airport. Reagan stands away from reporters and make pretence at being unable to hear their questions, shaking his head.
Honduran President Jose Azcona Hoyo orders his air force to find and eliminate all surviving Nicaraguan rebels living in the country. He states that, in the future, his country will treat the contras as a terrorist organisation and will seek to eliminate all known connections with the group. He confirms that two Honduran generals, to remain unnamed, are currently suspended and facing investigation over corruption. It marks the extinction of the contras as a political force.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega gives a Christmas Address, which states that the New Year “will be the first without war for many years” and projects that there will be a winding back of restrictions on civil liberties, with a return to full democracy within three years. The commitment is reported on US news, where Ortega is seen making a convincing interview with CBS about his desire for understanding with the United States and offering Americans “a Merry Christmas season”.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announces a new constitution, to take effect on 19 July, 1989, the tenth anniversary of the fall of Somoza. Ortega pledges that the elections will be “democratic, free and fair” and that he will be seeking a further five year term as President of Nicaragua. Ortega advises that he has approached the Swiss Embassy and has retained the services of former President Jimmy Carter to oversee the timetable for a full return to constitutional government. Erick Ramirez, leader of the Social Christian Party, states that he “will test to see if this is anything more than the latest propaganda tool.”
President George Bush announces that, with the collapse of the Nicaraguan Democratic Front, his Administration will pursue a diplomatic approach with Managua. He states that the Sandinista government must be pressured to call democratic elections and that “we will continue to fight Communism in Central America, but we need to fight with the weapons actually at our disposal.”
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua announces that he has lifted the state of emergency conditions and calls for “political reconciliation and promotion of growth of a mixed economy”. He argues that his government has two new objectives: the restoration of ties with the United States and containing inflation. However, US President George Bush states that relations cannot be restored until the Council of State is reformed to include opposition members and a timetable established for a return to “democratic rule”.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is advised by Soviet Foreign Secretary Edward Shevardnadze that the USSR will be winding back its military and resources aid to his country, now that peace has finally been restored and the US seems unlikely to renew its assault. The Soviet Union will continue to send oil to Nicaragua and supply over half its needs, but instead of being free, they now have to meet 50% of the market price.
Responding to cuts in aid by the USSR, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega meets with former US President Jimmy Carter and outlines a plan to have a new constitution for Nicaragua in place by year’s end. He also declares that laws which have “limited the expression of political views” will be fully lifted immediately. He also pledges that, when sanctions have been lifted, Nicaragua will have the finances to repatriate the refugees who have fled into Costa Rica.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announces the appointment of an independent electoral commission. He states that the commission has been charged with the responsibility to plan for election in July, 1989. He calls for the removal of all US troops from Honduras, but also offers to meet with US President George Bush to conduct bilateral talks.
US President George Bush and House Speaker Tom Foley meet with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in Los Angeles, the first formal diplomatic meeting between the leaders of the two countries in many years. Bush states that Ortega “seems genuinely bent on procuring regional peace”, a fact he attributes to the flat Nicaraguan economy, creating by “disastrous management”. Foley suggests that much credit belongs to envoy and former President Jimmy Carter, and notes the appointment of Cardinal Obando y Bravo, one of Ortega’s harshest critics, to the new electoral commission. Bush, however, states his support of the peace plan is condition on Nicaragua continuing its reform process and Panama ending its ties to drug cartels and Cuba.
The Nicaraguan government confirms the removal of all outstanding prohibitions and restrictions on press freedoms, resulting in triumphant headlines among previously censored newspapers. Leading editor, Violeta Chamorro, is being widely acclaimed as a potential challenger to the Sandinista government at elections scheduled to occur by early 1990.
US Speaker Tom Foley expresses the belief that “there isn’t any disposition in Congress to keep passing massive military budgets at a time when we are moving towards detente”. He points to particular progress in Nicaragua, which today restores diplomatic relations with the United States.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega gives an open press conference to announce peace talks with the Miskito to create two self-governing autonomous communities. However, in response to questioning about further reforms, he makes it clear that the Catholic Church will not be able to resume radio programming. He uses the argument that it is to prevent the Vatican from interfering in Nicaragua’s domestic affairs, but agrees that, from next week, sermons will no longer needed to be submitted to the Interior Ministry for approval.
Miguel Cardinal Obando y Bravo, Nicaragua’s ranking prelate, is named as head of the national Reconciliation Commission after President Daniel Ortega announces a new general amnesty for all parties in the country’s conflict. Obando has convinced the regime to allow for the return of three exiled priests.
The US Central Intelligence Agency leaks that, despite promises to the contrary, the government of Nicaragua has arranged to purchase twelve Mig-21 fighters. Nicaraguan Defence Minister Humberto Ortega Saavedra admits the claim, and that there have been talks with the Soviet Union. No firm agreement has been made. It will emerge many years later that Ortega’s chief aide, Roger Miranda Bengochea, became a CIA asset in mid-1987.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega agrees to an interview with leading US leftist Noam Chomsky on state television. He states there is no agreement for the purchase of Soviet-made jets but that the proposal had been considered and rejected. He said that the government is instead looking at a large reserve army, similar to Switzerland. He is, however, stumped by questions about Jamie Wheelock, the agriculture minister, who has failed to comply with Supreme Court orders, and about failure to deal with opposition demands for constitutional reform.
Nicaragua’s Interior Minister Tomas Borge Martinez announces that the last of all political prisoners in his country have been released. President Jimmy Carter claims that the country needs to continue to move toward democracy and he is working with President Ortega on a timetable to transition government.
Former US President Jimmy Carter announces that the Sandinista government of Nicaragua has agreed to a power-sharing arrangement between itself and non-violent opposition, to endure until the election due in July next year. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro will be the new Minister for Information and Alfonso Robelo will return from exile to become Minister for Industry.
Members of the Nicaraguan government, including the Ortega brothers and Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, attend a ceremony in Monimbo where they dedicate a monument to those who died in the uprising against the Somoza regime.
President Jimmy Carter calls on US President George Bush to lift the economic sanctions on Nicaragua, warning Bush that discontent is rising within the country against the United States, now that citizens perceive that Nicaragua is returning to some type of pluralism and a plan for expansion of democratic powers. Bush agrees. Under the Sandinista rule, despite the largesse of the Soviet Union, Nicaragua’s foreign debt has risen from $1.6 billion to $4.2 billion, real wages have fallen by 45% and inflation has climbed to an estimated 180% for 1987, likely to hit 1000% this year without a resolution of trade.
US Commerce Secretary Barbara Franklin agrees to lift some of the trade restrictions applicable to Nicaragua, allowing it to sell about $60 million worth of coffee and cotton in order to fund vital reconstruction projects. Combined with Soviet aid of $750 million, it is enough for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to be able to outline a plan. Its components include bringing electricity to every part of the country, rebuilding roads and bridges destroyed in the rebellion, and restoring livestock and crops to farms. It also suggests a move away from complete reliance on coffee and cotton, moving to include new crops such as sesame, tobacco and palm oil.
President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, states that, following talks with neighbouring Honduras, he is prepared to begin resettlement of the north and to allow refugees to return to their homes.
The US Congress, on the advice of former President Jimmy Carter, approves a $48 million humanitarian package for Nicaragua, but insist that the money must be expended directly on the ground, rather than flowing through the Sandinista government. Carter will be in charge of the humanitarian effort.
US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady announces that, thanks to reforms in Nicaragua, he is now lifting the trade embargo placed on that nation’s coffee. He also argues that the sanctions were ineffective anyway, as the coffee was still making its way into the US market through third parties and the sanctions were merely ensuring US consumers paid more.
Without the focus of war, the citizens of Nicaragua begin to face the economic mire, with alarming statistics such as an annual inflation rate of 1500%. Former US President, Jimmy Carter, privately advises the Oval Office that he suspects the Sandinista government will fall at the democratic elections being held in fifteen months, but also hints that the contest will be close.
The former leader and the military commander of the contras, Adolfo Calero and Enrique Bermudez, meet with their former arch-enemy, President Daniel Ortega, in Nicaragua’s presidential palace. Former US President Jimmy Carter oversees the meeting. The more cynical suggest that Ortega is inviting the contra representatives in from the cold in order to force a higher level of radicalisation in his opposition and thus improve his chances for re-election.
US President George Bush agrees to release a further $27 million in funding for Nicaraguan reforms, including the renovation of the vast San Antonio sugar plantations, the country’s largest private business. The nation of Nicaragua is now less than a year away from scheduled democratic elections.
Colonel Enrique Bermudez, the former commander of the disbanded National Guard of dictator Anastasio Somoza, is arrested by the Nicaraguan government for conspiracy to overthrow the interim council. President Daniel Ortega states that the nation is “ill served by allowing a hated Somocista to remain free”. Former US President Jimmy Carter expresses concern, while the State Department is convinced that his arrest has indeed prevented a new campaign of terror and decides not to comment.
A leak from the US House Intelligence Committee appears in the New York Times, claiming that the CIA is funding anti-government protests in Nicaragua, apparently without White House knowledge. Their ambition is to make President Daniel Ortega appears sufficiently unpopular that, during any future election, Ortega supporters will believe he is headed for defeat anyway and not participate in voting. House Speaker Tom Foley asks whether the President should have been aware and questions, “Is the President or the CIA Director in charge of this Administration’s policy?”
The Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, meets with President Jimmy Carter, who has recently returned from his brother’s funeral in the United States. Carter raises the concern about homelessness in Managua and beyond, where 140,000 refugees remain from the recent war. The Sandinistas have to go to an election within eight months.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega welcomes the calls for a customs union. He also calls for the Soviets and the Cubans to remove all weaponry and all training personnel from his country. He states the lifting of sanctions has allowed “enterprise to flourish” and “led to greater tolerance of dissent” and that this is not something he is willing to compromise, even if it means damaged relationship with Leningrad. Soviet Defence Minister Kulikov states that he will draw down forces in Nicaragua in conjunction with US withdrawals in Honduras.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who faces democratic elections in July, states that he is not, nor has he ever really been, a Marxist. He states that he sees Sweden and Finland as successful models for his country, “small, with a heavy emphasis on social programs, with roles for the state and the private sector in the economy”. He pledges that he will “never” again nationalise state property or censor anything other than the Catholic press. He tells a cynical American journalist at the press conference that he is “not blowing the smoke up” and ready for “serious diplomacy” with the United States.
After months of negotiation, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announces a series of government layoffs in which twelve thousand people will be made redundant prior to the upcoming elections. This includes a cut of three thousand members of the armed forces and four thousand security police. He states that the aim is to further boost the productive labour force.
With elections due in Nicaragua in three weeks, polling indicates that Violeta Chamorro will win the presidency in the first round. She is currently shown to be nine points ahead of incumbent Daniel Ortega, whose term comes to an end on 4 November.