The Contra War and the Iran-Contra affair that shook the Reagan presidency were center stage on the U.S. political scene for nearly a decade. According to most observers, the main Contra army, or the Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense (FDN), was a mercenary force hired by the CIA to oppose the Sandinista socialist revolution.
The Real Contra War demonstrates that in reality the vast majority of the FDN’s combatants were peasants who had the full support of a mass popular movement consisting of the tough, independent inhabitants of Nicaragua’s central highlands. The movement was merely the most recent instance of this peasantry’s one-thousand-year history of resistance to those they saw as would-be conquerors.
The real Contra War struck root in 1979, even before the Sandinistas took power and, during the next two years, grew swiftly as a reaction both to revolutionary expropriations of small farms and to the physical abuse of all who resisted. Only in 1982 did an offer of American arms persuade these highlanders to forge an alliance with former Guardia anti-Sandinista exiles--those the outside world called Contras.
Relying on original documents, interviews with veterans, and other primary sources, Brown contradicts conventional wisdom about the Contras, debunking most of what has been written about the movement’s leaders, origins, aims, and foreign support.
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Timothy C. Brown is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. From 1987 to 1990, he was senior liaison to the Contras in Central America for the U.S. State Department.From Publishers Weekly:
In 1979, the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua was overthrown and replaced by the radical regime of the Sandinistas. Almost immediately the Sandinistas themselves faced armed rebellion from a group that became known as the Contras. Supporters as well as detractors assumed the Contras to be merely a U.S.-funded mercenary force of former soldiers of the Somoza era. Brown, senior liaison to the Contras for the State Department from 1987 to 1990 and now a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, contends the Contra uprising was primarily a peasant rebellion among the long-neglected and discriminated-against indigenous people of Nicaragua's Segovian highlands, or as one of Brown's interviewees put it, "a whole bunch of really pissed off peasants." Traditionally rebellious, alarmed by Sandinista plans to collectivize their private farms and distrustful of the ethnically different lowlanders sent to implement this plan often quite brutally the peasantry took up arms. While eventually this peasant force did align itself with former Somoza soldiers, as these were the groups receiving U.S. arms and funding, their success lay not in U.S. largesse but in their deep roots among the highland peasantry. Today, while the Sandinistas are gone from power, defeated in elections in 1990, the highland rebels have become a peaceful but influential political force. Brown makes an interesting case, but also neglects certain issues. For instance, while he writes in detail on Sandinista human rights abuses against the highlanders, he has nothing to say on Contra abuses except that they did occur. Without such discussion, this remains a partial, though important, account of the complex phenomenon of the Contras. B&w illus. (Mar.) Forecast: The Contras were a hot topic in the 1980s (thanks to the Iran-Contra affair during Reagan's presidency), but interest now will be primarily among specialists in Central American history and politics, and perhaps among former activists who either supported or opposed the Contras efforts.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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