History: The Occupation of Nicaragua

During a period of conflict between the United States and several Central American countries that came to be known as the Banana Wars, the US invaded and occupied Nicaragua in 1912 – although a number of other operations were carried out prior to this. The start of the Great Depression and the activities of the guerilla army led by Augusto Cesar Sandino were contributing factors to the withdrawal of US troops from Nicaragua in 1933.

Military presence in Nicaragua was almost non-existent, but President Jose Santos Zelaya was staring down a rebellion led by Juan Jose Estrada. After two American mercenaries were executed by the men of Zelaya, the United States began to get involved. With the US navy patrolling the Bluefields coastline, they were basically supporting Estrada’s uprising. By 1909, approximately two hundred and fifty marines arrived on the Nicaraguan coast under the command of Corps Major Smedley Butler.

Zeleya eventually fled Nicaragua due to political pressures and Jose Madriz became his successor. But with more rebel forces on the horizon, Madriz resigned, with new president, Juan Estrada coming into power in 1910. Financial relationships between Nicaragua and the United States began to grow, and even during Adolfo Diaz’s term as president, these relationships developed. Unfortunately, these relations began to strain Diaz’s local support, and he asked for support from the United States. As the Granada to Corinto railway was of interest of the United States, hundreds of Marines descended on Nicaragua.

Great military battles ensued against opposing rebel groups and together with the Nicaraguan Army they were able to hold off the rebel forces. With Diaz therefore remaining in power as president of Nicaragua, the United States began to withdraw their forces but some forces remained to enforce peace in the country for fifteen years, but in doing so they were also able to protect their economic and political influence in the country.

Augusto Cesar Sandino built up a rebellion army to challenge the Diaz government, and in the 1932 election, Juan Bautista Sacasa won presidency. Sandino promised to enter into peace discussions with Sacasa if the United States troops withdrew from Nicaragua, which he did after the last troops left in January 1933.