The Nicaraguan Revolution encompassed:
- The rising opposition to the Somoza dictatorship in the 1960s and 1970s
- The campaign led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to violently oust the dictatorship in 1978–79
- The subsequent efforts of the FSLN to govern Nicaragua from 1979 until 1990
- The Contra War waged between the FSLN and the Contras from 1981-1990
The Revolution marked a significant period in Nicaraguan history, and revealed the country as one of the major proxy war battlegrounds of the Cold War.
The Sandinista National Liberation Front (Spanish: Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN) is a democratic socialist political party in Nicaragua. Its members are called Sandinistas. In 1979, the FSLN overthrew the US-backed Somoza dynasty, and established a revolutionary government. A militia, known as the Contras, funded and trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency, was soon formed to resist them. During the 1980s, both the Sandinistas and the Contras received large amounts of aid from the Cold War super-powers (respectively, the Soviet Union and the United States).
Although the Carter Administration had attempted to work with FSLN, the Reagan Administration supported a strong anti-communist strategy for dealing with Latin America, and sought to isolate the Sandinista regime. Upon taking office, Ronald Reagan cancelled the dispersal of economic aid to Nicaragua, and in August 1981 authorized the production and shipment of arms to the region. In November, President Reagan authorized covert support to anti-Sandinista forces.
Armed conflict soon arose. The Contras, heavily backed by the CIA, secretly opened a "second front" on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast and Costa Rican border. By 1983 the Contras had launched a major offensive, and the CIA was helping them plant mines in Nicaragua's harbors to prevent foreign weapons shipments from arriving.
The Contra War of the 1980s took the lives of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and was the subject of fierce international debate. The Contra War ultimately ended following the signing of the Tela Accord in 1989, and the demobilization of the FSLN and Contra armies.