Helion's Nicaragua 1961-1990 Volume 2: Contra War

Author/Artists: David Francois


Helion  Publishing


$29.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 72 pages, softcover, over 100 images
ISBN 978-1-911628-68-2

If you recall from a while back, I reviewed the first volume on the conflict in Nicaragua which dealt with the ouster of the US backed dictatorship of Somoza and the replacement of his government with the Sandinistas, who were more aligned with the ideals of Cuba and the Soviet Union.

As it often the case with regime change, the populace was happy about the situation as the Somoza government had been quite corrupt and the state police, the Guardia Nationale were brutal in their suppression of anything that the Somoza government did not like. However, the new Sandinista governemtn was not able to make the worker's paradise that was initially hoped. Their break-up of the large plantations wasn't very popular with the owners and general treatment of the bourgeoisie did not go over well at all.

In Nicaragua,  most of the major cities are on the Pacific coast side of the country. The Atlantic/Caribbean side was fairly poor and home of most of the indigenous population. It was also fairly autonomous and rarely bothered by the previous government. However, the Sandinistas wanted to integrate this area into the rest of the nation, a move that found little favor with the locals.

So when you add in the displaced wealthy and middle class along with unhappy peoples from the poorer side of the nation, you get what eventually became to be known as the contra-revolutionaries, or the Contras. These were an amalgamation of various groups, quite similar to the original revolutionaries of the 1950s, but not as well organized or as well funded.

Indeed, during the years up to the end of the Contra war, their main funding came from the US. However, it was sporadic in nature and was never really sufficient to allow the sort of efforts that were needed. It was helpful that both Honduras and Costa Rica were sympathetic to these groups and allowed them bases in their countries from which to operate, but in the end, even that was taken away when the political climate changed.

Considered one of the three 'hot' wars of the Cold War, the conflict in Nicaragua was, as is often the case, quite a complex weaving of situations and actors, with their fortunes rising and falling based as much on external forces as anything else. In the end, the Sandinistas had the men, equipment and training to eventually win out. However, the cost, in both money and politics were enough to nearly bankrupt the nation and even today, Nicaragua has not been able to fully recover and is one of the poorest nations in Central America.

As is often the case in this series, the author has done a magnificent job straightening everything out for the reader so that we can follow not only the twists and turns on the ground, but also in the political arena. This latter area is just as important to the story as anything else, and often the most difficult to understand. When you add in the great period photos, excellent charts and maps along with a nice selection of color work on men and equipment, you have a book that makes for a great read.

This one is very much recommended to those who have an interest in this sort of conflict or this part of the world. Pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

March 2020

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Review book courtesy of  Casemate Publishing, where you can order your copy at this link.

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