The former dictator of Nicaragua, President Anastasio Somaza, was assassinated in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion on Wednesday (17 September), fourteen months after a civil war revolution swept him from power in his homeland.
Nicaraguan Education Minister Maria Helena de Porras speaking in Spanish to Somoza, presents cheque, groups sing 'Happy Birthday'
MV Sign "Somoza Enterprises", GV PAN Oil refinery and other industrial buildings
GV, SCU & SV National Guard recruits train on assault course (3 shots)
GV, MV, SV & GV National Guard train with rifles (4 shots)
PAN Wrecked town of Esteli
SV Women looting Esteli shop. GV Old woman moving refrigerator down street
GVs & SV Sandinista guerrillas at road block on road to Leon, search car, load weapons in car (5 shots)
REAR VIEW & SV Somoza in battle dress visiting troops in southern region near Costa Rica border
CU Somoza talking to officers
GVs National Guard fighting in streets of Managua, firing and driving away in vehicle (4 shots)
MV Guerrillas behind barricades in Managua street (3 shots)
GV Gates of Presidential Palace, Managua
CU Somoza speaking in English, GV reporters, CU Somoza speaking
SOMOZA: "Let me say that the Sandinistas are decided to shoot their last guns here, but they're not becoming stronger. If they were becoming stronger, we would have public demonstrations here. If they had the support of the people, I wouldn't here."
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The former dictator of Nicaragua, President Anastasio Somaza, was assassinated in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion on Wednesday (17 September), fourteen months after a civil war revolution swept him from power in his homeland. The 54-year-old President was killed by six gunmen. Police said the ex-President's car was fired upon by a bazooka in a building as he was driving in his limousine. Machinegun fire also came from two cars, riddling Somoza's body with twenty-five machine-gun bullets. A driver and one of his advisers were also killed. The Paraguayan capital was the last refuge for the ex-President, whose family had ruled Nicaragua for more than 40 years until his overthrow in July 1979. This Special Report looks at the background, and the final 12 months, of the Somoza dynasty.
SYNOPSIS: President Somoza continued his lavish life-style seemingly unaware of the noose tightening around him. He'd just beaten off one Sandinista attempt to overthrow him when he celebrated his 53rd birthday on December the fifth, 1978. Friends and supporters collected forty six thousands U.S. dollars for a birthday present. He gave it to dependents of National Guardsmen killed in action.
His family had accumulated an immense fortune in the decades it held Nicaragua in a steely grip. They owned an oil refinery, many factories, an airline, a shipping line, a newspaper radio and television stations. President Somoza had depended for survival on the loyalty of his National Guard. In the final months before his downfall, the President had built it up from seven and a half thousand to twelve thousand men. It was, however, short of weapons and equipment, being hampered by a United States embargo on arms sales to it.
The civil war of 1978 left several towns -- such as esteli -- in ruins. Many of the wretchedly poor people obtained goods in the only way open to them -- looting. The civil war killed an estimated thirty thousand people, and brought devastation to many places.
In May of last year, the Sandinistas began their second offensive, which was to last two months, and flush the man they hated from power. Somoza had portrayed himself on the international scene as a great anti-Communist crusader, but the Sandinistas denied they were Communists.
Somoza saw enemies all around him. He visited his troops in Nicaragua's southern sector, near the border with Costa Rica, which he claimed gave help to the guerrillas. But he'd also implicated the government of Venezuela and Panama. Before he fell, five latin American states had severed diplomatic relations.
Early in June, 1979, the Sandinistas began their final drive to capture the capital to Managua. Bitter fighting followed, as the National Guard fought to dislodge them from their bases in the city's poorest districts, backed by bombardments from Somoza's aircraft. The main victims were civilians. Thousands were killed or wounded during this period, and mor than a hundred thousands made homeless. A new United States Ambassador arrived in Managua, bringing a demand from Washington that President Somoza should resign. Somoza spoke to reporters his stronghold. He had less than a month left, and his confident tone proved to be pathetically wrong.