The Role of The Monroe Doctrine in The Causing of The Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua

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2342 words

Downloads: 55

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Table of contents

  1. Identification and Evaluation of Sources
  2. Investigation
  3. Reflection
  4. Bibliography:

Identification and Evaluation of Sources

This investigation will examine and explore: “How significant was the Monroe Doctrine in the causing of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua?”. In order to be evaluated thoroughly the sources must clarify and depict the whole political, social and economic situation leading up to the revolution. 

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The first source being evaluated is “The Legacy of the Monroe Doctrine: A Reference Guide to U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean” written by David W. Dent a 1 professor of political science at Towson University. This book recounts the history of US involvement in each country in Central and Southern America consecrating a chapter to each country. Thus, this source is relevant to this investigation as it gives overview on the situation in Nicaragua at the time creating a timeline of the events which led to the toppling of the Somoza and the importance the US and its foreign policy had. This book is of value as its author (the origin) has also written other books concerning Latin America and the political aspects of the continent such as “U.S.-Latin American Policymaking: A Reference Handbook”. The main 2 purpose of the source is to give accurate, and thoughtful insight into the relation between the United States and Nicaragua with regard to the Monroe Doctrine which is the critical aspect of this investigation. On the other hand, the source is limited as it tries to recount the specific history of US involvement in each South American country meaning that the section devoted to. Nicaragua does go over the main and most important factors but lacks depth in certain sectors. This is seen with the lack of information on the way the Monroe doctrine shaped the Somoza regime in the short and long run socially, economically and politically, all factors for the revolution meaning that the content is limiting. Furthermore its lack of information on the US political situation and the way different presidents handled the situation in Nicaragua makes it limited in some aspect of its content. On the other hand the purpose of the source which is to recount the general history is fulfilled making it of value. 

The second source is “The History of Nicaragua” written by Clifford L.Staten, a professor of political science and international studies as well as being the dean of the School of Social Sciences at Indiana University Southeast. It is relevant to this investigation as it is a 3 detailed account of Nicaraguan history giving insight into the social, political and economic situations before the Somoza regime, during the Somoza regime, including the impacts the Monroe doctrine had on these factors and their importance in the revolution. Its content is of value as it is pointed only at Nicaraguan history making it more in depth and complete. Another value of the content is the dedication of specific chapters for each time period: e.g. “Coffee boom and US intervention”. This allows for a more comprehensive and exhaustive recounting of 4 major events which occurred in Nicaragua under US influence until the revolution. A limitation of the source is the fact that it doesn’t include many primary sources which would deliver the emotions and thoughts of different people at the time. 


President James Monroe’s annual message to Congress in the year 1823 established what would be known as the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe envisioned the New World (Americas) and Old World (Europe) were no longer destined to be together and that separation was key for the development of the Americas. His statement included three points: “that the United States would no longer intervene in European affairs whether it be internal or between them, the US would recognize and leave alone all colonies in the Western Hemisphere”, and any attempt of colonization by any power or any attempt by a European power to gain hegemony in the Americas would “be viewed as a hostile act against the United States”.

As the US rose to prominence in the world, the Monroe Doctrine was strengthened in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt with the Roosevelt Corollary, which stated that “in cases of flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American country, the United States could intervene in that country’s internal affairs”. This section of the Monroe Doctrine is key for the 6 investigation as it is the reason the US intervened in the first place and is the cause for the radical party split which resulted in the Sandinista revolution. The US enabled the Corollary in Nicaragua in 1912 after intervening due to a political conflict which threatened to destroy US investments in the country including the construction of a canal. This triggered a fight between the Nica nationalists rebelling against the government in place lead by Augusto César Sandino and the US Marines. The US would “leave” in January 1933 partly due to the great depression and the adamant fight which Sandino put up. These two groups continued on clashing in the future under different names: the Nica became the Sandinistas (taken from their dead leader “Sandino”) and the US marines would be Somoza’s National Guard who was equipped with US made equipment, testament of the close relationship brought by the Monroe Doctrine more specifically the Roosevelt Corollary. The US’ final military mark on Nicaragua was putting Anastasio Somoza García in charge of the nonpartisan National Guard. Somoza murdered Sandino in 1934 and used the National Guard as his method to gain power through a coup in 1936 where he and his two sons remain in power until 1979. 

Throughout these years the US aided Nicaragua significantly in order to boost their economy in all sectors. The relationship which grew between the two brought economic prosperity in the short run. However, in the long run the US’ choice of instituting Somoza only furthered the split in the country economically, socially and politically creating the storm resulting in the revolution. During the early years of Somoza’s regime he developed continuismo which strived to keep the balance of power in his hands and keep the current system in place. His death in 1955 would lead to his son Luis Somoza ruling. He had the same mindset as his father and throughout he consolidated his position and ties with the US. The stability in Nicaragua fell due to the rising amount of discontent in the country. The education system was failing having only five percent of students from agricultural families finish their primary education. 

The ignorance of education by the state was not accidental. The idea was that if the citizens couldn’t access education their thinking could be contained continuing the “status quo” or continuismo. The children the upper echelons of Nicaraguan society were mainly sent to the US where they received an education which promoted the Somocista view continuing to create the disparity between the social classes.16 Luis Somoza further tightened his country’s ties with the US, leading to the 1962 17 alliance for progress: “a mini-Marshall plan for South America”. Nicaraguas dependance on the 18 US increases dramatically and this was unprecedented since World War II. It would prove to 19 help the economy grow by around 10 percent yearly during the 1960s with expanded growth in production and a decrease in dependance on cotton and coffee. The alliance for progress can be 20 seen as the development of the Roosevelt Corollary with the tightening of the US grip on Nicaragua, and a more vehement protection from communism in Central America during those Cold War years. The alliance for progress proved how the Nicaraguan government was happy to follow the needs of the US and their businesses while pushing their citizens to the sidelines reducing them to simple objects which would be linked to the corporations. It would deepen the rift in the social stratum, creating a rise in pro Sandinista sentiment and a will for a revolution. 

Due to the Nicaraguan government keeping its anti-communist agenda it received substantial US economic aid to the National Guard, vital in keeping the Somoza regime in place as several organized attempts to topple the regime occurred. This aid continued through the years and without it Nicaragua and the Somoza regime(s) would have faltered and failed much sooner. As the years went on, the Somocista government continued with Antonio Somoza Debayle coming to power. He would be the last of the Somoza to lead the country with the Sandinistas coming to power following their military coup in 1979. The US’ intervention from 1912-1933 which sparked the “underground” civil war which took place ending with the Somozas in power. The killing Sandino in 1934 was vital in starting the road to revolution; he was viewed by many as the hero of the time fueling more people to join the Sandinista cause which would ultimately result in their coming to power. 

Furthermore, the problems which turned the majority of the population against the Somoza regime also stem from the Monroe Doctrine and its corollary. The US’ continual investment in the country led to the increase in production but did not aid the local population as the Somoza needed to keep the American businesses happy to keep receiving funds. Thus, they repressed and gave little thought to the local population. This was seen in the constant repression of women in society and education where the illiteracy rate in rural areas was higher than 80%. Hence, the Monroe Doctrine was significant in causing the Sandinista revolution as all of the social, economical and political issues originated from it. The initial conflict between the Nica and the US set up the Somoza regime who became tyrannical towards its citizens in order to fulfill the wills of the major corporations. Moreover, the importance of the Somoza keeping the US happy was vital to them as they valued their supremacy over Nicaragua knowing that the US could act using the Monroe Doctrine to kick them out making them essentially US puppets. Leading them to completely disregard: education, civil rights, equality and economic development in favor of pleasing the US. All of these factors would push for widespread support of the Sandinista which advocated to solve these issues ultimately ending with the Sandinista revolution, ergo, the Monroe Doctrine was a significant cause in the start of the Sandinista revolution. 


The undertaking of this investigation on the role of the Monroe doctrine was interesting as it gave me the ability to perceive what challenges historians face when searching and analyzing sources. The investigation allowed me to understand the situation in Nicaragua in a more analytical and thoughtful way. Not only did I search for a variety of sources but I also had to sift through the sources as sometimes their origin was of doubtful reliability. When researching I had to make sure that I used as little information which contained judgment as this could sway my investigation. This proved to be a problem as it was difficult to assemble only facts which would also describe the feelings and thoughts felt in the country as they couldn’t be accounted for by facts proving it difficult to deliver a truly factual account and analysis of a situation. This dilemma for historians questions if emotions are truly important in the context of history. Or if they diverge from the facts and thus the truth is swayed? 

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The use of primary sources for people who were in Nicaragua proved to be difficult as they were all from the Somocista point of view as those were the ones with access to media at the time of the events. This made it difficult for me to find primary sources which related to the investigation as the only ones I could find were fueled with hate for the Sandinistas (and later the Somozas when the governments changed) which gave me little certainty in using them as part of my investigation. Gathering secondary sources which were from the time period was a challenge I faced. When looking at the different sources relating to the topic the provenance proved vital, while the grand majority of the sources used information pulled from the US Library of Congress some sources which I used were less reliable as they were from the FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) and were extremely one-sided offering little to no insight on both sides. An interesting fact is that although the US did somewhat achieve their goal of preventing communism in the region the historical approach seems to be harsh towards them even coming from American historians and sources. This could be a factor in the analysis as historians have seemed to be very harsh towards the US, this could also be due to the fact that the US had further issues with the Sandinistas most known the Iran-Contras affair. Thus, when looking into the difficulties in being a historian it can be seen that one must learn to find sources which complete the whole view and include relevant and precise information.


  • David W. Dent, The Legacy of the Monroe Doctrine: A Reference Guide to U.S. Involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999), 289,
  • Clifford L. Staten, The History of Nicaragua (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2010), 64, http:/
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. 'Monroe Doctrine.' Encyclopædia Britannica. November 25, 2018. Accessed January 30, 2019.
  • Crawley, Eduardo. Dictators Never Die: A Portrait Of Nicaragua And The Somoza Dynasty. New York: St. Martin's Press, May 1979.
  • David W. Dent, ed., U.S.-Latin American Policymaking: A Reference Handbook (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995), iii,
  • Nicaragua: A country Study Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Richard Millet, Guardians of the Dynasty. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1977
  • Zaremba, Laura. Nicaragua:Before and After the Revolution (Southern Illinois, IL: Carbondale, 1992)
  • Robert A. Pastor, Condemned to Repitition (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Unviversity Press, 1987), 28.
  • Thomas W. Walker, 'Introduction: Revolution in General, Nicaragua to 1984,' in Nicaragua: The First Five Years (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985), 17.
  • John A. Booth, The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1982), 201.
  • Musicant, Ivan (1990). The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish–American War to the Invasion of Panama. ew York: MacMillan Publishing.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Role Of The Monroe Doctrine In The Causing Of The Sandinista Revolution In Nicaragua. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from
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