By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Nichols: Nicaragua has always been a hot spot for US
Placeholder Image

Beginning in 1808, former Spanish colonies in Central and South America declared their independence because they could not be loyal to Napoleon's brother whom he had installed in place of the Spanish king Ferdinand VII.

After Napoleon was defeated and Ferdinand was restored, Spain wanted its former colonies back.

However, Great Britain, the U.S. and other states did not want Spain to regain colonies because colonies would probably limit trade only with their mother country, whereas independent countries could trade with everybody.

The United States issued the Monroe Doctrine which declared that the U.S. would stay out of European affairs and all European states should stay out of any American territory. The doctrine was enforced by the British for trade purposes. It meant that Spain could not regain their former colonies without violating the Monroe Doctrine. The U.S. had to accept British help because we had so little power of our own.

Other than this doctrine, the U.S. had little interest in most of the former Spanish colonies (excluding Cuba which remained a Spanish colony until freed after winning the Cuban-Spanish-American War in 1898 with U.S. help.)

Simon Bolivar called for a congress of American states to meet in Panama from June 22, 1826, to July 15. It was called to consider establishing a league of American states. The United States was not invited to attend at first. But President John Quincy Adams put pressure on Bolivar and we were invited belatedly.

However, our two man delegation had disasters. One man died en route to Panama; the surviving delegate arrived after the congress was concluded.

Nicaragua was part of the United Provinces of Central America and participated in that congress. The provinces did not remain united and soon broke into separate countries of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Nicaragua joined a federation, but left that for total independence in 1823.

Nicaragua did not remain high in our concern until an unusual American named William Walker, with the help of his personal private army invaded Nicaragua, conquered local officials and became dictator with the title of president in 1856. He was driven from power in 1857 and the U.S. wisely refused to rescue him. He was later executed by a firing squad in Honduras in 1860.

In 1899, a bill went to the U.S. Congress to permit us to build a canal across Nicaragua, but clever lobbying shifted the canal to Panama.

From 1908 to 1933, U.S. Marines occupied Nicaragua to provide political stability and protect American investments there.

More recently, the Iran Contra affair in 1985-87 was a scheme by some American officials to violate U.S. laws in secret to get Israel to sell weapons to Iran, and then divert the money paid by Iran for the weapons to go to support the Contras in Nicaragua, who were fighting a war with the ruling Sandinistas. Congress had placed Iran on an arms embargo, and this was ignored. In addition to paying for weapons, Iran agreed to free six Americans held captive.

In regards to Nicaragua, Congress had passed a law stopping all U.S. aid to the Contras and forbid our officials from using other persons to send them support. Although some Sandinistas were Communists, not all were members of that party. The Contras were reportedly riddled with corruption. So Congress withdrew our support of the Contras and prohibited any effort to violate that prohibition.

Some 14 officials were charged, and 11 were convicted of violating our laws. All were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush, who had been Reagan's Vice President when the Iran Contra affair had taken place.

Today, Nicaragua is in the news again. Iran and Nicaragua may have common interest in their hatred of the U.S. Reportedly Nicaragua may be trying to obtain Iran's support for a massive project to build a dry canal from Corinto on the Pacific, around the north side of Lake Nicaragua, to a port named Monkey Point on the Caribbean side. The dry canal could serve as a road for trucks or a train for containers downloaded at either new deep water port.

If Iran becomes a nuclear power, it might try to secure military bases in Nicaragua seeking to be more successful than the Russians.

Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears regularly on Mondays and on