NicaNotes: The Strategic Retreat from Managua to Masaya

Demoledora demostración de fuerza sandinista By Jorge Capelan

Saturday July 6, the people of Nicaragua celebrated the strategic retreat to Masaya with a mobilization that for 40 years has been characterized by two things: its massiveness and its organizational demands, given that it consists of a march or caravan of thousands and thousands of people from the capital to the city of Masaya. At the same time, it is an expression of popular joy for the pending arrival of July 19, the day of victory over the Somoza tyranny.

The retreat to Masaya was a feat that, according to scholars, is still a subject of study in the world’s military academies today. A group of Sandinista guerrillas evacuated thousands of civilians, including women, children, the elderly, the wounded and people with disabilities, in front of the Somoza National Guard which was prepared to murder them en masse.

In June 1979, Nicaragua was in flames. The insurrection against the Somoza dictatorship and a huge general strike, led to war in all major cities. Masaya, León, Chinandega, Estelí, Matagalpa, and many other cities were in rebellion. 

Southern Nicaragua burned with fierce battles against the National Guard. The dictatorship was becoming more and more isolated and the United States was looking for an alternative for the Sandinistas at the same time that the new Junta of National Reconstruction was proclaimed and other countries were beginning to recognize it. These were crucial moments in which the future of the country was decided. Would the United States be able to marginalize the Sandinista Front by imposing a “somocismo sin Somoza” (somocism without Somoza), or would Nicaragua find the keys to its national independence?

This whole juncture was largely possible because the people of Managua rose up against the dictatorship and for most of June effectively bogged down the National Guard, preventing it from drowning in blood the revolt in the rest of the country. For at least 17 days, from June 10 to 27, Managua witnessed bloody battles against the Guard. There were several massacres by the Guard in [the Managua barrios of] Batahola, Kilombo, El Paraisito and Colina 110….

By the end of June, two things were clear: The first is that the great goal of bogging down the Guard had been achieved and the second, that after intense fighting munitions were scarce and supply lines had to be re-established. From a military point of view, a retreat was essential. 

In eastern Managua, the strongest point of the insurrection, the Guard was preparing to launch a scorched earth operation against guerrilla forces that did not have bullets to respond. Moreover, there were thousands of people there who, if the guerrilla columns had withdrawn, would have been killed, not only by land but also from the Somoza air strikes. This is how the Strategic Retreat to Masaya arose.

On the night of June 27, 1979, six thousand people in three columns, men, women, children, the elderly and wounded led by a group of guerrillas, disappeared as if by magic hours before the National Guard hurled itself at them in the eastern neighborhoods of Managua.

Walking along paths, it took them almost a day and a half to reach rebellious Masaya, “territory free of assassins,” but not before being discovered halfway by the Guard and bombed. There were several very dangerous passageways very close to the well-armed National Guard. Many people died, perhaps a hundred, but six thousand lives were saved. 

From the strictly military point of view, the Sandinista Front could have withdrawn without the civilian population, but then something in its relationship with the people would have been broken. More importantly, how could the Sandinista guerrillas act against their own nature as social fighters and let people die like that? No. That’s not Sandinista politics. Never let the people die. Maneuver on a large scale with the people. Gain the wisdom to interpret the right moment. That is Sandinista politics at its best. That is the legacy of the Strategic Retreat to Masaya.

The Retreat was possible thanks to the organizational capacity and the leadership of the cadres, but above all it was possible because of the mutual trust between the people and the leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, a trust that in turn translates into discipline and the ability of thousands and thousands of people to act collectively.

Without this mutual trust, it would not have been possible to design the 1980 National Literacy Crusade, just months after the overthrow of the dictatorship. Young people from the cities and their families, peasants, workers, churches, for months mobilized with military discipline to put an end to the most nefarious inheritance of the dictatorship: 50.35% illiteracy, one of the highest rates in Latin America.

Without that mutual trust between the people and the Sandinista leadership in the 1980s, neither the Militias, nor the Patriotic Military Service, nor the Health Days, nor many other great battles that the people fought at that time, would have worked. The right wing has been in charge of falsifying much of the history of those years, but the truth is that it was a time of massive popular participation at all levels.

Only this mutual trust between the revolutionary party and the people allowed the Sandinista Front to promote the Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast in the midst of the war, trusting in the people who had historically been seen as strangers in their own land and thus laying the foundations of modern Nicaragua today. Today we’ve left behind the barracks enclave mentality at the service of the United States into which the various factions of the oligarchy had converted Nicaragua since independence.

Many other examples of that philosophy can be found even after 1990. The entire peace process promoted before and after 1990 was an exercise in mutual trust between the people and the revolutionary leadership. Even maneuvers such as the much denigrated “pact” allowed the Sandinista Front to divide the right and ensure the conditions that would allow it to return to power. Although not understood by broad sectors at the time, the truth is that those actions had the support of a large mass of Sandinistas who were the ones who voted for the Front to win the 2006 elections.

The defeat of the attempted coup perpetrated against our people last year was another example of the legacy of the Strategic Retreat to Masaya. What would have happened if from the first days of the coup violence the Sandinista Front had irresponsibly ordered the police and the entire base of support to respond to the violence with violence? Today, not only in Nicaragua, but in all of Central America, we would be at war.

The discipline of the Sandinista masses, the faith of the people in the FSLN, deceived the coup plotters, who believed they had support that they did not have. Thus the days and weeks passed and the initial support that through lies and fake news had accumulated was rapidly deflating as the coup plotters revealed themselves in all their criminal and murderous character. Then came the democratic institutions of the people, together with the people themselves, to remove the roadblocks and restore the democratic order of the people.

The Strategic Retreat this year is very special because it is the 40th anniversary of the final offensive and overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship and it coincides with the first anniversary of the great popular movement that defeated the coup plan of 2018. Beginning this year, along with the fallen of 1979, we also pay homage to the many Sandinistas killed in 2018. 

Liberation cost blood and, we cannot forget it, continues to cost blood. 

Yesterday the enemy was a criminal and genocidal caste. Today they are a group that represents the last breathes of an oligarchy that since the independence has only known how to kill the people and sell the country for their financial gain.

Yesterday the people destroyed the genocidal Somoza dictatorship and created a constitution that laid the foundations for a Nicaragua for all and not just for the elites. Today the people strengthen democratic power, claim their rights and take on an important economic role.

We still have many offensives and many retreats ahead of us, always together, always for more victories.


By Nan McCurdy

United Nations Recognizes Nicaragua as Safest Country in the Region
Nicaragua, with 8.3 homicides per 100,000 people is the safest country in the region according to the UN’s 2019 World Homicide Survey published July 7. El Salvador has the highest per capita homicide rate at 62.1 per 100,000. Central America, with an average homicide rate of 25.9 per 100,000 inhabitants is the area with the highest level of violent deaths in the world, due to the murders caused by drug trafficking. About Central America, the report notes “The highest national homicide rate is more than seven times higher than the lowest.” Honduras and Guatemala follow El Salvador, in violent deaths which the report attributes largely to drug gang-related violence. Homicides of young men are eight to 11 times higher than killings of women. (Radio la Primerisima, Informe Pastran 7/8/19)

Rubén Darío National Theater is now a “green building”
The Rubén Darío National Theater is now a “green building” thanks to the installation of new air conditioning systems and the installation of a 494-panel photovoltaic plant, as well as a new LED lighting network. The US$1.5 million funding came from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as part of the Energy Efficiency Project. Ariel Yépez, head of the IDB Energy Division said, “We are greatly satisfied with the use of renewable energy and the initiative to use that energy efficiently.” (Nicaragua News, 7/8/19)

Police Pay Homage to 12 Officers Victims of Coup Violence in July 2018
On July 7 the National Police paid posthumous tribute to 12 police officers who were victims of violence in July of 2018 during the attempted coup.  The tribute took place in the mausoleum of the police institution where the relatives of the murdered officers and the high command of the National Police placed floral offerings. The officers killed were: Inspector Iris Arón Urrutia killed on July 1 in Esquinas in the department of Carazo, Senior Petty Officer Allan Alexander Rodríguez Hernández killed on July 1 in Esquinas, Carazo, Lieutenant Martín Ezequiel Sánchez Gutiérrez killed on July 5 in the area of the Mining Triangle (Rosita, Siuna and Bonanza), and Lieutenant Hilario de Jesús Ortiz Zavala killed on July 8 in Jinotepe. Inspector Faber Antonio López Vivas fell on July 8 in Jinotepe; major commissioner Luis Emilio Bustos López, lieutenant Lenin Ernesto Olivas Alaniz, lieutenant Mario José Requenet López, and inspector Faustino Téllez Vargas were massacred on July 12 in the municipality of El Morrito in Rio San Juan; lieutenant Gabriel de Jesús Vado Ruiz was tortured, killed and incinerated on July 15 in Masaya; inspector Kevin Javier Lainez fell on July 17 in Masaya; and inspector Luis David López Hurtado fell on July 18 in Chontales. Doña Elena del Carmen Hernández mother of fallen officer Allan Alexander Rodríguez said “I was left without my son, but he lives on in our hearts and will live on forever for the National Police because he loved this institution. She remembered that since age of five Allan used to say that he was going to be a policeman and “He died being a policeman and before he died he told me, “Mother the day I die I want to go with my uniform on’.” (El 19 Digital, 7/8/19)

Twelfth Person to Die in US Custody is Nicaraguan
A Nicaraguan, Yimi Alexis Balderramos Torres, was the twelfth person to die in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities since September, 2018. Three dozen people from Central America, including the 52-year-old man, turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents west of Sasabe, Arizona, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement. They were being processed at a Border Patrol facility in Tucson when Balderramos became ill.  Eleven others have died in the custody of U.S. authorities, the agency said. Yimi Alexis Balderramos-Torres entered ICE custody on June 6. Less than two weeks later he was transferred to a private detention facility in Houston, Texas. On June 30, he was found unconscious and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, ICE said. (Radiolaprimerisima, 7/7/19)

Work of Peace Commissions Well Underway
National Assembly Deputy Carlos Emilio Lopez presented a report on July 4 on the installation and progress of the Peace and Reconciliation Commissions that are functioning fully throughout the country.  He noted that among the achievements of these commissions is the application of the Culture of Peace, with a vision and set of practices where teaching processes are shared with all participants to become better citizens. Lopez said that the Peace Commissions “have committed themselves to assume the role as caring communicators of the sublime value of peace. They recognize a full, living and transforming peace. Peace with social justice, gender equality, restitution of the rights of children and adolescents, food security and human security, economic advancement and peace with intercultural identity.” (Nicaragua News, 7/5/19)

Strengthening Security through Law to Combat Money Laundering
The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National Assembly is reviewing the proposed reform initiative of the Law to Combat Money Laundering, Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Nicaragua Army, the National Police, the Judiciary and other sectors which would be involved in the implementation of the reforms are actively participating in this important consultation process. National Assembly Deputy Auxiliadora Martinez, president of the Commission, explained that the reform is “intended to increase security in the country through the strengthening of the ‘Fire Wall’ Strategy that Nicaragua has been implementing in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime since 2007.” (Nicaragua News, 7/5/19)

Remittances Continue to Grow
The Nicaragua Central Bank reported on July 4 that remittances during the month of May 2019 totaled US$144 million, representing an annual growth of 13.3%. Remittances received during the January-May 2019 period were US$662.3 million, reflecting a growth of 8.7% over the same period in 2018. Of the total remittances received during this period, 55.1% came from the United States, followed by Costa Rica (18.6%) and Spain (12.6%). (Nicaragua News, 7/5/19)

More Families with Potable Water and Sewers
In November of this year the drinking water supply in the municipalities of Niquinohomo, San Juan de Oriente and Tola developed by the National Company of Aqueducts and Sewerage will be ready. This project will benefit 800 families with an investment of $860,000 with funds from the Inter-American Development Bank and the national treasury. A second project in the municipalities of Santo Tomás and Acoyapa is also beginning and consists of the extension of the networks of the drinking water and sewage systems, with an investment of US$4.5 million with funds from Spain, the European Union and other organizations. (Canal 2, 7/4/19)