Nicaragua's Ethnic Minorities in the Revolution


  • Philippe Bourgois





By the end of the fifth year, tensions with ethnic minorities had become an Achilles heel of the Nicaraguan revolution: 1) militarily, the Atlantic Coast region where the minorities lived had exploded into an arena of bitter fighting; 2) politically, accusations of human rights violations against the indigenous population had damaged the revolution's international image; and 3) morally, the inability to incorporate minorities—the most marginalized sector of Nicaraguan society—into a full participation in the revolutionary process had contradicted Sandinista political principles. Although the Nicaraguan government committed errors in its policies toward the coastal—costeno—population, the crisis can best be understood from a historical perspective, as the outcome of several hundred years of tension between ethnic minorities and the Mestizo national majority. In the final analysis, the responsibility for the conversion of these historic tensions into a fratricidal war lies with the United States, which armed, trained, and provided international legitimation for the counter-revolutionary (contra) forces, thereby preventing a peaceful solution from emerging based on dialogue and compromise.

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