Anastasio Somoza Debayle, Nicaragua, dictator


When news of Anastasio Somoza Debayle's Assassination in Paraguay reached Nicaragua, the reigning Sandinista government announced over radio that its citizens should "celebrate with joy the execution of Anastasio Somoza." Nicaraguans obeyed this command in force, dancing in the streets, filling downtown bars, and setting off fireworks late into the night. While U.S.-based journalists did not face this turn of events with such glee, they eagerly provided their own renditions of what precisely had transpired the morning of September 17, 1980, as well as the legacy Somoza would leave behind. Condemnations of the former Nicaraguan ruler as a "dictator" were universal: the New York Times even declared that "there was little admirable and nothing lovable about Anastasio Somoza, the failed caudillo of Nicaragua." Many correspondents elected not to mention his deep, longlasting relationship with the United States, glossing over the support he had received from the American government. A mere decade earlier, the reverse had been true: Somoza was held up as a United States ally in its all-encompassing fight against communism, his human rights record overlooked.