Chamorro Cardenal, Pedro Joaquín (1924–1978)

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Chamorro Cardenal, Pedro Joaquín (1924–1978)

Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal (b. 23 September 1924; d. 10 January 1978), Nicaraguan political activist. Chamorro came from a prominent Nicaraguan family with a long history of participation in partisan politics (four of his ancestors held the Nicaraguan presidency). Chamorro's father, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya, had founded the daily newspaper La Prensa in 1926; upon his father's death in 1952, Chamorro became editor in chief and owner of the paper, which became a vehicle for his opposition to the dictatorship of the Somoza family. Chamorro also condemned the government in a number of books he wrote. In 1948 he cofounded the short-lived National Union of Popular Action and Justice (UNAP). In 1954 he was a member of the Internal Front, which attempted to overthrow Somoza García. He participated in an invasion of Nicaragua from Costa Rica in 1959, the first air invasion in Latin American history and another failed attempt to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. In 1974 he brought together much of the middle-class opposition to Somoza in the Democratic Union of Liberation (UDEL).

Chamorro paid a high price for his activism. He suffered repeated imprisonment, torture, house arrest, and exile before his assassination in 1978. The public response to his death was a series of general strikes leading to mass insurrection. His death closed off the option of a negotiated end to the Somoza dictatorship. Instead, guerrillas of the Sandinista Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de la Liberación Nacional—FSLN) overthrew the dictatorship in July 1979.

Chamorro's legacy is still debated. His widow, Violeta Barrios De Chamorro (who was elected president of Nicaragua in 1990), and two of his children, Pedro Joaquín and Cristiana, all favor a conservative interpretation of that legacy. They argue that Chamorro was a nationalist devoid of Communist leanings, and that he was a staunch and traditional Catholic. They believe he would have struggled against the Sandinistas, just as they have done.

But his brother Xavier and two other of Pedro Joaquín's children, Carlos Fernando and Claudia, claim that his legacy was far more radical. They note that his nationalism led him to oppose the imperialist aggression of the United States and that his Catholicism led him to work for social justice through what he called "Christian revolution." They claim he would have been a Sandinista revolutionary as they are.

See alsoNicaragua .


Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, Estirpe Sangrienta: Los Somoza (1980), and Diario de un Preso (1981).

Patricia Taylor Edmisten, Nicaragua Divided: La Prensa and the Chamorro Legacy (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Everingham, Mark. Revolution and the Multiclass Coalition in Nicaragua. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.

                                   Karen Kampwirth