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Fonseca Amador, Carlos (1936–1976)

Fonseca Amador, Carlos (1936–1976)

Carlos Fonseca Amador (b. 23 June 1936; d. 8 November 1976), Nicaraguan leader and cofounder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Born in the city of Matagalpa, Fonseca was an illegitimate son of Fausto Amador. His father was administrator of Anastasio Somoza García's rural properties in the department of Matagalpa. The family had a stable, middle-class lifestyle that enabled Fonseca to enter law school at the National Autonomous University in León in 1954. He immediately became involved in student politics and began studying the writings of Augusto César Sandino. He joined a Conservative Party youth organization but left after a few months, complaining that it was "too perfumed." He then became a member of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party. In 1957 Fonseca toured eastern Europe and the Soviet Union as a delegate of the General Union of Nicaraguan Workers. After his return in 1958, the Socialist Party published the pamphlet "A Nicaraguan in Moscow," a compendium of Fonseca's impressions of the Communist world. Fonseca increased his activities in the student opposition to the Somoza regime and participated in the unsuccessful attempt, launched from El Chaparral, Honduras, to oust the dictatorship in June 1959. He recognized the futility of agitating within the restrictive ideology of the Socialist Party, and in 1960 started the New Nicaragua Movement, the basis for the creation of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in July 1961.

Fonseca was the principal thinker behind the revolutionary organization, but he was not a Marxist-Leninist theorist. Rather, he carefully refined Sandino's eclectic ideology in order to build popular support for revolution. From the early years of the Sandinista guerrilla army in Río Coco, Fonseca accepted the necessity of cooperating with diverse urban and rural social groups. The strategy of armed struggle through the gradual accumulation of forces was borrowed directly from Sandino.

Fonseca was captured by the National Guard in 1964 and deported to Guatemala. He returned clandestinely and participated in the failed attack at Pancasán in 1967. Two years later he was arrested for bank robbery in Costa Rica and spent more than a year in jail. Freed after Sandinistas hijacked a jetliner, Fonseca spent the early 1970s shuttling between Nicaragua and the safety of Cuba. He was responsible for developing the main objectives of the Sandinista program that guided the revolutionary government in the 1980s.

In November 1976 Fonseca was killed by the National Guard near Matagalpa. He is still considered the most important historical figure of the Sandinista National Liberation Front. After the victory over Somoza in 1979, his body was exhumed and reburied in the Plaza of the Revolution in Managua, where a monument was erected in his memory.

See alsoNicaragua, Political Parties: Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) .


Victor Tirado López, Tomás Borge, and Humberto Ortega, Carlos Fonseca siempre (1982).

Carlos Fonseca, Obras, 2d ed., 2 vols. (1985).

Donald Hodges, The Intellectual Foundations of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1986).

Steven Palmer, "Carlos Fonseca and the Construction of Sandinismo in Nicaragua," in Latin American Research Review 23, no. 1 (1989): 91-109.

Additional Bibliography

Bolaños Geyer, Alejandro. El iluminado. Masaya, Nicaragua: A. Bolaños Geyer, 2001.

Sinclair, Minor, ed. The New Politics of Survival: Grassroots Movements in Central America. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1995.

Zimmerman, Matilde. Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

                                               Mark Everingham

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