Prensa, La (de Nicaragua)

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Prensa, La (de Nicaragua)

La Prensa (de Nicaragua), Nicaragua's leading daily newspaper for three-quarters of a century. Established in 1926 by Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya (1891–1952), a noted lawyer and publicist from Granada, La Prensa became the primary critic of the Somoza dynasty.

After his father's death, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal assumed direction of Nicaragua's most widely circulated newspaper. As editor, Chamorro Cardenal reaffirmed the conservative tradition of La Prensa. However, under his guidance the paper became more political than ever before. In 1959 Chamorro participated in an unsuccessful revolt against the regime of Luis Somoza Debayle. Throughout the 1960s the paper espoused a steady dose of pro-Christian, anti-Marxist, conservative views that are most clearly articulated in a series of editorials called "5 p.m." in 1967.

The turning point for La Prensa, the Chamorro family, and Nicaragua occurred in 1972, when the Central American nation suffered a severe earthquake that destroyed much of the capital, Managua. In the aftermath of the quake, La Prensa repeatedly embarrassed the Somoza regime by exposing unsavory official behavior, the diversion of international earthquake aid to private interests, and government incompetence.

Chamarro's increasing political clout and his highly critical daily commentaries provoked intensified attacks on the paper. On various occasions in the mid-1970s unidentified assailants fired automatic weapons at La Prensa's plant. In 1974 the Somoza government declared a state of siege, implemented strict press censorship, banned criticism of the government, and restricted reports of insurgent activities. At the same time, attacks against individual La Prensa reporters became common. In 1977 the newspaper published a story that accused a business owned by individuals close to the Somoza family of exporting badly needed blood plasma for profit. In retaliation, the company's owners reportedly hired the assassins who murdered Chamorro Cardenal on 10 January 1978.

Following this murder, the slain editor's widow, Violeta Barrios De Chamorro, assumed direction of the paper. She helped mobilize massive demonstrations that condemned the actions of the assailants and she publicized her belief that the government was directly linked to her husband's assassination. La Prensa thereafter was at the forefront of the movement that overthrew the Somoza regime in 1979.

Nonetheless, the coalition against the Somozas that the Chamorro family and La Prensa helped to consolidate following the death of the paper's editor was only temporary. Although the paper originally supported Nicaragua's 1979 revolutionary government, by 1981 La Prensa became a bitter opponent of the Sandinista regime. After declaring a state of emergency in 1982, the government reinstituted censorship. Although the paper continued to publish, it did so under severe restrictions. In the mid- and late 1980s publication of La Prensa was suspended on several occasions by the government. Despite these interruptions, under the editorship of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro's son, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, the newspaper opposed the swing to the left under Sandinista leadership and remained the focus of political resistance to the regime throughout the 1980s.

See alsoChamorro Cardenal, Pedro Joaquín; Journalism; Somoza Debayle, Luis.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, Estripe sangrienta: Los Somozas (1957), and Diario de un preso (1963).

John A. Booth, The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution, 2d ed. (1985).

Ralph L. Woodward, Jr., Central America: A Nation Divided, 2d ed. (1985).

James Dunkerley, Power in the Isthmus: A Political History of Modern Central America (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Kodrich, Kris Tradition and Change in the Nicaraguan Press: Newspapers and Journalists in a New Democratic Era (2002).

Rockwell, Rick J. and Noreene Janus. Media Power in Central America (2003).

                                        Wade A. Kit