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Anastasio Somoza Debayle

From Academic Kids

Anastasio Somoza Debayle (December 5, 1925 - September 17, 1980) was the President of Nicaragua from 1967 to 1972 and then from 1974 to 1979. As head of the National Guard, he also effectively held power in the intervening years. He was the last member of the Somoza family to be President, after a string of them had held power from 1936.

He was the second son of Anastasio Somoza García, who became President of Nicaragua in 1937, effectively becoming dictator. The younger Somoza was initially educated in Florida (at Saint Leo Preparatory College, today known as Saint Leo University) and Long Island before graduating from West Point Military Academy on June 6, 1946. The following year, he was appointed head of the National Guard by his father, who had previously given many important posts to family members and close personal friends.

On December 10, 1950, he married Hope Portocarrero Debayle, with whom he had five children: Anastasio, Julio, Carolina, Carla, and Roberto.

Following his father's assassination in 1956, Somoza's elder brother, Luis Somoza Debayle, took over the presidency. In 1967, shortly before the death of his brother, Anastasio Somoza was himself elected President for the first time. He stood down from the Presidency in 1972, owing to a law which disallowed immediate re-election.

In December of that year, an earthquake hit the nation's capital Managua, killing around ten thousand people, and virtually destroying the city. Martial law was declared, effectively making Somoza, as head of the National Guard, the country's leader once again. The Somoza family was widely accused of profiting from international aid.

Somoza was reelected President in the 1974 election, but by then the Catholic church had begun to speak against his policies. By the late 1970s, human rights groups were condemning the record of the Somoza government, and support for the Sandinistas was growing in the country. They eventually overthrew Somoza on July 17, 1979 and he fled to Miami, Florida. He was assassinated the following year in Asunción, Paraguay, a few months after Nicaragua Betrayed, his memoir, was published.

Trivia

He attended the presidential inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

Most Nicaraguans recall the 'House of Dracula', which was the name they gave to a blood plasma factory in Managua called Plasmaferesia. Opened in the 1970s by Somoza, the poor would go to Plasmaferesia to sell their blood for as little as a dollar a litre and the company would export it to the United States for ten times that amount.

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