Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal
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|Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal|
September 23, 1924|
|Died||10 January 1978(aged 53)|
|Notable credit(s)||La Prensa|
|Spouse(s)||Violeta Barrios de Chamorro|
Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal (23 September 1924 Granada, Nicaragua – 10 January 1978 Managua) was a Nicaraguan journalist and publisher. He was the editor of La Prensa, the only significant opposition newspaper to the long rule of the Somoza family. He is a 1977 laureate of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize of the University of Columbia (New York). He married Violeta Barrios de Chamorro who later went on to become President of Nicaragua (1990-1996).
Chamorro was a son of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya and wife Margarita Cardenal Argüello and paternal grandson of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Bolaños and wife Ana María Zelaya Bolaños. He was the maternal grandson of Julio Cardenal Argüello and wife Adela Argüello Cervantes (daughter of José María Argüello Peñalba and wife María Cervantes Montalván). Both were relatives of Leonardo Argüello, 66th President of Nicaragua. His great-grandparents were Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Alfaro, 39th President of Nicaragua, and wife María de la Luz Bolaños Bendaña.
He had two brothers, Jaime Chamorro Cardenal and Xavier Chamorro Cardenal, and two sisters, Ligia Chamorro Cardenal and Ana María Chamorro Cardenal, married to Carlos Holmann, and mother of Eduardo and Hugo Holmann Chamorro.
A native of Granada, he was a chief opponent of the Somoza dynasty. While still a law student, he began taking part in demonstrations against General Anastasio Somoza García and was briefly jailed in 1944 after making an anti-Somoza speech at a rally. That same year, his family’s newspaper, La Prensa, was shut down by the regime, and the Chamorro family fled to Mexico, where he began studying journalism. He returned to Nicaragua in 1948, becoming editor of La Prensa after his father’s death in 1952. While La Prensa was never shut down or completely censored, Chamorro was often jailed because of its content.
Concerned about the plight of his country, where Somoza had crushed all political opposition and amassed a considerable personal fortune, Chamorro remained involved in politics. In 1954, he was jailed, tortured and sentenced to imprisonment on charges of rebellion, but the sentence was commuted to house arrest in 1955.
Chamorro was arrested again in 1956 during a bloody government clampdown following Somoza’s assassination. In 1957 he was accused of complicity in the assassination, but later charged with rebellion and banished to San Carlos, a distant town in southern Nicaragua.
He fled to Costa Rica with his wife Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, and organized an expedition in 1959 to overthrow the government of Somoza’s elder son, Luis Somoza Debayle. However, the expedition’s members were captured and Chamorro brought for a third time before a military court, which sentenced him to nine years in prison for treason. Upon his release in 1969, he resumed the editorship of La Prensa, which continued attacking the Somoza regime, now headed by Anastasio Somoza Debayle, younger son of the former dictator.
In 1975 the government imposed upon Chamorro a 32-month suspension of constitutional rights after an attack by Cuba-backed rebels. Chamorro headed the opposition Democratic Union of Liberation (UDEL) and campaigned for human rights and the restoration of democracy. His paper became the main opposition platform, bringing the corruption of the Somoza regime into the spotlight of world opinion. During this period, Chamorro and La Prensa were repeatedly censored. The regular procedure was that on the afternoon prior to the day of its publication, all but the first and last pages of the paper had to be submitted for review by a board of censorship composed of three officers of the National Guard. The first and the last pages were submitted on the day of publication.
Murder and legacy
Chamorro wrote a letter in 1975 to Somoza: “I am waiting, with a clear conscience, and a soul at peace, for the blow you are to deliver.” Three years later, in January 1978, Chamorro was killed by unknown gunmen who pulled up beside him in a car and opened fire with shotguns. Somoza claimed Chamorro was assassinated by Pedro Ramos, a Cuban-American entrepreneur whose business had been attacked by La Prensa. At the time, however, the Chamorro family and the wealthy opposition held that Somoza had ordered him killed.
At his funeral, thousands of people followed the coffin from Managua’s Oriental Hospital to the Chamorro family home, taking turns carrying it.
Following Chamorro’s murder, an estimated 30,000 people rioted in the streets of Managua. Cars were set on fire and several buildings belonging to the Somoza family were attacked. A general strike was called. Outside the capital, unrest flared in a number of cities and towns, particularly in areas where National Guardsmen had massacred peasant farmers during the counterinsurgency effort. The government responded with further violence and reintroduced martial law censorship. During 1978, there were seven machine gun attacks and attempted bombings of La Prensa, now under the management of Chamorro’s widow, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. Following Somoza's overthrow, she was a part of the FSLN-based junta from 1979 to 1980. Violeta Chamorro was elected president of Nicaragua in 1990.
Speaking about her husband to the participants of the 1998 IPI World Congress in Moscow, Violeta said: “During his whole life, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro was a tireless fighter for democracy in Nicaragua and against the dictatorship of Somoza. This cost him incarceration, torture, exile and finally death. He was warned many times that plans existed to assassinate him, yet no threat detained him from fulfilling his mission to impart the truth and preach democracy.”
They had three children:
- Claudia Lucía Chamorro Barrios, married to Edmundo Jarquín ..., a relative of Carlos Alberto Brenes, 64th President of Nicaragua
- Cristiana Chamorro Barrios, married to Antonio Lacayo, leading minister in President Chamorro Barrios' cabinet, and later a candidate for the Presidency.
- Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, married to Martha Lucía Urcuyo. He was a journalist and later a politician that ran for major of Nicaragua's capital city of Managua.
- Carlos Fernando Chamorro, head of the official newspaper of the Sandinista Government and later a women rights activist.
- Michael Kudlak, IPI Report, June 2000, http://www.freemedia.at/fileadmin/media/Documents/Boston_2000_Congress_Report_01.pdf