FDN – Commandante Franklin
ARDE Frente Sur – Cúpula of 6 Regional Commandantes
YATAMA – Commandante Blas
Misura – Steadman Fagoth
|Dates of operation||1979–1990|
|Motives||Overthrow FSLN government of Nicaragua|
|Active regions||All rural areas of Nicaragua with the exclusion of the Pacific Coast, from Río Coco in the north to Río San Juan in the south|
|Allies|| United States (see Iran-Contra Affair)|
|Battles and wars||Major operations at La Trinidad, Rama highway, and Siunalatisha and Bonanza. Numerous government bases overrun throughout Jinotega, Matagalpa, Zelaya Norte, Zelaya Sur, Chontales, and Río San Juan provinces.|
The Contras were the various U.S.-backed and funded right-wing rebel groups that were active from 1979 to 1990 in opposition to the Marxist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction Government in Nicaragua which came to power in 1979 following the Nicaraguan Revolution. Among the separate contra groups, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) emerged as the largest by far. In 1987, virtually all contra organizations were united, at least nominally, into the Nicaraguan Resistance.
During their war against the Nicaraguan government, the Contras committed numerous human rights violations and used terrorist tactics. These actions were frequently carried out systematically as a part of the strategy of the Contras. Supporters of the Contras tried to downplay these violations, particularly the Reagan administration in the US, which engaged in a campaign of white propaganda to alter public opinion in favor of the Contras, while covertly encouraging the Contras to attack civilian targets.
From an early stage, the rebels received financial and military support from the United States government, and their military significance decisively depended on it. After US support was banned by Congress, the Reagan administration covertly continued it. These illegal activities culminated in the Iran–Contra affair.
The term contra is short for la contrarrevolución, in English "the counter-revolution".
The Contras were not a monolithic group, but a combination of three distinct elements of Nicaraguan society:
- Ex-guardsmen of the Nicaraguan National Guard and other right-wing figures who had fought for Nicaragua's ex-dictator Somoza—these later were especially found in the military wing of the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN). Remnants of the Guard later formed groups such as the Fifteenth of September Legion, the Anti-Sandinista Guerrilla Special Forces, and the National Army of Liberation. Initially however, these groups were small and conducted little active raiding into Nicaragua.
- Anti-Somozistas who had supported the revolution but felt betrayed by the Sandinista government – e.g. Edgar Chamorro, prominent member of the political directorate of the FDN, or Jose Francisco Cardenal, who had briefly served in the Council of State before leaving Nicaragua out of disagreement with the Sandinista government's policies and founding the Nicaraguan Democratic Union (UDN), an opposition group of Nicaraguan exiles in Miami. Another example are the MILPAS (Milicias Populares Anti-Sandinistas), peasant militias led by disillusioned Sandinista veterans from the northern mountains. Founded by Pedro Joaquín González (known as "Dimas"), the Milpistas were also known as chilotes (green corn). Even after his death, other MILPAS bands sprouted during 1980–1981. The Milpistas were composed largely of campesino (peasant) highlanders and rural workers.
- Nicaraguans who had avoided direct involvement in the revolution but opposed the Sandinistas.
The CIA and Argentine intelligence, seeking to unify the anti-Sandinista cause before initiating large-scale aid, persuaded 15 September Legion, the UDN and several former smaller groups to merge in September 1981 as the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (Fuerza Democrática Nicaragüense, FDN). Although the FDN had its roots in two groups made up of former National Guardsmen (of the Somoza regime), its joint political directorate was led by businessman and former anti-Somoza activist Adolfo Calero Portocarrero. Edgar Chamorro later stated that there was strong opposition within the UDN against working with the Guardsmen and that the merging only took place because of insistence by the CIA.
Based in Honduras, Nicaragua's northern neighbor, under the command of former National Guard Colonel Enrique Bermúdez, the new FDN commenced to draw in other smaller insurgent forces in the north. Largely financed, trained, equipped, armed and organized by the U.S., it emerged as the largest and most active contra group.
In April 1982, Edén Pastora (Comandante Cero), one of the heroes in the fight against Somoza, organized the Sandinista Revolutionary Front (FRS) – embedded in the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance (ARDE) – and declared war on the Sandinista government. Himself a former Sandinista who had held several high posts in the government, he had resigned abruptly in 1981 and defected, believing that the newly found power had corrupted the Sandinista's original ideas. A popular and charismatic leader, Pastora initially saw his group develop quickly. He confined himself to operate in the southern part of Nicaragua; after a press conference he was holding on 30 May 1984 was bombed, he "voluntarily withdrew" from the contra struggle.
A third force, Misurasata, appeared among the Miskito, Sumo and Rama Amerindian peoples of Nicaragua's Atlantic coast, who in December 1981 found themselves in conflict with the authorities following the government's efforts to nationalize Indian land. In the course of this conflict, forced removal of at least 10,000 Indians to relocation centers in the interior of the country and subsequent burning of some villages took place. The Misurasata movement split in 1983, with the breakaway Misura group of Stedman Fagoth Muller allying itself more closely with the FDN, and the rest accommodating themselves with the Sandinistas: On 8 December 1984 a ceasefire agreement known as the Bogota Accord was signed by Misurasata and the Nicaraguan government. A subsequent autonomy statute in September 1987 largely defused Miskito resistance.
U.S. officials were active in attempting to unite the Contra groups. In June 1985 most of the groups reorganized as the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO), under the leadership of Adolfo Calero, Arturo Cruz and Alfonso Robelo, all originally supporters of the anti-Somoza revolution. After UNO's dissolution early in 1987, the Nicaraguan Resistance (RN) was organized along similar lines in May.
- AK-47 and AKM assault rifles
- Type 56 assault rifles
- Type 58 assault rifles
- PM md. 63 assault rifles
- M16 assault rifles
- FN FAL battle rifle
- HK G3 battle rifle
- RPD machine gun
- PKM machine gun
- M60 machine gun
- PP class submachine guns
- Type 69 RPG
- SA-7 anti-air missiles
- Claymore mines
- FIM-43 Redeye anti-air missiles
- 122 mm rocket artillery
- 14.5 mm machine guns
- 81 mm mortars
- 82 mm mortars
- M79 grenade launcher
- .50 caliber machine guns
- Barrett M82 sniper rifle
- Dragunov SVD sniper rifle
- PSL sniper rifle
U.S. military and financial assistance
In front of the International Court of Justice, Nicaragua claimed that the contras were altogether a creation of the U.S. This claim was rejected. However, the evidence of a very close relationship between the contras and the United States was considered overwhelming and incontrovertible. The U.S. played a very large role in financing, training, arming, and advising the contras over a long period, and the contras only became capable of carrying out significant military operations as a result of this support.
The US government viewed the leftist Sandinistas as a threat to economic interests of American corporations in Nicaragua and to national security. US President Ronald Reagan stated in 1983 that "The defense of [the USA's] southern frontier" was at stake. "In spite of the Sandinista victory being declared fair, the United States continued to oppose the left-wing Nicaraguan government." and opposed its ties to Cuba and the Soviet Union. Ronald Reagan, who had assumed the American presidency in January 1981, accused the Sandinistas of importing Cuban-style socialism and aiding leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. The Reagan administration continued to view the Sandinistas as undemocratic despite the 1984 Nicaraguan elections being generally declared fair by foreign observers. Throughout the 1980s the Sandinista government was regarded as "Partly Free" by Freedom House, an organization financed by the U.S. government.
On 4 January 1982, Reagan signed the top secret National Security Decision Directive 17 (NSDD-17), giving the CIA the authority to recruit and support the contras with $19 million in military aid. The effort to support the contras was one component of the Reagan Doctrine, which called for providing military support to movements opposing Soviet-supported, communist governments.
By December 1981, however, the United States had already begun to support armed opponents of the Sandinista government. From the beginning, the CIA was in charge. The arming, clothing, feeding and supervision of the contras became the most ambitious paramilitary and political action operation mounted by the agency in nearly a decade.
In the fiscal year 1984, the U.S. Congress approved $24 million in contra aid. However, since the contras failed to win widespread popular support or military victories within Nicaragua, opinion polls indicated that a majority of the U.S. public was not supportive of the contras, the Reagan administration lost much of its support regarding its contra policy within Congress after disclosure of CIA mining of Nicaraguan ports, and a report of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research commissioned by the State Department found Reagan's allegations about Soviet influence in Nicaragua "exaggerated", Congress cut off all funds for the contras in 1985 by the third Boland Amendment. The Boland Amendment had first been passed by Congress in December 1982. At this time, it only outlawed U.S. assistance to the contras "for the purpose of overthrowing the Nicaraguan government", while allowing assistance for other purposes. In October 1984, it was amended to forbid action by not only the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency but all U.S. government agencies.
Nevertheless, the case for support of the contras continued to be made in Washington, D.C., by both the Reagan administration and the Heritage Foundation, which argued that support for the contras would counter Soviet influence in Nicaragua.
On 1 May 1985 President Reagan announced that his administration perceived Nicaragua to be "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States", and declared a "national emergency" and a trade embargo against Nicaragua to "deal with that threat". It "is now a given; it is true", the Washington Post declared in 1986, "the Sandinistas are communists of the Cuban or Soviet school"; that "The Reagan administration is right to take Nicaragua as a serious menace—to civil peace and democracy in Nicaragua and to the stability and security of the region"; that we must "fit Nicaragua back into a Central American mode" and "turn Nicaragua back toward democracy", and with the "Latin American democracies" "demand reasonable conduct by regional standard."
Soon after the embargo was established, Managua re-declared "a policy of nonalignment" and sought the aid of Western Europe, who were opposed to U.S. policy, to escape dependency on the Soviet Union. Since 1981 U.S. pressures had curtailed Western credit to and trade with Nicaragua, forcing the government to rely almost totally on the Eastern bloc for credit, other aid, and trade by 1985. In his 1997 study on U.S. low intensity warfare, Kermit D. Johnson, a former Chief of the U.S. Army Chaplains, contends that U.S. hostility toward the revolutionary government was motivated not by any concern for "national security", but rather by what the world relief organization Oxfam termed "the threat of a good example":
It was alarming that in just a few months after the Sandinista revolution, Nicaragua received international acclaim for its rapid progress in the fields of literacy and health. It was alarming that a socialist-mixed-economy state could do in a few short months what the Somoza dynasty, a U.S. client state, could not do in 45 years! It was truly alarming that the Sandinistas were intent on providing the very services that establish a government's political and moral legitimacy.
The government's program included increased wages, subsidized food prices, and expanded health, welfare, and education services. And though it nationalized Somoza's former properties, it preserved a private sector that accounted for between 50 and 60 percent of GDP.
The United States began to support Contra activities against the Sandinista government by December 1981, with the CIA at the forefront of operations. The CIA supplied the funds and the equipment, coordinated training programs, and provided intelligence and target lists. While the Contras had little military successes, they did prove adept at carrying out CIA guerrilla warfare strategies from training manuals which advised them to incite mob violence, "neutralize" civilian leaders and government officials and attack "soft targets" — including schools, health clinics and cooperatives. The agency added to the Contras' sabotage efforts by blowing up refineries and pipelines, and mining ports. Finally, according to former Contra leader Edgar Chamorro, CIA trainers also gave Contra soldiers large knives. "A commando knife [was given], and our people, everybody wanted to have a knife like that, to kill people, to cut their throats". In 1985 Newsweek published a series of photos taken by Frank Wohl, a conservative student admirer traveling with the Contras, entitled "Execution in the Jungle":
The victim dug his own grave, scooping the dirt out with his hands ... He crossed himself. Then a contra executioner knelt and rammed a k-bar knife into his throat. A second enforcer stabbed at his jugular, then his abdomen. When the corpse was finally still, the contras threw dirt over the shallow grave — and walked away.
The CIA officer in charge of the covert war, Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, admitted to the House Intelligence Committee staff in a secret briefing in 1984 that the Contras were routinely murdering "civilians and Sandinista officials in the provinces, as well as heads of cooperatives, nurses, doctors and judges". But he claimed that this did not violate President Reagan's executive order prohibiting assassinations because the agency defined it as just 'killing'. "After all, this is war—a paramilitary operation", Clarridge said in conclusion. Edgar Chamorro explained the rationale behind this to a U.S. reporter. "Sometimes terror is very productive. This is the policy, to keep putting pressure until the people cry 'uncle'". The CIA manual for the Contras, Tayacan, states that the Contras should gather the local population for a public tribunal to "shame, ridicule and humiliate" Sandinista officials to "reduce their influence". It also recommends gathering the local population to witness and take part in public executions. These types of activities continued throughout the war. After the signing of the Central American Peace Accord in August 1987, the year war related deaths and economic destruction reached its peak, the Contras eventually entered negotiations with the Sandinista government (1988), and the war began to deescalate.
By 1989 the US backed Contra war and economic isolation had inflicted severe economic suffering on Nicaraguans. The US government knew that the Nicaraguans had been exhausted from the war, which had cost 30,865 lives, and that voters usually vote the incumbents out during economic decline. By the late 1980s Nicaragua's internal conditions had changed so radically that the US approach to the 1990 elections differed greatly from 1984. A united opposition of fourteen political parties organized into the National Opposition Union (Unión Nacional Oppositora, UNO) with the support of the United States National Endowment for Democracy. UNO presidential nominee Violeta Chamorro was received by President Bush at the White House.
The Contra war escalated over the year before the election. The US promised to end the economic embargo should Chamorro win.
The UNO scored a decisive victory on 25 February 1990. Chamorro won with 55 percent of the presidential vote as compared to Ortega's 41 percent. Of 92 seats in the National Assembly, UNO gained 51, and the FSLN won 39. On 25 April 1990, Chamorro assumed presidency from Daniel Ortega.
Illegal covert operations
With Congress blocking further aid to the Contras, the Reagan administration sought to arrange funding and military supplies by means of third countries and private sources. Between 1984 and 1986, $34 million from third countries and $2.7 million from private sources were raised this way. The secret contra assistance was run by the National Security Council, with officer Lt. Col. Oliver North in charge. With the third-party funds, North created an organization called The Enterprise, which served as the secret arm of the NSC staff and had its own airplanes, pilots, airfield, ship, operatives, and secret Swiss bank accounts. It also received assistance from personnel from other government agencies, especially from CIA personnel in Central America. This operation functioned, however, without any of the accountability required of U.S. government activities. The Enterprise's efforts culminated in the Iran–Contra Affair of 1986–1987, which facilitated contra funding through the proceeds of arms sales to Iran.
According to the London Spectator, U.S. journalists in Central America had long known that the CIA was flying in supplies to the Contras inside Nicaragua before the scandal broke. No journalist paid it any attention until the alleged CIA supply man, Eugene Hasenfus, was shot down and captured by the Nicaraguan army. Similarly, reporters neglected to investigate many leads indicating that Oliver North was running the Contra operation from his office in the National Security Council.
According to the National Security Archive, Oliver North had been in contact with Manuel Noriega, the military leader of Panama later convicted on drug charges, whom he personally met. The issue of drug money and its importance in funding the Nicaraguan conflict was the subject of various reports and publications. The contras were funded by drug trafficking, of which the United States was aware. Senator John Kerry's 1988 Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concluded that "senior U.S. policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras' funding problems".
The Reagan administration's support for the Contras continued to stir controversy well into the 1990s. In August 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a series titled Dark Alliance, alleging that the contras contributed to the rise of crack cocaine in California.
Gary Webb's career as a journalist was subsequently discredited by the leading U.S. papers, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. An internal CIA report, entitled, "Managing a Nightmare", shows the agency used "a ground base of already productive relations with journalists" to help counter what it called "a genuine public relations crisis." In the 1980s, Douglas Farah worked as a journalist, covering the civil wars in Central America for the Washington Post. According to Farah, while it was common knowledge that the Contras were involved in cocaine trafficking, the editors of the Washington Post refused to take it seriously:
If you're talking about our intelligence community tolerating — if not promoting — drugs to pay for black ops, it's rather an uncomfortable thing to do when you're an establishment paper like the Post. If you were going to be directly rubbing up against the government, they wanted it more solid than it could probably ever be done.
An investigation by the United States Department of Justice also stated that their "review did not substantiate the main allegations stated and implied in the Mercury News articles." Regarding the specific charges towards the CIA, the DOJ wrote "the implication that the drug trafficking by the individuals discussed in the Mercury News articles was connected to the CIA was also not supported by the facts." The CIA also investigated and rejected the allegations.
During the time the US Congress blocked funding for the contras, the Reagan government engaged in a campaign to alter public opinion and change the vote in Congress on contra aid. For this purpose, the NSC established an interagency working group, which in turn coordinated the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (managed by Otto Reich), which conducted the campaign. The S/LPD produced and widely disseminated a variety of pro-contra publications, arranged speeches and press conferences. It also disseminated "white propaganda"—pro-contra newspaper articles by paid consultants who did not disclose their connection to the Reagan administration.
On top of that, Oliver North helped Carl Channell's tax-exempt organization, the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, to raise $10 million, by arranging numerous briefings for groups of potential contributors at the premises of the White House and by facilitating private visits and photo sessions with President Reagan for major contributors. Channell in turn, used part of that money to run a series of television advertisements directed at home districts of Congressmen considered swing votes on contra aid. Out of the $10 million raised, more than $1 million was spent on pro-contra publicity.
International Court of Justice ruling
In 1984 the Sandinista government filed a suit in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States (Nicaragua v. United States), which resulted in a 1986 judgment against the United States. The ICJ held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua's harbors. Regarding the alleged human rights violations by the contras, however, the ICJ took the view that the United States could be held accountable for them only if it would have been proven that the U.S. had effective control of the contra operations resulting in these alleged violations. Nevertheless, the ICJ found that the U.S. encouraged acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law by producing the manual Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerrillas) and disseminating it to the contras. The manual, amongst other things, advised on how to rationalize killings of civilians and recommended to hire professional killers for specific selective tasks.
The United States, which did not participate in the merits phase of the proceedings, maintained that the ICJ's power did not supersede the Constitution of the United States and argued that the court did not seriously consider the Nicaraguan role in El Salvador, while it accused Nicaragua of actively supporting armed groups there, specifically in the form of supply of arms. The ICJ had found that evidence of a responsibility of the Nicaraguan government in this matter was insufficient. The U.S. argument was affirmed, however, by the dissenting opinion of ICJ member U.S. Judge Schwebel, who concluded that in supporting the contras, the United States acted lawfully in collective self-defence in El Salvador's support. The U.S. blocked enforcement of the ICJ judgment by the United Nations Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any actual compensation. The Nicaraguan government finally withdrew the complaint from the court in September 1992 (under the later, post-FSLN, government of Violeta Chamorro), following a repeal of the law requiring the country to seek compensation.
Human rights violations
- targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination
- kidnapping civilians
- torturing civilians
- executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat
- raping women
- indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian houses
- seizing civilian property
- burning civilian houses in captured towns.
Human Rights Watch released a report on the situation in 1989, which stated: "[The] contras were major and systematic violators of the most basic standards of the laws of armed conflict, including by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians, selectively murdering non-combatants, and mistreating prisoners."
In his affidavit to the World Court, former contra Edgar Chamorro testified that "The CIA did not discourage such tactics. To the contrary, the Agency severely criticized me when I admitted to the press that the FDN had regularly kidnapped and executed agrarian reform workers and civilians. We were told that the only way to defeat the Sandinistas was to ...kill, kidnap, rob and torture".
Contra leader Adolfo Calero denied that his forces deliberately targeted civilians: "What they call a cooperative is also a troop concentration full of armed people. We are not killing civilians. We are fighting armed people and returning fire when fire is directed at us."
U.S. news media published several articles accusing Americas Watch and other bodies of ideological bias and unreliable reporting. It alleged that Americas Watch gave too much credence to alleged Contra abuses and systematically tried to discredit Nicaraguan human rights groups such as the Permanent Commission on Human Rights, which blamed the major human rights abuses on the Contras.
In 1985, The Wall Street Journal reported:
Three weeks ago, Americas Watch issued a report on human rights abuses in Nicaragua. One member of the Permanent Commission for Human Rights commented on the Americas Watch report and its chief investigator Juan Mendez: "The Sandinistas are laying the groundwork for a totalitarian society here and yet all Mendez wanted to hear about were abuses by the contras. How can we get people in the U.S. to see what's happening here when so many of the groups who come down are pro-Sandinista?"
Human Rights Watch, the umbrella organization of Americas Watch, replied to these allegations: "Almost invariably, U.S. pronouncements on human rights exaggerated and distorted the real human rights violations of the Sandinista regime, and exculpated those of the U.S.-supported insurgents, known as the contras ... The Bush administration is responsible for these abuses, not only because the contras are, for all practical purposes, a U.S. force, but also because the Bush administration has continued to minimize and deny these violations, and has refused to investigate them seriously."
Military successes and election of Violeta Chamorro
By 1986 the contras were besieged by charges of corruption, human-rights abuses, and military ineptitude. A much-vaunted early 1986 offensive never materialized, and Contra forces were largely reduced to isolated acts of terrorism. In October 1987, however, the contras staged a successful attack in southern Nicaragua. Then on 21 December 1987, the FDN launched attacks at Bonanza, Siuna, and Rosita in Zelaya province, resulting in heavy fighting. ARDE Frente Sur attacked at El Almendro and along the Rama road. These large-scale raids mainly became possible as the contras were able to use U.S.-provided Redeye missiles against Sandinista Mi-24 helicopter gunships, which had been supplied by the Soviets. Nevertheless, the Contras remained tenuously encamped within Honduras and were not able to hold Nicaraguan territory.
There were isolated protests among the population against the draft implemented by the Sandinista government, which even resulted in full-blown street clashes in Masaya in 1988. However, a June 1988 survey in Managua showed the Sandinista government still enjoyed strong support but that support had declined since 1984. Three times as many people identified with the Sandinistas (28%) than with all the opposition parties put together (9%); 59% did not identify with any political party. Of those polled, 85% opposed any further US aid to the Contras; 40% believed the Sandinista government to be democratic, while 48% believed it to be not democratic. People identified the war as the largest problem but were less likely to blame it for economic problems compared to a December 1986 poll; 19% blamed the war and US blockade as the main cause of economic problems while 10% blamed the government. Political opposition groups were splintered and the Contras began to experience defections, although United States aid maintained them as a viable military force.
After a cutoff in U.S. military support, and with both sides facing international pressure to bring an end to the conflict, the contras agreed to negotiations with the FSLN. With the help of five Central American Presidents, including Ortega, the sides agreed that a voluntary demobilization of the contras should start in early December 1989. They chose this date to facilitate free and fair elections in Nicaragua in February 1990 (even though the Reagan administration had pushed for a delay of contra disbandment).
In the resulting February 1990 elections, Violeta Chamorro and her party the UNO won an upset victory of 55% to 41% over Daniel Ortega. Opinion polls leading up to the elections divided along partisan lines, with 10 of 17 polls analyzed in a contemporary study predicting an UNO victory while seven predicted the Sandinistas would retain power.
Possible explanations include that the Nicaraguan people were disenchanted with the Ortega government as well as the fact that already in November 1989, the White House had announced that the economic embargo against Nicaragua would continue unless Violeta Chamorro won. Also, there had been reports of intimidation from the side of the contras, with a Canadian observer mission claiming that 42 people were killed by the contras in "election violence" in October 1989. Sandinistas were also accused of intimidation and abuses during the election campaign. According to the Puebla Institute, by mid-December 1989, seven opposition leaders had been murdered, 12 had disappeared, 20 had been arrested, and 30 others assaulted. In late January 1990, the OAS observer team reported that “a convoy of troops attacked four truckloads of UNO sympathizers with bayonets and rifle butts, threatening to kill them." This led many commentators to conclude that Nicaraguans voted against the Sandinistas out of fear of a continuation of the contra war and economic deprivation.
In popular culture
- The Last Thing He Wanted, a journalist for the fictitious Atlanta Post stops her coverage of the 1984 U.S. Presidential election to care for her dying father. In the process, she inherits his position as an arms dealer for Central America, and learns of the Iran–Contra affair.
- American Dad references the Contras in the episode "Stanny Slickers 2: The Legend of Ollie's Gold"
- The Americans, the TV series features an episode on KGB agents infiltrating a Contra camp.
- American Made, a film loosely based on Barry Seal's life.
- Carla's Song, a fictional film by Ken Loach set in part against the backdrop of the conflict in Nicaragua.
- Contra – While it is unclear whether the game was deliberately named after the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, the ending theme of the original game was titled "Sandinista" (サンディニスタ), after the adversaries of the real-life Contras.
- Contra, the second studio album by the American indie rock band Vampire Weekend, released in January 2010 on XL Recordings. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. The album title is intended as a thematic allegory and a complex reference to the Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries. The song "I Think Ur a Contra" is from this album.
- Sandinista!, an album by The Clash, features songs about The Contras in Nicaragua. It was released in 1980. The song "Washington Bullets" is from this album.
- City Hunter, a manga, the main protagonist, Ryo Saeba, was raised as a contra guerilla fighter in Central America.
- Student Visas, a song by Corb Lund from the album "Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!", is about US Clandestine soldiers (such as SFOD-D and CIA Paramilitary) interacting with Contras in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
- Fragile The song is a tribute to Ben Linder, an American civil engineer who was killed by the Contras in 1987 while working on a hydroelectric project in Nicaragua.
- Narcos: Mexico features an episode where Felix has to deliver guns to Nicaragua with Amado and a CIA operative for Salvador Nava and Mexico's Minister of Defense
- The Mighty Quinn involves a CIA operative and a Latino right wing assassin trying to recover large sums of untraceable US dollars which were to fund anti-communist counter-revolution on the mainland (Nicaragua is not mentioned).
- Snowfall a TV series following several characters, including an undercover CIA officer and his connection to a 20 year old drug dealer in Los Angeles in the beginning of the 1980s, the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic. (A lot of mention of the Nicaraguan contras).
- CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US
- Operation Charly
- Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare
- Reagan Doctrine
- Role of women in Nicaraguan Revolution
- United States involvement in regime change in Latin America
- Latin America–United States relations
- Foreign interventions by the United States
- Baron, James. "The Cold War History Behind Nicaragua's Break With Taiwan". thediplomat.com. The Diplomat. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
- "The Contras Murdering Their Own: A Grisly Retribution | Alicia Patterson Foundation". aliciapatterson.org. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
- "The American That Reagan Killed". jacobinmag.com. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
- Feldmann, Andreas E.; Maiju Perälä (July 2004). "Reassessing the Causes of Nongovernmental Terrorism in Latin America". Latin American Politics and Society. 46 (2): 101–132. doi:10.1111/j.1548-2456.2004.tb00277.x. S2CID 221247620.
- Greg Grandin; Gilbert M. Joseph (2010). A Century of Revolution. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0822392859.
- Todd, Dave (26 February 1986). "Offensive by Nicaraguan "Freedom Fighters" May be Doomed as Arms, Aid Dry Up". Ottawa Citizen.
- Albert J. Jongman; Alex P. Schmid (1988). Political Terrorism: A New Guide To Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories, And Literature. Transaction Publishers. pp. 17–18. ISBN 978-1-41280-469-1.
- Athan G. Theoharis; Richard H. Immerman (2006). The Central Intelligence Agency: Security Under Scrutiny. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 216. ISBN 978-0313332821.
- "Empire Politician - 1980s: U.S. Support for Contra Death Squads in Nicaragua". The Intercept. 27 April 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
- Kinzer, Stephen; Times, Special To the New York (20 February 1986). "CONTRAS' ATTACKS ON CIVILIANS CITED". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 28 May 2022.
- Fried, Amy (1997). Muffled Echoes: Oliver North and the Politics of Public Opinion. Columbia University Press. pp. 65–68. ISBN 9780231108201.
- John A. Booth; Christine J. Wade; Thomas W. Walker (2014). Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change. Avalon Publishing. p. 107. ISBN 9780813349589.
- Lee et al. 1987, p. 29
- "The contras are made up of a combination of: ex-National Guardsmen (especially the military wing of the FDN)" As seen at: Gill 1984, p. 204
- Dickey, Christopher. With the Contras, A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua. Simon & Schuster, 1985.
- "The contras are made up of a combination of: ... anti-Sandinista opponents of ex-dictator Somoza (some of the members of the FDN political directorate eg Messrs. Chamorro and Cruz)" As seen at: Gill 1984, p. 204
- International Court of Justice (IV) (1986), p. 446
- Dillon, Sam (1991). Comandos: The CIA and Nicaragua's Contra Rebels. New York: Henry Holt. pp. 49–56. ISBN 978-0-8050-1475-4. OCLC 23974023.
- Horton, Lynn (1998). Peasants in Arms: War and Peace in the Mountains of Nicaragua, 1979–1994. Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies. pp. 95–117. ISBN 978-0-89680-204-9. OCLC 39157572.
- Padro-Maurer, R. The Contras 1980–1989, a Special Kind of Politics. NY: Praeger Publishers, 1990.
- Brown, Timothy C. The Real Contra War, Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua. University of Oklahoma Press, 2001.
- "Contra Organizations: The Contra Story – Central Intelligence Agency". Cia.gov. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
- "Although Calero had opposed Somoza, the FDN had its roots in two insurgent groups made up of former National Guardsmen" As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 29
- "The UDN, including Cardenal, initially opposed any linkage with the Guardsmen. The CIA, and high-ranking United States Government officials, insisted that we merge with the Guardsmen. Lt. General Vernon Walters, then a special assistant to the United States Secretary of State (and formerly Deputy Director of the CIA) met with Cardenal to encourage him to accept the CIA's proposal. We were well aware of the crimes the Guardsmen had committed against the Nicaraguan people while in the service of President Somoza and we wanted nothing to do with them. However, we recognized that without help from the United States Government we had no chance of removing the Sandinistas from power, so we eventually acceded to the CIA's, and General Walters', insistence that we join forces with the Guardsmen. Some UDN members resigned because they would not associate themselves with the National Guard under any circumstances, but Cardenal and I and others believed the CIA's assurances that we, the civilians, would control the Guardsmen in the new organization that was to be created." As seen at: International Court of Justice (IV) 1986, p. 446
- "On the basis of the available information, the Court is not able to satisfy itself that the Respondent State 'created' the contra force in Nicaragua, but holds it established that it largely financed, trained, equipped, armed and organized the FDN, one element of the force." As seen at: International Court of Justice 1986, VII (4)
- "The largest and most active of these groups, which later came to be known as ... (FDN)". As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 29
- Williams, Adam (26 November 2010). "Edén Pastora: A wanted man". The Tico Times. Archived from the original on 15 December 2010.
- Lee et al. 1987, p. 32
- "He insisted on operating in the southern part of Nicaragua." As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 32
- The Americas Watch Committee. "Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986" (print), Americas Watch, February 1987.
- http://www.incore.ulst.ac.uk/services/cds/agreements/pdf/nic2.pdf[bare URL PDF]
-  Archived 16 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Jurado, Carlos Caballero (1990). Central American Wars 1959–89. Men-at-Arms 221. London: Osprey Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 9780850459456.
- Kinzer, Stephen (23 July 1987). "Sandinistas report capture of RedEye Missile". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
- Gill 1989, p. 328
- Gill 1989, p. 329
- "The United States has played a very large role in financing, training, arming, and advising the contras over a long period. The contras only became capable of carrying out significant (para)military operations as a result of this support." As seen at: Gill 1989, p. 329
- John A., Thompson, "The Exaggeration of American Vulnerability: An Anatomy of Tradition", Diplomatic History, 16/1, (1992): p 23.
- "1984: Sandinistas claim election victory" BBC News, 5 November 1984
- "President Reagan renewed his commitment to the Nicaraguan insurgents Sunday, though he appeared to shift the focus of his Administration's policy away from the military situation to the need to restore democracy to the Central American country". Cited in: "President Shifts Emphasis From Contra Warfare". Los Angeles Times, 4 May 1987
- "The Foreign Connection". The Washington Post. 6 January 1987
- Apple Jr., R. W. (12 March 1986). "Mudslinging over Contras". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- "NSDD – National Security Decision Directives – Reagan Administration". Fas.org. 30 May 2008.
- "Nicaragua". Lcweb2.loc.gov. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
- "BBC On This Day - 5 - 1984: Sandinistas claim election victory". bbc.co.uk. 5 November 1984.
- "Nicaraguan Vote: 'Free, Fair, Hotly Contested'" The New York Times, 16 November 1984
- Freedom House (2012). "Country ratings and status, FIW 1973-2012" (XLS). Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- Lee et al. 1987, p.3
- Lee et al. 1987, p. 3
- "In December 1982, The New York Times reported intelligence officials as saying that Washington's 'covert activities have ... become the most ambitious paramilitary and political action operation mounted by the C.I.A. in nearly a decade ...'" As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 33
- "opinion polls indicated that a majority of the public was not supportive." As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 3
- "Following disclosure ... that the CIA had a role in connection with the mining of the Nicaraguan harbors ..., public criticism mounted and the administration's Contra policy lost much of its support within Congress". As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 3
- "U.S. Delayed Report On Soviets in Nicaragua" The Miami Herald, 18 September 1984
- Riesenfeld, Stefan A. (January 1987). "The Powers of Congress and the President in International Relations: Revisited". California Law Review. 75 (1): 405–414. doi:10.2307/3480586. JSTOR 3480586.
The Boland Amendment was part of the Joint Resolution of December 21, 1982, providing further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 1983
- "Executive Order 12513--Prohibiting trade and certain other transactions involving Nicaragua" National Archives
- "Is There a Chance in Nicaragua?" Washington Post, 14 March 1986
- "Ortega collects warm words of support on European trip. Yet his visit is unlikely to drum up much concrete aid" Christian Science Monitor, 16 May 1985
- John A. Booth; Christine J. Wade; Thomas W. Walker (2014). Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change. Avalon Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 9780813349589.
- Kermit D. Johnson (1997). Ethics and Counterrevolution: American Involvement in Internal Wars. University Press of Americas. p. 19. ISBN 9780761809067.
- "The Contras did prove adept at carrying out U.S. guerrilla warfare strategies, supplied in the CIA training manuals, which advised them to 'neutralize' civilian leaders, incite mob violence and attack 'soft' targets such as agricultural cooperatives." Thomas W. Walker (1991). Revolution and Counterrevolution in Nicaragua. Westview Press. p. 335. ISBN 9780813308623.
- The CIA manual, Tayacan, advises the paramilitaries "to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets, such as court judges etc." In the section entitled, "Implicit and Explicit Terror", the manual states that it is necessary to "kidnap all officials or agents of the Sandinista government" or "individuals in tune with the regime", who then should be removed from the town "without damaging them publicly". As noted in: Holly Sklar (1988). Washington's War on Nicaragua. South End Press. p. 179. ISBN 9780813308623.
- "War Against the Poor: Low-Intensity Conflict and Christian Faith" Archived 6 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, 1989
- "Nicaraguan Contra Atrocities" West 57th, 1987, Video: 11:34
- Holly Sklar (1988). Washington's War on Nicaragua. South End Press. p. 268. ISBN 9780813308623.
- "Nicaraguan Contra Atrocities" West 57th, 1987, Video: 11:20
- "CIA-assisted 'contras' murdered Sandinistas, official reportedly says" Knight-Ridder, 20 October 1984
- Mary J. Ruwart (2003). Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression. SunStar Press. p. 309. ISBN 9780963233660.
- "Nicaraguan Contra Atrocities" West 57th, 1987, Video: 1:50
- "Washington's War on Nicaragua" Holly Sklar, p. 179
- John A. Booth; Christine J. Wade; Thomas W. Walker (2014). Understanding Central America: Global Forces, Rebellion, and Change. Avalon Publishing. p. 113. ISBN 9780813349589.
- Lee et al. 1987, p. 4
- "Who Helped Oliver North?" The Spectator, 15 May 1987
- "The Contras, cocaine, and covert operations: Documentation of official U.S. knowledge of drug trafficking and the Contras". The National Security Archive / George Washington University. c. 1990.
- "The Oliver North File". Gwu.edu. Retrieved 17 August 2011.
- "The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations". gwu.edu.
- Devereaux, Ryan (25 September 2014). "How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb". The Intercept.
- "Kill The Messenger: How The Media Destroyed Gary Webb" Huffington Post, 10/10/2014
- "CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy". oig.justice.gov.
- "Conclusions — Central Intelligence Agency".
- Lee et al. 1987, p. 5
- "It also disseminated what one official termed 'white propaganda': pro-Contra newspaper articles by paid consultants who did not disclose their connection to the Administration." As seen at: Lee et al. 1987, p. 5
- Lee et al. 1987, p. 6
- "Having reached the above conclusion, the Court takes the view that the contras remain responsible for their acts, in particular the alleged violations by them of humanitarian law. For the United States to be legally responsible, it would have to be proved that that State had effective control of the operations in the course of which the alleged violations were committed." As seen at: International Court of Justice 1986, VII (5)
- "Finds that the United States of America, by producing in 1983 a manual entitled 'Operaciones sicológicas en guerra de guerrillas', and disseminating it to contra forces, has encouraged the commission by them of acts contrary to general principles of humanitarian law." As seen at: International Court of Justice 1986, (9)
- In the case of shooting "a citizen who was trying to leave the town or city in which the guerrillas are carrying out armed propaganda or political proselytism", the manual suggests that the contras "explain that if that citizen had managed to escape, he would have alerted the enemy." As seen at: Sklar 1988, p. 179
- Sklar 1988, p. 181
- International Court of Justice 1986, VIII (1)
- "In any event the evidence is insufficient to satisfy the Court that the Government of Nicaragua was responsible for any flow of arms at either period." As seen at: International Court of Justice 1986, VIII (1)
- "But the Court, remarkably enough, while finding the United States responsible for intervention in Nicaragua, failed to recognize Nicaragua's prior and continuing intervention in El Salvador." As seen at: International Court of Justice 1986, Dissenting Opinion of Judge Schwebel
- "concluded that the United States essentially acted lawfully in exerting armed pressures against Nicaragua, both directly and through its support of the contras, because Nicaragua's prior and sustained support of armed insurgency in El Salvador was tantamount to an armed attack upon El Salvador against which the United States could react in collective self-defence in El Salvador's support." As seen at: International Court of Justice 1986, Dissenting Opinion of Judge Schwebel
- Morrison, Fred L. (January 1987). "Legal Issues in The Nicaragua Opinion". American Journal of International Law. 81 (1): 160–166. doi:10.2307/2202146. JSTOR 2202146. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. "Appraisals of the ICJ's Decision. Nicaragua vs United States (Merits)"
- "Human Rights Watch World Report 1993 – Nicaragua". Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
- The Americas Watch Committee (February 1987). "Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986". Americas Watch.
- Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986, p. 21
- Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986, p. 19
- Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986, p. 19, 21
- Human Rights in Nicaragua 1986, p. 24
- "Nicaragua" Human Rights Watch, 1989
- "Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua V. United States of America): Affidavit of Edgar Chamarro" International Court of Justice, 5 September 1985
- The New York Times, 23 November 1984.
- The New Republic, 20 January 1986; The New Republic, 22 August 1988; The National Interest, Spring 1990.
- David Asman, "Despair and fear in Managua", The Wall Street Journal, 25 March 1985.
- Smolowe, Jill (22 December 1986). "Nicaragua Is It Curtains?". Time. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011.
- "The last major attack, in October along the Rama Road in southern Nicaragua, was considered a success for the guerrillas." As seen at: Lemoyne, James (22 December 1987). "Both Sides Report Heavy Fighting in Rebel Offensive in Nicaragua". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Lemoyne, James (22 December 1987). "Both Sides Report Heavy Fighting in Rebel Offensive in Nicaragua". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Lemoyne, James (2 February 1988). "Contras' Top Fighter Vows No Letup". The New York Times.
- Meara, William R. Contra Cross: Insurgency And Tyranny in Central America, 1979–1989. U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2006.
- Kinzer, Stephen (23 July 1987). "Sandinistas report capture of RedEye Missile". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Wicker, Tom (14 August 1989). "Enough Have Died for Nothing in Nicaragua". Wilmington Morning Star. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- Ulig, Mark (14 August 1989). "New Regional Accord Leaves Contras in Honduras Fearful but Defiant". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- "Sometimes they used force as they rounded up young men for military service, and there were occasional confrontations. But only in the town of Masaya, 19 miles southeast of the capital of Managua, did the conscription spark a full-blown street clash ... For several weeks before the latest outburst in Masaya, the opposition newspaper, La Prensa, had been reporting isolated protests against the draft." As seen at: Kinzer, Stephen (28 February 1988). "The World: Nicaragua; Pushed From Left or Right, Masaya Balks". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- "Sandinistas Surviving in a Percentage Game". Envio. December 1988.
- "Nicaraguans Try Peace Moves While Waiting for U.S. Voters". Envio. November 1988.
- "Contra Insurgency in Nicaragua". OnWar.com. December 2000. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- "U.S. Endorses Contra Plan as Prod to Democracy in Nicaragua" The Washington Post, 9 August 1989
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- Bischoping, Katherine; Schuman, Howard (May 1992). "Pens and Polls in Nicaragua: An Analysis of the 1990 Pre-election Surveys". American Journal of Political Science. 36 (2): 331–350. doi:10.2307/2111480. JSTOR 2111480. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
- "After the Poll Wars-Explaining the Upset". Envio. March 1990.
- "Bush Vows to End Embargo if Chamorro Wins", The Washington Post, 9 November 1989
- "The policy of keeping the contras alive ... also has placed in jeopardy the holding of elections by encouraging contra attacks on the electoral process. Thus, while the Bush administration proclaims its support for human rights and free and fair elections in Nicaragua, it persists in sabotaging both." As seen at: "Nicaragua" Human Rights Watch, 1990
- "U.S. trying to disrupt election in Nicaragua, Canadians report" The Toronto Star, 27 October 1989
- "The Sandinistas Might Lose". The New York Times. 12 February 1990. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
- Ａ－ＪＡＸ～コナミ・ゲーム・ミュージック VOL.4 A-Jax: Konami Game Music Vol. 4 (booklet). G.M.O. Records / Alfa Records. 28XA-201.
- Asleson, Vern. (2004) Nicaragua: Those Passed By. Galde Press ISBN 1-931942-16-1
- Belli, Humberto. (1985). Breaking Faith: The Sandinista Revolution and Its Impact on Freedom and Christian Faith in Nicaragua. Crossway Books/The Puebla Institute.
- Bermudez, Enrique, "The Contras' Valley Forge: How I View the Nicaraguan Crisis", Policy Review, The Heritage Foundation, Summer 1988.
- Brody, Reed. (1985). Contra Terror in Nicaragua: Report of a Fact-Finding Mission: September 1984 – January 1985. Boston: South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-313-6.
- Brown, Timothy. (2001). The Real Contra War: Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3252-3.
- Chamorro, Edgar. (1987). Packaging the Contras: A Case of CIA Disinformation. New York: Institute for Media Analysis. ISBN 0-941781-08-9; ISBN 0-941781-07-0.
- Christian, Shirley. (1986) Nicaragua, Revolution in the Family. New York: Vintage Books.
- Cox, Jack. (1987) Requiem in the Tropics: Inside Central America. UCA Books.
- Cruz S., Arturo J. (1989). Memoirs of a Counterrevolutionary. (1989). New York: Doubleday.
- Dickey, Christopher. (1985, 1987). With the Contras: A Reporter in the Wilds of Nicaragua. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Garvin, Glenn. (1992). Everybody Had His Own Gringo: The CIA and the Contras. Washington: Brassey's.
- Gill, Terry D. (1989). Litigation strategy at the International Court: a case study of the Nicaragua v United States dispute. Dordrecht. ISBN 978-0-7923-0332-9.
- Gugliota, Guy. (1989). Kings of Cocaine Inside the Medellin Cartel. Simon and Schuster.
- Horton, Lynn. Peasants in Arms: War and Peace in the Mountains of Nicaragua, 1979–1994. (1998). Athens: Ohio University Center for International Studies.
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- Hamilton, Lee H. et al. (1987) "Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran/Contra Affair"
- Johns, Michael "The Lessons of Afghanistan: Bipartisan Support for Freedom Fighters Pays Off", Policy Review, Spring 1987.
- Kirkpatrick, Jeane J. (1982) Dictatorships and Double Standards. Touchstone. ISBN 0-671-43836-0
- Miranda, Roger, and William Ratliff. (1993, 1994) The Civil War in Nicaragua: Inside the Sandinistas. New Brunswick, NY: Transaction Publishers.
- Moore, John Norton (1987). The Secret War in Central America: Sandinista Assault on World Order. University Publications of America.
- Pardo-Maurer, Rogelio. (1990) The Contras, 1980–1989: A Special Kind of Politics. New York: Praeger.
- Persons, David E. (1987) A Study of the History and Origins of the Nicaraguan Contras. Nacogdoches, Texas: Total Vision Press. Stephen Austin University Special Collections.
- Sklar, H. (1988) "Washington's war on Nicaragua" South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-295-4
- Confessions of a Contra: How the CIA Masterminds the Nicaraguan Insurgency by The New Republic, 5 August 1985
- The Contras and U.S. Funding from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- U.S. Policy Towards the Contras from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- "The World Stopped Watching", a documentary film directed by Peter Raymont. White Pine Pictures, 2003.
- "The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations" – National Security Archive.
- US administration disregarding the UN verdict Video provided by BBC.
- When the AK-47s Fall Silent, by Timothy Brown