SOMOZA: American-Made Dictator by Bernard Diederich

SOMOZA: American-Made Dictator

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For its first half, Diederich's latest go at a Caribbean strong-man (following Papa Doc, 1969, and Trujillo, 1978) is a thin, choppy, news-ticker-like reprise, without force or point--except that if the first Somoza, Anastasio Somoza Garcia (18961956), hadn't spoken fluent English, he wouldn't have come to the attention of the occupying Americans in 1927, ""and might never have been placed on the first rung of the ladder"" to eventual one-man rule. . . the rule to which his son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle (1925-1980), subsequently succeeded. (And if young Tacho I hadn't seduced the Somoza maid, he wouldn't have been sent off to Philadelphia to study--where he picked up that handy English.) Though that's the general level of the text, we do intermittently hear something of moment--or at least one thing: American folly in creating the ""nonpolitical"" National Guard/private army through which both Somozas ruled. But Diederich provides virtually no context for the American interventions, and contributes little but scorn re the long US support for the Somozas; about Nicaragua itself, he appears to have only the most superficial, who-what-when knowledge. What did the Somozas do all this time? They made themselves rich and managed to stay in power; Tacho II had a luscious mistress as well as a haughty wife; he didn't, in '72, get anything much from Howard Hughes, or do anything much after the big earthquake. The one thing Diederich talks about intermittently to some purpose is the Sandinistas--who Sandino was, how the movement started, why its early efforts failed, etc. And as the fight between the guerrillas and the regime heats up in the late 1970s, the book becomes a bona fide narrative and not just notations. So it can be read as one onlooker's account of the '78 and '79 events that finally toppled Somoza--with lots of quotes from his press conferences and some testimony from the opposition elements. But it's a run-on account still, with little to say; and the material that precedes it is nine-tenths tripe.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Dutton