Sandinistas, members of a left-wing Nicaraguan political party, the Sandinist National Liberation Front (FSLN). The group, named for Augusto Cesar Sandino, a former insurgent leader, was formed in 1962 to oppose the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1979 the Sandinistas launched an offensive from Costa Rica and Honduras that toppled Somoza. They established a junta that nationalized such industries as banking and mining, postponed elections, and moved steadily to the left, eventually espousing Marxist-Leninist positions. The Sandinista-dominated government was opposed by U.S.-supported guerrillas known as contras (see Nicaragua). In 1984, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega Saavedra won the Nicaraguan presidency in an election that was boycotted by some opposition groups. In 1990 the opposition candidate, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, defeated Ortega, but Sandinistas continued to hold important positions in the police and army. In the mid-1990s a rift in the party led many opposed to Ortega's domination of the party and concerned about the party's drift from original ideals, including several former members of the junta, to form the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS). Although Ortega again lost a bid for the presidency in 1996, the Sandinistas became the major opposition party in the national assembly; the MRS only won one seat. Ortega also lost in 2001, but in 2006 and 2011 he won the presidency again, running against a divided center-right opposition. Since 2006, the party has used street violence and judicial chicanery in an attempt to increase its hold on political power.

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