UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canada and the Sandinistas : a case study of the determinants of Canadian policy towards Nicaragua, 1979-1984 Prongos, Peter George


This thesis examines Canadian responses to developments surrounding Sandinista rule in Nicaragua. The questions addressed in this thesis are: 1) What was the nature of the Trudeau government's policy toward the Sandinista government of Nicaragua? 2) What were the determinants of this policy? 3) What alternative policies were available to the Canadian government? A brief- overview of the evolution of Canadian policy towards Latin America in the 20th century is followed by a discussion of the major elements of Canadian relations with the Sandinista government, a history of the evolution of that policy, and an examination of the role of Canadian non-governmental actors, i.e. business, labour, churches, aid and solidarity groups, and the press. The next section focuses on the influence of international actors on Canadian policy, particulary the United States. The last part analyzes the determinants of Canadian relations with the Sandinistas and offers a critique of Canada's policy. This study finds that official interest in Nicaragua gradually increased after the Sandinista victory, following that of the Canadian public. The Clark government mirrored the attitude of the Carter administration, which was suspicious of the new government in Managua. In spite of the enormous devastation wrought in Nicaragua, the Tories provided no direct bilateral aid. The return of the Liberals under Pierre Trudeau did not signal an immediate change of policy towards Managua, while Reagan's inauguration in 1981 brought to power an administration determined to "roll back" the Sandinista revolution. Canada's initial response was "quiet acquiescence". Although not completely unsympathetic to the Sandinistas, Canada was wary of angering the United States. Canada granted more assistance to Honduras in spite of its deplorable human rights record and support for the Contra attacks against Nicaragua. Canada decided to back the Contadora peace process as the only alternative to increasing U.S. militarization, but this support was primarily confined to rhetoric. As Canada grew increasingly worried about Washington's actions, llttawa began to be more openly critical. The government eventually made a few moves to implement its own policy toward Nicaragua (some aid, stronger rhetoric), but llttawa did not undertake any major peace or development initiatives, either unilaterally or with other nations. Canada's ambiguous rhetoric was essentially compatible with U.S. policy, the main difference being questions of method. Policy tended to be piecemeal and inconsistent, determined primarily by the hope of winning the good will of the United States, modified slightly by the fear of the consequences of an escalating crisis on trade and wor order, and, to a lesser degree, by public opinion in Canada. The Canadian government is found to have failed to live up either to its principles or its potential to help resolve the crisis that developed around the Sandinista revolution.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.