MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- It took the Sandinista party 22 years of struggle and the deaths of two of its founders to overthrow a U.S.-backed Nicaraguan regime. Now it has its own angry rebel movement to contend with.
Tomas Borge, Silvio Mayorga and Carlos Fonseca Amador met in July 1961 in Honduras to form the National Sandinista Liberation Front, which got its name from Augusto Cesar Sandino.
A nationalist guerrilla leader, Sandino opposed the dictatorship of the Somoza family and the 20-year occupation of Nicaragua by U.S. Marines early in the century.
He was not a left-wing socialist, however, as were most of the revolutionaries who adopted his name beginning in the 1960s.
Sandino was slain by the gunmen loyal to Anastasio Somoza in 1934. Between 1963 and 1966 the heirs to Sandino organized small cells in the central province of Matagalpa.
Early armed movements failed and Mayorga was killed by troops in the area in 1967.
The Sandinista movement first gained international fame in 1974 when eight rebels seized the home of former Agriculture Minister Jose Maria Castillo in 1974, taking hostage 30 of his friends, many of them government officials.
'For the first time the Sandinistas' revolutionary views were broadcast on television and radio,' said Carlos Fonseca, whose death in 1976 in an armed clash with government troops was a setback for his movement.
Borge, now minister of interior, is the only surviving founder.
In 1977, a bloc of businessmen and middle class professionals known as the 'Group of 12' was formed to assist the Sandinistas, thus making the revolutionary movement broader.
A watershed in the movement's development was the 1978 assassination of Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, the outspoken publisher. His slaying drew more moderate and middle class people to the swelling movement.
From 1977 on, the toll of dead and missing people climbed, reaching thousands, as the revolutionaries made military gains and Somoza responded by force.
On Aug. 22, 1978 Eden Pastora, known as 'Comandante Zero,' rose to the movement's fore by seizing the national palace, taking more than 1,500 hostages, including Somoza's nephew.
He freed 58 prisoners and gained $500,000 ransom. He also gave the Sandinistas an international reputation as a band of Robin Hoods, seizing from the rich to give to the poor.
After a series of uprisings and brutal fighting in Esteli, Masaya, Matagalpa and Managua, Somoza resigned and fled to Miami on July 17, 1979. He was killed by leftist commandos in Paraguay the next year.
What appeared to be a broad-based five-person junta, including Chamarro's widow Violeta and businessman Alfonso Robelo, took power. But both were squeezed out of the government as a Marxist core quickly consolidated power.
A Sandinista promise to call 'early elections' was postponed until 1985.
The government increasingly restricted press freedom and curbed the power of the nation's businessmen, driving many into exile.
Former National Guardsmen and other defectors from Nicaragua set up training camps in Honduras and are believed to receive U.S. support for their guerrilla forays across the border.
Pastora today is an opponent of the Sandinista revolution, organizing his followers into training camps along the southern border with Costa Rica, where he is based.
The Sandinista regime has grown increasingly critical of the traditional Roman Catholic Church, focusing its hostility on Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo.
As relations with the United States have grown increasingly cool, the Sandinista regime has turned to the Soviet block, accepting military and economic aid, including at least 2,000 Cuban teachers and doctors.
The United States charges that Nicaragua's rulers openly support El Salvador's rebels with weapons and bases, an allegation the Sandinistas deny.