Part 3 - A Nation Under US Tutelage
Under the liberal government of Jose Santos Zelaya (1893 - 1909), Nicaragua would transition into a modern state. As part of his modernization program, the country made concessions to Germany and Japan for a transisthmian canal across Nicaragua. Since the U.S. had its plans set in Panama, a competing venture financed by foreign interests, was not of their liking.
As relations with the U.S. deteriorated, civil war erupted in October 1909 when anti-government liberals joined with a group of conservatives under Juan Estrada to overthrow Zelaya. The U.S. then saw an opportunity to invade after two U.S. mercenaries serving with the rebels were captured and executed by government forces. Soon thereafter, 400 U.S. Marines landed on the Caribbean eastern city of Bluefields.
Rebel leader Juan Estrada's forces seized Managua, Nicaragua's capital and the conservative leader assumed power. U.S. Secretary of State Philander C. Knox agreed to recognize the new government, provided that U.S. demands were met. A conservative-liberal regime, headed by Estrada, was recognized by the U.S. on Jan. 1, 1911. However, Estrada’s hold on power was weak at best, sensing instability in Nicaragua once again, Knox sent Thomas C. Dawson as a “special agent” to Nicaragua. Dawson had previously overseen the U.S. invasion in the Dominican Republic.