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Nicaragua Table of Contents


Sandinista People's Militia

Following the example of Cuba, the Nicaraguan government established the Sandinista People's Militia (Milicia Popular Sandinista--MPS) to augment the regular troops and to gain the services of enthusiastic supporters of the revolution who could not be accommodated in the EPS. The militia represented both a massive political mobilization and the primary means of defending the countryside against the forces of the Nicaraguan Resistance. Individual militias received weekend training in basic infantry weapons and were assigned as guards in sensitive installations or as neighborhood night watches. A typical militia battalion of 700 persons consisted of five infantry companies and various support units.

The principal weapons of the MPS were older-model rifles and machine guns and mortars. Militia members displaying aptitude during weekend training sessions were selected for several months of full-time training, followed by up to six months of service in the field. During 1982 and 1983, the militia had primary responsibility for border defense and thus sustained heavy casualties, while the regular army was concentrated at permanent bases. After the installation of the draft in 1983 enabled the EPS to widen its operations, the main function of the mobilized militia became the protection of rural communities. The FSLN claimed that 250,000 persons had received some form of military training, of whom 100,000 were mobilized in active units.

Before Anastasio Somoza Debayle's overthrow, women had constituted up to 40 percent of the ranks of the FSLN and 6 percent of the officers. Six women held the rank of guerrilla commander in the late 1970s. After the Sandinista victory, however, women were gradually shifted to noncombatant roles or to the Sandinista Police. Many women fighters resisted the redeployment, and their role became a national issue. As a compromise, seven all-women reserve battalions were formed, but these were gradually converted into mixed battalions. Women's mobilization continued in other forms. Women constituted 50 percent of the Sandinista Defense Committees organized in the neighborhoods and up to 80 percent of Revolutionary Vigilance volunteers, who carried out nighttime patrols in urban neighborhoods and at industrial sites.

Data as of December 1993