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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

see Contra.


n. (plural of contra English)


The contras (some references use the capitalized form, "Contras") is a label given to the various U.S.-backed and funded right-wing rebel groups that were active from 1979 to the early 1990s in opposition to the left-wing, socialist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government in Nicaragua. Among the separate contra groups, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN) emerged as the largest by far. In 1987, virtually all contra organizations were united, at least nominally, into the Nicaraguan Resistance.

From an early stage, the rebels received financial and military support from the United States government, and their military significance decisively depended on it. After US support was banned by Congress, the Reagan administration covertly continued it. These covert activities culminated in the Iran–Contra affair.

The term "contra" comes from the Spanish contra, which means against but in this case is short for , in English "the counter-revolution". Some rebels disliked being called contras, feeling that it defined their cause only in negative terms, or implied a desire to restore the old order. Rebel fighters usually referred to themselves as ("commandos"); peasant sympathizers also called the rebels ("the cousins"). From the mid-1980s, as the Reagan administration and the rebels sought to portray the movement as the "democratic resistance," members started describing themselves as .

During their war against the Nicaraguan government, the Contras committed a large number of human rights violations and used terrorist tactics and carried out more than 1300 terrorist attacks. These actions were frequently carried out systematically as a part of the strategy of the contras. Supporters of the Contras tried to minimize these violations, particularly the Reagan administration in the US, which engaged in a campaign of white propaganda to alter public opinion in favor of the contras.

Usage examples of "contras".

Since 1981, Reagan had authorized a covert CIA operation to assist the contras in the overthrow of the leftist Nicaraguan government.

Press reports said that after Congress cut off funding, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North ran private support operations for the contras out of the National Security Council.

A possible connection between the Iran operation and the contras set off a warning bell for Shultz.

North had set up using Swiss bank accounts for the Iran arms sales, the secret contras resupply and other covert operations.

They had some information which suggested that Reagan had said something about getting North to find some money for the contras when Congress was debating the contra funding.

Back on June 25, 1984, the minutes of his meeting with his foreign policy team showed that Reagan wanted to go to other countries to get money for the contras in place of U.

Congress cut off funding in 1984, to hold the contras together body and soul might be cited as general presidential authority.

Iran and the contras had never before been tied together in his mind, nor did he recall receiving any reports hinting of any connection between Iran and the contras.

Reagan said in 1984, as Congress was cutting off funding, that he wanted to keep the contras together body and soul?

November events of last year when the diversion of funds to the contras was made public?

He was confident that Reagan had done nothing unlawful, that he had not known about the diversion of funds to the contras and could testify truthfully.

Congress for passing the laws restricting aid to the contras and the arms embargo with Iran.

Saudi Arabia to contribute millions of dollars to the contras when Congress had denied U.

Tribe wrote that the restrictions on using government funds for the contras applied to the president, who could not resort to private fund-raising.

Once trained, the Contras were to be infiltrated across the border intoNicaraguato bring down the Sandinista regime.