Luis Anastasio Somoza Debayle (18 November 1922 – 13 April 1967) was the President of Nicaragua from 29 September 1956 to 1 May 1963, but was effectively dictator of the country from 1956 until his death.
Somoza Debayle was born in León. At the age of 14 he and his younger brother Anastasio attended Saint Leo College Prep near Tampa, before transferring to La Salle Military Academy on Long Island.
Luis was then educated at LSU. Following the assassination of his father, Anastasio Somoza García, Luis was tapped as acting president and was elected president in his own right later that year.
His rule was somewhat milder than that of his father. However, civil liberties remained restricted and corruption remained widespread.
His brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, headed the National Guard and was the second most powerful man in the country during his older brother’s rule.
Although Luis declined to run for reelection in 1963, he and Anastasio saw to it that the presidency was held from 1963 onward by politicians loyal to the Somozas. As a result, Luis remained the real power in Nicaragua until his death in 1967 from a massive heart attack at the age of 44 in Managua.
Under Luis Somoza’s regime, Nicaragua was a key player in the ushering of the creation of the Central American Common Market, with the Alliance for Progress backing that common market’s creation.
During the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he allowed the CIA-trained Cuban rebels to embark from Puerto Cabezas, on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. The Sandinistas began their struggle against the government in 1963—a struggle that would topple his brother in 1979.
He died in Managua and is entombed at Cementerio Occidental with his father in the National Guard Mausoleum in Managua, Nicaragua. His wife died in 2014.
He was a member of Fi Sigma Alfa Fraternity.