This chapter argues that prevailing agrarian structures in Central America have bound much of the rural population to lives of poverty and oppression and, consequently, have generated social tension and political conflict. In Nicaragua, economic and political constraints have operated at both the domestic and international levels to limit and frustrate the regime's objectives. The expansion of commercial and especially export agriculture greatly transformed rural life in Nicaragua. Foremost among the beneficiaries of the agro-export development model in Nicaragua was the reigning Somoza family. The prolonged period of rural struggle served in the eyes of many Nicaraguans to legitimate the Sandinistas' claim to be the vanguard of the revolution. The Nicaraguan regime has confronted additional difficulties that are specific to small countries transgressing the boundaries of permissible policy established by a hegemonic power. Nicaragua would need under any circumstances to maintain export earnings in order to cover the cost of its considerable imports.