The United States intervened in Nicaraguan domestic affairs in the early twentieth century, and U.S. marines actually remained there for long periods of time. The leader of the U.S.-supported National Guard, Anastasio Somoza (1896 Ц1956), seized control of the government in 1937, and his family remained in power for the next forty-three years. U.S. support for the Somoza military regime enabled the family to overcome any opponents while enriching themselves at the expense of the state. Opposition to the regime finally arose from Marxist guerrilla forces known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front. By mid-1979, military victories by the Sandinistas left them in virtual control of the country. Inheriting a poverty-stricken nation, the Sandinistas organized a provisional government and aligned themselves with the Soviet Union. The Reagan and Bush administrations, believing that Central America faced the danger of another Communist state, financed the counterrevolutionary Contra rebels in a guerrilla war against the Sandinista government. The Contra war and a U.S. economic embargo undermined support for the Sandinistas, and in 1990, they agreed to hold free elections. Although they lost to a coalition headed by Violetta Barrios de Chamorro (b. 1929), the Sandinistas remained a significant political force in Nicaragua.