1964-1968, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico|
Released by the Office of the Historian
72. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman)
72. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman)/1/
Washington, February 6, 1964.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/CEN/H Files, 1964: Lot 67 D 46, POL 1, General Policy. Secret; Noforn. Drafted by Rowell.
/2/ Not found.
Pressure in Honduras for removal of Ricardo Zúñiga A., Secretary General to Chief of Government Col. Lopez, has grown so rapidly in the past month, that unless he leaves the scene peacefully, there could be a counter-coup within the next two weeks.
Lopez depends completely on Zúñiga who runs the government. Zúñiga, as Lopez’ personal adviser since 1956, has engineered Lopez’ career to the present point in which Lopez hopes to become constitutional president. Lopez will not let Zúñiga go unless forced to by a united demand from the Army.
Today only the last Infantry Battalion and the newly formed Special Tactical Force (each numbering about 600 men and located just outside Tegucigalpa) stand between Lopez and a counter-coup. Lopez personally commands the Special Tactical Force through an executive officer whose support for Zúñiga is increasingly questionable. The commander of the 1st Battalion, Maj. Juan Melgar, is supposedly fanatically loyal to Lopez and has supported Zúñiga. However, Zúñiga secretly came to the United States in the last week of January, and in the last four days there have been reports that Melgar may be weakening in his resistance to pleas from his military colleagues to join them in evicting Zúñiga.
If Zúñiga leaves the government, Lopez would almost certainly be replaced by a civilian-military junta, though if the change were accomplished through a palace coup rather than an open revolt, Lopez might remain as head of the junta.
Without Zúñiga, Lopez probably would lose some of his presidential ambition, and those persons who oppose a military candidacy would have more influence. Opponents of a Lopez candidacy include a number of military officers as well as the Liberal Party (deposed in last October’s coup) and major elements of the Nationalist Party (principal civilian allies of the present military government). The armed forces will almost certainly take a preconstitutional non-partisan attitude once Lopez is no longer a serious presidential contender.
Although much of the Army’s antagonism toward Zúñiga is a spontaneous response to Zúñiga’s high-handed operations, the Liberal Party, especially Jorge Bueso Arias, has contributed substantially to the plotting. Bueso is very competent, anti-communist, and was Finance Minister under deposed President Villeda Morales.
The leader of the military plotters is Defense Minister, Chief of Air Force, Lt. Col. Armando Escalon. Escalon is very competent and anti-communist, but his was one of the bitterest anti-U.S. voices during the period of non-recognition last fall (October 3 to December 14, 1963)./3/
/3/ Colonel López Arellano overthrew President Villeda Morales on October 3, 1963. The Kennedy administration initially refused to recognize the new government, choosing instead to recall Ambassador Burrows on October 6 for "consultation," thereby suspending normal diplomatic relations. For documentation on the coup in Honduras and the initial U.S. response, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, American Republics, Microfiche Supplement, Honduras. The Johnson administration agreed to recognize the new government on December 14, 1963, but only after receiving "public assurances of respect for civil liberties, freedom of action for political parties, and that international obligations will be fulfilled." By that time, the López administration had also announced that elections for a constituent assembly would be held in February 1965. (Department of State Bulletin, December 30, 1963, p. 624) For a detailed account of these events, see Edward M. Martin, Kennedy and Latin America, pp. 125-141.
The communists would welcome any change away from the present military government, though they are not involved in the present Liberal-Army scheming. The communists have begun to seize control of the MIL, an uncoordinated group of lower-level Liberal terrorists not countenanced by the Liberal leaders. The MIL began to function in December, 1963.
A junta government probably would have much more Liberal participation than does the present government, and thus would receive broader labor and Liberal backing. This would reduce the strength of the MIL. Thus, chances of a peaceful transition to generally accepted civilian representative government in 1965 are much better under a junta, especially if military partisanship declines. The increased civilian participation would improve the efficiency of the transition government as well.
The anti-Zúñiga forces now believe they have gone too far to quit. As long as Zúñiga stays out of Honduras, there is a good chance that there will be only a palace coup. This would avoid bloodshed or extremism, and would add to the possibility that Lopez and the junta would resolve the conflict by exiling both Escalon and Zúñiga as ambassadors. Many of the military officers who are working against Zúñiga do not like the prospect of having Escalon as the new head of the junta.
If Zúñiga returns to Honduras soon, the plotters probably will resort to open revolt. Whether they win or lose, there will be some bloodshed and new openings for communist subversion. If they
win, the United States will be faced with a not-too-friendly Escalon. If they lose, there probably will be a series of jailings and other repressive measures which will force large numbers of Liberal Party members and organized laborers into open alliance with the communists in the MIL.
1. United States interests are best served by the earliest possible removal of Ricardo Zúñiga from his present influential position in Honduras.
2. A palace coup is much more to our interest than an open revolt in Honduras.
3. Therefore, the Honduran situation is most favorable to the United States the longer Zúñiga stays out of Honduras./4/
/4/ In a memorandum to Mann, February 4, Collins suggested that the Special Group (CI) consider detaining Zúñiga in the United States "to improve the chances for a peaceful alteration of government in Honduras." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/CEN/H Files, 1964: Lot 67 D 46, General Policy) The minutes of the Special Group meeting have not been found. The Latin American Policy Committee also met to discuss the situation in Honduras, in particular, ways in which to "effect a non-violent transition to representative civilian government." On February 6 the LAPC approved a plan of action for the remainder of 1964, including the following proposal: "Seek ways to reduce the influence of Ricardo Zúñiga A." (Airgram CA-7933 to Tegucigalpa, February 10; ibid., Central Files 1964-66, POL 1 LA-US) In a telephone conversation with President Johnson, February 19, Mann mentioned the possibility of a another coup in Honduras; see Document 2.
73. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
Washington, June 30, 1964, 11:30 a.m.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL COSTA RICA-US. Secret. Drafted by Mann and approved by the White House on July 11.
U.S.-Costa Rican Relations
Costa Rican Side
After speaking privately together, President Johnson and President Orlich joined members of the United States and Costa Rican delegations in the Cabinet Room. President Johnson said that President Orlich had raised two matters, first, a ten million dollar commitment which President Kennedy made during his visit to Costa Rica/2/ and, second, the attitude of the United States towards the activities in Costa Rica of the two Cuban exile groups headed respectively by Mr. Ray and Mr. Artime. The President asked Mr. Mann to comment on these two points.
/2/ President Kennedy visited Costa Rica in March 1963 to attend a conference of the Central American Presidents. In a meeting at the Embassy on March 20 Orlich asked Kennedy for financial aid, including budgetary assistance. No evidence was found to suggest that Kennedy gave any commitment other than an assurance "that he would look into this matter." A memorandum of the conversation is in Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, American Republics, Microfiche Supplement, Costa Rica.
Mr. Mann indicated that he was not aware of any unfulfilled ten million dollar commitment to Costa Rica but he would look into this and speak with the Costa Rican officials later on./3/ He said that it was understood that Costa Rica, because of the volcano and the drop in the production of coffee and other export crops, might need help. We would be glad to look into this on the basis of concrete projects as we wished to be cooperative. Regarding Ray and Artime, Mr. Mann stated that since last September no raids had been staged from U.S. territory because of President Kennedy’s decision to avoid the risks of having Cuban exiles attack, from a U.S. base, ships of various nationalities. Mr. Mann stated that the United States was not participating in the activities of Mr. Artime and Mr. Ray which might be based in other countries. Mr. Mann said that he did not know a great deal about the activities of these two exile groups but he gathered that Mr. Artime might be somewhat more responsible than Mr. Ray. President Orlich ventured the opinion that the more responsible of the two was Mr. Ray. Mr. Mann indicated that we did recognize that the two Cuban exile leaders were trying to help Cuba return to freedom and we sympathized with their objective.
/3/ In a July 1 memorandum for Rusk, Mann confirmed that Kennedy had "made no such commitment." "It was clear yesterday," Mann explained, "that President Orlich himself did not know what he would ask of President Johnson when he walked into the meeting." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 7 COSTA RICA) Orlich discussed the issue of financial assistance in meetings with Rusk on July 1 at 10 a.m. and Mann immediately thereafter. Memoranda of conversation for the two meetings are ibid., POL 15-1 COSTA RICA, and POL 7 COSTA RICA, respectively.
President Orlich in reply to a question by President Johnson said that the Alliance for Progress had been working more efficiently during the last few months. Mr. Mann explained some of the administrative steps that had been taken to make the Alliance machinery operate more speedily.
74. Editorial Note
On October 13, 1964, Ambassador Burrows recommended a plan for political action in Honduras to February 1965, the month scheduled for elections to the constituent assembly. Burrows suggested that the United States identify candidates "with the necessary qualifications" for the Honduran presidency, while diminishing the influence of such "irreconcilables" as Ricardo Zúñiga. (Telegram 177 from Tegucigalpa; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23-9 HOND) On October 17 Assistant Secretary Mann indicated "general agreement" with the proposal, but with a cautionary note: "We do not think it would be wise for the Embassy to become identified with any particular candidate or candidacy nor do we believe that Embassy should oppose any particular candidate." (Telegram 137 to Tegucigalpa; ibid.) The Latin American Policy Committee (LAPC) tried to resolve the issue at its meeting on November 4, when it approved a revised plan of action for Honduras. Although avoiding direct support for specific candidates, the committee recommended that the U.S. "use every influence available, both to the Country Team and to Washington, to reduce the influence of Ricardo Zuniga." (Airgram CA-4918, November 5; ibid., POL 1-2 HOND)
On December 23 Mann and Deputy Assistant Secretary Adams discussed the Zúñiga problem with Desmond FitzGerald, Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Central Intelligence Agency. According to a record of the meeting: "FitzGerald referred to the Honduran Government as possibly the worst in Honduras’ history and [1 line of source text not declassified]. Agreeing the Government is bad, Adams doubted that President Lopez would ‘become a sort of Cincinnatus and retire.’ Also he wondered whether it was worthwhile at this late date to try to get rid of Zuniga. He said he would consult with the desk officer and report back." (Memorandum from Carter to Hughes, December 23; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, ARA-CIA Weekly Meetings, 1964-1965)
On February 16 Zúñiga and the Nationalist Party won a majority of the seats to the Constituent Assembly. According to Adolf A. Berle, who served as an official observer, the elections were "very suavely stolen." (Letter from Berle to Mann, March 3; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 HOND) Three months later, Assistant Secretary Vaughan approved a proposal to reduce Zúñiga’s influence, although a final decision was delayed to allow the Ambassador-designate, Joseph John Jova, time to discuss the issue further with other Embassy officials. (Memorandum from Broe to Vaughan, June 5; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Latin America Files, 1965) No evidence has been found to indicate whether the proposal was, in fact, implemented. The policy to "reduce the influence of Ricardo Zuniga," however, was retained in the subsequent plan of action for Honduras, which was approved by the LAPC in September 1965. (Airgram CA-2964 to Tegucigalpa, September 14; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 1 HOND-US)
75. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Sayre) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, June 12, 1965.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Latin America, Vol. III, 1/65-6/65. Secret.
As you know the President asked for task force reports on Guatemala, Bolivia and Colombia./2/
/2/ The President asked Mann on June 5 to set up a task force "to develop plans for what we do in Guatemala, Colombia and Bolivia." "We should have a special task force on top of it with the best names," Johnson said, "and be prepared in advance instead of waiting until they are shooting at us." (Memorandum of conversation, June 5, 12:10 p.m.; ibid., Papers of Thomas C. Mann, Telephone Conversations with LBJ, May 2, 1965-June 2, 1966)
As I mentioned in a meeting at the White House while I was still on your staff,/3/ ARA had set up a committee to study the counter- insurgency problem in several countries. When I returned to ARA, the first country I tackled was Guatemala. We had three or four meetings with Defense, CIA, USIA and State participating. The actions outlined on page 6 are essentially those proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee, but they have been brought up to date.
/3/ Sayre returned to ARA in May 1965 after serving 1 year as the Latin American expert on the National Security Council staff.
The assessment is current.
As I understand it what the President wants to know is the current situation and what the United States should be doing to help maintain and improve the situation. I believe the attached paper provides this information but would appreciate your reaction as to whether you consider it adequate.
Mr. Vance thought we should also go into all the contingencies should the present Peralta government fall. I would agree that we should do this if we thought that the government would fall within the immediate future. However, the situation in Guatemala is such that we do not anticipate any sudden or violent change down there in the near future, that is, the next 60 or 90 days. Accordingly, my own feeling is that an attempt to determine contingencies at this time would not be a very profitable exercise. We have, however, asked CIA to come up with a list of all of the leading personalities in the political arena in Guatemala with an indication of their political complexion. As soon as this is done and discussed with us here in State, it would become an annex to the attached paper.
Colombia and Bolivia are slightly different stories. On Colombia especially, I think we will want to give serious consideration to contingencies. We are working on those papers and hopefully will have them to you next week.
In the meantime, after you have looked over the Guatemala paper I would appreciate an indication from you that we are heading in the right direction./4/
/4/ According to a June 22 memorandum from Vaughn to the Secretary, Bundy advised the Department on June 18 that the report on Guatemala would satisfy "current requirements provided biographic data were included." Vaughn also wrote: "In general, Ambassador Bell regards the situation in Guatemala as reasonably satisfactory over the short term (the next two to three months). We are not as optimistic about Guatemala as the Ambassador, but we do not regard the situation so serious as to require contingency planning." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23 GUAT) The Department officially forwarded the report to Bundy on June 18, noting that the biographical information would be sent at a later date. (Memorandum from Read to Bundy, June 18; ibid., POL 2 GUAT)
REPORT ON GUATEMALA
Assessment of Current Situation
The present regime began governing after the overthrow of Ydigoras with a fairly broad degree of public support. It was avowedly an interim government and announced that it would return to constitutionality and free elections as soon as feasible. In 1964, a time table was announced which called for the promulgation of a constitution in March 1965 and elections to be held within six months from that date. A Constituent Assembly was formed consisting of most important
middle-of-the-road parties. The regime inspired confidence among the business community for a considerable period and was helped in this regard by a fairly vigorous campaign to reduce the grosser aspects of corruption so evident in the Ydigoras government.
Over the past twelve months, however, the regime has gradually lost a part of its original support. This loss has been caused primarily by Peralta’s failure to adhere to the original time-table for return to constitutional government and uncertainty over his intentions. The promised constitution was not promulgated in March, and until recently there had been growing indications that Peralta intended to seek to perpetuate his regime until at least 1967. In this atmosphere, an important left-of-center political party (PR, headed by Mario Mendez-Montenegro), which, with the government’s PID and the right-of-
center MLN, was participating in the Constituent Assembly, has resigned in a bloc from the Assembly and is now in full opposition, because the Assembly refused to prohibit leaders of past coups from being presidential candidates.
There have been severe strains within the two parties remaining in the Constituent Assembly because of political maneuvering by several potential presidential candidates attempting to get Peralta’s official sanction as the government candidate for future elections. The resulting progressive deterioration has given rise to fears that splits within the middle-of-the-road parties, and within the military itself, might even lead to civil war, creating a vacuum which could be exploited by trained communist minorities.
The situation has been ameliorated by a resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly on June 9. This resolution has fixed the following timetable for the country’s return to constitutional rule: 1) promulgation of the constitution on September 15; 2) convocation of presidential and congressional elections on October 1, with the elections to be held within six months from that date; 3) installation of the new congress on June 1, 1966; 4) inauguration of the new president, vice president and supreme court justices on July 1, 1966. Shortly before this resolution, Peralta was quoted in a press interview with the New York Times to the effect that he would not seek to be elected President, but he has not made a public statement to this effect./5/
/5/ According to The New York Times, June 3, Peralta said: "I will absolutely not be a candidate for the Presidency."
Even though this new timetable differs substantially from that originally set forth, it probably will have the immediate effect of reducing current tensions. It will not, however, eliminate the political maneuverings among the two major parties and may still result in dissatisfaction among other moderate parties if, for example, it becomes clear that Peralta will not permit the PR to conduct an electoral campaign, or if he excludes other moderate left-of-center parties, such as the Christian Democrats, from participation in the electoral process. The government’s intentions in this regard, however, can only be determined over the next several months.
Taking advantage of the political uncertainties which have prevailed, there have been several rumors of coups and one serious attempt at a coup against the Peralta government by non-communist elements. The most serious was one planned by Roberto Alejos, a strong supporter of former President Ydigoras. Alejos, presently in exile in Miami, claimed to have a number of supporters among the military in Guatemala, planned to transport arms and Cuban mercenaries from Miami to Guatemala during May. His plans were thwarted due to close coverage of his activities by Customs and other U.S. enforcement agencies and the sizeable quantity of arms he accumulated were seized by U.S. enforcement officials./6/
/6/ The initiative in this matter evidently came from Ambassador Bell, who urged the U.S. Government to move quickly against Alejos. (Telegram 965 from Guatemala City, May 27; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL GUAT)
Indecision in the political field has been matched by indecision in the business of government. The Peralta regime, despite its effectiveness in reducing corruption, has been unable to take any affirmative decisions in the economic and social fields which would have contributed to progress and to reduction of counter-insurgency problems. Government investment programs have stagnated. No AID loans of any consequence have been completed since installation of the Peralta government two years ago. Several loans have been authorized by AID and one loan from the Export-Import Bank has been approved for negotiation, but U.S. representatives have, up to date, been unable to penetrate the suspicion and apathy of Guatemalan officials and complete negotiations on these loans. Neither the AID loans nor the proposed EXIM loan differ in their provisions from loans which have been concluded with all the other countries in Latin America.
This inability to come to terms on international loans in support of the government investment program is not a problem unique with U.S. agencies, and the Guatemalan attitude cannot be attributed solely to suspicion of North American motives. The Inter-American Development Bank has also had its difficulties in working with the GOG. Although the IDB has concluded negotiations on several loans, the rates of disbursement on these loans have been abnormally slow due to GOG inaction. It seems clear that lack of action in the economic field fundamentally results from the unwillingness or inability on the part of some members of the government to make effective decisions.
Fortunately, the governmental shortcomings have been somewhat offset by a vigorously expanding private sector. Exports have continued to climb significantly and there has been a substantial shifting away from dependence on coffee over the last three years due to the emergence of cotton as an important export commodity. There has also been a substantial increase in exports to Guatemala’s partners in the C.A. Common Market, consisting primarily of light manufactures and processed agricultural products. Under the impetus of increasing exports and private investment activity, Guatemalan GNP has risen by over 6% per year over the last 2 years. Current prospects are that it will continue to increase at this rate.
Despite improved exports, rapidly rising imports have resulted in a continued deficit on current account. Since much of the increase in imports has been financed by supplier credits from the U.S., Guatemalan foreign exchange reserves have continued to rise. Immediate foreign exchange difficulties have thus far been avoided, but repayment of supplier credits and short-term debts contracted with private banks in the U.S. will all create a strain over a somewhat longer period.
The major determinant of Guatemala’s immediate economic future however is whether or not the business sector will continue to have confidence in the stability of the government. In the absence of confidence in the future, foreign exchange reserves could rapidly disappear, as they did immediately before the overthrow of Ydigoras.
Guatemalan inability to maintain an effective public investment program has also seriously affected the ability of economic assistance programs to focus on some of the social problems and basic causes of the country’s backwardness. A phenomenon of this backwardness is the sprawling city slums in Guatemala City on which urban terrorism feeds. Community development efforts in the countryside although given lip service by the government are almost non-existent or couched in such grandiose terms as to be impossible of fulfillment. The government appears to feel no need for urgent action in areas of social reform.
C. Internal Defense
For the past several years there have been small bands of guerrillas in Guatemalan eastern hill country which have engaged in isolated raids and occasional political assassinations. The Government has been unable to eliminate these groups although sporadically aggressive patrol activity by the military has succeeded in keeping them somewhat off balance. The guerrillas, headed by Yon Sosa, former Guatemalan army officer, are financed from Cuba and have been conducting their activities independently of the regular Guatemalan Communist Party structure (PGT).
In recent months there have been reports of attempts to coordinate terrorist activities between the PGT and the Yon Sosa guerrillas and turn the attention of both groups to urban rather than rural activities. The extent to which this coordination of efforts has been achieved is uncertain but in any event there has been a significant increase in urban terrorism.
In January there was an attempted assassination of the Chief of the U.S. Army Mission and the USAID motor pool in Guatemala City was burned to the ground. In February, terrorists in Guatemala City, who had intended to assassinate Peralta, threw grenades at a crowd of people and into a Guatemalan Army truck causing several casualties. As an immediate effect of this action, a state of siege was imposed by the Peralta government.
Since imposition of the state of siege, terrorists on March 20 assassinated a police officer who had a reputation as a terrorist, on March 25 threw a grenade at an Army truck which bounced off in the street and killed a girl, and on March 31 machine-gunned a Guatemalan Army building and planted bombs around the city causing several casualties.
On May 2, the U.S. Consulate was sprayed with machine-gun fire and bombs were thrown elsewhere in the city. At noon, May 21, the Vice Minister of Defense was assassinated near his home. On June 7, approximately 7 bombs were exploded in different parts of the city, including the residences of the Brazilian and Nicaraguan Ambassadors, the latter in an apparent protest against the action of these two countries in sending troops to the Dominican Republic.
CAS reports have continued to give strong indication of communist intentions to take direct action against U.S. personnel and installations. As a result of this, security in U.S. Government installations has been increased sharply. The Marine Corps complement in the Embassy has been more than doubled and emergency radio and telephone communications facilities have been installed to increase the alert capability.
The Guatemalan military forces have sufficient training and equipment to counter isolated hit-and-run raids by guerrillas in the rural areas. There are several units in a fair state of readiness, including an airborne infantry company which could be airlifted to severe trouble spots should actions develop beyond the capability of local military commanders. One reason the Guatemalan military forces are not more effective against the guerrillas is the inadequacy of their information and patrol systems. More coordinated effort between police and military efforts should be sought. Another reason is the general attitude of the rural population as a result of the military tendency to behave like an army of occupation in the areas they visit.
In an effort to change their image, the military have engaged in active and fairly successful civic action programs throughout the country. Unfortunately, very few of these programs have been located in areas of rural guerrilla activity.
The qualified success of the military in the rural areas is not matched by security force capabilities within the city. There are substantial elements of the national police force located in Guatemala City but their training and equipment are relatively poor. More importantly there has been no clear definition of the roles of the police and military in counter-insurgency operations either in the cities or in rural areas.
Efforts to improve the police have been hampered by the same lack of GOG ability to make decisions evident in political and economic fields. Current levels of assistance to the police through AID/OPS programs amount to $276,000 of which $100,000 is for U.S. technical advisors. The current level of MAP financing for support of military forces is $1.3 million. Despite indications that the U.S. was prepared to consider increased assistance to the police, the Government of Guatemala has so far not responded affirmatively.
The existence of urban terrorism and guerrilla activities will not in themselves cause the overthrow of the Peralta government if there is no major deterioration of the political and economic situation. Nevertheless, the evidence of increasingly coordinated efforts among the two extremist groups, and the increasing number of urban terrorist actions indicate that an effective organization is being created. Vigorous measures are required to reduce its potential for damage and to weaken its ability to seize on a deteriorating situation should one develop.
The Latin American Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Group on Counter-Insurgency has been reviewing in detail the situation described above. It has come to the obvious conclusion that one of the key impediments to the development of a counter-insurgency program in Guatemala is ineffective government leadership and the unwillingness of the Peralta government to make decisions involving the economic, political and social development of the country.
The actions set forth below, which the group has sent as an instruction to the Country Team,/7/ will be inhibited by this overriding problem. To the extent that the Country Team can move forward on such action, however, the following steps should be taken:
/7/ Airgram CA-12888 to Guatemala City, June 2. (Ibid., POL 23 GUAT)
1. Undertake to convince Peralta, other members of his government and responsible leaders of the moderate, nonextremist political parties that it is in Guatemalan interests for the government to press forward now with a broad range of programs directed towards national progress and development.
2. In low key, undertake in various ways, including direct personal conduct, to make known to Peralta the U.S. view that early
return to constitutional government is essential and emphasizing the U.S. concern that failure to move in this direction enhances the possibility of subversion or civil war.
3. Encourage Peralta to permit all "middle-of-the-road" political parties to present candidates for the presidency.
4. Discreetly strengthen moderate political parties by all feasible means.
5. Discreetly support selected moderate politicians as a potential leadership resource in the event of a breakdown or sharp deterioration of the present situation.
1. Complete negotiations on outstanding AID loans as soon as possible waiving minor provisions which the present Government of Guatemala can use as an excuse for its inability to make decisions.
2. Consider the possibility of financing slum clearance and related projects in Guatemala City in an attempt to reduce the major subversion potential represented by urban discontent.
3. Explore the possibility of U.S. financing of additional mobile health units to be concentrated in guerrilla-threatened rural areas.
4. Consider the possibility of initiating community development programs, particularly in guerrilla-threatened areas.
III. Internal Defense
1. Continue to push for an expanded Public Safety program to enable the police to deal more effectively with insurgency problems, with primary emphasis on urban areas but also including rural activities.
2. Consider the creation of a special group within the police force to deal with counter-insurgency.
3. Urge that there be a clear definition of the roles of the police and military in counter-insurgency operations.
4. Examine the attitudes of the rural population toward Guatemalan security forces and the possibility of more effective training of such forces to improve civilian/security-forces relationships.
5. To the extent feasible, urge the expansion of civic action programs in threatened areas coordinating with AID programs which may be developed.
76. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Vaughn) to the Under Secretary of State (Ball)/1/
Washington, July 22, 1965.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 GUAT-UK. Confidential. Drafted by Steins on July 21; cleared by Shullaw, Reis, and Salans. Sayre initialed for Vaughn. Another copy indicates that the memorandum was also cleared by Leonhardy and Sause. (Ibid.)
The Governments of Guatemala and the United Kingdom formally requested the United States Government on July 6, 1965 to move beyond its role of good offices in the UK-Guatemala dispute over British Honduras and to serve as a mediator in the dispute either solely or in conjunction with other governments to be mutually agreed upon. This request was the outcome of informal talks held in London during the last week of June between representatives of the Governments of Guatemala, the United Kingdom, and British Honduras. These talks, as well as the round of talks which preceded them in May in Miami, were arranged through the good offices which the U.S. Government has been extending to the U.K. and Guatemala since 1963, shortly after the long-standing dispute over British Honduras (or Belize) led to the rupture of diplomatic relations between those two governments. Having received informal notice from both sides that the London talks would probably lead to a request for U.S. Government mediation, the Department unsuccessfully attempted to ward off such a request by informing both sides, prior to the London talks, that the USGovt would prefer not to mediate but would be willing, on request, to suggest prominent foreign (non-U.S.) private citizens as mediators. Our position was dictated by our desire to avoid the onus of a settlement which is bound to be unpopular with one side or the other and particularly so with Guatemala. The possible adverse reaction to direct USG mediation by Mexico, which also has a claim to part of British Honduras, has been another consideration.
Following receipt of the request for U.S. Government mediation, Embassy Guatemala strongly urged the Department to accede (Embtel 13, July 6, Tab A)./2/ AmConsul Belize endorsed Embassy Guatemala’s recommendation (Belize No. 3 of July 13, Tab B)./3/ The British Government is believed to desire a favorable U.S. response primarily to ensure continuation of the search for a solution which will enable it to withdraw from British Honduras. Embassy Mexico recommended that, if the USGovt were to undertake the mediation, prior consultation should be carried out with the GOM because of Mexico’s own historic claim to part of British Honduras (Embtel 63, July 7, Tab C)./4/ Embassy Mexico believes GOM would not object to mediation by a prominent U.S. private citizen, but recommends that announcement of the appointment of a mediator be made, not by the U.S. Government, but by the UK and the GOG, to minimize the appearance of official U.S. participation (Embtel 143, July 15, Tab D)./5/ Mr. Meeker, in a memorandum of July 12 (copy attached, Tab E)/6/ suggested that the Department be responsive to the request but attempt, at least for the time being, to keep to a minimum the U.S. Government association with the mediation by offering to suggest a prominent U.S. private citizen or citizens as mediator(s).
/2/ Not attached. (Ibid., POL BR HOND-GUAT)
/3/ Not attached. (Ibid., POL 32-1 GUAT-UK)
/4/ Not attached. (Ibid., POL BR HOND-GUAT)
/5/ Not attached. Reference should be to telegram 142 from Mexico. (Ibid.)
/6/ Not attached. Reference is in error; the memorandum from Meeker to Vaughn and Leddy is dated July 13. (Ibid., POL 32-1 GUAT-UK)
With the concurrence of EUR and of L, I recommend that the Department reply to the UK and GOG request by offering to suggest to them a prominent U.S. private citizen or citizens to serve as mediator. I further recommend that, if the answer of the UK and GOG to this offer is affirmative, ARA and L be authorized together to begin discreet, informal exploratory soundings with appropriate U.S. private citizens./7/
/7/ Ball approved this recommendation on July 24.
77. Telegram From the Embassy in Guatemala to the Department of State/1/
Guatemala City, August 2, 1965, 1508Z.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 GUAT-UK. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Passed to the White House.
64. For the Secretary from Ambassador. I am very much concerned that we appear to be on point rejecting request made jointly on July 6, 1965 by Governments of Guatemala and Great Britain to extend our good offices further in matter of Belize-British Honduras dispute and accept function of mediator either alone or (if we prefer) in association with other states. Deptel 48 of July 30 indicates that this is likely./2/ Only reason for such refusal known to me is set forth Deptel 23 July 13/3/ where indicated: "We remain reluctant assume direct responsibility for settlement which likely be unpopular, at least with GOG."
/2/ Not printed. (Ibid.)
/3/ Not printed. (Ibid., POL BR HOND-GUAT)
I have sought in several messages to point out reasons why I thought in our interests to respond affirmatively to the request.
(Embtels 13 July 6, 26 July 15/4/ and 53 July 29./5/) For past two years Guatemalan Govt has sought find way out this political problem which has been source both trouble and political exploitation for nearly a century. British Govt which two yeas ago had no confidence in Guatemalan sincerity is now persuaded thereof. No comparable opportunity to reach peaceful solution has existed during last hundred years. If not seized upon and cultivated not likely again to recur.
/4/ Neither printed. (Ibid., and POL 32-1 GUAT-UK, respectively)
/5/ Telegram 53 from Guatemala City is dated July 28. (Ibid.)
I have reluctantly come to conclusion that GOG will conclude it cannot accept mediation through private citizens; thus if we refuse to serve as mediators we may find that effort will collapse or be abandoned. GOG has gone very far in effort to demonstrate its readiness to work to solve its political problem but it feels it needs the help and reassurance that having USG as USG can give and which private citizens cannot. This reflects fact that however much USG is criticized from time to time GOG believes and believes that its citizens believe in basic fairness of US and that chances getting adequate face-saving formulas out of mediation are better with prestige and moral influence of USG involved. This may not be entirely reasonable and I may not explain it very clearly but I am convinced that with USG acceptance of role we have excellent chance resolving problem in manner safeguarding interests of all, and that if we turn down request, we face likelihood that such action will destroy or negate progress so painfully made over past two years. Responsibility for this undesirable result would be ours.
Obviously fact of GOG desire for USG as USG implies that we would have to accept some responsibility for results of mediation. As I have pointed out, it could not be exclusive since the GOG would have to have freely accepted any proposals, but it is true that we might be faced with share of any onus that arose out of mediation. If we assume this was considerable, (which I do not believe it would be) would this be a very big price to pay for a successful resolution of dispute? If mediation fails, we are only where we began.
We do not shirk our responsibilities when they have reached points of critical danger, as in Viet-Nam and in Dominican Republic, and certainly our investments and our risks there are major. What is required in Belize is a minor investment of brain power employment and lots of patience and determination. If we turn down request and Belize becomes the focus of infection later as it could very well become, we will surely regret having been timid.
I do not understand how we can justify denial of joint request of two allied powers to serve as friendly mediator in effort to solve dispute between them. I respectfully urge that this matter be reconsidered at highest level.
78. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Sayre) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, August 6, 1965.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 GUAT-UK. Confidential. Drafted by Sowash on August 5 and cleared by Leddy and Meeker. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Rusk saw it.
We have endeavored to avoid a direct role in the United Kingdom- Guatemala talks on Belize because of our desire to avoid the onus of a settlement which may well be unpopular, particularly in Guatemala, where the weakness of the Government’s claim is in inverse proportion to the emotional appeal of the issue. The possible adverse reaction to direct USG mediation from Mexico, which also has a claim to part of British Honduras, has been another consideration. The British and Guatemalan Governments, however, formally requested direct U.S. Government mediation on July 6 either solely or in conjunction with other Governments to be mutually agreed upon.
On July 24, the Under Secretary approved a proposal that the USG adopt a more responsive attitude by offering to suggest the name of a prominent U.S. private citizen or citizens to serve as mediator(s) (Tab A)./2/ Apprised of this position informally, Ambassador Bell requested that you review this decision (Tab B-Emb. Guatemala telegram 64)./3/ He urges direct U.S. Government mediation.
/2/ Document 76.
/3/ Document 77.
It has been the position of ARA that the U.S. should avoid pursuing a role in which we would be charged in Guatemala with responsibility for the loss of Belize. We have explored the possibility of a tripartite governmental mediation but the Legal Adviser’s Office believes this procedure to be unwieldy and we are inclined to agree. Moreover, under such a procedure we might well have the U.S. representative casting the decisive vote on questions on which the other two mediators were divided and thus reap as much onus as if we had undertaken the mediation by ourselves.
We see advantages in suggesting a prominent American citizen as mediator in a private capacity, although we recognize that, in practice, the distinction between an American acting in a private capacity or in a governmental capacity may not be great. The onus for an unpopular settlement in either case may rest on the USG. Despite this risk, we recognize that an opportunity now exists to settle the long-standing dispute. On balance therefore, we believe that we should respond to the British and Guatemalan requests, in the sense that we are prepared to arrange for a mediation effort by suggesting the names of a prominent American citizen or citizens to serve as the mediator but leaving open the question of the private or governmental character of the mediator. We would be prepared in subsequent discussions with the UK and Guatemala to agree to direct USG mediation if we find this to be necessary to get the mediation underway. EUR and L concur.
/4/ Although the memorandum does not record the decision, the Secretary evidently approved both recommendations. Rusk authorized the delivery of diplomatic notes in Guatemala and London indicating his "readiness to propose the name of a prominent and distinguished citizen or citizens of the United States to undertake the mediation of this dispute." (Telegram 75 to Guatemala City and London, August 18; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 32-1 GUAT-UK) The Department subsequently conceded the issue of direct mediation by appointing Bethuel M. Webster, a New York City lawyer and former member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, as mediator with ambassadorial rank. (Telegram 174 to Guatemala City, October 20; ibid.)
That you authorize a reply to the United Kingdom and Guatemalan Governments’ request which offers to suggest the name of a prominent U.S. citizen or citizens to undertake the mediation.
That you authorize direct mediation by the U.S. Government in the event this is required.
79. Memorandum From the Assistant to the Vice President (Rielly) to Vice President Humphrey/1/
Washington, September 14, 1965.
/1/ Source: Minnesota Historical Society, Hubert H. Humphrey Papers, Vice Presidential Files, Foreign Affairs General Files, Meeting with Daniel Oduber, September 15, 1965. Secret; Sensitive. Oduber also met Humphrey on April 15 to discuss, among other issues, "the Presidential campaign in Costa Rica next year." (Memorandum from Rielly to Humphrey, April 14; ibid., Meeting with Daniel Oduber and Amb. Facio of Costa Rica, 4/15/65) No substantive record of the meeting has been found.
Daniel Oduber is making his final trip to Washington before the Presidential election scheduled to take place on February 6, 1966. He is here to mobilize all possible outside support for the government and to the extent possible for the party during this critical election period.
The electoral race in Costa Rica has changed considerably since his last visit and his left of center Populista party now faces the opposition of a united conservative front. Our independent assessments indicate that though he will have strong competition, he is still expected to win. The current estimate is that he will carry about 54 percent of the vote, although an estimated swing vote of 100,000 votes could alter this outcome.
Oduber contends that it is not sufficient merely to win the election but to win by a sufficiently large majority so that the new president will have in the Assembly a working majority sufficiently large to put through the needed constitutional changes. This would require getting about 60 percent of the vote, as constitutional amendments require approval by two-thirds vote of the legislature. To effect basic structural reforms in the economy and the society it is necessary to change the constitution.
The government is encountering economic problems which could have a direct bearing on the election. A two million dollar repayment to the Ex-Im Bank falls due sometime late this year. The Costa Rican Government would like to get it rolled over for six months or so so they can have that money available for other purposes during this period. Secondly, the government must raise electricity rates by 12 percent before the election if it is to meet requirements set down by a previous World Bank loan. It is doubtful that the World Bank will consider delaying this. However, the Ex-Im loan repayment could easily be rolled over if it is considered important to do so here in Washington.
The Costa Ricans are also seeking to expedite the disbursements under a 71⁄2 million dollar project loan approved earlier. They would like to have part of the remaining 4 million dollars disbursed ahead of schedule so as to permit them to have funds to meet the government payroll for the rest of the year. Apparently there is some possibility they will default on the government payroll unless they get some external assistance-which would be disastrous politically.
I believe the Costa Ricans may be operating under the assumption that external funds might be available for the election campaign itself. They argue that much of the 1.5 million dollars that is being spent by the conservative opposition comes from outside the country, namely from the Somozas in nearby Nicaragua. Therefore they consider it legitimate for them to accept funds from outside of the country. A check with the appropriate people here reveals great reluctance to get involved in this contest, as it does not involve any left-wing threat. Most everyone in Washington agrees that it is desirable from the U.S. point-of-view for Oduber to win, but it is not considered appropriate to actively intervene as the conservative opposition is not considered a threat to U.S. interests.
As a practical matter, I believe you could say something to Dean Rusk, who is a friend and a great admirer of Oduber, about the U.S. Government doing all it can to help him. Rusk could pass the word both to Ex-Im and to AID to do everything they can to cooperate with the Costa Rican Government. With a word from Rusk both Ex-Im and AID would grant the roll-overs and the advance disbursements./2/
/2/ Although no evidence has been found that he spoke to Rusk, Humphrey evidently asked the Export-Import Bank to refinance construction of the Pan-American Highway in Costa Rica. In an October 12 telephone conversation Vaughn discussed the project with president of the Bank, Harold Linder, complaining of a "rather exotic process trying to pin down what the White House wants on Costa Rica." Linder explained that the loan had been refinanced three times, but thought that "something could be arranged to get at what the White House had in mind." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA Files, 1965-67: Lot 70 D 295, Inner Office Memoranda, October 1965)
Whether you would want to raise with Rusk the question of additional aid, I am not sure. It would take a strong push from the White House to get final approval on this. On the basis of his knowledge of previous elections in the hemisphere (Venezuela, Chile, Dominican Republic), I believe Daniel may be making some false deductions about what is available./3/
/3/ Humphrey met Oduber on September 15. According to a draft memorandum of conversation, Oduber said that he needed outside assistance "for his campaign to be
really successful," charging that his opponent had already received support from the Somoza family and a local television station owned by the American Broadcasting Company. Humphrey maintained that "liberal people up here should have an interest in the outcome of this election," and agreed to enlist "some labor friends of his." The Vice President promised that "he would have his lawyer and confidante, Max Kampelman, look into this matter and see what the possibilities are." Humphrey also said that he would ask Kampelman to "get word to the ABC people that they are discriminating against a candidate whose program is favorable to the United States." (Minnesota Historical Society, Hubert H. Humphrey Papers, Vice Presidential Files, Foreign Affairs General Files, Meeting with Daniel Oduber, September 15, 1965)
80. Memorandum of Conversation/1/
San José, September 21, 1965.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 COSTA RICA. Confidential. Drafted by Willis and Sedgwick. The meeting was held at the home of Edmundo Gerli. Forwarded as an enclosure to airgram A-151 from San José, September 28.
Echandi started off a discussion of the election campaign by remarking that he was seriously concerned by the increasing amount of violence at campaign rallies and stated that during his Presidency (1958-1962) there had been no such problem. At the same time, Echandi also made it clear to me that he sees no likelihood of an attempted golpe, although he remarked that one could never predict the behavior of "irresponsible" elements in Costa Rica. Likewise he did not seem concerned that campaign violence might lead to a possible assassination attempt, planned or otherwise, on either candidate saying that it was out of keeping with the Costa Rican character.
Echandi mentioned again to me a favorite grievance of his regarding the U.S.-the fact that President Kennedy, during his original speech on the Alliance for Progress, had mentioned José Figueres./2/ Both Trejos and Echandi alleged that the U.S. Government through "bad advisors in Washington", and PLN candidate Daniel Oduber, as a deliberate effort, have tried to create the impression that the Alliance in Costa Rica is somehow the property of the National Liberation Party and that the benefits which Costa Rica receives from the Alliance are due to PLN efforts. Echandi asserted that Vice President Humphrey has befriended Oduber and that the latter is conveying the impression that without a PLN Government, the Alliance would not operate in Costa Rica. Trejos and Echandi both suggested that this impression could be countered by a public statement from me to the effect that the Alliance is politically neutral.
/2/ Reference is to President Kennedy’s address at a White House reception for members of the Diplomatic Corps from Latin American Republics on March 13, 1961, in which he formally announced the formation of the Alliance for Progress. The speech included the line: "In the words of Jose Figueres, ‘once dormant peoples are struggling upward toward the sun, toward a better life.’" (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, p. 172)
I replied that no political party in Costa Rica (or in any other Latin American country) has a monopoly on the Alliance, which is politically neutral, and that the U.S. is ready to cooperate with any freely elected government in this country. I recalled that during the Echandi Government, the U.S. had provided a great deal of assistance. I said that our only interest is that the 1966 elections be carried out in the best Costa Rican democratic tradition and assured them that once the Costa Rican people have elected a government we will support it. I also reminded Echandi that I had taken various steps to help ensure free elections in 1962 and told him how I had insisted then and have now on the strict neutrality of all Embassy personnel. As for Oduber’s relationship with Mr. Humphrey, I commented that Oduber has probably made a considerable effort to cultivate Mr. Humphrey, but that Mr. Humphrey would certainly not assist in Oduber’s campaign and further neither the Vice President nor any other U.S. Government official will extend any financial interest to either candidate. Regarding a public statement, I countered that any such statement would have to be carefully thought out, especially as to context and timing, but that I would be glad to consider it.
Referring to Trejos’ recent speech in which he had alleged U.S. Government favoritism toward the PLN, I said that, given the widespread pro-U.S. attitudes in Costa Rica, any statement which might be construed by the Costa Rican public as being anti-U.S. might well prove to be counterproductive. Echandi replied, rather heatedly, that "Costa Ricans would never tolerate U.S. involvement in Costa Rican affairs". I quickly made the point that the U.S. was not involving itself in the Costa Rican elections and that it was apparent that we were not doing so. Both Echandi and Trejos agreed with me. Trejos then stated that he regards himself as a great friend of the U.S., but that he still had the impression that Embassy was attempting to "seek out" and "consult" Oduber. I said that the source of Trejos’ misunderstanding should not be difficult to dispel, since it must have arisen when two AID technicians were invited to attend a recent meeting at the Planning Office at which Oduber was also present; a fact of which they had no knowledge before the meeting. I said that this, of course, had placed the AID people in an awkward position, but that there was nothing they could do about it except to proceed with their presentation of facts; there was, of course, no "consultation" with Oduber. I then told Trejos that we would be glad to give him a full briefing on the AID program, or on any other U.S. program that might interest him at any time, as we had "absolutely nothing to hide." I assured him that if he should ever be disturbed about any aspect of U.S. policy that I would attempt to explain it to him and if it should prove that the Embassy or I were in the wrong that I would do my best to correct it. Trejos seemed pleased at the invitation and said he would take up my offer at the first opportunity.
The conversation turned to other matters and I brought up the subject of the CIAP tax mission and asked Trejos his opinion of this effort to achieve an improved system of taxation in Costa Rica. The candidate replied that he was fully aware of the mission and thought that it would be "helpful", and was in favor of technical assistance in connection with the Costa Rican tax program.
81. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, November 18, 1965.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Costa Rica, Vol. I, 4/64-10/68. Secret; Sensitive. Bundy wrote the following note on the memorandum: "Bill: Good, this makes sense to me."
At your request I have looked into the Costa Rican electoral picture. This is what I have found:
1. Essential Facts
The election is scheduled to take place on February 6, 1966. It is a general election, covering the Presidency, Legislative Assembly and Municipal Councils.
The principal candidates are Daniel Oduber Quiros of the Partido Liberacion Nacional (the party now in power) and Jose Trejos Fernandez, representing a coalition of opposition groups (Partido Republicano, Partido de Union Nacional, and Partido Union Republicana Autentica).
The Presidential inauguration is scheduled for May 8, 1966.
2. The Candidates
Full, up-to-date biographic sketches of the two Presidential candidates are at Tab A./2/ They are staunch democrats. Both are friendly to the United States and can be expected to work closely with us. Both have the right orientation on the communist threat, although Oduber’s views are better known because of his role in the OAS on this issue. The principal difference seems to be one of background and political outlook. Trejos comes from a prominent and well-to-do family. He is described as a "moderate conservative". Oduber comes from a modest background and is clearly left of center.
/2/ Attached but not printed.
3. The Outlook
The campaign is just beginning to get under way in earnest. The reporting is scanty, so it is hard to get a very clear picture of issues and trends. This is being corrected.
The Embassy last month expressed the view that Oduber had a "reasonable edge" over Trejos, but declined making any firm prediction on the probable outcome./3/ Ambassador Telles in a recent letter reported that Oduber was still favored to win./4/
/3/ In airgram A-179 from San José, October 12. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 COSTA RICA)
/4/ Not found.
State/INR last August did a roundup on the elections (Tab B)./5/ Their estimate was that the race would be close but that Oduber had an edge. The INR Costa Rican analyst has recently come back from a trip to Costa Rica. He states that the August estimate is still valid, with Oduber’s chances slightly improved. He found Trejos to be a lackluster campaigner and Oduber the same old spell-binder.
/5/ Dated August 16; attached but not printed.
4. Degree of U.S. Assistance
No USG assistance has been given to Trejos.
[1 paragraph (7 lines of source text) not declassified]
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Oduber has been in touch with AFL-CIO leaders. [2 lines of source text not declassified] Oduber has informed [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that Victor and Walter Reuther invited [1 line of source text not declassified], to go to Detroit about November 1 to pick up funds for the political campaign. We have no further details on this.
5. My Recommendation
I think we can live quite comfortably with either candidate. Our interests would be better served, however, by an Oduber victory. He would give Costa Rica progressive, left-of-center leadership more closely attuned to the aims of the Alliance for Progress. He would have the support of a single party. Trejos would be leader of an unstable coalition, with all the problems that this could bring.
I do not think that we should choose sides to the extent of bankrolling Oduber. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]
He knows that we are pulling for him-Jack Vaughn told him so, and I imagine the Vice President conveyed the same impression.
The AFL-CIO seems to be helping him out. [3-1⁄2 lines of source text not declassified]
82. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)
Washington, December 9, 1965.
[Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Costa Rica, Vol. I, 4/64-10/68. Secret; Sensitive. 1 page of source text not declassified.]
83. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)
Washington, December 15, 1965.
[Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Costa Rica, Vol. I, 4/64-10/68. Secret; Sensitive. 1 page of source text not declassified.]
84. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, December 17, 1965, 3:30 p.m.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, McGeorge Bundy, Vol. XVII. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
1. Recent reports from our Embassy and CIA sources in Guatemala indicate that President Peralta’s position has deteriorated and that a military coup may be attempted prior to December 20./2/
/2/ As reported in CIA Intelligence Memorandum, [text not declassified]; ibid., Country File, Guatemala, Vol. I, 3/64-1/66. A memorandum from Vaughn to Rusk, December 10, closely following the language of the CIA memorandum, is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23-9 GUAT.
2. The leader of the coup is Col. Miguel Angel Ponciano, candidate for President of the minority, rightist Movement for National Liberation (MLN). Ponciano suspects that Peralta is working to insure the election of another candidate. The elections are scheduled for March 6, 1966. Ponciano is trying to develop enough support among military commanders to overthrow Peralta.
3. Embassy officers met with Ponciano on Tuesday and told him that we strongly favor return to constitutionality via the scheduled elections. He made quite clear that the issue is Peralta’s suspected support of another candidate. He said in effect that either Peralta stops interfering in the elections, or he must go. He claims that he would remove only Peralta and his cousin and that elections would be held on schedule. What is clear is that Ponciano wants to count the ballots on March 6./3/
/3/ As reported in telegram 373 from Guatemala City, December 14. (Ibid., POL 23-8 GUAT)
4. The danger in this situation is that an attempted coup may split the military, lead to protracted fighting and play into the hands of the Communists. We have instructed Ambassador Mein to convey a strong warning against a coup to Ponciano./4/ At the same time, we want him to urge Peralta, in his own interest, to request OAS supervision of the elections with a visit now by OAS Secretary General Mora or OAS Council Chairman Penna Marinho (Brazil)./5/ Such a proposal might give Peralta some insurance and could not do any of us any harm. He is seeing Peralta today and will afterwards lean hard on Ponciano.
/4/ Instructions transmitted in telegram 279 to Guatemala City, December 15. (Ibid., POL 23-9 GUAT)
/5/ As suggested in telegram 277 to Guatemala City, December 15. (Ibid., POL 23-8 GUAT)
5. This is not at present a Dominican Republic situation, but it may easily require some energetic diplomatic pressures in order to prevent real deterioration via military civil war.
6. We are following developments closely. State, DOD and CIA are doing some contingency planning./6/
/6/ The Department forwarded a report on its contingency plans in a December 27 memorandum to Bundy. The report reflected the recommendations of the LAPC, and considered a number of contingencies, including Situation A, in which Guatemala continues "more or less as it is from now to the elections." In this event, the Department recommended that the U.S. maintain its course of: a) providing assistance for the counterinsurgency effort; b) keeping in touch with presidential candidates and other leaders; and c) "making clear at every opportune moment to Peralta and to all conspirators that we favor not a coup but elections on schedule." (Ibid., POL 2 GUAT)
85. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)/1/
Washington, December 21, 1965.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Guatemala, Vol. I, 3/64-1/66. Confidential.
The December 20 target date passed with no coup in Guatemala. According to [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reports,/2/ the new date is December 22.
/2/ None found.
Ambassador Mein saw President Peralta last Friday (Tab A)./3/ He found him relaxed and confident that he could deal with any coup attempt. He seemed fully aware of Col. Ponciano’s doings and completely uninterested in our approaches to Ponciano. Mein seems to share a good deal of Peralta’s confidence-more than I think he should. Much to my annoyance, Mein did not raise with Peralta the desirability of an OAS presence. He believes it would be a mistake to suggest it. (Tab B)/4/ Peralta in his present frame of mind would probably have said "no," but it would be interesting to sound him out and start him thinking along these lines. Mein is scheduled to see coup leader Ponciano tomorrow./5/
/3/ Tab A, telegram 380 from Guatemala City, December 18, is attached but not printed. Another copy is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 GUAT.
/4/ Tab B, telegram 377 from Guatemala City, December 16, is attached but not printed. In the telegram Mein argued that the suggestion would "only cause resentment," since Peralta had repeatedly maintained that the elections would be free, i.e. without interference from either the government or the army. (Also ibid.)
/5/ In his account of the meeting, Mein reported that Ponciano was "not as vehement in his comments on Peralta," but had warned "that there would be serious trouble in Guatemala if March elections are not free." (Telegram 391 from Guatemala City, December 22; ibid., POL 23-9 GUAT)
Our approaches to President Schick and "Tachito" Somoza in Nicaragua seem to have paid off. Latest CIA reports indicate Somoza has stopped supporting plotters working for the overthrow of Peralta and Echandi in Costa Rica./6/
/6/ Echandi was a former President of Costa Rica; the current President was Francisco Orlich Bolmarich. Documentation on U.S. efforts to discourage General Somoza from interfering in Costa Rica and Guatemala is ibid., POL 23-9 COSTA RICA. A handwritten note by McBundy on the memorandum reads: "Thanks."
86. Telegram From the Embassy in Guatemala to the Department of State/1/
Guatemala City, January 4, 1966, 2:50 p.m.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, PER 2-1. Secret. Also in Washington National Records Center, RG 84: FRC 71 A 2420, Guatemala Embassy Files, 1966, POL Guatemala, Jan-June 1966.
412. For the Secretary and Assistant Secretary Vaughn.
1. This message is in response to Secretary’s request, when I called on him in September prior to my departure for Guatemala,/2/ for reports every 3 or 4 months on local situation. Beginning of new year and completion of third month since presentation credentials (September 22) would seem good time for such review.
/2/ According to Rusk’s Appointment Book, Rusk briefly met Mein on August 31, 1965, the day before Mein received his nomination. (Johnson Library) No substantive record of the meeting was found.
2. Principal factors in present situation are:
(A) Elections of President, Vice President, entire Congress, and all municipal authorities are scheduled for March 6, and the electoral campaign is expected to get into full swing this month;
(B) Terrorist activities have increased in last two months. There have been four known kidnappings of leading businessmen, with over $250,000 paid in ransom, several other threats and extortion efforts by the terrorists and possibly others taking advantage of the situation, and several murders.
(C) The regime’s failure to solve some of the country’s problems, the three-year period in return to constitutionality, and the regime’s apparent inability to deal with the terrorist threat, have led to general loss of confidence in the government and to a deterioration of Peralta’s personal standing and prestige.
(D) The military appear to be divided not only in their support of Peralta, but, which could be more serious in the long run, between the younger and older officers since the former see the latter standing in their way of further advancement.
(E) There are several groups, both civilian and military, plotting against the regime, and a general expectancy that a coup will be staged before March. The reasons for feeling a coup might be necessary vary, depending on the plotters, from those who sincerely feel Peralta no longer capable of handling the situation to those who simply would like to get into power and some military who enjoy the status quo and would like to see it continued.
(F) The economic situation has deteriorated during the last few months, with the prospect of an economic crisis during the first half of the year if remedial steps are not taken. The terrorist activities have resulted in the flight of some capital, but more importantly is the almost complete cessation of new investments and a general slow-down in business. The business and industrial groups have panicked as a result of terrorist activities, and this of course is having its effect on the economy.
3. In this situation Peralta’s attitude and thinking is of key importance. All indications, as reflected in his public statements and to me in private, are that he believes he has complete control of the situation, that the military are united in support of the government, and that the elections will be held as scheduled and the timetable for return to constitutionality adhered to. He says the military are prepared to cope with any situation that might arise, and he therefore tends to minimize the seriousness of the terrorist threat or the possibility of a coup against his regime. There is no reason to doubt his ability to handle any political problem, unless the military are more divided than would seem to be the case, but there is reason for serious concern as to his determination and ability to handle the terrorist situation. We are helping in the security field as requested by Peralta.
4. Notwithstanding all the rumors of possible coups against the regime, present indications are that the elections will probably be held as scheduled, unless (a) Peralta and the military decide that for security or any other reason they should be postponed, or (b) the Constituent Assembly should feel that it would not be in the best interests of the country to continue the electoral campaign and would persuade Peralta to serve as president for a fixed period. Peralta is so committed to the elections, however, that in either case, especially (a), he might prefer to step down as a point of honor rather than see the timetable altered. The danger of action against the regime would seem to be greater in March, after the elections, rather than during the next two months. If the campaign and the elections are reasonably free, that is, free of any interference by the government or attempt of the regime to impose a candidate, there might not be any problem provided the military are willing to accept the results of the polls. If the elections are not free, however, or the regime attempts to impose a candidate, we might find not only segments of the population but also some of the military taking matters in their own hands. That would obviously lead to a very nasty situation, and one which the Communists and others would tend to seize for their own purposes. It could also raise some very difficult problems for us.
5. This raises of course the question of our posture and what we should do to assure a smooth transition to a constitutional system. It is clearly in our interest that free elections be held and that a constitutional government assume power. Our ability to exercise any positive influence is limited, however, especially since we have very little leverage with the present regime. I believe our policy during the next six months should be as outlined below, and that while planning ahead we must move only one step at a time:
(A) To do what we can so that the elections are held on schedule. We have and are continuing to let it be known that in our opinion the elections should be held, that they should be free, and that any attempt to overthrow the regime could play into the hands of the Communists and could therefore have serious repercussions not only for Guatemala but also for the rest of the hemisphere.
(B) To assure to the extent we can acceptance of the results of free elections. The three candidates are mediocre, and do not inspire any great confidence, but we should be able to work with any one of them.
(C) Support the new government when it comes into power on July 1, to enable it to meet the problems of the country, and to avoid any need for it to rely on the extremists for support. This last consideration would be especially true if the PR candidate, which is supported by the left, should win.
6. I regret that the situation does not permit a more optimistic report.
7. I have shown this message to CAS and DATT and they have indicated their concurrence.
87. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson/1/
Washington, March 5, 1966, 9 a.m.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Memos to the President, Robert W. Komer, Vol. XXI. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
Guatemala is scheduled to hold general elections tomorrow. Whether they will bring tranquility or turmoil cannot be forecast with certainty. Much depends on the returns and whether the Guatemalan people accept them as a reasonably fair expression of popular will. Communist-dominated subversive groups are waiting on the wings to exploit discontent.
Despite protestations that the voting will be unhindered and the ballot counting honest, President Peralta has shown partiality during the campaign for the PID party which his regime created, whose standard-bearer is Juan de Dios Aguilar. The other two candidates-Professor Julio Mendez of the moderately left of center PR party and Col. Miguel Ponciano of the extreme right MLN party-are already protesting the government’s partiality. Peralta has not wanted OAS observers. But there will be a large press representation on hand, some 25 reporters from the U.S.
Our Embassy’s estimate is that none of the three candidates is sufficiently strong to win an absolute majority./2/ If this happens, the new Congress which takes office on May 5 must select the President from the two receiving the most votes. We expect considerable political maneuvering during this period (assuming an immediate post-election blow-up does not materialize) accompanied by political unrest. The guerrillas and other elements of the extreme left are awaiting election results and popular reaction thereto before deciding the course which they will follow. If popular disturbances materialize, we can anticipate their adding fuel to the fire in a bid to get a revolutionary situation started.
/2/ Transmitted in telegrams 566 and 594 from Guatemala City, February 15 and 24. (Both National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 GUAT)
In recent months we have tried to help the Peralta Government improve its capabilities for dealing with rural and urban insurgency. The Guatemalans were slow in responding to our offers of assistance. Last week they acted. AID and DOD have done a good job in getting equipment and experts down there to help them./3/
/3/ On February 25 the Embassy reported that Peralta had requested emergency assistance for his counter-insurgency campaign. The United States shipped equipment to the Guatemalan army on March 1; a team of military advisers, and supplies for the Guatemalan police, arrived shortly thereafter. (Memorandum from Burrows to Sayre, March 14; ibid., ARA/CEN/G Files, 1966: Lot 68 D 464, DEF 19 GUAT)
Unless the election results produce a more violent popular reaction than can be foreseen at the present time, the Guatemalan security forces can probably cope with the situation. As a precautionary step, Linc Gordon met yesterday afternoon with his interdepartmental Latin American Policy Committee to review the general situation and the contingency plans.
/4/ Komer initialed below Bowdler’s typed signature and initials.
88. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson/1/
Washington, March 10, 1966, 5 p.m.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Guatemala, Vol. II, 1/66-11/68. Secret; Sensitive. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
Latest reports from Guatemala indicate that there are certain civilian and military elements strongly opposed to the moderate PR party of Julio Mendez, who are trying to pressure President Peralta to annul the elections or step aside and let a successor do it. At this point we don’t know how strong these elements are.
Ambassador Gordon Mein spoke with Peralta this morning about these reports. Peralta tended to dismiss them and expressed his determination not to alter the schedule for return to constitutionality. When Ambassador Mein asked him whether Mendez and the PR would be allowed to take office should they be elected, he was less definite, saying that the election would not be final until the Congress has selected a President from the two leading candidates in May./2/
/2/ As reported in telegram 666 from Guatemala City, March 10. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 GUAT)
Ambassador Mein and his staff yesterday and today have made the rounds of the party candidates, certain business and military leaders, and President Peralta, to convey to them our strong desire to see the results of the elections fully respected and our extreme distaste with any effort to alter or annul them.
I think it might strengthen Ambassador Mein’s efforts to prop up Peralta’s determination to stay in power-and at the same time disincline him to tamper with the election results-if he were able to convey to Peralta that the "White House" would like to see the results fully respected and power transferred peacefully, and offering U.S. cooperation and support in his efforts to achieve this. An ounce of prevention now may be worth more than a pound of cure later./3/
/3/ Komer wrote in the margin next to this paragraph. "Mr. President, this is tricky but it is oral, and if it did leak it would sound like a good noise, not a bad one. On balance I’m for it."
Attached is a suggested statement which the Ambassador in his discretion could use orally in making this pitch to Peralta./4/ I would like to have your authorization to send this to Ambassador Mein. Linc Gordon concurs in this step./5/
/4/ Attached but not printed.
/5/ Although the memorandum does not record the President’s decision, the Department proposed that Mein deliver the message to Peralta on the Secretary’s behalf. (Telegram 460 to Guatemala City, March 11; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 14 GUAT) Mein replied that the proposed message was "not necessary at this time" since an agreement had been "reached and signed last night by representatives of military, PR and PID providing for orderly transfer of power if PR wins elections which is generally assumed to be the case." (Telegram 675 from Guatemala, March 12; ibid.) An election tribunal later certified that the PR had won a majority of seats in congress, clearing the way for Méndez’ elevation to the presidency. (Memorandum from Rostow to the President, April 5; Johnson Library, Memos to the President, Walt W. Rostow, Vol. I)
89. National Intelligence Estimate/1/
Washington, June 24, 1966.
/1/ Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-R01012A, O/DDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet this estimate was prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency with the participation of the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense, the National Security Agency, and the Atomic Energy Commission. The United States Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on June 24.
PROSPECTS FOR STABILITY IN GUATEMALA
To estimate the situation in Guatemala and the prospects for stability over the next year or two.
A. The staying power of the new, moderate-left government of Méndez will depend primarily on its relationship with the Guatemalan military. The military leaders, recalling the Communist surge to power in the early 1950s, may tend to overreact to any administration appointments or policy moves which they regard as favorable to the far left. Méndez, a proud and somewhat sensitive man, is likely to become restive over such circumscription of his powers.
B. In our view, his chances of maintaining himself in power through 1966 are good. During this period he will have the opportunity to improve his ties with military leaders and the economic elite, but probably this would require the sacrifice of some of the reform measures he favors. The Communist guerrilla bands, although not capable of taking power, are strong enough to carry out terrorist campaigns that could keep the government under heavy pressure from the military. These campaigns might be used to justify military intervention if the right and the military leadership became dissatisfied with Méndez’ conduct of his administration.
C. In view of the economic, social and political problems which will confront Méndez beyond 1966, we are not confident that he will survive in office through the next two years. His administration’s chances for accomplishing much, either in reform or in significant economic growth and development, will depend heavily upon whether it accepts substantial outside assistance-with its attendant obligations-and uses it effectively.
[Omitted here is the Discussion section of the estimate.]
90. Letter From the Ambassador to Nicaragua (Brown) to the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs (Burrows)/1/
Managua, January 7, 1967.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/CEN Files: Lot 69 D 515, POL Nicaragua-1967. Secret; Official-Informal.
In our recent letters we have been discussing various aspects of possible results of General Somoza’s mounting drive for power, and threats and predictions of the "chaos" which will allegedly ensue because of mass refusal to accept the election results./2/ We have been reporting the evidence of communist and extreme leftist preparations and even early attempts to take advantage of any disorder, and the separate but equal concerns of the government and anti-communist opposition about the communist potential for trouble. Rumors are, as you know, endemic in these countries, and right now many of them have to do with plots and plans of the various protagonists. I heard from one of our locals yesterday, for example, that there is a street story to the effect that the Acting Chief of the Guardia, General Montiel, is planning a pre-election golpe designed to forestall serious trouble on or after Election Day. I’m told it is said that he would establish a junta militar in place of the present constitutional government, put General Somoza in charge of the junta and clamp down on everything for two or three years, just to keep the peace which Nicaragua needs. So it goes, but this is by way of introducing the report to you of a plot which for once has come directly to our attention by means of one of the self-styled plotters. This scheme has not yet, as far as we know, become the subject of gossip, and it appears to have at least some of the earmarks of more probability and/or gravity than many of the others.
/2/ For background on the elections, see Document 91.
An approach was made recently to one of our officers by a young Nicaraguan lawyer named Morales, who is known for his solid anti-Somoza record over several years and for his membership in, and association with leaders of, the Social Christian Party. Morales has no communist connections. According to Morales, the participants in the plot are some Social Christians and some officers of the National Guard, who are quietly joining forces for a golpe against the authorities, in order to prevent General Somoza’s election and to seize power before the communists can take advantage of the disorders which will accompany the election. The event is supposed to take place on January 22 when Agüero is holding a rally in Managua and the President and the Somozas are in Leon for the Liberal candidate’s demonstration in that city. Morales was probing for an indication of our attitude toward such a golpe. He was of course given a healthy slug of our hands-off treatment. Nonetheless, he has wanted to keep the line open to us. We shall see most discreetly what more we can find out.
The plot is more detailed than I have given you in the barebones description above, which I think includes enough of the essential elements to give you another example of what may be going on under the surface. My own view is that the plot is almost certain to be discovered, if it has not already come to the attention of the GON. Even if it isn’t, I find it difficult to believe that it will be successful. In any event, our information so far is half-baked indeed, and depends entirely on the word of one (half-baked?) informant. We also wanted you to have this information at this stage so that we might lay some sort of basis for what might come out of it.
The next episode of the Perils of Pauline will be shown on this same screen.
91. Information Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs (Burrows) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Gordon)/1/
Washington, January 10, 1967.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 NIC. Confidential. Drafted by James R. Johnston. Another copy indicates that the memorandum was cleared by Sayre. (Ibid., ARA/CEN Files: Lot 69 D 515, POL Nicaragua-1967)
With the Nicaraguan elections less than one month away (February 5), I think you will be interested in Ambassador Brown’s assessment of the situation, including the post-election role of the opposition. Summarized below are views he has expressed to me in recent letters, responding to some provocative communications from me.
General Somoza, the front-running candidate of the government party, could win a free election, although it might be close. Nevertheless, the Somoza tactic is apparently to build up a large majority, by fair means or foul. Opposition candidate Fernando Aguero, as well as many others in his camp, cannot believe that Aguero could lose in a free election. Aguero is the kind who, when he does lose, would be inclined to lead a resistance movement. However, in view of his proved ineptness as an organizer and leader, as well as the probable reluctance of his supporters to risk their current prosperity in a turmoil that might lead to revolution, Aguero is unlikely to have much success in any post-election efforts.
For many years the opposition, including its spokesmen in the United States, has been making dire predictions of calamity to come, in an attempt to frighten the United States into "doing something about General Somoza". In fact, only a massive stroke by the United States could have dissuaded Somoza from his candidacy, and there would have been little support in the United States Government for such a move.
General Somoza seems to have the Nicaraguan armed forces, the Guardia Nacional, behind him for a long time to come. Instead of heaping abuse on the Guardia Nacional, the opposition is appealing to it with blandishments promising a better deal under Aguero, and is actually shouting "Viva la Guardia Nacional!"
Although serious trouble is not expected in Nicaragua, if it does occur, we could not stop it if we tried. In any case, maybe a little revolution would in the long run not really harm our interests. Even discounting reports from prejudiced sources to the effect that General Somoza is in ill health and is emotionally unstable, there is other evidence, varying in degree of realiability, which indicates that once in office he may not be equal to his aspirations. In Ambassador Brown’s own words, "The wondering eyes of the world may sooner or later see Anastasio Somoza explode and fall apart into little pieces, as he finds himself forced to take measures which may war with one part of his nature, as he finds that Nicaragua will not move as fast as he thinks it must under his peerless leadership, as he does not get the hemisphere’s recognition of his deeds and good intentions, etc."/2/
/2/ The sentence is in a letter from Brown to Burrows, December 23, 1966. (Ibid., ARA/CEN/N Files: Lot 69 D 528)
All this does not mean that the first months of 1967 will pass with general tranquillity, but Nicaragua is expected to stagger through them without major disorder.
92. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson/1/
Washington, January 23, 1967.
/1/ Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Nicaragua, Vol. I, 12/63-12/68. Confidential. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
The rioting which broke out in Managua yesterday was a deliberate provocation by opposition candidate Fernando Aguero to gain at least a delay in the February 5 general elections and, if possible, intervention by the US or OAS.
In a speech to his followers, Aguero called upon the Nicaraguan National Guard to join him in overthrowing the Somozas. (General "Tachito" Somoza is the Government’s candidate.) He then led a demonstration through the city. A clash between the demonstrators and the National Guard occurred, leading to an extensive street fight. A CIA estimate as of midnight placed casualties at 16 dead, 66 wounded.
Aguero and his entourage took refuge in Managua’s largest hotel in the center of the city. The National Guard has the hotel surrounded. Through the night, there was sporadic sniping at the National Guard, but the Government seems to be firmly in control. CIA reports that the Government has authorized two priests to enter the hotel to talk to Aguero.
Ambassador Brown reports that to his best knowledge, no Americans have been hurt. Some 20 United States citizens are in the besieged hotel. Brown has asked Nicaraguan authorities to exercise extreme care in any action against Aguero so that the lives of Americans and other foreigners will not be endangered.
93. Editorial Note
On the evening of January 22, 1967, several Embassy officers tried to reach the Americans held hostage at the Gran Hotel in downtown Managua; others tried to reach the leader of the Nicaraguan National Guard. Both attempts were unsuccessful. After failing to contact interim President of Nicaragua Lorenzo Guerrero Gutiérrez, Ambassador Brown managed to express "grave US concern" to the President’s press secretary. The press secretary called back to report that President Guerrero and General Somoza were fully aware of the gravity of the situation, particularly since the lives of Americans and other hotel guests were at stake and assured Brown that, contrary to reports the Embassy had received, the National Guard was not firing into the hotel. (Telegram 1065 from Managua, January 23, 0514Z; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964-66, POL 23-9 NIC)
In the early hours of January 23 the Embassy began to receive appeals to intervene in the hotel siege. Ambassador Brown received such a call from opposition leader Fernando Agüero. The Embassy initially responded to these appeals by stating that "the action requested would constitute foreign intervention into Nicaraguan affairs." (Telegram 1066 from Managua, January 23, 0740Z; ibid.) Several hours later the Nicaraguan Government allowed the Papal Nuncio and the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua to approach Agüero in an attempt to negotiate a "peaceful evacuation beleaguered inmates, especially foreign guests." (Telegram 1067 from Managua, January 23, 1145Z; ibid.) When the two prelates proved unable to mediate a settlement, the Nicaraguan Government recommended that the Embassy assume the initiative. Ambassador Brown sent a team of senior officers to "persuade Aguero importance immediate release hostages, pointing out obvious impact his continued control over them will have on his American friends." (Telegram 1068 from Managua, January 23, 1330Z; ibid.) After 2 hours of negotiation, the team returned empty-handed. (Telegram 1073 from Managua, January 23, 1640Z; ibid.) Meanwhile the Department, although agreeing with the decision to intervene on behalf of the American hostages, expressed its concern that the "GON seems to be shifting burden to Embassy and USG." The Department instructed the Embassy to "make unmistakably clear to GON that we regard GON responsible for safety of Americans." (Telegram 123306 to Managua, January 23, 11:23 a.m.; ibid.)
Before the Embassy could remind the Nicaraguan Government of its responsibilities, a summons arrived from Agüero. He wanted the Embassy to deliver a message to the Guerrero administration, containing his terms to resolve the stalemate. The Embassy agreed to deliver the message "without taking any responsibility for promoting conditions laid down." (Telegram 1077 from Managua, January 23, 2157Z; ibid.) Following further negotiations, with the Embassy acting as intermediary, Agüero and his followers agreed to evacuate the hotel, thereby releasing the hostages. (Telegram 1078 from Managua, January 23, 2227Z and telegram 1085 from Managua, January 23, 2330Z; both ibid.)
94. Telegram From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State/1/
Managua, January 24, 1967, 2120Z.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 23-9 NIC. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to USCINCSO for POLAD, Guatemala City, Panama City, San José, San Salvador, and Tegucigalpa and passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and CIA.
1105. Subject: President Guerrero’s Comments on January 22-23 Events.
1. I called on President Guerrero this morning in order attempt evaluate his morning-after attitude and to get across two points to him categorically and officially.
2. I opened conversation by congratulating President on GON’s contribution to resolution very difficult and dangerous situation at Gran Hotel yesterday. Guerrero replied that GON had of course been extremely concerned. There were those, he went on, who wanted to take the toughest kind of line of action, and "today some of us are being criticized for having been too lenient in letting those people go unscathed." But, he added, he was confident GON was right. If hotel had been conclusively attacked there would have been much more blood shed on both sides, and of course GON had to think about safety of Americans and other foreigners in hotel. Guerrero said he was most grateful for our Embassy’s help in making this possible.
A. Comment: There is little doubt that there were hardliners within GON circles, possibly headed by General Somoza, who were ready and anxious give National Guard its head to clean up situation ruthlessly. But we are also confident that it was Luis Somoza, President himself and most of other GON leadership who were responsible for moderate solution which was reached. They were not of course unaware that eyes of world and especially the US was on them.
3. Guerrero’s reference to Embassy’s role gave me opening for first of points I wanted make. I said I wanted to make absolutely clear to him that in our passages back and forth yesterday between Aguero group in hotel and GON safety of endangered Americans was uppermost in our minds. As far as messages we carried between two sides and the agreement in all its details which was ultimately reached were concerned, he should understand that we were acting merely as agents, without responsibility for any of the arrangements. I said it was like two Nicaraguans talking to each other over a telephone line which we provided. We tried to make this abundantly clear to both sides during course of negotiations yesterday, but I wanted to re-emphasize it today. President said of course GON understood this and was most appreciative our undertaking do what we did. Other governments who had citizens in hotel also, he added, should also be grateful to US. Finally he said many moderates in opposition had called him during course of yesterday urging him to negotiate directly with Aguero and it was great satisfaction to him be able tell them that talks were going on successfully through our medium.
A. Comment: Since there are bound to be many critics on both sides who will and probably are now attacking agreement which permitted hotel evacuation, I thought I should make above disclaimer of responsibility for content of agreement at highest level GON as soon as possible, in event there any doubt. Besides, it happens to be quite true. We will make same point again with opposition when we have chance.
4. I then made other point I had in mind based on fact that when Aguero and other leaders (Pasos, two Chamorros, Rivas and Frixione) emerged from hotel last night they suddenly entered my well identified official car which had been used all day take Embassy team back and forth. This was of course without any pre-arrangement our part or expectation they might do so since they were supposed proceed to homes on their own responsibility. DCM Engle, who in charge of Embassy team at hotel was horrified and considered forcing them out of car. But he quickly and correctly concluded that to do so in such public place and in front of many foreign and domestic newsreel and other photographers would create most unpleasant scene, to say the least, and consequences could not be foreseen. Therefore they drove off in Ambassador’s car and were taken to their homes. I explained to President exactly how this happened. Guerrero brushed the incident aside and said it made no difference at all. He added that what really annoyed him was what the oppositionists had done after they got home. Aguero for example made a grandstand play by visiting hospitals, and he and other oppositionists held "drunken fiestas" in celebration. Guerrero said he thought this in extremely poor taste so shortly after so many innocent people had been killed and wounded.
A. This incident will hopefully not loom large as an issue, but I thought I should attempt convince President of truth which is that Aguero and company took outrageous advantage of us in this instance. Morning news broadcasts apparently have not specifically identified car in which they left. This connection government representative at Hotel Arostegui was eye-witness.
5. I concluded conversation by remarking that I hoped all would go well from now on. Guerrero said he shared my hope and added that he trusted that Department of State had been and would be kept fully informed of developments as they occurred. I said he could count on that. Guerrero then said that he knew that Senator Kennedy had made a statement yesterday/2/ which was very critical of the GON, calling for OAS action of some kind, etc. I replied that if there was such a statement I had not seen it but perhaps Senator’s comment had been based largely on events of Sunday rather than peaceful conclusion of Gran Hotel crisis yesterday. President mildly reaffirmed hope that US Government would be completely informed and understanding. I said we would do our best.
/2/ In telegram 125185 to Managua, January 25, the Embassy forwarded the full text of the statement, in which Senator Robert F. Kennedy urged the OAS Human Rights Commission to investigate the situation in Managua and called for a meeting of the OAS Council "to determine what steps would be appropriate in the event that the violence continues." (Ibid.)
A. Comment: Again, there is little doubt that course which events took yesterday afternoon was considerably influenced image-building considerations, certainly on part GON and perhaps also to some degree on part opposition. Dominican experience was in many people’s minds, and Luis Somoza at least is ever most alert to his family’s public relations.
6. Comment: We will attempt further analysis as we make further contacts. President did not mention election prospects and I had concluded I should not raise matter at this stage. Probably each side going make public claims "great victory" for themselves. If Kennedy statement has not been sent us, please transmit soonest for our info.
95. Telegram From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State/1/
Managua, February 10, 1967, 2100Z.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 14 NIC. Confidential.
1286. Subject: Significance of Somoza’s Election for US.
1. General Somoza’s election is now a reality, two weeks after the heavy suppression of the opposition leadership’s attempt provoke intervention and/or forestall election and overthrow government. Review of what this all means in terms US policy and tactics, short and long term, seems desirable soon as possible, because of its potential effect network our relationships, including our aid programs. Small and large decisions on many aspects US-Nicaraguan relationships cannot long be postponed. My evaluations and suggestions set forth herein are supplement to commentary we have provided as developments occurred. Department’s views from its vantage point will be most helpful.
2. Depending somewhat on how GON handle Pedro Joaquin Chamorro/2/ and other prisoners, and whether GON exercises retaliation on Aguero and other opposition leaders still at large (other than severe election drubbing), events of Jan 22-23 and subsequent pre-election period may be allowed fairly quickly and smoothly recede into history as just another in series of foolish opposition attempts overthrow Somoza-controlled regimes by violence with accompanying bloody, heavy-handed, somewhat confused methods employed by GON restore order and keep constitutional forms in operation. Aguero’s move on Jan 22 and course GON followed during Jan 22-Feb 4 period have unquestionably added to Nicaraguan pot large residue bitterness which would not otherwise be there now, but in long-run I wonder if period will not widely be regarded, here and in outside world, merely as additional hard evidence firm Somoza determination maintain control Nicaragua by any means, and advance proof of many people’s fears and expectations of character of General Somoza’s forthcoming administration.
/2/ In telegram 1138 from Managua, January 26, the Embassy reported that Chamorro had been arrested without a warrant, an apparent violation of the Gran Hotel agreement that held that "constitutional and ordinary legal procedures would remain in force since state of siege not imposed." (Ibid., POL 23-9 NIC) In a meeting with Ambassador Brown on January 31, former President Luis Somoza explained: "We decided after Gran Hotel evacuation that we ought pick up at least one big one. Pedro Joaquin gave us our chance when he organized street disorder which took place subsequently." Somoza denied that Chamorro had been seriously mistreated, although "guard did shove him around with his rifle butt." (Telegram 1220 from Managua, February 1; ibid., POL 23-8 NIC)
3. Somoza’s election last Sunday had of course long been accepted as inevitable by all observers and probably by almost all Nicaraguans (Aguero’s attempt make holding of election impossible is good indication his own expectation). We still maintain belief that Somoza would have won in fairest and most honest election because of liberal party’s traditional power base plus organization, program, hard work and money. Nevertheless, many pro-Somoza election irregularities have been proved by our own observation on election day, tending to confirm opposition charges of hundreds more. Creeping processing (if that is the most expressive word) of election returns can only indicate further Somoza machine manipulation in order show the world a landslide victory. Aguero’s antics Jan 22 and later probably contributed to diminishing his vote, because they led to GON control measures which prohibited opposition build up to civic campaign climax and also perhaps because the outbreak of violence drove some oppositionists to abstain or even to vote for Somoza as leader party of "peace, order and progress." My own preliminary guess is that Luis Somoza has been author, producer and director of show that has been played last few weeks, with his candidate-brother and other liberal leaders more or less willing go along with his tactics. His objects may have included keep control, maintain conservative party as principal and traditional opposition rival to Liberal Party, let Aguero destroy himself for future PCT leadership, martyrize Pedro Joaquin Chamorro temporarily so that he can knock off Aguero when he gets out of jail (although Aguero will presumably still be strong enough so that both will go down fighting), and let a relatively moderate opposition leadership emerge which will safely represent the other half or so of the elite. In meantime internal struggle for power within PCT might help give new president some breathing-spell and chance get administration off to relatively unhampered start.
4. It is no news that an administration headed by General Somoza will add elements of instability, tension and probable violence to the Nicaraguan scene which were not present during the later years of Luis Somoza’s presidency nor the Schick-Guerrero interregnum. Although he bore the family name and was his father’s direct heir, Luis Somoza loosened the reins and largely because of his personal qualities and achievements gained some measure of opposition acceptance. Nicaragua flourished and breathed even more freely during the past four years. The problem inherent in General Somoza’s presidency, made somewhat more insoluble by recent events, is that the opposition will never give him the benefit of the doubt. He has intelligence and might even show some statesmanship if left alone and given a chance. Strong probability, however, is that he will not be and the troubles which are likely to come will be just those suited to bring out the worst in his personality. He will have some problems getting and keeping an able group of collaborators, even if he tries. As far as the non-Communist opposition is concerned, there will probably be five years of varying degrees of grumbling, lashing out in anger, subversive plotting, uneasiness and unrest leading to sporadic outbreaks of violence of one kind or another, etc., with some Communist potential waiting in wings take advantage of any turmoil which might be produced. All this is notwithstanding General Somoza’s plus factors: a majority of "the people" who are hoping he will help Nicaragua advance in peace, a prosperous but basically fragile economic and fiscal outlook, and guidance and assistance of his brother and some trained and able government servants.
5. Inevitable problem for us is how to live with this situation and move toward our objectives. To exemplify just one set of problems on the horizon, Somoza and his administration are going to come to us with fresh economic assistance ideas, and some will no doubt be good ones worthy of our support. If we continue to do business as usual in this field of our endeavors we will have to face the stings of an obstreperous group of oppositionists, probably a minority, it is true, but still one which is quite capable of loudly berating us with the old charges that the US is thus helping Somozas line their pockets and stay in power. I think that with luck, a Somoza who was not being too obvious in taking advantage of us and with a lot of fervent persuasion we could eventually turn away such charges locally. I am not as qualified to estimate chances in the US of successfully braving press comment to effect that we again "embracing militarist dictators" and so on. I would hope that we can somehow find it possible to work constructively and safely with the Somoza administration, building on what we have already accomplished in the economic assistance area. There are several other segments of our bilateral relationships which can be similarly or more troublesome.
6. I have no bright ideas or solutions, supposing as I do that we shall have to wait a little longer to see how things go. I do urge however that we receive as soon as possible an indication of the Department’s current views on "Somozaland." Foregoing are preliminary comments re implications for US relationships with Nicaragua of recent developments. We hope to come up later with some specific suggestions re US stance./3/
/3/ In telegram 139655 to Managua, February 17, the Department suggested a careful review of military and economic assistance programs "to ensure that they continue to conform with basic U.S. strategy of encouraging and supporting sound economic, social and political development of country, including progressive evolution of representative democracy." (Ibid., POL 1 US)
96. Telegram From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State/1/
Managua, February 15, 1967, 0045Z.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 15-1 NIC. Confidential. Repeated to USCINCSO, Guatemala, San Salvador, San José, Tegucigalpa, and Panama.
1313. Subject: General Somoza Asks for a Chance.
1. I lunched alone with General Somoza today at his invitation. His purposes were evidently try feel me out as to our general attitude toward him and forthcoming administration and give me his views on events since Jan 22, his poor public relations in US, intransigence of opposition and Communist menace. Following are few highlights. Memo of conversation follows by pouch./2/
/2/ Forwarded as an enclosure to airgram A-220 from Managua, February 18. (Ibid.)
2. Somoza said he deeply disturbed about attitude American press toward himself and family. He had tried help correspondents get well rounded view Nicaragua, but they persisted in lambasting his family as cruel dynasty. Made specific reference Newsweek article (Managua 1293)/3/ and hoped Department could somehow teach them some history. I remarked that he indeed has public relations problem, that adverse press image will die hard and then only if deeds are eventually persuasive to impartial observers.
/3/ In telegram 1293 from Managua, February 11, the Embassy reported that recent press accounts had stung the Nicaraguan Government, including a Newsweek article in which an Embassy officer allegedly admitted: "we got the wrong number in 1932", when the elder Somoza was elevated to head the National Guard, "and to this day we’re trying to live it down." (Ibid.)
3. Though he did not once suggest Aguero and other opposition leaders are Communists, Somoza said Aguero hoped by abortive coup attempt Jan 22 to bring about intervention. Communists used him in attempt implement detailed plot destroy capital. Aguero was mistaken in thinking he had support US and others in hemisphere, but on January 23 manner Gran Hotel evacuation arranged inevitably helped encourage him and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro to further excesses. Street fracas January 25 proved this and gave excuse for jailing Chamorro. On this score I told General that if he critical our part evacuation as encouraging Agueristas, he might like know we receiving criticism from other side too. He admitted he understood but some others did not.
4. Somoza went on at length and kept doubling back to theme that conservatives are incorrigible in sniping at GON and free election in which will of people demonstrated. Fundamentally what they were doing was running down their own country in eyes of outside world, and this would hurt them as much as the liberals, by affecting investment climate and business. I said that many people now are over-excited, expressed hope tempers would calm and spoke of virtues of concept of compromise which vital to practice democracy here or anywhere else. Somoza said rich conservatives are not going to like him because he is going to make them pay their taxes and thus prove to world that Nicaragua loyal member Alliance for Progress. Nicaragua has tremendous possibilities which will be realized if he is given a chance.
4. Comment: Above brief summary gives impression much more give and take our conversation than actually occurred. In true Somoza style he did most of talking in rich and confident detail, and my few remarks were interjected to take advantage his cordial and apparently receptive attitude. Chiefly I tried give impression friendly listener who hopes Nicaragua will continue thrive in every way. Underneath surface General Somoza seemed wary and alert for any indications our pre-campaign and pre-election personal relationship had changed. As usual he tried hard make good impression, without showing much if any humility, and yet seemed to be seeking almost desperately the understanding of his best friends the Americans./4/
/4/ On February 15 the Embassy reported that Somoza planned to visit the United States in March. (Telegram 1312 from Managua; ibid., POL 7 NIC) The Department instructed the Embassy to discourage the visit, "since persons he might expect to see in Department will be out of the country." (Telegram 138358 to Managua, February 16; ibid.) The Department also recommended against a White House appointment, arguing that "the President and other United States officials concerned with Latin American affairs are so involved in Summit preparations" that an appointment "would not be appropriate." (Memorandum from Read to Rostow, March 14; ibid.) The President met Somoza at the White House for a half hour on April 6 and introduced him to Rusk and McNamara before a Cabinet meeting. (Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary) The Department later explained that the meeting had been arranged "on very short notice when President found he had few minutes available to receive Somoza unofficially and informally." (Telegram 171222 to Managua, April 7; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL 7 NIC)
97. Special National Intelligence Estimate/1/
SNIE 83.3-67 Washington, October 12, 1967.
/1/ Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79-R01012A, O/DDI Registry. Secret; Controlled Dissem. According to a note on the cover sheet this estimate was prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency with the participation of the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State and Defense and the National Security Agency. The United States Intelligence Board concurred in this estimate on October 12.
POLITICAL PROSPECTS IN NICARAGUA OVER THE
A. President Anastasio Somoza is in uncertain health, but the chances are better than even that he will remain alive and active during the period of this estimate. He is not likely to alter the basic lines of Nicaraguan foreign policy, though his regime may become somewhat more authoritarian, and the incipient friction in his relations with the US is likely to grow.
B. In the event of Somoza’s death within the next year or so, members of the country’s inner political circle-from the Somoza family, other propertied interests, the Nationalist Liberal Party (PLN), and the National Guard-would probably work for a constitutional succession with excellent prospects of success. The resulting government would probably be more flexible in domestic policy and easier for the US to deal with.
C. If, however, Somoza became incapacitated but remained active enough to insist on continuing in office, or if he undertook a series of ill-advised, disruptive moves and then died, the sequence of events would be more unsettling. We regard these contingencies as possible but not probable.
[Omitted here is the Discussion section of the estimate.]
98. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs (Burrows) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Oliver)/1/
Washington, October 12, 1967.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/CEN/G Files: Lot 70 D 75, POL 15-1 Head of State, Guatemala 1967. Confidential. Drafted by Killoran.
/2/ No substantive record has been found of the October 12 meeting between Oliver and Broe.
CIA appears to feel more strongly than we do at this time with respect to certain threatening aspects of the Guatemalan situation. The Agency in recent briefings for key officials of the U.S. Government has stated that President Mendez of Guatemala has abdicated all power to the military and is himself in the hands of extreme rightists.
Our own analysis of the situation is that Mendez has allowed the military great latitude in their activities, but that the situation is not out of hand. Mendez agrees in principle with the need to eliminate communist and insurgent elements by clandestine means, but at the same time recognizes the danger to his administration of the counter-terrorists, who include among their targets certain members of the majority Partido Revolucionario, as well as some labor and peasant leaders and intellectuals.
Our Embassy in Guatemala now feels that with the relative success of the GOG in dealing with the insurgency problem, the continued activities of the counter-terrorist organizations could lead to a loss of popular support for the Mendez Government and the creation of a coup climate. I agree with this assessment. We are, in effect, at a crucial point: Mendez could lose control of the situation, but it does not appear that he has. Ambassador Mein feels that the Minister of Defense is both loyal to Mendez and in control of the Army and that he has done an effective job of preventing a confrontation between the Army and the Partido Revolucionario.
If the opportunity arises, you might wish to determine on what basis the CIA has decided that Mendez has lost control. I should like to add as a footnote that Mendez never really gained full control over events in Guatemala; he has no power base and as a result has been forced to attempt to balance opposing factions and satisfy divergent interest groups. In this he has been successful and we have reason to believe he can prevent a serious deterioration in the political climate. His style, however, will continue to be one of compromise rather than self-assertion.
99. Information Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Sayre) to Secretary of State Rusk/1/
Washington, January 17, 1968.
/1/ Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA Files: Lot 72 D 33, Guatemala. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the memorandum.
/2/ The White House Situation Room forwarded a brief account of the incident to President Johnson on January 16: "Two members of our military mission in Guatemala City were killed and one was wounded when the car in which they were riding was machine gunned shortly before noon this morning. Col. John Webber, Jr., the Commander of the U.S. Guatemala Military Group, was killed outright, and Lt. Comdr. Ernest Monroe died shortly after the attack from his wounds. The identity of the assassins is not known, but it is suspected that they were members of the Rebel Armed Forces, a Communist guerrilla organization." (Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Guatemala, Vol. II, 1/66-11/68)
The Guatemalan Government has declared a "State of Alert." The Guatemalan Minister of Defense believes that a strong reaction is necessary to the pattern of Communist terrorist activities which has developed in the last few days in order to demonstrate that the Government has control of the security situation. He therefore intends to make a maximum effort and has taken personal charge of the investigation of the assassination of the two U.S. military officers.
The Guatemalan President has extended written condolences to Ambassador Mein.
From the information available to me I would tentatively conclude: a) that the assassination is part of a pattern of Communist terrorist activities in Guatemala; b) the assailants knew that the occupants of the car were U.S. military personnel and c) there is no reason for believing at this time that U.S. personnel in other countries in Latin America will be objects of such attacks. With respect to this last point, however, the Communists have now "broken the ice" on assassination of U.S. personnel in Latin America.
All of the available information indicates that the Country Team was fully alert to the possibility of terrorist attacks; however, there is a press indication that the terrorists were able to set up the assassination because the MILGP Commander was following a routine pattern of travel between his Headquarters and home. If so, this would be contrary to instructions from the Department which required Country Teams to assure that their top personnel varied their pattern of activity sufficiently in going to their offices, departing for lunch, and going home at night so that it could not be regarded as routine. We will be checking this point out with Ambassador Mein.
I will also be sending a round-up message on the situation in Guatemala to all of our Ambassadors, who were instructed yesterday to review their security procedures.
I understand that Ambassador Mein has discussed with Assistant Secretary Oliver the latter’s planned visit to Guatemala today. At present, Ambassador Mein recommends and Oliver agrees that Oliver should proceed according to schedule. However, Ambassador Mein desires to review the situation this morning and discuss it with Oliver before a final decision is made. Ambassador Mein has a message prepared giving the rationale and his recommendations which he will transmit to the Department this morning./3/
/3/ In telegram 2854 from Guatemala, January 17, the Embassy recommended that Oliver proceed as planned since canceling the visit "might be interpreted by President [Méndez] and others as indication that we wavering in our support of government at very difficult time." (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, ORG 7 ARA)
Return to This Volume Home Page