817.1051/819: Telegram

The Minister in Nicaragua (Lane) to the Secretary of State

80. My 79, February 28, 5 p.m. The Ministers of Mexico and El Salvador, both of whom have just arrived, have told me that they had specific instructions to cooperate closely with me in the present situation. I met with them yesterday evening for the purpose of agreeing as to such conciliatory measures as might be taken by us. I acquainted them with the substance of proposed bill regarding the Guardia and stated that I did not wish to express any opinion regarding this bill, and particularly not to approve any action which might be interpreted as a repudiation of the position previously taken by the United States Government with respect to the Guardia. We agreed that a good moral effect would be created if the three of us should go in a body to the President and emphasize to him that our respective Governments are supporting the Constitutional Government of Nicaragua and that, should we be able in the interest of peace to exert our good offices with a view to conciliating divergent opinions, we placed ourselves at his disposal.

We thereupon called on the President and the foregoing view was expressed to him by the Minister of Mexico as senior diplomatic representative. The Minister of El Salvador suggested that it might be wise for the sake of harmony to issue an order to the Guardia along the [Page 544] lines of the proposed bill, it being his feeling that an act of Congress might be resented while the action of the President as Commanding General of the Guardia would be considered to be entirely normal. The Minister of Mexico indicated that he was in accord with this plan. I stated, however, that in the absence of instructions from my Government I did not wish to give my approval, as such approval might be interpreted as a new departure in our attitude towards the Guardia. On the other hand I said that I understood my Government’s present position to be that the question of the Guardia is one for the present Government to determine. We left the President with the understanding that he would issue an order to the Guardia embodying the provisions of the draft law. As the Mexican Minister had told the Minister of El Salvador and myself that his instructions did not permit him to call on General Somoza but would allow him to treat only with the President and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the President having indicated that he had no objection to our using our good offices with General Somoza, the Minister of El Salvador and I determined to see Somoza last night particularly as reports were current yesterday that the crisis between the President and Somoza had been reached. I thereupon telephoned Somoza from the Legation and told him that the Minister of Salvador and I would be grateful if he would consult with us. He told us on reaching the Legation that the Guardia is loyal to the present administration, but that the feelings of the officers and men of the Guardia should be taken into account and that the continued maintenance of measures of military defense at the Presidential house were causing increased irritation and antagonism. Somoza had already been acquainted with the contents of the draft law by Léon Debayle, who had called on him at the request of the President. Somoza said that such a law would not only have a bad effect on the Guardia but would also work against the President, as it would indicate to the country that Sacasa not having enough moral force to issue orders to the Guardia had been forced to take action by the Congress. On being asked by the Minister of Salvador whether he would be agreeable to the issuance of the order by the President, instead of the enactment of the law, Somoza said that he would not object in principle but would greatly prefer if the provisions of the order could be contained in various orders issued from time to time. As I understand it, his feeling is that the Guardia would resent receiving at one blow such a comprehensive and what he termed a “drastic” order. We suggested that sometimes it is wiser to get a thing over with once and for all rather than to drag it out indefinitely. He left us agreeing to call on the President this morning should he be summoned.

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This morning the President requested the presence of the Ministers of Mexico and El Salvador and of myself. He said that this morning the Commission of Congress, which had called on him yesterday, has been to see him to say that, as this is the last day of the present session, it would be advisable if the bill should be presented to the Congress. The President said he then had told the Commission that he had decided to issue an order which would take the place of the proposed bill. According to the President the Commission objected to such a procedure on the ground that a vote of confidence in the President on the present issue is absolutely essential, especially because of the need to obtain in concrete form an expression of opinion of the Conservative Party. The President, while admitting that the issuance of the order would have a less irritating effect on the Guardia, said that he felt that he should follow the wishes of Congress. He pointed out furthermore that the bill had not originated with him but with certain members of Congress and that he could not constitutionally prevent the bill from being discussed. The other two Ministers and I expressed no opinion regarding this suggested change of procedure but again reiterated our offer to take such conciliatory measures as might seem convenient. The President said that he would inform us of the action taken by Congress.

On leaving the President my colleagues and I agreed that, as the matter has reached a purely political stage, it would be improper for us to take any further action.

The three of us feel that we have done all that we properly can and the Minister of Salvador and I consider that our conciliatory efforts with Somoza last evening have relieved us of any charge that we are indifferent to the situation. We all feel that it is now a matter for the Government and for Congress to determine.

Prior to our meeting last evening with the President, I had an opportunity to have a few words with him at the ceremony yesterday afternoon at which the Minister of El Salvador presented his credentials. I told the President that the plan for me to come to see him not alone but with the other Ministers should not in any way be regarded as a lessening of my desire to be of assistance. On the other hand I felt that joint support of the Constitutional Government by the three Ministers should be helpful.

My own view is that the significance of the representatives of Mexico and of the United States acting in accord with respect to Nicaragua will be felt here, and particularly when such action is taken with the concurrence and assistance of El Salvador.