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

No. 892

Sir: Referring to my strictly confidential telegram No. 48, of June 14, 6 p.m.,70 regarding the report that the Minister of El Salvador, Doctor César Virgilio Miranda, had been recalled to El Salvador for various reasons, I took the opportunity in a conversation with President Sacasa on June 15, to broach the matter of Doctor Miranda’s activities, in the hope that I might elicit some information. Having on that morning received the Department’s instruction No. 266 of May 31, 1935, indicating that it approved my statements to the Mexican Chargé d’Affaires on April 29 (to the effect that the United States did not intend to choose the next President of Nicaragua), I said to Dr. Sacasa that my position here appears to be different to that of the Minister of El Salvador; that I am neither in favor of or against any candidate; and that I could not be a party to the convocation of the diplomatic corps with a view to taking action against Somoza.

The President, earlier in the conversation, had stated that for personal reasons there is no one he would rather see succeed to the presidency than Somoza, but unfortunately, however, the people, so Doctor Sacasa said, did not wish Somoza as President, the Guardia having made itself unpopular throughout the country. Furthermore, he [Page 863] added, Somoza’s presidency would be distasteful to all of Latin America, would reflect unfavorably on the United States, and would create the belief that the United States had imposed Somoza on the country. The President… told me, what he has said on countless previous occasions, that the United States is his second country and that he would not wish any loss of prestige for the United States in Latin America. I expressed the opinion that were we to take the action which the Minister of Salvador apparently desired, it would, in my opinion, react unfavorably against the United States, as the contention would then be that we were again intervening in Nicaraguan political affairs. I said to the President that the Minister of El Salvador and I had maintained excellent relations, but that on this point I differed radically with him. Furthermore, I said that my Government had approved my attitude in the matter.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

As Dr. Luis Manuel De Bayle now openly states (he has so stated to me) that Somoza intends to have a constituent assembly called to elect Somoza provisional president (the question of changing the constitution now seems to have been dropped), I inquired of the President as to the accuracy of such rumors, which I did not attribute to any person in particular. Dr Sacasa replied that he, as President and as upholder of the constitution, could not permit such an action which would result in civil war, worse than any which Nicaragua had yet experienced.

On June 17 the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that he had advised the President to ascertain what the attitude of the present United States Government is with respect to the “Treaty of Washington of 1923” (General Treaty of Peace and Amity). Dr. Argüello said that if the United States Government, which was the guarantor of the treaty, still maintains the same attitude as to the recognition of those who may unconstitutionally come into power in Central America, then “Somoza is finished.” Emphasizing that we cannot commit ourselves in advance to the granting or denial of recognition, I said that we are strongly on record against a government coming into power through violence. Dr. Argüello said it was a matter of defining the term “violence” (violencia). For instance, he said that in his opinion the election of a constituent assembly, against the will of the President and of the present constituted congress, would constitute a coup d’état and consequently an act of violence. I said that I am not in a position to interpret what constitutes “violence”. Dr. Argüello said that he would be particularly interested to learn the attitude of the United States Government with respect to recognition of persons “unconstitutionally” elected. (It will be recalled that he submitted a [Page 864] similar question to me on March 14, as reported on pages 1 and 2 of my despatch No. 770 of March 15, 1935.) As expressed in my despatch No. 770, I do not feel that we should pass on the constitutionality of a given action or condition in Nicaragua, that being a matter for the competent authorities here. Dr. Argüello presumably hopes that we would withhold recognition from Somoza, should he become President, on the basis of the last paragraph of Article II of the General Treaty of 1923, reading as follows:

“Furthermore, in no case shall recognition be accorded to a government which arises from election to power of a citizen expressly and unquestionably disqualified by the Constitution of his country as eligible to election as President, Vice-President, or Chief of State designate.”

As an instance of the danger of any other than the appropriate authority interpreting the Constitution, I refer to the commonly repeated belief that Article 141 of the Constitution would prevent Somoza from being constitutionally elected President. Yet it would seem that were Somoza to be chosen by a constituent assembly and not by popular election, the provision of that article would not be applicable to his candidacy. I have likewise heard doubts expressed as to whether Article 105 embraces the contingency of a candidate whose wife is a niece of the President.

Dr. Argüello said that on excellent authority he had learned of Somoza’s plans to be president at all cost. Such an intention has been indirectly conveyed to me by many informants, among them American citizens of good repute who claim to have heard Somoza express his ambitions forcibly. Dr. Argüello quoted Somoza as saying that he would allow the President to finish his constitutional term, but if then some “creature of the Sacasas” were to take office, he would have him out of the presidency before the afternoon of January 1, 1937.

Respectfully yours,

Arthur Bliss Lane
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