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

No. 933

Sir: I have the honor to report that President Sacasa, in a conversation with me last evening, referred to the public manner in which the candidacy of General Somoza for the presidency is being carried on, despite the decree of November 1934,71 forbidding campaign activities until eight months prior to the forthcoming presidential elections; he specifically called my attention to a letter published in Diario [Page 865] Latino of July 14, 1935, from Dr. Fernando Alaniz B., to the managing director of that newspaper, publicly admitting that he is “President of the Committee of Liberal Propaganda pro Somoza”. A translation72 of the newspaper article publishing the text of the letter is transmitted herewith.

The President stated that the Government had already taken steps in the matter and would either imprison or fine the guilty parties, in accordance with the provisions of the decree. When I asked Dr. Sacasa whether he had personally broached the subject to General Somoza, he replied in the negative and added that Dr. León DeBayle, Undersecretary of Gobernación, would make known the wishes of the Government to the Jefe Director. The fact that Dr. DeBayle is brother-in-law of the General and that he is of a mild and pacific nature, is perhaps indicative of the extent of the measures which the Government will or can take to forestall General Somoza’s political activities.

During a recent conversation with General Somoza (on July 2) he stated to me that he was having some discussions with President Sacasa regarding the forthcoming municipal elections in October. Somoza frankly said that it is essential for him to have his men in control of important municipalities so that his interests in the 1936 elections would be protected. I was constrained to remark: “I suppose the Guardia will make certain that the elections will be impartial”. When Somoza laughingly replied that the Guardia would do what he commanded, I remarked that my impression was that the Guardia had not been created to impose the election of one of its number, but that one of its intended functions was the supervision of elections with a view to insuring their fairness.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Leonardo Argüello, having recently showed me a letter signed jointly by Dr. A. Flores Vega, urging the addressee to support Somoza’s candidacy and stating that Somoza enjoyed the support of the Conservative party, of the better element of the Liberal party, and of the Department of State of the United States, I took advantage of the trend of the conversation to speak to Somoza substantially as follows:

About a year ago I was compelled to make a statement to the press with respect to the popular belief that the United States was supporting Somoza’s candidacy. I had warned Somoza on June 14, 1934, that unless he counteracted such a belief I should be compelled to take suitable action: that he had persisted in his activities and had even gone so far in Granada as to admit responsibility for the assassination of Sandino. I had therefore made the statement with the approval of the Department of State. (At this juncture Somoza interjected: “Yes, I always told you your statement was fine and should be made.” [Page 866] This was the first time I had heard such comment from his lips.) I referred to the letter I had seen signed by Dr. Flores Vega regarding our alleged support of Somoza’s candidacy and said I hoped he would give instructions to his followers to refrain from making untrue statements such as the above. I said that it would be highly disagreeable for me, as it was a year ago, to be forced to make a statement which would react against him, and I expressed the hope that he would not compel me to take such a step. I added that it was unnecessary to reiterate that we neither favor nor oppose any candidate and that I could not permit the name of the United States Government to be dragged into Nicaraguan politics.

Somoza took what I said in seemingly good grace and said to me that he would take the necessary steps so that neither the United States nor this Legation would be mentioned in the future as supporting his candidacy. He made then, however, a statement which he had never made before, to me, although similar remarks had been attributed to him by others to me: he said that he had determined to be the next President and that there was nobody in Nicaragua who could prevent it.

As I have previously pointed out to the Department, Somoza has gone so far in his desire to attain his ambitions that it will now be difficult, if not impossible, to turn back without what would be considered here as complete loss of prestige. The danger is that if any obstacle—constitutional, electoral, or other—should impede him in the realization of his goal, he could not, in my opinion, be depended upon to keep his word, many times given to me, that he would not use violence. When I recall that twice on February 21, 1934, Somoza gave me his “word of honor” (he used that expression in English) that he would take no violent action against Sandino,—at a moment when he was actually perfecting the plans for Sandino’s murder,—I cannot place great confidence in his promises.

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Respectfully yours,

Arthur Bliss Lane
  1. November 16, 1934, La Gaceta, Diario Oficial, November 20, 1934, p. 2172.
  2. Not printed.