Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs (Cochran)54
As you know, a number of Nicaraguan political leaders have been consulting Ambassador Warren with regard to the political situation in that country. As a result of certain discussions with the President, the latter expressed a willingness to meet with the opposition and to agree to a single candidate satisfactory to everyone, and at a subsequent meeting with opposition leaders the Ambassador conveyed this suggestion to them, asking particularly that his name be kept out of the situation. The opposition met and decided that it would be indisposed to negotiate with the President pending the re-establishment of constitutional guarantees, the reopening of the frontier to exiles, and the restitution of freedom of the press. The minutes of the meeting state that an invitation to consult had been issued by the President through the American Ambassador, and the minutes also stated that the meeting adjourned after appointing a committee to present a memorandum to the Ambassador. The minutes of this meeting appeared in a Nicaraguan newspaper55 a day or so later, to the consternation of almost everyone concerned. President Somoza immediately issued an extensive statement to the press, and Ambassador Warren issued a shorter communiqué. All these documents are contained in Managua’s telegram 733 of November 21,56 which, being largely in Spanish, was sent to the Translating Division and did not reach CCA57 until late yesterday afternoon. As this telegram was the basis for a number of subsequent communications, it is only now that the situation is becoming somewhat clearer.
One of the leaders of the opposition gave a statement to the press declaring that the Ambassador was correct in stating that he had had no part in drawing up the minutes of the opposition meeting (which he had not attended) or in their publication and explaining that such publication had not been authorized. Ambassador Warren explains his part in the matter at some length in his telegram 739 of November 22.56
The publication of the minutes caused a furore in the Casa Presidencial, but Somoza does not appear to be holding the situation against Warren. On the other hand, the opposition has demonstrated amazing [Page 1225] ineptitude, and, if anything, the incident will redound to Somoza’s benefit.
I am concerned primarily with the fact that this entire matter has been made a matter of public discussion in Nicaragua and that we may become subject to charges of having attempted to intervene in internal Nicaraguan political affairs, such charges to receive currency not only in Nicaragua but possibly in other countries of the hemisphere.
As Ambassador Warren states, it will probably be several days before the full effect of the foregoing incident is apparent.
This is a discouraging development as far as concerns our efforts to assist Nicaragua to return to a constitutional and democratic system of government.