The Ambassador in Nicaragua (Warren) to the Secretary of State

No. 1293

Sir: I have the honor to report that Dr. Leonardo Argüello, Somoza candidate for the Presidency, came in on December 27 for his customary visit. We talked about the political situation. Argüello is very pleased with the way the campaign is developing. He stated that each day sees new supporters for his candidacy who have come over from the opposition. He showed me several telegrams in support of this. He feels that his election is a certainty, and that the opposition is becoming weaker every day. He is particularly pleased with the support coming to him from the Conservatives. He also made the flat statement that Dr. Fernando Saballos has told him that on February 3, 1947, all the Independent Liberals will be in the Argüello camp.

Dr. Argüello read to me from this morning’s Novedades his statement commenting on Mr. Braden’s remarks of December 21.16 He approved fully of those remarks (the Novedades article will be submitted separately). He stated in the article that he would not accept the Presidency unless the elections are fair.

I thought it opportune to mention at this juncture the charges which the losers will make on February 3—that the elections were fraudulent. [Page 1076] He replied that naturally the losers would be expected to make such a claim—that is the usual pattern in Nicaragua. I asked him to consider that the opposition will declare that all the electoral machinery is in the hands of the Government; that the registrations last July and August were not free; that consequently the fraudulent outcome of the elections in February had already been determined; that in the new Senate there will be no representatives of the anti-Somoza opposition: and that the Independent Liberals were not permitted to have their own candidate, although they presented a petition with some 26,000 signatures, and that some 17,000 of those signatures were declared inadmissible by the Government for one reason or another. I said I was afraid that as a successful candidate Dr. Argüello would have to face these claims on February 3, 1947.

Dr. Argüello stated that he only wants the Presidency if he has the majority of the votes of the people of Nicaragua; that he doubts whether there are 11,000 legitimate Independent Liberal voters in Nicaragua; that if the electoral machinery is entirely in the hands of the Government of Nicaragua, then that is in accordance with the law of Nicaragua; and that he believes the 17,000 signatures to the Independent Liberal petition were thrown out on good grounds. I remarked that all that he said might be true, but that it was going to look mighty bad in the outside world when these claims were made in the light of his election.

I have no doubt that Dr. Argüello has thought much about this matter. I am equally certain that he is concerned over my having brought up the matter in conversation. He then told me in confidence that he had advised against rejection of the Independent Liberal petition and that it has been refused by Somoza for reasons unknown to Argüello. Referring to the Congress to be seated under the next Administration, he said that he had had no choice whatsoever in the selection of the candidates. Somoza had told him that the two would go over the list together. Although Argüello appeared at the Casa Presidencial for that purpose, the matter was not mentioned. He learned of the designations only upon the publication of the list. He said that as a whole the group is entirely “inadequate.” He had hoped that the next Congress would be of a higher calibre than the present one. As it is, it will be of a lower calibre—and entirely pro-Somoza. Referring to the new Congress, I inquired whether that wouldn’t make his job as President more difficult. He said, “It is so bad and of such a low calibre that I will be able to influence it more readily than I would a group of honest men.”

Dr. Argüello emphasized that he has not asked any favors of Somoza, and that Somoza has asked no favors of him. Argüello refused to take up the Congressional nominations on his own initiative [Page 1077] because he did not want to make any concessions in order to get an improvement in the list.

Dr. Argüello made it clear that it shall be his endeavor to enlist the assistance of elements from all political parties in an endeavor to give Nicaragua a good administration. He added that he will try, and expects to succeed, in bringing the Liberal Party together again. He foresees that after February 2, 1947, the Conservative Party will have regained its legal position as the second political party in Nicaragua.

While we were speaking of Somoza, Dr. Argüello spoke carefully and purposefully. From this part of the conversation I gained the distinct impression that he will try to be a real President and to free himself as much as possible from Somoza’s influence.

Respectfully yours,

Fletcher Warren
  1. On December 21, 1946, the Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs, Braden, and the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs, Briggs, discussed the subject of private enterprise in our relations with Latin America in a radio program.