Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Central America and Panama Affairs (Newbegin)

Ambassador Sevilla Sacasa reviewed the conduct of the elections in Nicaragua held on February 27 stating that there was remarkably little disturbance and no deaths. He emphasized that the elections were free and gave great praise to Somoza for the manner in which they were conducted. He pointed out also that henceforth, because of [Page 844] the large vote which they received, the Conservatives will enjoy major party status which they lost during the last election. He conceded that the Opposition had won in Managua and several other places. He accused the Opposition of bad faith in describing the elections as fraudulent although he thought this natural in view of the fact that Nicaragua was not so far advanced in democracy as certain other nations and the losing side did not accept its defeat with the same degree of reasonableness as more advanced countries.

The Ambassador suggested that Chamorro would probably come to Washington12 laden with documents and accompanied by certain of his assistants in order to enlist the support of the Department. … He emphasized once more the fact that the Government candidate had won in a fair election. Mr. Braden said that he did not have as yet, of course, all the data relating to the election but that he had seen a number of reports some good and some bad. He did not, however, feel in a position to comment on it at this time. He said that he was an ardent exponent of democracy and that he defended it from Communists on the left and fascists on the right. He continued that he did not, of course, expect perfection and it should not be expected that countries which had been subjected through their history to a series of revolutions and dictatorships and which were not fully advanced could attain democracy over night—the important thing was to progress along democratic paths as had Mexico and certain other countries in the hemisphere. The Ambassador said that this was just what had happened in Nicaragua; that “they” did not pretend to be angels but that the recent elections had marked a great step forward.

In connection with the Nicaraguan application for a license to export airplanes, the Ambassador stated that he expected to make a new request within a few days that their export now be permitted since the election was over. Mr. Braden said that he was under the impression that this question was tied up to the Lend-Lease problem. Mr. Newbegin confirmed this fact pointing out that the Ambassador had been informed many months ago that this Government was not disposed to facilitate the acquisition of arms and ammunition by the Nicaraguan Government while the lend-lease debt remained unpaid.

Following his call on Mr. Braden, the Ambassador stated that only a few technicalities remained to be completed in order for the Bank [Page 845] of America loan to Nicaragua to become effective. He said he had been in touch with the Federal Reserve Board and Secretary Snyder13 on this score. He continued that as soon as Nicaragua received its first payment of $500,000 under the terms of the loan, he expected that a portion of it would be set aside for Lend-Lease payments. He asked if that would clear up the matter entirely as far as the planes were concerned. Mr. Newbegin informed him that in his opinion, the answer was probably negative; that an arrangement for the payment of Lend-Lease was essential but that it was also unlikely that any favorable action would be taken before the next presidential term commenced. He explained that as the Ambassador knew, the situation in Nicaragua at this time was somewhat unstable and we would prefer to wait until the new presidential term began.

  1. Leonardo Argüello, declared by President Somoza the winner of the February 2 elections, was proclaimed President-elect by the National Council of Elections on February 23, to take office on May 1, 1947.
  2. Visits to Washington by the President-elect, Presidential candidates, and Opposition leaders, were discouraged by the Embassy, in accordance with Departmental instructions, inasmuch as “such visits would tend to put Dept in position of arbiter of elections, position it particularly desires to avoid”. (Telegram 33, February 13, 2 p.m., to Managua, filed under 817.00/2–1247)
  3. John W. Snyder, Secretary of the Treasury.