817.00/5–947: Airgram

The Chargé in Nicaragua ( Bernbaum )20 to the Secretary of State


A–190. I saw President Argüello21 this morning at his request. The President’s call followed the publication yesterday morning of General Somoza’s repeated announcement that he had been designated Jefe-Director of the Guardia Nacional; and a meeting held last night between General Somoza and President Argüello at the Casa Presidencial.

After repeating substantially what he had told Ambassador Warren on May 3 (see my A–181 of May 5, 194722), the President informed me that General Somoza had visited him last night by appointment for an interview lasting well over an hour. Somoza, he stated, expressed his dissatisfaction over not having been consulted on the recent reorganization of the General Staff.23 … The President then informed Somoza that he had deliberately by-passed the office of the “Jefe-Director” to demonstrate to Somoza as well as to the people of Nicaragua that he is actually in command of the situation. … He emphasized to the ex-President that he was following a carefully thought out plan and would allow nothing to divert him from its fulfillment. He reproached Somoza in that regard for having attempted to intimidate [Page 849] him by a display of military force and for having stirred up public unrest by talking too much, especially of his having been appointed Jefe-Director. Upon being reproached by Somoza for the Oppositionist character of the newly-appointed Cabinet, the President replied that the Ministers had been carefully selected for their reported honesty and industry as well as for their being representative of all parts of the country, and of the opposing sectors of the Liberal Party. He then pointedly stated that since he could create Ministers, he could always get rid of them. He gave Somoza a lengthy lecture on the advantages to them both as well as to Nicaragua of bringing about quiet political conditions and economic improvements. This, he stated, would not only work to the advantage of Argüello, but also to Somoza’s benefit for having given to Nicaragua a successor who really helped the country. Argüello added that Somoza agreed to this.

The President confirmed that Somoza is de facto head of the Guardia in the sense that he has not been deprived of the position previously held. He explained that to have completely deprived Somoza of this position would have served only to bring about a conflict. …

[The President then spoke of Nicaragua’s fiscal problems and budget deficits.]

The President told me that he hopes to secure a loan from the United States to tide him over, and in that connection he is thinking of sending the Foreign Minister, Dr. León Debayle, to the United States to sound out the situation. I did not encourage any hopes of success, but suggested that any application made be well-documented and thought out.

The President confirmed rumors that his son-in-law, Frank M. Townsend, has returned from Colombia to become Director [National?] Railway and will be formally designated at the press conference to be held tomorrow morning. He also expects to name various other new secondary officials. …

He described his program as being based on the improvement of education, of road communications, and of sanitation and that United States help in that regard would be greatly appreciated.

The “old man” spoke at length of his prospects to bring about a clean and efficient Government and stated that he himself expects no remuneration other than the satisfaction of doing a good job. He is optimistic about the future in the belief that the good moral effect of his program and the growing prestige it is bringing him from both within and without Nicaragua will carry far more weight in the final solution than Somoza’s control of the Guardia Nacional and all available [Page 850] arms. I left with the feeling that he truly believes this and will not be deterred by military considerations.

  1. Ambassador Warren had departed for the United States on May 4.
  2. In telegram 184, May 2, Ambassador Warren reported that Argüello was inaugurated President of Nicaragua on May 1, without incident (817.001 Argüello, Leonardo/5–247).
  3. Not printed.
  4. Undertaking to establish a reform government free from military control, President Argüello had issued an order on May 2, without consulting General Somoza, reorganizing the General Staff with officers of his own choice. On May 6 he had appointed a Cabinet of men noted for their alleged honesty, integrity, and, for the most part, their opposition to General Somoza (despatch 1646, June 6, 1947, from Managua, filed under 817.00/6–647).