19. Editorial Note

On September 26, 1952, Nicaraguan Ambassador Guillermo Sevilla Sacasa and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Thomas C. Mann discussed briefly Nicaragua’s plans for organizing a group of Central American states to overthrow Arbenz. Mann invited the Ambassador to return a few days later to discuss the matter in more detail.

They met again on September 29. Assuring the Ambassador that he was speaking officially, Mann said that the United States thought it unwise to talk about such a “military adventure.” He explained: “The United States has subscribed to principles in the UN and the OAS which are inconsistent with military adventures of this kind, and we would find it difficult to fight aggression in Korea and be a party to it in this hemisphere.… Furthermore, the proposal was, as a practical matter, reckless since it would not be possible to maintain secrecy as is illustrated by the fact that the Department already has received vague press inquiries concerning the plan.” The full text of the September 29 memorandum of conversation, including a reference to the September 26 conversation, is printed in Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, volume IV, pages 13721375.

On October 3 Deputy Assistant Secretary Mann informed Secretary of State Acheson of information the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs had received from foreign government sources, in the event the subject was raised at the UN General Assembly session scheduled to open on October 4. The memorandum noted: “President Somoza of Nicaragua apparently has gained the impression, however mistakenly, that a military venture directed at the overthrow of the present Guatemalan Government would have the blessing of the United States.” The Ambassador of the Dominican Republic reported that Rafael Trujillo had learned from President Somoza in August of “understandings” arrived at “between himself and President Truman in Washington with regard to anti-communist activities in the Caribbean and particularly in Guatemala.”

The memorandum concluded that “it has been adduced that (1) A military plan against Guatemala had already been formulated; (2) only a leader is required to put the plan in action; (3) it is hoped to carry out the plan this year; and (4) all elements concerned would like to have a ‘green light’ from the U.S. and tangible support in arms.” Mann assured the Secretary that Ambassador Sevilla Sacasa had been told that the United States would not condone military intervention by one American state against another. For the complete text of the memorandum, see ibid., pages 10411043.

[Page 29]

When Secretary of State Dean Acheson learned that arms were being shipped illegally from New Orleans to Nicaragua for the Guatemalan coup, he immediately discussed the matter with Truman who forbade the vessel to proceed. (See Gleijeses, Shattered Hope, pages 239–240 and Immerman, The CIA in Guatemala, pages 120 ff.)