Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President 2
- Visit of General Anastasio Somoza, President of Nicaragua
President Somoza of Nicaragua is having lunch with you at 1:00 p.m. on Friday, May 2. He is in Washington, accompanied by his wife, Salvadora De Bayle de Somoza, on route to the Lahey Clinic in Boston for medical treatment. His visit is entirely unofficial. President Somoza will come to the White House after calling on me in the morning.3
President Somoza has two sons: Luis, a Senator, and Anastasio Jr., a graduate of West Point (1946) and Chief of the General Staff. A daughter, Lillian, is married to Nicaragua’s president Ambassador to the United States, Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa. He is proud of the fact that he has ten grandchildren, and also that one son is married to an American. As a young man Somoza lived in Philadelphia for six years and there met his Nicaraguan wife. He speaks fluent English and likes to recall met his Nicaraguan when you toured Central America on a special mission as Senator.
Somoza is an able man with an engaging personality. He is informal, genial, energetic, persuasive and politically astute. He is also impulsive, vain and egocentric. His desire for personal gain is very great.
In 1933 he became and still remains Director General of the Nicaraguan National Guard which the American occupation forces had organized. In 1936 he ousted the president. In a subsequent vote he was overwhelmingly elected to the presidency. He served in this office from 1937 to 1947. His present term runs 1950 to 1957.
While the Nicaraguan government is democratic and republican in form, President Somoza has run it largely as a one man show. His [Page 1370] methods have often been criticized in the United States and Latin America. He has, however, restored order to Nicaragua and in recent years has been less repressive. Nicaragua now has a two party system and a free press. Recent delegations to international meetings have been bi-partisan.
Nicaragua has consistently supported United States foreign policy. The government and the people give every evidence of friendship to the United States and our prior occupation of Nicaragua has left no residue of ill-feeling. Somoza, himself, is a great admirer of this country and he considers his official visit in 1939 as guest of President Roosevelt a highlight of his career. The Fourth of July is celebrated enthusiastically throughout Nicaragua.
The tension which intermittently characterized Somoza’s relations in Central America in the post war period has been eased since the Nicaraguan and Guatemalan governments recognized each other last year and joined the newly formed Organization of Central American States. Somoza remains, however, a target for a loosely knit group of revolutionaries and expatriates frequently called the Caribbean Legion.
Recently, Somoza has shown active interest in economic development, particularly road construction. The Nicaraguan highway department has done excellent work on the Inter-American Highway and construction of feeder roads is being carried on vigorously with funds loaned by the International Bank. Somoza’s present administration has greatly improved Nicaragua’s financial and economic position.
Somoza especially desires completion of the Rama Road, a lateral route across Nicaragua which President Roosevelt undertook to construct with United States Emergency Funds as a substitute for the ship canal authorized in the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of 1914. Undoubtedly, he will discuss this matter with Congressmen here. Authorizing legislation is now before the Congress in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1952.
President Somoza has not indicated any special matters he would like to raise with you. Likewise, there are no matters which we wish to raise with him. However, he may bring up the question of the Rama Road. If so, you may wish to assure him that the Department of State has been supporting legislation for the Rama Road. To date, 4 million dollars, provided from President Roosevelt’s Emergency Fund, has been spent on this project. Pending legislation if passed will authorize the expenditure of 8 million dollars in two years to complete the job. Both the House and Senate Committees on Public Works have favorably reported this item.
Should Somoza bring up the question of development loans, he should not be encouraged to believe that the United States is interested in supporting any new application to the Export-Import Bank [Page 1371] at this time. Nicaragua and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development are currently working up a balanced five year program of economic development to cost from 55–75 million dollars. He should be encouraged to continue to work with the IBRD as the logical source of development program planning and loans. The IBRD program, if adopted, would probably absorb Nicaragua’s financial capacity. We should not encourage anything which might lead to an over-extension and to political repercussions in Nicaragua.
As for Point IV, an effective program is underway. Any large expansion at this time might also create an impediment to financing the IBRD program.