Miller files, lot 53 D 26, “Nicaragua”

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Mann )1



  • Nicaragua’s Desire for Arms
  • Participants: Señor Dr. Don Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, Ambassador of Nicaragua
  • ARA—Mr. Mann
  • MID—Mr. Ohmans

The Ambassador called on Mr. Mann at the latter’s request to continue the discussion of September 262 concerning the plans of the Central American nations to join in action against Guatemala.

The Ambassador devoted a considerable part of the discussion to Nicaragua’s urgent need for arms. He said confidentially that Nicaragua needed usable arms badly.

[Page 1373]

The Ambassador referred again to the many advantages that Nicaragua offered for the cooperative defense of the Panama Canal and he expressed the hope that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would decide that negotiations should be initiated with Nicaragua to conclude an agreement under the Mutual Defense Assistance Grant Aid Program.

Referring to Nicaragua’s desire to purchase arms from the United States, the Ambassador said that his country was in no position financially to purchase the arms it needed. He emphasized the great concern of his government over the activities of Arbenz in Guatemala, who, he said, was stronger now than he was five months ago, and also expressed concern with the growing strength of the Figueristas in Costa Rica. He said that Romulo Betancourt 3 was the guiding hand behind Figueres and that a Figueres victory in Costa Rica would contribute greatly in the resurgence of Betancourt’s power in Venezuela. He said quite frankly that Nicaragua did not have any effective arms to contain any action from outside the country or to maintain internal peace.

Mr. Mann then said that he wanted to speak very frankly and very carefully to the Ambassador and emphasized that although his remarks were in the friendliest manner possible, he was speaking officially for the State Department. He made the following points:

The United States is very friendly with Nicaragua and holds the friendship of that nation in the highest esteem.
The United States shares the concern of Nicaragua over the spread of communism in Guatemala.
The United States agrees that Nicaragua should have an adequate quantity of modern arms. Here he pointed out that the manner of getting those arms was a problem which had to be considered in the light of existing U.S. legislation available to provide transfer of the arms to Nicaragua. Mr. Mann said that the Department of State did not know what the Joint Chiefs of Staff would say with respect to the negotiations of a military assistance pact with Nicaragua. The program as developed in several of the Latin American countries was strictly a military plan and the State Department did not wish to recommend that defense considerations be subordinated to political desires. If the Joint Chiefs of Staff should decide that Nicaragua’s participation is necessary to an adequate defense preparation, the Department of State would not be in opposition. Mr. Mann suggested that the Ambassador might talk with Major General Robert Walsh on this subject.
Mr. Mann mentioned his understanding that the Western Arms Company had offered to buy Nicaragua’s old arms which would help in meeting some of the costs of the acquisition of new arms. He inquired whether the Ambassador was aware of negotiations which had been carried on in Managua. He said that if Nicaragua decided to sell its old arms to the Western Arms Corporation, the problem of payment [Page 1374] would at least partially be solved. Mr. Mann suggested it might be helpful to know how much had been offered by the private corporation.
With respect to any loans for the purchase of arms, Mr. Mann said that he did not know of the Export-Import Bank policy, but doubted if under the bank’s policy a loan would be possible for the purchase of the arms. This, however, is something which would have to be explored with the Bank.
Mr. Mann said that the Department of State considers that the problem of Figueres in Costa Rica is different from the Guatemalan problem. He said that if Figueres becomes President of Costa Rica, he saw no cause for fear of Costa Rican aggression since the Rio Treaty4 would be applicable in such an event.
Mr. Mann then went on to refer to the subject of great importance which the Ambassador had discussed with Mr. Miller and Mr. Mann on Friday, September 26.5 He made these points:
The Department of State does not believe it wise to speak of military adventure against Guatemala participated in by a group of American States. 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. Mr. Mann said that no responsible person could say that if the military adventure were consummated we would give tacit approval to it. 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.
Mr. Mann said that he thought it might be constructive to consider whether it would be practicable to deal with the problem of communism in Guatemala in a legal way, as, for example, in the Organization of Central American States or in the Organization of American States. Consideration might be given by all countries concerned with the problem of communism as to whether the Rio Treaty is applicable and if so how much unanimity of opinion there might be concerning its applicability. He said that he was not in a position to make any definitive statements, but that if the other interested states felt likewise, the idea would certainly be worth exploring. Mr. Mann said that it was apparent from the foregoing that there was a common desire to face up to the question of communism and that as far as he knew the difference in the United States and Nicaraguan position might be called one of procedure.

The Ambassador of Nicaragua was obviously disappointed to hear that the Department did not give at least tacit approval to the suggestion [Page 1375] of a military operation but he nevertheless expressed himself as understanding very clearly the Department’s position and the reasons for it.

During the course of the conversation Mr. Mann stated that Mr. Miller planned to speak along these same general lines to Zuleta Angel of Colombia should they meet in Panama and that if a suitable opportunity presents itself, to “Tachito” Somoza (the President’s son).

  1. Drafted with the assistance of Mr. Ohmans.
  2. Ambassador Sevilla Sacasa met with Mr. Mann for only a short time on this date but indicated that Nicaragua was considering the possibility of organizing a military group of Central American states to overthrow the Guatemalan Government (Miller files, lot 53 D 26, “Nicaragua”).
  3. Former president of the Revolutionary Governing Junta in Venezuela who was overthrown by Pérez Jiménez in 1948.
  4. Reference is to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance signed in Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 2, 1947; for text, see TIAS No. 1838, or 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681.
  5. The conversation with Assistant Secretary Miller on Sept. 26 occurred directly prior to the brief meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Mann on that date (memorandum of conversation, dated Sept. 26, 1952, 714.00/10–352).