The Ambassador in Nicaragua (Whelan) to the Department of State


152. Deptel 142, May 6.1 Somoza’s principal evidence is 45-page single spaced confession of Rivas Montesa, Legionnaire2 from Honduras, and shorter confessions of Legionnaire Gustavo Zavala and Luis Armando Morales Palacios.3 All entered from Costa Rica. Weakness of confessions is that they connect Figueres often by quoting Pablo Leal who was killed and Manuel Gómez who has escaped capture. …

The Costa Rican Ambassador told us yesterday his stand is Somoza’s statements are pack of lies. Nevertheless, the confessions make convincing reading. Rivas goes back many years connecting Figueres with Legion activities and attempted revolutions several countries. As to the April 3–4 attempt the most direct charges taken at random from his confession follow:

“It was the President of Costa Rica who most encouraged preparations. He gave orders to Vice Minister Security Humberto Pacheco, the Secretary of General Command Colonel Rodolfo Quiroz and later to Director General Guardia Civil Colonel Rodolfo Herrera Pinto. Chief of detectives Cambronero had instructions to cooperate, and on more than half dozen occasions he had interviews with Pablo Leal and Juan Bosch. Figueres told Juan Bosch to remove arms hidden in Pablo Leal’s [Page 1381] house so police could search it and find nothing. Figueres offered Juan Bosch 100 Mausers. He got 50 and when Bosch asked for the rest he got 30 more.

“Early in February Figueres gave Bosch a Colt machine gun which was brought from Figueres’ ranch. Later he gave two more Colt machine guns brought us by Colonel Herrera Pinto and Juan Bosch. According to Bosch, the President met with him and Romulo Betancourt to talk of the movement. Pablo Leal met with Figueres half dozen times. One or two days before leaving San Jose, Pablo Leal, Manuel Gómez, Juan Bosch and maybe one or two others met with Figueres who wished them good luck. The President loaned two trucks to take us to the border.

“Early in March Figueres’ adjutant, called Nato Jimenez, a captain, got license plates (he means Guardia Civil plates) for Leal’s Landrover to take arms to border. In 1951 ex-Doctor Henriquez said he was looking for three men in Mexico to assassinate Somoza, that Jose Figueres would pay $30,000.”

Somoza says Rivas’ brother-in-law is Chief of Administration of Ministry Fomento San Jose, father-in-law collector customs Punto Arenas.

Gustavo Zavala’s statement includes following remarks: Leal said half the arms were coming from Mexico and half from Figueres. I heard many times Figueres was backing us. Also cooperating were Vico Pacheco and Colonel Rodolfo Herrera. Colonel Herrera accompanied us from Sanisidro de Coronado to beyond Alejuela March 30. Manuel Gómez told me he had obtained arms from Figueres. He told me the afternoon before leaving he had just seen Figueres. Pablo Leal said Figueres was very enthusiastic. Figueres offered a radio transmitter to control action. The arms were carried in Figueres’ trucks. The chauffeurs told me they belonged Figueres.

Confession from Luis Armando Morales Palacios adds little except jeep with Guardia Civil plates accompanied them when they left San Jose. He said that at an earlier date he was told a group of Caribbean Legionnaires were training on Figueres’ ranch for invasion Nicaragua.

Copies these confessions being pouched.

Did Department get copies photographs mentioned my telegram 128, April 13?4

  1. Department telegram 142 to Managua urgently requested the Embassy’s convictions on the extent to which President Figueres of Costa Rica was personally involved in the Somoza assassination plot (717.00/5–654).
  2. Reference is to the Caribbean Legion.
  3. Nicaraguan officials apprehended these men in the attempt on Somoza’s life. Testimony was not elicited from the other two leading participants, Leal and Gómez, for the reasons mentioned in the text.
  4. Not printed (717.00/4–1354).