Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Holland ) to the Under Secretary of State ( Smith )1



  • Costa Rican-Nicaraguan Political Difficulties
Current tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua are largely reflections of the great personal and ideological incompatibilities of their leaders. Figueres of Costa Rica is an extreme liberal; Somoza of Nicaragua is an authoritarian supported by a strong military organization. Both support the United States, but they hate each other.
In 1948 Figueres led a successful “war of liberation” against corrupt followers of ex-President Calderon who fled to neighboring countries. Late in that year the Calderonistas tried to return to Costa Rica from Nicaragua with some support from Somoza. They were unsuccessful, and the OAS helped to negotiate a new friendship pact between the two countries.
In April 1954 Nicaraguan exiles came into Nicaragua from Costa Rica to try to assassinate Somoza. They failed. Somoza freely charged that Figueres aided the revolutionary group, providing arms and a base for the planning, and demanded that Costa Rica deport a number of Nicaraguan exiles. Costa Rica answered the note after some delay, saying its officials were not involved, but admitted that the Nicaraguan plotters came from Costa Rica. It said that three of the exiles would be deported.
Venezuela has considered Costa Rica a greater menace than Guatemala because its former liberal president, Romulo Betancourt, is in exile there and allegedly plotting his return to Venezuela. There is substantial reason to believe its officials are plotting against Figueres. One of its planes recently dropped pamphlets over Costa Rica’s capital attacking the Figueres and Betancourt association.
After Army-less Costa Rica unsuccessfully sought a military aid treaty with the United States, they bought a half million dollars worth of light arms. Shipment was delayed during the Guatemalan crisis, but will arrive in Costa Rica on July 14. Costa Rica has exploited the shipment as an indication of United States support. Both Venezuela and Nicaragua have been informed in advance, but Venezuela in particular resents this action by the United States.
Recently Costa Rica nervously has reported concentrations of men in southern Nicaragua preparatory to entering Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s Foreign Minister has been especially jittery and anxious for the arms to arrive. The Costa Ricans blacked out San Jose Friday night, but on Saturday Figueres said all was tranquil.
The Department has endeavored to ameliorate the political tensions in the area. It has worked through United States Ambassadors in Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Costa Rica to inform all concerned of our great desire to see stable political conditions return once more to the Central American area.
  1. Drafted by Mr. Ohmans.