198. Memorandum From the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (King) to the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Lyon)1


  • Revolts and Invasions Rumored in Central America

In connection with your conversation Wednesday with the Costa Rican Ambassador2 and Mr. Holland’s desire that the intelligence community make aggressive efforts to confirm or deny that:

A revolt against Somoza is being planned for the end of the month and
An attack against Costa Rica is being organized with Venezuelan participation (for December 8 according to our conversation last Monday)

The following has been passed on to me:

The Minister of Public Security in Costa Rica3 stated to a reliable source in San José on the evening of November 22 that the Costa Rican government had been informed that some 500 men were training in Venezuela for the attack on Costa Rica. They are training in Venezuelan uniforms and have been integrated into the Venezuelan army.

(Comment: This report, the Costa Rican Foreign Minister’s assertions to Ambassador Woodward (San José’s telegram 99, November 23)4 and Ambassador Fournier’s comments to you all appear to be the same story, probably based on the same report.)

A report from Managua, which will be disseminated shortly, asserts that there is to be an attack against Nicaragua from Costa Rica on December 7 or 8.

(Comment: The coinciding dates of the two operations may be significant. If Estrada5 is master-minding the anti-Figueres invasion of Costa Rica as rumored, it would be characteristic of his way of thinking to touch it off with a simulated invasion of Nicaragua from [Page 622] Costa Rica which would provide the excuse to move into Costa Rica. This may thus have nothing to do with the rumored attempt to overthrow Somoza.)

Managua’s despatch 210 of November 166 reports, however, that Somoza believes Figueres, among others, is involved in a plot against him which will be launched from El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica at the end of the month or early in December.

(Comment: One of the alleged conspirators, Ernesto Solorzano Thompson, called on Mr. Wollam7 a few weeks ago and left the definite impression that something was brewing. Given the rapidity with which rumors get around, it is probable that the anti-Figueres forces and the anti-Somoza plotters have wind of each others plans. The apparent coincidence in the timing of the efforts thus could stem from the plan of each to forestall the other by moving first.)

Overall Comment: It certainly appears that two plots are now under way; one against Figueres (probably with Venezuelan participation) and one against Somoza (there is little to confirm the allegation that Figueres is involved).8 The next two or three weeks may well see a new outbreak of fighting in Nicaragua and Costa Rica with new problems confronting the OAS.

  1. Source: Department of State, ARA Special Assistant’s File: Lot 57 D 696, Central America. Secret.
  2. According to a memorandum of conversation by Memminger, November 23, Costa Rican Ambassador Fernando Fournier informed Lyon that Costa Rica was concerned over rumors of a Venezuela-based plot against President Figueres. (Ibid., Central Files, 718.00/11–2355)
  3. Humberto Pacheco Coto.
  4. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 718.00/11–2355)
  5. Orlando Estrada.
  6. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 717.00/11–1655)
  7. Park F. Wollam of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
  8. Under cover of a letter of December 2, George H. Roderick, Assistant Secretary of the Army, submitted to Holland reports on revolutionary activities against the Governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. These reports, based on Army intelligence, state that plotting against Figueres appeared disorganized and that there was no evidence of an imminent attack on Somoza. (Department of State, Central Files, 718.00/12–255)