103. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs (Neal) to the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1


  • Nicaragua: Preliminary Survey on Possible Effects of Somoza Injury

The departure from the Nicaraguan political scene of Somoza either through death or disability would create a vacuum because of the extreme centralization of the present government, and because there is no obvious heir. The dictatorship of Somoza has been relatively moderate, but as a personal ruler he has made all important as well as most routine decisions concerning the government.

There is no regular vice president. An honorary vice president is named by the Congress when it is in session. Congress also has the theoretical authority to decide who will be acting president in the absence of Somoza. This has amounted to rubber stamping the president’s choice. Col. Luis Somoza, eldest son, was the titular head [Page 212] of the last session of Congress. His election at this time would be more significant.

Col. Anastasio Somoza, Jr., (Tachito) the younger son, is now acting Commander of the National Guard and also of the Air Force. He is said to be thoroughly disliked by most of his officers and others. Luis has recently taken more of an interest in politics, but he has generally preferred business and agriculture. In case of a complete overthrow, the entire Somoza family would be in jeopardy.

While the family, in-laws, and the “Palace Guard” will probably present a solid front as long as the President retains control, there are many strong, conflicting personal ambitions. Some of the immediate family did not want Somoza to run for the Presidency again, fearing another assassination attempt and because of their own ambitions. The strong-willed wife of President Somoza is reported to have discouraged this intrigue and to have stated that she would rather be a widow than the wife of an ex-President.

In addition to the sons, the ambitious within the family circle include Guillermo Sevilla-Sacasa, son-in-law, and Luis Manuel DeBayle, brother-in-law. Both allegedly feel that they might obtain some support as compromise candidates from opposition moderates in addition to the Somoza Liberal Party machine. Opposition stalwarts will have nothing to do with any of the inner circle, however, according to many reports.

Outside the immediate family circle there are others who are believed to wield considerable power and who might influence the situation. These include Col. Camilo Gonzalez, Commander of the special palace guard who has most of the Guardia command machinery at his disposal, as well as Col. Herberto Sanchez, Somoza’s military aide, and possibly Lorenzo Guerrero, Liberal politician, or Col. Francisco Gaitan, Minister of War.

The opposition to Somoza is of uncertain force. The Conservative Party is increasingly bitter after twenty years out of power and with the prospect of another six years of Somoza following the next elections (scheduled for February, 1957). It may not have grown much, however, up to this point. Somoza is also opposed by a small group of Independent Liberals who split away in 1946 on the Arguello issue. A large part of the populace has been fairly indifferent on the subject of politics because of the prosperity generally felt up to this year.

Opposition elements have been deeply divided and have been unable to agree on a common program or candidate. There is some evidence that Nicaraguan Communists have infiltrated some small factions or that extremists would turn to the Communists for help. Col. Manuel Gomez Flores, former Guardia officer, has continually plotted against Somoza from exile, using persons of various nationalities. [Page 213] Gomez could be back of the present attempt. Several purported assassination plots have been nipped during the past several months. Somoza announced last month that he was aware of further plots against him, and he would deal with them.

The injury of Somoza brings the problem of the succession, which most felt had been postponed for six years, again to the foreground. The possibility that Somoza may be out of the picture might start the disintegration of the Somoza family–Guardia–Liberal tie-up. This possibility plus the effect of strong and indiscriminate reprisals might help to unite the opposition into an effective force.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 717.11/9–2456. Confidential. Drafted by Park F. Wollam.
  2. In a memorandum to Dulles and Hoover, September 25, Rubottom wrote that President Somoza’s situation had improved somewhat that day although his condition remained critical. (Ibid., 717.11/9–2556)