109. Despatch From the Ambassador in Nicaragua (Whelan) to the Department of State1

No. 218


  • Evaluation of Administration of President Luis Somoza, After Approximately One Month


After a little more than one month under President Luis Somoza it is appropriate to make a preliminary evaluation of the country, the government, and his regime. He has clearly maintained order and stability and with the release of considerable numbers of prisoners a start toward normality has been made. One officer believes that there is outward stability but that from the reports on hand there are opposition forces at work which could upset this condition, although it appears that these forces are not well united and therefore appear likely to be ineffective. So far as we are aware, there is no instance of reprisals, excesses on the part of the Guardia or other officials, or major irresponsible action. While there is still a certain apprehension in the general public, this seems to be more directed against the possible minor local abuses of power by Guardia personnel in the various City Districts than anything else. Rumors are still rife, due to lack of authoritative statements about possible implications of high officials, but the earlier rumors of impending revolution, particularly from outside sources have decreased. The investigation of the crime seems to be proceeding in an orderly manner; the National Liberal Party has nominated President Luis as its candidate for the elections on February 3, 1957; and President Luis and his advisors have developed and maintained, during the past two weeks, correct and friendly relations with all neighboring countries.

Order and Stability

Despite some earlier prognostications that the violent death of President Somoza would be followed by chaos in Nicaragua, this has not developed at all. All during the period under review public order has been well maintained and there has been no known serious threat to the stability of the government. Local commandants in the outlying districts of the National Guard have followed instructions remarkably well. So far we have no reports that any of these commandants have indulged in any major irresponsible action within [Page 229] their district. In other words, there has been no loosening of the discipline within the Guardia.

National Guard

Despite the fact that during the final week some substance seemed to develop behind the earlier rumor of involvement of certain Guardia officers, this has not resulted in any apparent breakdown of discipline of the Guardia as a whole, nor has any question arisen as to the loyalty to the regime of the National Guard as a whole. There is question about the loyalty of some individual officers, the extent of whose following is not known. During the whole period there has been a remarkable lack of excesses, reprisals, or irresponsible action on the part of the Guardia. Many of the opposition members who were arrested early and released after verification of non-involvement, have reported that they were not mistreated, and in one case that they were even handled with courtesy. However, some abuses have been reported.

Investigation of Crime

After the preliminary investigation by Col. Anastasio Somoza, Jr., Director General of the National Guard, a Military Investigation Court was formed and given responsibility to continue the investigations with a view to recommending charges to an Extraordinary Military Council. The work has been carried on methodically and carefully, and rather significant results have been obtained to date of clarifying the Nicaraguan associations in the assassination. Some difficulty has been encountered due to inability to get full support from the Salvadoran authorities for a thorough inquiry into the background in that country of the persons associated with the crime. However, the recent questioning of Cornelio Silva Arguello, an implicated member of the Caribbean Legion, has according to the newspaper, produced evidence of significance.

Restoration of Normality

By the end of the period under review, the ordinary police were manning the checkpoints on the highways and following the normal peace-time routine. The National Guard officers had been removed and no further inspection of trunks of cars was conducted. International travel by highway into and out of Nicaragua is still restricted. Travel by air has almost resumed normal operations. Technically, the state of seige still continues. This is primarily a legal necessity to serve as the basis of the Military Courts. It also is a somewhat disturbing element, particularly to the lower classes in that the National Guard has considerable independent authority. Business, particularly retail trade, is off, but this may be partly due to seasonal [Page 230] factors. Entertainment on a modest scale has recommenced. The night clubs are operating again and the people moving about the streets during the day and night seem to be almost normal.

Threats from Outside

During the early portion of the month, the government newspapers, as well as the rumor-mongers, gave considerable attention to various alleged threats being developed from outside the country. These rumors have subsided considerably and are now at about their normal level. Such rumors in this area of the world are always current.

Foreign Relations

In general, relations with other countries, at least insofar as reflected in developments in Nicaragua are concerned, are friendly and correct. There has been appreciable improvement in the relations between the government of Nicaragua and the government of Costa Rica although some deterioration may now set in with the newly publicized tie-in between President Figueres and the assassination through Comelio Silva Arguello. While there was a certain strain between Nicaragua and Salvador early during the period, this seems to have eased somewhat. No problems exist with Honduras and Guatemala.


President Luis Somoza has been nominated by the National Liberal Party as its candidate for the next six-year term. He says he took this action despite the opposition of his mother and wife and his own reluctance. His stated reasons for doing so were two-fold: 1) that it was essential in order to preserve the unity of the National Liberal Party and 2) it was almost essential in order to forestall difficulties with the National Guard, which he claims is almost 100 percent liberal.


Everything points to an early return to normality and continued stability of the government (one officer, as indicated earlier, does not agree with this estimate as a certainty);
It seems assured that President Luis will be reelected on February 3, 1957 (one officer believes that some of the threatened activity may materialize but on the basis of present information, believes this is unlikely);
The problems which the government of Luis Somoza will have have not yet become apparent. He is inclined toward social [Page 231] legislation and may try to move too quickly in governmental action for the country;
It is quite likely that President Luis Somoza will at some time come out clearly stating that he will accept the Presidency only for one term;
It is not unlikely that Col. Anastasio Somoza will leave the government to return to manage Mamenic Line out of New York, after the inauguration, if not earlier;
There is a good chance that if the country seems to be developing normally and no serious threats of instability exist, Luis Somoza may not finish out his presidential term by voluntary action on his part;
There continues to be very deep resentment of any member of the Somoza family as the head of the government among certain peoples. This clearly raises the possibility of another assassination attempt;
If Luis Somoza should be assassinated or incapacitated, there does not, at the moment, appear to be anyone strong enough to control the country alone. As in other moments of crisis, the country would probably follow strict constitutional provisions and the designate of Congress would assume the presidency. (However, the Military Attaché believes that in such a case the National Guard would seize control.) The Guardia probably would support such a person initially if he is a National Liberal and has not been individually antagonistic to it;
The view of President Luis and Col. Tacho Somoza is that in the event of the successful assassination of both of them, a Military Junta would take charge and that serious disturbances would follow;
At the present moment it is not clear who might emerge on top of such a situation and it is difficult to develop any detailed agreement among qualified observers on what might develop after the initial period.
For the Ambassador:
Edw. Glion Curtis2
Counselor of Embassy
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 717.00/10–2956. Confidential.
  2. Printed from a copy which bears this typed signature.