111. 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: Pre-Election Atmosphere

The Embassy at Managua reported on January 18 that the Nicaraguan dispute with El Salvador with regard to extradition of various Nicaraguan exiles has been turned over to ODECA Secretary Trabanino. Nicaraguans generally feel that the matter is being handled satisfactorily, and agitation on the subject has quieted. It was previously reported that Costa Rican-Nicaraguan relations have improved considerably.

According to the Embassy, everything in Nicaragua is calm and orderly, despite the fact that the elections are only two weeks away (February 3). The Embassy comments as follows: “Some people feel that this atmosphere is unnatural and consequently expect some sort of trouble to be sparked either by the announcement of the sentences on the 21 civilian defendants some time next week, or during election day.”

“Despite the doubts about the current lack of rumors and apparent calm, there are indications that this may be a real though heretofore unusual lack of concern.”

President Luis has through the press invited foreign newsmen to observe the elections and has assured their complete freedom of movement.

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MID Comment

Without any real facts to go on, MID is also somewhat concerned with the Nicaraguan situation and the seeming disappearance of the opposition.

Our Embassy is ordinarily very optimistic about the acceptance of Luis Somoza in all sectors. He appears to have a progressive and conciliatory program. In view of recent history, however, MID finds it hard to believe that during the short period since the assassination the opposition to the Somozas has been reduced to a negligible number of extremists without real capabilities. On the same intangible basis it is difficult to believe that everyone in Nicaragua happily accepts the complicity of the 21 defendants in the current trial, or the treatment of several prominent Guardia officers on the grounds of negligence or complicity.

While the February 3 election is supposed to be free there is some evidence that the opposition party is a dummy group set up with the connivance of the government, so that choice is effectively limited. The hard-shell opposition, if any does remain, must be aware of this.

In short, MID remains to be convinced that the apparent national conciliation is indeed a fact, and that there are not still potential sources of serious trouble to the Somoza administration. Despite this uneasiness it must be admitted that the government does appear by all visible evidence, to have the situation firmly under control.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 717.00/1–2257. Confidential.