133. Memorandum From the Director of Intelligence and Research (Cumming) to the Secretary of State1


  • Intelligence Note: Revolutionary Outbreaks in Central America2

The bloodless overthrow of the Lemus regime in El Salvador on October 26, and its replacement by a government which is exhibiting an increasingly leftward trend, has been followed by attempts against the Ydígoras and Somoza administrations, respectively, in Guatemala and Nicaragua. The Guatemalan and Nicaraguan Governments allege that Castro is supporting the revolutionary movements. Disturbances related to the Nicaraguan uprising have also taken place in Costa Rica. [Page 452] All of these developments, beginning with the deposing of Lemus, have had an unsettling effect upon the somewhat unstable Villeda regime in Honduras.

Summaries of the situation in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica follow:


Supported by the army and air force, the Ydígoras administration appears to have placed insurgent forces, which staged uprisings in several parts of the country on November 11, on the defensive. A state of siege—a modified form of martial law—has been placed in effect. Order, never seriously disrupted, prevails in Guatemala City, from which rebels fled after attacking at least one garrison. Troops have been dispatched to reinforce Chiquimula, and are fighting rebels in Zacapa and Puerto Barrios, where some troops in local garrisons are reported to have defected. Led by several middle grade army officers, the revolutionary movement has some support among anti-Ydígoras elements of various political orientations, but principally moderate leftists. The clandestine Guatemalan Labor (Communist) Party reportedly was unaware of plans for the movement, although it and extreme leftists have been very active in their opposition to Ydígoras.

The elements undertaking the revolution are reported to have agreed upon a new government composed of members ranging from extreme leftists to rightists. Thus far, there does not appear to be widespread popular support for the insurgents despite the fact that the Ydígoras regime is unpopular in many quarters. The revolt appears to some extent to represent a coalescing of hitherto disparate oppositionist elements seeking to take advantage of declining stability, and to bring about pressure which would compel the military to replace Ydígoras with a junta.


On November 11 predominantly leftist and pro-Communist opposition forces launched a co-ordinated uprising from within and outside Nicaragua against the Somoza regime. Severe fighting took place in Carazo province, where barracks at Jinotepe and Diriamba were seized for a short time by the rebels. Some acts of terrorism were reported to have taken place in Managua. There were also reports that reinforcements and arms for the rebels had been landed on the country’s Caribbean coast. Indications are that a considerable number of the insurgents within Nicaragua have been killed or captured, and the government, which has declared martial law, appears to be in control of the situation.

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Costa Rica

On November 12 the Echandi government began attempts to contain Nicaraguan exiles and other revolutionaries, possibly including Cubans, which were concentrated at the Nicaraguan border. This has resulted in clashes between the Costa Rican Civil Guard and the rebels. President Echandi has declared a state of siege and has called up the country’s reserves. Some reports indicate that the rebels are well-armed and receiving reinforcements and supplies by air from Cuba and Honduras.


The almost simultaneous timing of these uprisings suggests the probability that the whole is a co-ordinated undertaking. Both Somoza and Ydígoras allege that the actions against their governments are Cuban inspired. Ever since its inception, the Castro regime has actively sought to further its interests in Central America through the use of its diplomatic missions, special agents, financial assistance, and propaganda. As a result, Guatemala severed diplomatic relations with Cuba, and Honduras declared a Cuban ambassador persona non grata. In all of the Central American republics, Castro’s efforts have been abetted by local Communists and extreme leftist sympathizers. While direct evidence of Cuban participation in the most recent uprisings as yet is lacking, their occurrence, together with developments in El Salvador, creates an unsettled atmosphere favorable for exploitation by Castro.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 713.00/11–1460. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the source text.
  2. On November 17, Assistant Secretary Mann sent Under Secretary Merchant a more extensive memorandum covering the same subject. (ibid., 713.00/11–1760)