93. Editorial Note

On the evening of January 22, 1967, several Embassy officers tried to reach the Americans held hostage at the Gran Hotel in downtown Managua; others tried to reach the leader of the Nicaraguan National Guard. Both attempts were unsuccessful. After failing to contact interim President of Nicaragua Lorenzo Guerrero Gutièrrez, Ambassador Brown managed to express “grave US concern” to the President’s press secretary. The press secretary called back to report that President Guerrero and General Somoza were fully aware of the gravity of the situation, particularly since the lives of Americans and other hotel guests were at stake and assured Brown that, contrary to reports the Embassy had received, the National Guard was not firing into the hotel. (Telegram 1065 from Managua, January 23, 0514Z; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 NIC)

In the early hours of January 23 the Embassy began to receive appeals to intervene in the hotel siege. Ambassador Brown received such a call from opposition leader Fernando Agüero. The Embassy initially responded to these appeals by stating that “the action requested would constitute foreign intervention into Nicaraguan affairs.” (Telegram 1066 from Managua, January 23, 0740Z; ibid.) Several hours later the Nicaraguan Government allowed the Papal Nuncio and the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua to approach Agüero in an attempt to negotiate a “peaceful evacuation beleaguered inmates, especially foreign guests.” (Telegram 1067 from Managua, January 23, 1145Z; ibid.) When the two prelates proved unable to mediate a settlement, the Nicaraguan Government recommended that the Embassy assume the initiative. Ambassador Brown sent a team of senior officers to “persuade Aguero importance immediate release hostages, pointing out obvious impact his continued control over them will have on his American friends.” (Telegram 1068 from Managua, January 23, 1330Z; ibid.) After 2 hours of negotiation, the team returned empty-handed. (Telegram 1073 from Managua, January 23, 1640Z; ibid.) Meanwhile the Department, although agreeing with the decision to intervene on behalf of the American hostages, expressed its concern that the “GON seems to be shifting burden to Embassy and USG.” The Department instructed the Embassy to “make unmistakably clear to GON that we regard GON responsible for safety of Americans.” (Telegram 123306 to Managua, January 23, 11:23 a.m.; ibid.)

Before the Embassy could remind the Nicaraguan Government of its responsibilities, a summons arrived from Agüero. He wanted the Embassy to deliver a message to the Guerrero administration, containing his terms to resolve the stalemate. The Embassy agreed to [Page 216]deliver the message “without taking any responsibility for promoting conditions laid down.” (Telegram 1077 from Managua, January 23, 2157Z; ibid.) Following further negotiations, with the Embassy acting as intermediary, Agüero and his followers agreed to evacuate the hotel, thereby releasing the hostages. (Telegram 1078 from Managua, January 23, 2227Z and telegram 1085 from Managua, January 23, 2330Z; both ibid.)