94. Telegram From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State 1

1105. Subject: President Guerrero’s Comments on January 22–23 Events.

1.
I called on President Guerrero this morning in order attempt evaluate his morning-after attitude and to get across two points to him categorically and officially.
2.

I opened conversation by congratulating President on GON’s contribution to resolution very difficult and dangerous situation at Gran Hotel yesterday. Guerrero replied that GON had of course been extremely concerned. There were those, he went on, who wanted to take the toughest kind of line of action, and “today some of us are being criticized for having been too lenient in letting those people go unscathed.” But, he added, he was confident GON was right. If hotel had been conclusively attacked there would have been much more blood shed on both sides, and of course GON had to think about safety of Americans and other foreigners in hotel. Guerrero said he was most grateful for our Embassy’s help in making this possible.

A. Comment: There is little doubt that there were hardliners within GON circles, possibly headed by General Somoza, who were ready and anxious give National Guard its head to clean up situation ruthlessly. But we are also confident that it was Luis Somoza, President himself and most of other GON leadership who were responsible for [Page 217]moderate solution which was reached. They were not of course unaware that eyes of world and especially the US was on them.

3.

Guerrero’s reference to Embassy’s role gave me opening for first of points I wanted make. I said I wanted to make absolutely clear to him that in our passages back and forth yesterday between Aguero group in hotel and GON safety of endangered Americans was uppermost in our minds. As far as messages we carried between two sides and the agreement in all its details which was ultimately reached were concerned, he should understand that we were acting merely as agents, without responsibility for any of the arrangements. I said it was like two Nicaraguans talking to each other over a telephone line which we provided. We tried to make this abundantly clear to both sides during course of negotiations yesterday, but I wanted to reemphasize it today. President said of course GON understood this and was most appreciative our undertaking do what we did. Other governments who had citizens in hotel also, he added, should also be grateful to US. Finally he said many moderates in opposition had called him during course of yesterday urging him to negotiate directly with Aguero and it was great satisfaction to him be able tell them that talks were going on successfully through our medium.

A. Comment: Since there are bound to be many critics on both sides who will and probably are now attacking agreement which permitted hotel evacuation, I thought I should make above disclaimer of responsibility for content of agreement at highest level GON as soon as possible, in event there any doubt. Besides, it happens to be quite true. We will make same point again with opposition when we have chance.

4.

I then made other point I had in mind based on fact that when Aguero and other leaders (Pasos, two Chamorros, Rivas and Frixione) emerged from hotel last night they suddenly entered my well identified official car which had been used all day take Embassy team back and forth. This was of course without any pre-arrangement our part or expectation they might do so since they were supposed proceed to homes on their own responsibility. DCM Engle, who in charge of Embassy team at hotel was horrified and considered forcing them out of car. But he quickly and correctly concluded that to do so in such public place and in front of many foreign and domestic newsreel and other photographers would create most unpleasant scene, to say the least, and consequences could not be foreseen. Therefore they drove off in Ambassador’s car and were taken to their homes. I explained to President exactly how this happened. Guerrero brushed the incident aside and said it made no difference at all. He added that what really annoyed him was what the oppositionists had done after they got home. Aguero for example made a grandstand play by visiting hospitals, and he and other oppositionists held “drunken fiestas” in celebration. [Page 218] Guerrero said he thought this in extremely poor taste so shortly after so many innocent people had been killed and wounded.

A. This incident will hopefully not loom large as an issue, but I thought I should attempt convince President of truth which is that Aguero and company took outrageous advantage of us in this instance. Morning news broadcasts apparently have not specifically identified car in which they left. This connection government representative at Hotel Arostegui was eye-witness.

5.

I concluded conversation by remarking that I hoped all would go well from now on. Guerrero said he shared my hope and added that he trusted that Department of State had been and would be kept fully informed of developments as they occurred. I said he could count on that. Guerrero then said that he knew that Senator Kennedy had made a statement yesterday2 which was very critical of the GON, calling for OAS action of some kind, etc. I replied that if there was such a statement I had not seen it but perhaps Senator’s comment had been based largely on events of Sunday rather than peaceful conclusion of Gran Hotel crisis yesterday. President mildly reaffirmed hope that US Government would be completely informed and understanding. I said we would do our best.

A. Comment: Again, there is little doubt that course which events took yesterday afternoon was considerably influenced image-building considerations, certainly on part GON and perhaps also to some degree on part opposition. Dominican experience was in many people’s minds, and Luis Somoza at least is ever most alert to his family’s public relations.

6.
Comment: We will attempt further analysis as we make further contacts. President did not mention election prospects and I had concluded I should not raise matter at this stage. Probably each side going make public claims “great victory” for themselves. If Kennedy statement has not been sent us, please transmit soonest for our info.
Brown
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 NIC. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to USCINCSO for POLAD, Guatemala City, Panama City, San Josè, San Salvador, and Tegucigalpa and passed to the White House, DOD, CIA, USIA, and CIA.
  2. In telegram 125185 to Managua, January 25, the Embassy forwarded the full text of the statement, in which Senator Robert F. Kennedy urged the OAS Human Rights Commission to investigate the situation in Managua and called for a meeting of the OAS Council “to determine what steps would be appropriate in the event that the violence continues.” (Ibid.)