334. Intelligence Brief INRB–87 From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Cline) to Secretary of State Rogers1 2

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  • Guatemala: Terrorists’ Next Move May Pose Excruciating Dilemmas

The assassination of the West German Ambassador raises questions as to the next step to be expected from the Guatemalan terrorists. Kidnapping of a US official or dependent to test the government’s resolve to resist ransom demands could pose an excruciating dilemma for the Guatemalan and US Governments.

Terrorists’ Cause Is Hurt. The murder of West German Ambassador Karl von Spreti almost certainly indicates that the extreme leftist Guatemalan guerrilla organization FAR (Rebel Armed Forces) reasoned that if they had released von Spreti without obtaining their ransom demands, the government would not have taken future kidnappings seriously. The brutal murder, however, has probably hurt their cause and they must now be casting around for a next step which would help them recoup their position.

FAR’s Next Move. Though the Guatemalan Government’s state of siege decree of April 2 may limit their movements, the terrorists may feel that within a few weeks government enforcement measures may slacken, [Page 2] and opportunities for another kidnapping may be better. Kidnapping of a lower-ranking US official or even a dependent (the FAR has shown itself not to be unduly squeamish about brutal tactics which most Latins, even extremist groups, would consider too extreme), could pose an excruciating dilemma for the Guatemalan and US Governments.

Dilemmas for Guatemala and the U.S.? If the Guatemalan Government were to yield to ransom demands in such a case, after it had refused to do so for the German Ambassador, the guerrillas would feel that they could graphically prove their long-time contention that the US calls the shots in Guatemala. Likewise if the U.S. subjected the GOG to extreme pressure to accede to ransom demands, after the GOG’s recalcitrance in the von Spreti case, the stability of the GOG might be affected. On the other hand, not to yield would probably result in the death of another hostage and cause severe damage to Guatemala’s international relations.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 785, Country Files, Latin America, Guatemala, Vol. I. Secret. A stamped notation on the brief indicated it was received at the NSC on April 8 at 8:32 a.m. Haig’s handwritten initials appear above the date on the cover page.
  2. Following the kidnapping and assassination of the German Ambassador to Guatemala, INR analyzed the potential for targeted actions against U.S. Government personnel in Guatemala. INR concluded that pressuring the Guatemalan Government to act under such circumstances might legitimate the guerrillas’ “long-time contention that the US calls the shots in Guatemala” and potentially affect Guatemalan Government stability.