497. Telegram 1696 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1 2

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  • Cathedral Seizure


  • Managua 1694

1. Student occupation of Managua cathedral and other churches reported reftel continues. In supporting action, students in Leo and Granada have occupied churches in those cities, and four officers of communist-led teachers’ federation have joined students and priests in hunger strike. Archdiocesan authorities have closed all Catholic schools in Managua.

2. Archbishop has added his prestige to student cause with letter condemning persecution and torture, calling on government to permit a commission to visit prisoners and demanding prisoners be brought before judge and either charged or released. Letter also signed by acting UCA rector Juan B. Arrien and UCA student body President-elect Mauricio Montealegre. Archbishop is meeting this morning with President Somoza to discuss situation.

3. Comment: We believe Archbishop has assumed leadership of controversy in effort to bring it to moderate and sensible conclusion. At same time he is staking out new [Page 2] liberal and independent position of church. We are optimistic that quick and satisfactory settlement will be achieved. However, we note this is first occasion where church and students have stood together unequivocally against Somoza’s Guardia Nacional and its time honored practices.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–8 NIC. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and San José. In telegram 1700 from Managua, September 29, the Embassy reported that the occupation had ended peacefully the previous afternoon and that “students and liberal religious elements (mainly young Jesuit priests) regard settlement as major victory over GON and will surely be ready to apply successful formula when next civil crisis inevitably presents itself.” (Ibid.)
  2. The Embassy reported that university students had occupied the Managua Cathedral to protest government repression. Archbishop Obando y Bravo supported the students in the “first occasion where Church and students have stood together against President Somoza’s Guardia Nacional and its time honored practices.”