177. Telegram 1261 From the Embassy in Guatemala to the Department of State1
1261. Subject: Presidential Election Situation Remains Confused—Election Report Number 15.
1. At the dawn of the second day following the March 3 Presidential elections, the situation remains confused. Both General Laugerud, who is sponsored by the government-backed conservative MLN–PID coalition and General Rios Montt, who is backed by the left-of-center Christian Democratic led United Opposition Front, are claiming victory. Center-of-the-road PR candidate Col. Paiz Novales is out of the running. The government, which has been unbelievably slow in releasing election statistics, is once again dribbling them out in a manner which shows Laugerud ahead, and which smacks of gross fraud.
2. It now appears to us that Rios Montt won the election but that the government, with the backing of President Arana, intends to steal it [Page 504] by falsifying the returns. Whether the government will succeed in its plan will depend largely on the attitude of the army, which in turn will take its cue from the degree of popular discontent manifested over the projected rip-off. We believe the army will control any minor disturbances, but will back off from a major confrontation if it should arise. We also estimate that Rios will not be able to provoke a major confrontation. Nevertheless, our prognostication for the next several days is for confusion and a certain degree of instability.
Summary: Two days after the Presidential elections, the Embassy reported that the Guatemalan Government was releasing results in a fashion that suggested gross fraud.
Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, [no film number]. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to USCINCSO and CINCLAT, all ARA Posts, and USCINCSO for POLAD.↩