244. Telegram 2580 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

2580. Subject: Elections 1974: Opposition Issues Call for Abstention.

1. Summary: On June 26 opposition La Prensa published a proclamation signed by seven political opposition groups and the Social [Page 663] Christian and Communist Labor organizations strongly attacking the GON and calling for abstention in the upcoming September election. The government’s reaction came quickly with legal proceedings to disenfranchise all signators of the proclamation, who include some of General Somoza’s most outspoken opponents (e.g. Ramiro Sacasa, Pedro J. Chamorro and Manolo Morales) of their constitutional rights. The practical effect of this unusual measure will probably be seen only if those signing the proclamation persist in pushing an abstention campaign. If they do persist, however, in publicly advocating absention the GON could legally arrest them under penal law provisions prohibiting such actions. End summary.

2. On June 26 opposition newspaper La Prensa published a hard-hitting proclamation signed, with the exception of the Aguero Conservatives, by all major opposition groups including two labor organizations, the Social Christian and Communist Labor Confederations. The proclamation attacks General Somoza’s handling of the government on a number of fronts, especially concentrating on the inflation issue. The principal point of the document, however, is to denounce this year’s quote caricature of an electoral process end quote: proclaiming that the elections quote have no other purpose than to assure the continuance of General Somoza Debayle as Chief of State. End quote.

3. Although they express their willingness to participate in quote free election proceedings end quote the leaders of the groups signing the proclamation take the position that they are not willing quote to be used in an electoral maneuver by a corrupt regime end quote. They therefore proclaim their intention to abstain from the upcoming election, contending that quote the government which emerges from the elections cannot be recognized as legitimate by Nicaraguans end quote. The statement advocates undefined quote belligerent abstention end quote and calls for a new non-partisan national civic resistance movement, but likewise does not define this movements organization or purpose other than to work for quote final independence of the Nicaraguan people and true national independence. End quote.

4. Three different leaders from each of the following organizations signed the proclamation: the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), the Social Christian Party (PSC), the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) (Communist), the National Conservative Action (Pedro J. Chamorro’s breakaway faction of Conservatives), the Constitutional Liberal Movement (Ramiro Sacasa’s faction of Liberals), National Mobilization Movement (the Chamorro/Sacasa-led Opposition Unity Group), the Movement for National Salvation (a new Leon-based Opposition Group), the General Labor Confederation-Independent (CGT–I, the Communist-controlled Labor Confederation), and the Labor Center of Nicaragua (CTN, the Social Christian Labor Group), these are the same organiza[Page 664]tions which signed the letter to OAS Secretary General Galo Plaza at the end of March denouncing the upcoming elections (Managua’s A–45, dated May 6, 1974. (Comment: The Communist PSN and CGT–I participation in the proclamation is part of a new trend toward increased willingness of the more traditional opposition forces to cooperate more openly with the Communists which Embassy will examine in a future message.)

5. With voter registration to be conducted in July for the September elections and already undoubtedly concerned by the apathy with which the Presidential campaign has so far been received, the GON reaction to the proclamation was quick and tough. First there was a communiqué from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal reminding the public of constitutional and penal law prohibitions against advocating abstention. Then, Minister of Government Leandro Marin issued a communiqué charging this quote group of organizations without legal status and completely lacking public support end quote with inciting electoral abstention. The communiqué goes on to say that legal action will be taken against those who signed the statement.

6. Marin has since confirmed to the Embassy that his communiqué was no idle threat. To the contrary, signators of the proclamation are being individually prosecuted before a police judge under the constitutional provision (Article 35, Section 6) which states that a citizen’s rights may be suspended quote for using violence, coercion or fraud in elections, or for advocating or proclaiming abstention from voting end quote.

7. Comment: Constitutional rights were reinstated for the Managua area this past week with the lifting of martial law (see separate telegram). The signators of the abstention proclamation have laid themselves open for legal action which could result in a period of disenfranchisement, but given the unique character of the measure, the practical results are difficult to assess. The opposition leaders affected carried on their opposition efforts while martial law was in effect when constitutional rights were suspended. Nonetheless, during the eighteen months of martial law, the GON used its extraordinary powers against its opposition in only one notable instance—to impose press censorship for eleven days. What further steps the GON takes against these twenty-seven signators of the document advocating abstention will depend largely on how actively they continue to press the issue. The Embassy will continue to report developments regarding this situation.

Shelton
  1. Summary: The Embassy reported that leading opponents of the Somoza regime had published a proclamation calling for Nicaraguans to abstain from voting in the elections scheduled for September 1, adding that the Nicaraguan Government was moving to prosecute the signers of the document.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740175–0581. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, San José, San Salvador, and USCINCSO for POLAD. In telegram 2575 from Managua, July 1, the Embassy reported the June 28 lifting of martial law in the capital, in effect since the December 1972 earthquake. (Ibid., D740174–0702) In telegram 3185 from Managua, August 15, the Embassy reported that a criminal prosecution of the 27 signatories of the proclamation had resulted in a six-month suspension of their citizenship rights, adding that the sentence heightened the likelihood of a clash between the government and its opponents. (Ibid., D740225–0277) In telegram 192333 to Managua, August 31, the Department suggested that the Embassy informally advise the Nicaraguan Government of U.S. press interest in the “Case of the 27” and of rising congressional interest in civil rights. (Ibid., D740242–0696) Airgram A–45 from Managua, May 6, is ibid., P740048–1189.