249. Telegram 119 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

119. Subject: Impact of FSLN Terrorist Incident.

Summary: The audacious FSLN kidnapping incident of December 27–30 was received with surprisingly widespread approval. Approbatory reactions ranged from delight at Somoza’s discomfiture among opposition and non-committed elements to sympathetic causes behind FSLN act even among some Somocistas. These reactions do not so much suggest positive acceptance of the Castroist FSLN as an alternative than dissatisfaction with the Somoza regime. Somoza’s image of invulnerability has been shaken, and his officials have been touched for the first time by fear for their personal safety. However, he has shown admirable restraint during and in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

During the coming months, the President’s political acumen will be sorely tested and though he is reportedly inclined to support fully reforms helpful to the campesinos, opinions are divided as to whether he will change his style or institute recommended political reforms. In basically moderate Nicaragua, legitimate opposition groups will for the next few months have the inside track for mobilizing the anti-Somoza sentiment galvanized by the successful FSLN operation. However, should the GON prevent them from channeling this sentiment into their organizations, the FSLN, especially if it mounts another sensational assault, could solidly establish its position as a viable opposition force. Legitimate opposition groups and organized labor may well test Somoza’s willingness to provide a political safety valve through liberalization within the month.

[Omitted here is the remainder of the telegram.]

  1. Summary: The Embassy reported on widespread approval of the FSLN kidnapping incident of December 27–30 and concluded that the reaction reflected the depth of anti-Somoza sentiment more than it did any sympathy for the Sandinistas.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750610–0688. Confidential; Immediate. Repeated to San José, Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, Guatemala City, USCINCSO for POLAD, and USIA for ILA. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. In telegram 122 from Managua, January 10, Warner emphasized that “except among students,” he saw “no groundswell of support for the FSLN” and that the Nicaraguan Government was “firmly in control.” (Ibid., D750010–1152)