250. Telegram 568 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

568. For Assistant Secretary Rogers from Ambassador Shelton. Subject: Human Rights Reporting. Ref: State 28626.

I can well understand your concern over the reports of “arbitrary arrest, murder and even assassination” which you heard in Panama. Were these true I can assure you that we would gravely share your concern and would report them immediately. All of the elements of this Embassy are keenly aware of the problems regarding human rights and the necessity to be alert to this situation at all times. I am in constant touch with every element of the Embassy and the Embassy is in touch with all elements of Nicaraguan society, both governmental and opposition, and we have absolutely no evidence of any resort to murder or assassination. As far as we are aware, only a few people have been detained for investigation of suspected FSLN activities. Even the non-Castroist opposition, including the Communists, have made no charges such as those you heard in Panama. We are keenly aware here that there have been statements in the Panamanian press and on the Costa Rican radio which have pictured Nicaragua in a state of “near civil war” with the “borders closed” and a general picture of turmoil, repression and confusion. It is extremely difficult to determine the source of these allegations. It is my understanding that Costa Rican President Oduber in his discussions with President Somoza on February 6 expressed his concern and chagrin over these irresponsible statements being made in Costa Rica and promised Somoza that he would do everything he possibly could to reduce the flow of such irresponsible statements. As you know, since the December 27 terrorist attack, Nicaragua has been in a “state of siege.” The application of this state of siege has been limited almost entirely to censorship and the use [Page 673] of military courts under certain circumstances. We do not know of anyone who has been denied freedom of movement since the December 27 incident. In general, while there are undoubtedly some aberrations, there are no major violations of human rights in Nicaragua. A detailed analysis of the degree of observance of human rights here will be forthcoming in septel.

  1. Summary: Shelton assured Rogers that there had been no major violation of human rights in Nicaragua.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D750047–0305. Confidential; Priority; Exdis. In telegram 28626 to Managua, February 7, Rogers stated that he had heard reports that Nicaraguan authorities had responded to the December 1974 FSLN kidnapping incident by making arbitrary arrests and killing opponents. Reminding Shelton of congressional interest in human rights, he asked Shelton for “a precise assessment of the extent to which the GON is meeting human rights standards.” (Ibid., D750046–0887) In telegram 598 from Managua, February 11, the Embassy provided a more extensive report on the human rights situation, observing that while “Nicaragua is not without its blemishes when it comes to human rights,” there had been “a distinct absence of widespread, assiduous, and severe repression of ordinary rights and liberties for the last two decades.” (Ibid., D750044–0590)