THE CARIBBEAN LEGION (ORE 11-49)

Created: 3/17/1949

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

COPT NO.

THE CARIBBEAN LEGION

CIA HISTORICAL REVIEW PROGRAM RELEASE IN FULL

ATION NOTICE

copy of this public*lion Is lor the Information and use ol theon the front cover and of Individuals under the Jurisdiction of thewho require the Information for the performance of their official duties.elsewhere in the department to other offices which require thefor the performance of official duties may be authorized by the following:

Assistant to the Secretary of State for Research and Intelligence,Department of State

of Intelligence, GS, USA, for the Department of the Army

Natal Intelligence, for the Department of the Navy

of Intelligence, USAF, for the Department of the /lr Force

of Security and Intelligence, AEC, for the Atomic Energy

eputy Director for Intelligence, Joint Staff, for the Joint Staff p. Assistant Director for Collection and Dissemination, CIA, for any other Department or Agency

copy may be either retained or destroyed by burning In accordancesecurity regulations, or returned to the Central Intelligence Agencywith the Office of Collection and Dissemination. CIA.

DISTRIBUTION: Office of the President NaUonal Security Council NaUonal Security Resources Board Department of State Office of Secretary of Defense Department of Uie Army Department of tbe Nary Department of the Air Force

Slate-Army-Navy-Air Force Coordinating Committee Joint Chiefs of Staff Atomic Energy Commission Research and Development Hoard

9

THE CARIBBEAN LEGION

SUMMARY

The Caribbean Legion, an irregular military group ot several hundred exiles, well-armed by Central Amerlcan-Caribbean standards, has for some time exercised aInfluence on the International relationships of the area. It hasart ln conspiracies against the Nicaraguan Government andeciding factor In8 Costa Rican civil war. In relation to the countries within which It operates, the Legionufficient force toignificant factor ln the calculations of theirrelating to area foreign policy.

At present, this group is primarily motivatedommon desire for the overthrow of thc so-calledNicaragua and the Dominican Republic Xt Is therefore aligned with and haslandestine Instrument of public policy for thearticularly Cuba. Guatemala, and Costa Rica. The Legion as such has. however, nothinglearly defined Ideology, and might contribute to theof governments as dictatorial as those which It now seeks to destroy.

Public pressure, such as that resulting from the advice of the Council ofof American States (COAS) In8 that Costa Rica remove from Its territory "groups of nationals of foreign militaryay force public disavowal of the Legion upon the "democracies" which In turn may force the Legionemporarily passive role. Since, however. It has no real opposition among the "democracies" In which It Is based except from those who either resist change Inpolitical relations or object to the use of force as an instrument of public policy, it ts highly improbable that the group will be actually disbanded. At the presentthe legion Is quiescent and handicapped by disunity, but It may become more active at some future and more propitious limeigorous and significant force in Central American-Carlbbean Intergovernmental relationships.

his report has been concurred in by the intelligence organizations of the Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force;issent of the Intelligence OrganlTaUon ot the Department of State, see Enclosure a, p.he report Is based on inlormaUon available to CIA on9

THE CARIUUKAN LEGION

ntral^ area of the sclf-styJed "Caribbean ugfon"ighly Slgruncant factor .or change and consequent uncertainty invernrnental relationships. At the pro*nl time, the repubUcs in the area tend to

,TrTrTr . csaccompanyingh Cuba. Guatemala. Costa Rica (and now possibly Elhe so^LS

extent, Honduras the stalledaiti's traditional rivalry with the Dominican Republic makes Its attempts lo remain neutral difficult

ff the Caribbean Legion coincide* with that of the "democracies"ornmon hostility to the existing government of theesult an informal but nonetheless Intimate political and military relationship has developed between the two and the Legion hasndesUne and important Instrument through which the democracies" are pursuing their anli-"dictatorship" policy

^planned invasion of the Dominican republic7 by the organization which later became known as the Legion was frustrated only when certain Cuban officials temporarilyconfiscated its arms; Its action wan decisive in8 Costa RJcan civil war when it oined in the conflict in order to weaken thc Somoza Government of

f Guatemala. Costa Rica,

and Cuba; andtill determined to destroy the present regimes in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic against which itcady engaged in sereralTnspiraciL Though it is at present somewhat divided and quiescent, It can and undoubtedly will become more active at any opportune moment, ready to promote its designs against

y CaSC'underetanJ1^the organization and potentialities ofthe Caribbean Uglon is essentialorced or manv developments in the Caribbean

There is at present, no evidence to demonstrate that the Caribbean Legion its leaders or the government which have harboredhanged their hostile att.tude toward the "dlcUtorships"esult ofhe recent Costa mcan-Nicaraguan disturbances. Although theoff Cuba. Guatemala, and Costa Rica may from time to time and for various reasonsess cooperative attitude toward the Legion, coincidence of policy shouldomplete severance In the u* which at present bind them together

di JTTTMmets morein-

dividual members rcmamhysical possessionJirrm and tmMt^ lhfi on

one form or another will not bety it may move its base ofnom one to another off the Latin Am.^an countries, and Its cadre may be scattered among the severs,or the urea, but this development would

the llfi^^nlS^1^ Oevern^,

2

not prevent ils re-cmcrgence at some future and mote propitious timeigorous and active force in Central American-Caribbean intergovernmental relationships.

The Caribbean Legion has no well-defined ideology, but is bound togetherommon opposition lo the highly personalized and authoritarian governments of Somoza and Trujillo. Given the power, however, there is no assurance in the case of some Legion members that they would refrain from many of thc "dictatorial" practices tbey now oppose. Possibly the majority of members arc inclined to believe in various principles of government now practiced In the US, Britain, France, or Cuba; yetthe group are also some Marxian socialists; conservative Catholics and active Masons; ex Spanish Republicans and ex-members of the Franco regime ln Spain; millionaires and paupers. Thc Flgueres Government in Costa Rica which the Legion made possible has sponsored no radical philosophies nor un-American Ideologies. It is Improbablexgion-created government of Nicaragua would adopt such policies.

Admittedly the Legion fasten underlying concepts of change and is groping for new norms of authority and administration, but these concepts arc Indistinct andIndividual opportunism Is the prime motivation of the Legionnaires. The very lackefinite program, however, probably accounts ,ln large part for theof the Legion In an area where the only militant opposition is to be found among those who either are against change in existing political arrangements or generally object to the use of force as an Instrument of international policy.

No matter what disturbances the Caribbean Legion may foment in the future, they will not, of course, affect the basic concept of Hemisphere dcrense and hence will hive no direct bearing on US-Soviet rivalry. The Legion's power, however, to modify and Influence Internal affairs and International relationships In the Caribbean cannot be overlooked. (For details on the organization and development of thc Caribbean Legion sec Appendix.)

AI'I'ENDIX

ORGANIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN LEGION

Thc Caribbean Legion was formed as such duringts leaders, who were dissidents and exiles from various of the Central American-Caribbeanjoined with Jose Figuercs (now Provisional President of Costa Rica) and assisted him to such an extent that he was able to overthrow the pro-Somoza, Caldcidn-doml-nated, government.

Many of the Legion's leaders, much of its materiel, and some of its men, however, were part of the original attempted Invasion of the Dominican Republic inknown as the Cayo Confites expedition. This organised, well-equipped andrevolutionary plot was originally conceived by political exiles from theRepublic, but was able to reach such proportionsesult of thc Informal agreement between President Arevalo of Guatemala; ROmulo Betancourt (thenofhe then Minister of Labor and now President Prio, and former Minister of Educationf Cuba; and political exiles from the DominicanNicaragua, and Honduras. The aim of the agreement was the "reinstatement of popular sovereignty in the Caribbeannd much was made of the "Bolivarian mission" of the Legion. From the political standpoint, the goal of the "pact" was simply the destruction of the existing governments of the Dominican Republic,and Nicaragua, and their replacement by friendly governments.

In preparation for invasion of the Dominican Republic, several landingozen or more aircraft, anen supplied with adequate small arms, rifles, grenades, machine guns, and aerial bombs, were gathered on Cuban territory. Immediately prior to the expedition's projected departure for the Dominican Republic, however, the Cubanmembers of which had been openly aiding and abetting the Legion'sIt, their reasons being internal political maneuvers and US pressure. The Legion's leaders subsequently substituted Nicaragua in place of the Dominican Republic as the primary target In order that It might be nearer the target, the materiel was shipped and flown to Guatemala and then transshipped to Costa Rica, whore It was first used ln the Figueres-led civil war.

Thc Legion considered Its Costa Rlcan operations as part of its projected Nicaraguan campaignreUminary to it Two immediate objectives were thus attained: the Somoza Government was weakened by the substitutionostileriendlygovernment on its southern border, and the amount of equipment available for the ultimate Nicaraguan campaign was increased. In order to obtain the Legion's support, present Provisional President Figuercs had apparently agreed to give thcat thc close of the civil disturbances, twice the amount of equipment It lent him for arming his Costa Rlcan, as distinguished from his Caribbean Legion supporters.

At the close of the Costa Rican fighting thc Legion was at Its highest point of power, prestige, and Influence. Its successful attack on Puertoonfirmed Its

4

s

puliUry prowess and enhanced throughoul Central America Its military reputation; ifte rifles, submachine guns, and grenades It was able to deliver to Figueres during the jirll disturbances confirmed lis ability to supply arms and to deliver them where and wnen they were needed; its superiority in weapons and fighting men over that of theFiguercs government assured It the ability to enforce its demands on thenamely that il be repaid twice the amount of armsad loaned Figuercs and that Its personnel be boused and fed at Costa Rlcan Gdvernment expense until the debt had been paid. The personal Intimacy of Its leaders with thc Presidents of Guatemala. Cuba, and Costa Rica gaveoice ln the area foreign policies of those countries; and Its refusal to concern Itself with the domestic affairs of Costa Rica, despite the fact that It wasosition to do so, reassured many who suspected the Legion'sIntents.

The burst of optimism In revolutionary circles which followed the successfulof the Costa Rican disturbances, was soon dissipated, however, byamong thc legionnaires. Divisions developed over the formulation of plans for the campaign against Nicaragua, especially within the so-called "Junta Revoluclonaria Unlfkada deubsidiary and largely theoretical organization of the Legion striving for leadership of the projected attack. Rival factions of Nlcaraguan exiles whose divisions reflected traditional internal political distinctions each contended for leadership of the Junta and for the support of Presidents Arevalo and Flgueres.

In Costa Rica the rivalries eventually narrowed down to two contending groups. One led by Rosendo Argflello,onsisted ofrmed men who weredally training and comprised the liberal and more radical elements among the Nlcaraguan exiles. This group, variously called the "Chendos" or theas superior In training, discipline, and physical condition to the rival group ofen led by Miguel Ramirez who were, for the most part, conservative Nlcaraguan exiles. Provisional President Figueres of Costa Rica supported thc ArgUello group, andArevalo of Guatemala supported the Ramirez group.

After much haggling, many conferences among thc contenders, and high Costa Rican, Cuban, and Guatemalan government officials. Rosendo ArgUello, Jr. was chosen on8 to act as "Commander In Chief" of the Nicaraguan Army ofwith Miguel Ramirez as Chief of Stall "with all thc functions and Inherentofhe general stafl was composed of eleven officers, six of whomajority) were Nlcaraguan citizens, the others being Dominicans. Hondurans. and Cubans Essentially the united group consisted of an officer cadre; large numbers of enlisted men were not trained.

The agreement also defined clearly and succinctly thc relationship between the "Nicaraguan Army of Liberation" (the united Arguellc-Rami rex group in Costa Rica) and Legionnaires In Guatemala, under the command of Generalominican exile and original founder of thc Legion.

The Dominicans under Rodriguez were permitted lo organize their own separate revolutionary force In Guatemala which, it was envisaged, would take full part In the attack on Nicaragua and would then, when the "Nicaraguan Army of Liberation"the government of Nicaragua, become the Caribbean Legion for the eventual

JE^KT

0Uack on the Dominican Republic. In exchange (or this support, thcroup promised that If and when it obtained control of Nicaragua, it would assist the Rodriguez group by supplying it with Nicaraguan air, sea, and land bases; ammunition and weapons; air power, and money.

Immediately after thc agreement was signed in October, preparations went ahead /or the attack on Nicaragua. Headquarters were established by thc Rodriguez groupouse near the Government Palace of Guatemala and located inosition as lobe within rifle shotuatemalan Army cuartel (for President Arevalo was detcr-pilned that he should not, like Figueres, be subject to pressure from the armed body which he had Invited into biseneral Rodriguez was in frequent personal contact with President Arevalo who, in all important decisions concerning the Legion, insisted that his Minister of War Arbenz and the Chief of the Armed Forcese associated witheneral staff consisting of six Dominicans, two Hondurans, one Nicaraguan and two Cubans was organized;keleton organizationonsolidated. Precise armed strength is undetermined, but is believed to includench cannon.achine guns,ubmachinerenades,ifles. Guatemalan Army, Cuban Army, and commercialACA) aircraft were for all practical purposes made available to transport tbe men and materiel of the Legion to any designated Central American or Caribbean point,articular airport in Guatemala was designated for use by the Legion. President Prio of Cuba possibly promised to give the Legion, once the Nicaraguan attack got under way, such materiel as he still held from that confiscated during the Cayo Confites incident This materielifles,achine guns, aerial bombs, boats, planes, and twelve bazookas. It was reported that officials of the Argentine Government approached some of the Legion officialsiew to holding discussions on the question ot future Argentine support but that the Legion officials declined to discuss the matter lest ties with Peron arouse further anti-Legion feeling within the US Government.

Meanwhile, and despite the October agreement, disunity within the Legionespecially within the Arguello-Ramirez unit based in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Government, by virtue of arms purchases in the US. was apparently able to pay offgion's Costa Rican-based unit and return to it all borrowed arms.from mid-November Provisional President Figueres' official attitude toward the Legion appears to haveerceptible change, and the Costa Ricanwas no longer as cooperative toward the Legion as it had been. Rivalry within the Arguello-Ramirez group broke out afresh, and Rodriguez in Guatemala recalled some Legion materiel and personnel from Costa Rica.

In addition, the Legion appears to havereater respect for the loyalty of the Nicaraguan Guardia Sacuynal to its chief, Somoza. Themore properly, the lack ofthe Guardia has alwaysrucial factor in the Legion's anti-Somoza plans, for all responsible Legion members realize that, despite the considerable materiel and personnel they have gathered,ampaign as they might be able to launch against Somoza could not succeed unless atart of the Guardia Nacional. proved disloyal under pressure, and deserted. This is especially true

tt ric-eportedI Legion strategy which calls form.Ua.lnvaalonKkmm,irttaM. of the Sluna andSB inkers and Cuorefca garrisons are reported to be antl-Somoz.

This was the situation up to Friday.hen an eegaatsad group* Brcan exdes-number, and armament(Soowxa and the army which he commands, crossed the frontier from Htcaraaw Ur jniory Into Guaoacaste province. Carta Rica. During lhe early hours of thisne of the causes of which was the presence of the Caribbean Legion In Costa Rfca and Guatemala, and Somoza's fear of It) the Cost* Rican Governmentormal tprernent with the ArgueUo-led Legion subsidiary. Although the precise term* of the agreement are unknown, there arc strong Indications that Provisional President Figueres again promised future support for the Legion's aim of destroying the Samoa* regime in exchange for help in suppressing the Soraoza-supportcd revolutionaryagainst him. Specifically, individual Legion members were permitted to enlist In the Costa Rican Army. The General Staff of the Legion, which was to remainwas not toounterattack in Nicaragua unless the Invading forces had enough support from Somoza to place the outcome In doubt This backing did not prove sufficiently strong and.onsequence, the Legion as such did not engage in antl-Somoza moves.

The speed with which the Council of Organltalion of American States Intervened in the disturbances wasactor in deterring the Legion and the Figueresfrom precipitate action against Somoza. This and internal difficulties within Guatemala checked the Artvalo Government Onecember, the Council ofof American States advised the Costa Rican Government to remove from its territory "groups of nationals or foreign military organizations" (Le. the Caribbean Legion) conspiring against the security of Nicaragua and of other sister Republics.

At present, although the Legion has outwardly become less active, its operational position remains comparable to what it has been for the past several months. Officers, men, and materiel are located In both Guatemala and Costa Rica. It stillufficient force toignificant factor in the calculations of the Caribbeanrelating to local foreign policy, especially in the matter of rivalry between the "dictatorships" and theresidents Prio ot Cuba, Arevalo of Guatemala, and Figueres of Costa Rica remain favorably disposed toward it and willing to use it as an instrument of public policy. There is evidence that Legion friends andin Cuba arc about to launch an active propaganda campaign on behalf of its aims and aspirations.

7

ENCLOSURE A

DISSENT OF THE INTELLIGENCE ORGANIZATION. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Thc intelligence organization of the Department of State does not concur inreport In the following respects:

We believe that the report places too much emphasis upon the political significance of the Legion as an organization because (a) In recent weeks the strength of the Legion appears to have materially declined and (b) the Legion is not put entirely in its proper perspective with reference lo the political conditions of the area. With reference to the latter the Intelligence organization of the Department believes that lhe Legion in itself is of less significance than the fact that il had its origin in the increasedin the area with traditional methods of government and In the fairly widespread desire for the development of political institutions along more progressive lines.it is fell that Insufficient emphasis has been placed upon the fact that the Legion found it possible to organize partly because of Intense feeling existing both in and out of the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua against the repressive regimes of TrujUlo andThe conflict which has BtsK lheposslolekOft ptftisttBt bctC in the political relationships of the area than the Legion itself which might at any time fall apart as an organization, but which would in such case likely be succeeded in time by some olher and possibly similar Instrument of agitation and force as long as the self-seeking dictatorships remain.

wc believe that El Salvador should be omitted from any mention in connection with the tendency that has existed lo form two rival and competing blocks of power in the area.

SE#RET

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic:

CAPTCHA