CIA Manual – Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare

A statement repeated to the population to the effect that they can reveal everything about this visit of our commandos, because we are not afraid of anything or anyone, neither the Soviets nor the Cubans. Emphasize that we are Nicaraguans, that we are fighting for the freedom of Nicaragua and to establish a very Nicaraguan government.

Guerrilla Weapons Are The Strength of the People over an Illegal Government

The armed propaganda in populated areas does not give the impression that weapons are the power of the guerrillas over the people, but rather that the weapons are the strength of the people against a regime of repression. Whenever it is necessary to use armed force in an occupation or visit to a town or village, guerrillas should emphasize making sure that they:

~ Explain to the population that in the first place this is being done to protect them, the people, and not themselves.

~ Admit frankly and publicly that this is an “act of the democratic guerrilla movement,” with appropriate explanations.

~ That this action, although it is not desirable, is necessary because the final objective of the insurrection is a free and democratic society, where acts of force are not necessary.

~ The force of weapons is a necessity caused by the oppressive system, and will cease to exist when the “forces of justice” of our movement assume control.

If, for example, it should be necessary for one of the advanced posts to have to fire on a citizen who was trying to leave the town or city in which the guerrillas are carrying out armed propaganda or political proselytism, the following is recommended:

~ Explain that if that citizen had managed to escape, he would have alerted the enemy that is near the town or city, and they could carry out acts of reprisal such as rapes, pillage, destruction, captures, etc., it this way terrorizing the inhabitants of the place for having given attention and hospitalities to the guerrillas of the town.

~ If a guerrilla fires at an individual, make the town see that he was an enemy of the people, and that they shot him because the guerrilla recognized as their first duty the protection of citizens.

~ The command tried to detain the informant without firing because he, like all Christian guerrillas, espouses nonviolence. Firing at the Sandinista informant, although it is against his own will, was necessary to prevent the repression of the Sandinista government against innocent people.

~ Make the population see that it was the repressive system of the regime that was the cause of this situation, what really killed the informer, and that the weapon fired was one recovered in combat against the Sandinista regime.

~ Make the population see that if the Sandinista regime had ended the repression, the corruption backed by foreign powers, etc., the freedom commandos would not have had to brandish arms against brother Nicaraguans, which goes against our Christian sentiments. If the informant hadn’t tried to escape he would be enjoying life together with the rest of the population, because not have tried to inform the enemy. This death would have been avoided if justice and freedom existed in Nicaragua, which is exactly the objective of the democratic guerrilla.

Selective Use of Violence for Propagandistic Effects

It is possible to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets, such as court judges, mesta judges, police and State Security officials, CDS chiefs, etc. For psychological purposes it is necessary to gather together the population affected, so that they will be present, take part in the act, and formulate accusations against the oppressor.

The target or person should be chosen on the basis of:

~ The spontaneous hostility that the majority of the population feels toward the target.

~ Use rejection or potential hatred by the majority of the population affected toward the target, stirring up the population and making them see all the negative and hostile actions of the individual against the people.

~ If the majority of the people give their support or backing to the target or subject, do not try to change these sentiments through provocation.

~ Relative difficulty of controlling the person who will replace the target.

The person who will replace the target should be chosen carefully, based on:

~ Degree of violence necessary to carry out the change.

~ Degree of violence acceptable to the population affected.

~ Degree of predictable reprisal by the enemy on the population affected or other individuals in the area of the target.

The mission to replace the individual should be followed by:

~ Extensive explanation within the population affected of the reason why it was necessary for the good of the people.

~ Explain that Sandinista retaliation is unjust, indiscriminate, and above all, a justification for the execution of this mission.

~ Carefully test the reaction of the people toward the mission, as well as control this reaction, making sure that the populations reaction is beneficial towards the Freedom Commandos.


Armed propaganda includes all acts executed and the impact achieved by an armed force, which as a result produces positive attitudes in the population toward this force, and it does not include forced indoctrination. However, armed propaganda is the most effective available instrument of a guerrilla force.



In contact with the very reality of their roots, in a psychological operation campaign in guerrilla warfare, the comandantes will be able to obtain maximum psychological results from an Armed Propaganda program. This section is to inform the guerrilla student as to what Armed Propaganda Teams are in the environment of guerrilla warfare.

Combination: Political Awareness and Armed Propaganda

The Armed Propaganda Teams combine political awareness-building with armed propaganda, which will be carried out by carefully selected guerrillas (preferably with experience in combat), for personal persuasion within the population.

The selection of the staff is more important than the training, because we cannot train guerrilla cadres just to show the sensations of ardor and fervor, which are essential for person-to-person persuasion. More important is the training of persons who are intellectually agile and developed.

An Armed Propaganda Team includes from 6 to 10 members; this number or a smaller number is ideal, since there is more camaraderie, solidarity and group spirit. The themes to deal with are assimilated more rapidly and the members react more rapidly to unforeseen situations.

In addition to the combination as armed propagandist-combatant each member of the team should be well prepared to carry out permanent person- to-person communication, face-to-face.

The leader of the group should be the commando who is the most highly

motivated politically and the most effective in face-to-face persuasion. The position, hierarchy or range will not be decisive for carrying out that function, but rather who is best qualified for communication with the people.

The source of basic recruitment for guerrilla cadres will be the same social groups of Nicaraguans to whom the psychological campaign is directed, such as peasants, students, professionals, housewives, etc. The campesinos (peasants) should be made to see that they do not have lands; the workers that the State is putting an end to factories and industries; the doctors, that they are being replaced by Cuban paramedics, and that as doctors they cannot practice their profession due to lack of medicines. A requirement for recruiting them will be their ability to express themselves in public.

The selection of the personnel is more important than the training. The political awareness-building and the individual capabilities of persuasion will be shown in the group discussions for motivation of the guerrilla as a propagandist-combatant chosen as cadres to organize them in teams, that is, those who have the greatest capacity for this work.

The training of guerrillas for Armed Propaganda Teams emphasizes the method and not the content. A two-week training period is sufficient if the recruitment is done in the form indicated. If a mistaken process of recruitment has been followed, however good the training provided, the individual chosen will not yield a very good result.

The training should be intensive for 14 days, through team discussions, alternating the person who leads the discussion among the members of the group.

The subjects to be dealt with will be the same, each day a different theme being presented, for a varied practice.

The themes should refer to the conditions of the place and the meaning that they have for the inhabitants of the locality, such as talking of crops, fertilizers, seeds, irrigation of crops, etc. They can also include the following topics:

~ Sawed wood, carpenters’ tools for houses or other buildings.

~ Boats, roads, horses, oxen for transportation, fishing, agriculture.

~ Problems that they may have in the place with residents, offices of the regime, imposed visitors, etc.

~ Force labor, service in the militia.

~ Forced membership in Sandinista groups, such as women’s clubs, youth associations, workers’ groups, etc.

~ Availability and prices of consumer articles and of basic needs in the grocery stores and shops of the place.

~ Characteristics of education in the public schools.

~ Anxiety of the people over the presence of Cuban teachers in the schools and the intrusion of politics, i.e. using them for political ends and not educational ones as should be.

~ Indignation over the lack of freedom of worship, and persecution, of which priests are victims; and over the participation of priests such as Escoto and Cardenal in the Sandinista government, against the explicit orders of his Holiness, the Pope.

NOTE: Members of the team can develop other themes.

The target groups for the Armed Propaganda Teams are not the persons with sophisticated political knowledge, but rather those whose opinion are formed from what they see and hear. The cadres should use persuasion to carry out their mission. Some of the persuasive methods that they can use are the following:

Interior Group/Exterior Group. It is a principle of psychology that we humans have the tendency to form personal associations from “we” and “the others,” or “we” and “they”, “friends” and “enemies,” “fellow countrymen” and “foreigners,” “mestizos” and “gringos.”

The Armed Propaganda Team can use this principle in its activities, so that it is obvious that the “exterior” groups (“false” groups) are those of the Sandinista regime, and that the “interior” groups (“true” groups) that fight for the people are the Freedom Commandos.

We should inculcate this in the people in a subtle manner so that these feelings seem to be born of themselves, spontaneously.

“Against” is much easier that “for.” It is a principle of political science that it is easier to persuade the people to vote against something or someone than to persuade them to vote in favor of something or someone. Although currently the regime has not given the Nicaraguan people the opportunity to vote, it is known that the people will vote in opposition, so that the Armed Propaganda Teams can use this principle in favor of our insurrectional struggle. They should ensure that this campaign is directed specifically against the government or its sympathizers, since the people should have specific targets for their frustrations.

Primary Groups and Secondary Groups. Another principle of sociology is that we humans forge or change our opinions from two sources: primarily, through our association with our family, comrades, or intimate friends; and secondarily, through distant associations such as acquaintances in churches, clubs or committees, labor unions or governmental organizations. The Armed Propaganda Team cadres should join the first groups in order to persuade them to follow the policies of our movement, because it is from this type of group that the opinions or changes of opinion come.

Techniques of Persuasion in Talks or Speeches:

Be Simple and Concise. You should avoid the use of difficult words or expressions and prefer popular words and expressions, i.e. the language of the people. In dealing with a person you should make use of concise language, avoiding complicated words. It is important to remember that we use oratory to make our people understand the reason for our struggle, and not to show off our knowledge.

Use Lively and Realistic Examples. Avoid abstract concepts, such as are used in universities in the advanced years, and in place of them, give concrete examples such as children playing, horses galloping, birds in flight, etc.

Use Gestures to Communicate. Communication, in addition to being verbal, can be through gestures, such as using our hands expressively, back movements, facial expressions, focusing of our look and other aspects of “body language,” projecting the individual personality in the message.

Use the Appropriate Tone of Voice. If, on addressing the people, you talk about happiness, a happy tone should be used. If you talk of something sad, the tone of the voice should be one of sadness; on talking of a heroic or brave act, the voice should be animated, etc.

Above All, Be Natural, Imitation of others should be avoided, since the people, especially simple people, easily distinguish a fake. The individual personality should be projected when addressing the population.

“Eyes and Ears” Within the Population

The amount of information for intelligence that will be generated by the deployment of the Armed Propaganda Teams will allow us to cover a large area with out commandos, who will become the eyes and ears of our movement within the population:

The combined reports of an Armed Propaganda Team will provide us with exact details on the enemy activities.

The intelligence information obtained by the Armed Propaganda Teams should be reported to the chiefs. However, it is necessary to emphasize that the first mission of the Armed Propaganda Teams is to carry out psychological operations, not to obtain data for intelligence.

Any intelligence report will be made through the outside contact of the Armed Propaganda Team, in order not to compromise the population.

The Armed Propaganda cadres are able to do what others in a guerrilla campaign cannot do: determine personally the development or deterioration of the popular support and the sympathy or hostility that the people feel toward our movement.

The Armed Propaganda Team program, in addition to being very effective psychologically, increases the guerrilla capacity in obtaining and using information.

In addition, the Armed Propaganda cadre will report to his superior the reaction of the people to the radio broadcasts, the insurrectional flyers, or any other means of propaganda of ours.

Expressions or gestures of the eyes, or face, the tone and strength of the voice, and the use of the appropriate words greatly affect the face-to- face persuasion of the people.

With the intelligence reports supplied by the Armed Propaganda Teams, the comandantes will be able to have exact knowledge of the popular support, which they will make use of in their operations.

Psychological Tactics, Maximum Flexibility

Psychological tactics will have the greatest flexibility within a general plan, permitting a continuous and immediate adjustment of the message, and ensuring that an impact is caused on the indicated target group at the moment in which it is the most susceptible.

Tactically, an Armed Propaganda Equipment program should cover the majority and if possible all of the operational area. The communities in which this propaganda is carried out should not necessarily form political units with an official nature. A complete understanding of their structure or organization is not necessary because the cadres will work by applying socio-political action and not academic theory.

The target populations of the Armed Propaganda Teams will be chosen for being part of the operational area, and not for their size or amount of land.

The objective should be the people and not the territorial area.

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