File No. 817.812/152

The Minister of Salvador to the Secretary of State


Excellency: I have the honor to inform your excellency that I have received special instructions to present to the Department over which your excellency worthily presides the following statement on the Treaty between the United States and Nicaragua, the ratification of which is at present pending in the United States Senate. In addition to the fundamental reasons set forth in the former protest of my Government of October 21st, 1918,6 I beg to present herewith the following equally cogent reasons which show that the above-mentioned [Page 815] treaty, by virtue of which it is proposed that the Government of Nicaragua grant the United States the right of establishing a naval base at Fonseca Bay, violates the Central American Conventions signed at Washington in 1907.

The negotiators of the Washington Conventions of 19077 were chiefly concerned in ascertaining the best means for the preservation of peace and stability in Central America. With this noble end in view the neutrality of Honduras was stipulated by Article III of the General Treaty of Peace and Amity. This is an essential part of the Convention.

The physical fact of the central location of the territory of Honduras among the Republics of Guatemala, Salvador and Nicaragua has greatly aided the carrying on of revolutionary activities which have found a base of operations, so to speak, in the wide and sparsely populated stretches of Honduras.

It was on this ground that the neutrality of the territory of Honduras was considered to be the principal means of securing peace. This doctrine of the neutrality of Honduras was received by the Central American plenipotentiaries in obvious good faith and with great satisfaction; and the United States representatives who had labored earnestly to bring the Central American Conferences to a successful end, and who realized fully the importance and efficacy of this disposition of Central American affairs, warmly welcomed it as the happiest and most effective means of securing that peace that all desired and that was destined to be realized by the Central American Conferences.

As I have already stated to your excellency the permanent neutrality of Honduras was expressly guaranteed by Article III of the General Treaty of Peace and Amity signed at Washington, in the following terms:

Article III

Bearing in mind the central geographical position of Honduras and the facilities which this circumstance has afforded in order that its territory should have been most often the theater of Central American conflicts, Honduras declares from now on its absolute neutrality in any event of conflict amongst the other Republics; and the latter, in their turn, provided such neutrality be observed, bind themselves to respect it and in no case to violate the Honduranean territory.

The underlying principle of permanent neutrality in the case of Honduras, as in every other case, is designed to impose upon the States recognizing or guaranteeing it the duty of considering themselves isolated or separated by the unpassable bridge of the neutralized territory, leaving them removed from such strategical points situated within the neutral zone as, for this very reason, should neither be occupied nor in any way taken advantage of by any one of them to obtain an advantage or constitute a menace against any of the others.

This principle of equality and impartiality applicable to coguarantor States is equally applicable to those who may be considered as in any way bound to each other and to the friends, the allies and the protectors of any one of them with respect to the others, whenever an attempt is made to violate it under the shadow of one of those [Page 816] who should respect it. And this is true even though these allies, friends and protectors have neither guaranteed nor recognized the neutral status. In a word: What one of the coguarantors of the neutrality may not do on its own account, it may not do through the intermediary or for the benefit of another.

Neutrality means, in the case of those countries that respect it, that there will exist in the neutralized country a situation certain to afford to all its guarantors and neighbors the absolute inviolability of their frontiers.

The indivisible community of interests in Fonseca Bay alike by all the countries to which it belongs (Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) is sufficient to justify the rights of each to oppose any act of any other that threatens its safety; and all the more should this right in law and justice be considered unquestionable if it be borne in mind that Honduras should extend her neutrality to the center of Fonseca Bay. These two principles taken together—that of community of interests and that of neutrality—produce an absolute guaranty to the right of each and every one of the three countries to prevent any act of the others which shall infringe either the principle of community of interests or of that of neutrality.

Where, then, the provisions of the one, that is to say, of community of interests, do not cover, the prohibitions of the other, namely of neutrality, may well reach, thus constituting within the Bay an inviolable legal status guaranteeing the independence, the sovereignty and the safety of each of the States against any act of the others which shall attempt either to violate or threaten them. It is hard to imagine any limitation of the guaranties assured these three States by the juridical system created on the basis of these principles of community of interests and neutrality.

The Central American Conference at Washington in proclaiming the principle of neutrality of the Honduranean territory naturally and logically believed that it had forever set at rest any disputes that might arise from questions in any way growing out of or connected with the neutralized and guaranteed territory. It must necessarily have believed that in extending the principle of neutrality to the whole territory of Honduras, it had introduced a principle of harmony and concord for the peaceful solution of all conflicts, even of such as might arise in the common waters of Fonseca Bay where the principle of neutralization should put an end to all anarchy, ambition and disorder from whatever source these may come.

It is an unquestioned principle of international law that a naval base, shipyard or military establishment located on a coast constitutes a threat against the neutrality of the waters controlled by the naval or military forces of the place where such base or establishment is located.

The proposed agreement between Nicaragua and the United States for the establishment of a naval base on the coast of Nicaragua in Fonseca Bay is an attempt to violate in a flagrant and open manner the principle of the neutrality of Honduras, and overturns the juridical basis which the Washington Conference established for the preservation of peace, order and harmony among the contracting States.

Now, neither Nicaragua nor the United States of America may legally threaten the neutrality of the coast line of Honduras within [Page 817] the waters of the Bay, nor destroy the harmony of the status jure which necessarily exists there by reason of the indivisible community of interests of the territorial waters enclosed by the Bay. It would seem needless to add that Nicaragua may not justify the violation of the principle of the neutrality of Honduras seeing that she is one of the countries that discussed, approved and ratified the Washington Convention. And inasmuch as the United States of America acted in this convention, jointly with Mexico, as mediator, this convention may not be broken by either of these countries.

Inasmuch, too, as both the representatives of the United States of America and of Mexico affirmed in the preamble of the convention that they were present at all the deliberations, it is impossible to avoid admitting that by law the Governments of the United States of America and of Mexico did as a fact assume the character of mediators at this Conference.

Now the primary duty of a mediator is to see that the result of his mediation is observed, and hence to resist all acts that tend to nullify his award.

It is possible, therefore, to uphold the legal principle that the Republics of Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, by virtue of the Washington Treaty, have assumed the role of co-guarantors of the neutrality of Honduras, and it seems a natural and logical step to sustain the same principle in so far as the United States of America is concerned.

My Government has been greatly surprised at the fact that the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate should have favorably reported the Treaty between the United States of America and Nicaragua to which this note has reference, without having previously defined and duly weighed the rights of Salvador in Fonseca Bay, as set forth in the protest to which reference had previously been made.

My Government has on this and prior occasions submitted to the Government of the United States of America a statement of the principles of law and justice on which the rights of Salvador are based. In urging these principles of law and justice, it is fulfilling its duty to defend the national integrity and its proper rights in Fonseca Bay, a duty imposed upon it by its constitution. It has previously, and does herewith sincerely, set forth those principles before the Government of the United States of America, moved by the faith which sacred respect for them inspires, and moved more particularly by the abiding faith inspired by the lofty ideals of justice and international good will which have ever guided the Government and people of the United States of America in their relations with the other Republics of this continent.

In presenting, on behalf of my Government, this statement to your excellency, I take pleasure in expressing the certain hope that the Government of the United States of America will discover the best means whereby the Nicaraguan Treaty may not be ratified until the inalienable rights of Salvador have been properly defined and duly weighed.

I have [etc.]

R. Zaldivar