File No. 818.00/100

The Costa Rican Minister to the Secretary of State


Excellency: Pursuant to instructions from Mr. Alfredo González, Constitutional President of the Republic of Costa Rica, I have the honor to present to your excellency herewith a memorandum relating the facts connected with the treason perpetrated by Minister Tinoco on January 27 last, and to reiterate the request made by the President viva voce to your excellency on the day you had the kindness to receive that high official in the State Department.

The President wishes to have it clearly settled that he did not come to ask that American forces go to my country in order to overthrow the de facto Government presided over by Tinoco and to restore him, González, to the post that lawfully belongs to him, nor to place therein any of his personal or political friends. On this point Mr. González maintains the same invariable attitude which he expressed when your excellency saw fit to intimate to him the expediency of his reoccupying his post until the end of his term.

Mr. González is not actuated in this matter by the slightest idea of personal advantage, the only thing he desires being that Ms country may return as soon as possible to constitutional order. For this the smooth and unobstructed course which he approves is the same one which both your excellency and His Excellency President Wilson stated to Mr. González as having already been adopted by the American Government in this affair, viz., the non-recognition of the Tinoco Government, either now when he is acting as a dictator or later on when a farcical election, carried out and directed under his control, invests the traitorous Minister with the pompous and illegal title of Constitutional President of Costa Rica.

Neither Tinoco nor any of his relatives or friends can represent the spontaneous wish of the Costa Rican people, and the most effective and practical way in which that people can continue to enjoy the [Page 310]peaceful and constitutional life it has been leading for half a century consists in having the traitor not reap the fruits of his crime, whether it be in a direct form or in an indirect one through some of his protegés.

And in order that neither Tinoco nor any of those surrounding him may be able to perpetuate themselves in power, nothing is needed but a negative act by the United States Government, that is, the non-recognition of that régime.

In view of the bad economic situation of the Costa Rican Government, which situation President González thought he could remedy by establishing the tax reforms undertaken by him, the life of that Government is impossible without the cooperation of foreign capital, or, more properly speaking, American capital, for it is well known that Europe is not now in a position to divert a cent of its resources in order to finance governments on this continent, and this capital could not go to Costa Rica without a responsible Government being first established there with which to deal.

With the resources which Tinoco and his followers could lay their hands on in the interior of the country, the present Government could not live over two or three months. They would then necessarily be compelled to capitulate in favor of some third party whom both Mr. González and his friends and partisans would be willing to support resolutely notwithstanding such third party were our political enemy. The only thing we ask is that it may not be Tinoco or any of his relatives, or any of the persons intimately connected with the criminal move of January 27 or with the pseudogovernment which was afterwards established.

With the assurances [etc.]

Manuel Castro Quesada

memorandum prepared by manuel castro quesada, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of costa rica, for consideration by his excellency the secretary of state.

On the 27th of January last, about ten o’clock in the morning, the Costa Rican Minister of War, Don Federico A. Tinoco, in defiance of the authority of the Constitutional President of the Republic, Licenciado Don Alfredo González Flores, proclaimed himself as Chief Executive of the nation under the title of Provisional Chief.

The movement was supported by the officers in command and subordinate officers of the barracks known as El Principal and La Artillería in which two places are located the entire military armament and equipment of the Republic, so that whoever secures control of those depots, secures, ipso facto, control of the whole country. The commanding officer of the Second Section of the Police, together with his subordinate officers, also incorporated themselves with the movement at its inception, and there then remained faithful to the legitimate President only the First Section of the Police and the Presidential Guard. President González, therefore, could have put forth some measure of resistance; but this he preferred to avoid, as resistance would have meant a number of innocent victims and incalculably disastrous consequences for the country.

Such, then, were the considerations that moved President González to refrain from resistance by force. He at once released the troops that were faithful to him, and took refuge in the American Legation, whence, at the end of a week, and still under the protection of the Stars and Stripes, he set forth to take ship at Port Limón.

The facility with which Mr. Tinoco was able to carry out his criminal purpose may be explained by the blind confidence wherein he had been held by the President, and by the unshakable faith that is the natural inspiration of military loyalty and honor. Tinoco, besides being the Minister of War, was Commander [Page 311]General of the barracks of the capital and Director General of Police, three offices that have always heretofore been exercised by different persons, but which the President entrusted to Tinoco in the belief that his loyalty was a guaranty against any possibility of disturbance of the civil order.

Mr. Tinoco, from the moment of the inauguration of the Government he betrayed, had had in view the coup he finally achieved, and had from the beginning devoted himself to the development of his plans. To that end, and counting always on the absolute liberty of action allowed him by the President in his branch of the Government, he gradually introduced into the barracks elements that he knew would support him in the treason he was preparing for; by gifts and favors he attracted to his side the military personnel of the government, dismissing or assigning to posts in which they could not interfere with his designs all officers who, he feared, would not adhere to his plans; and so, when the moment arrived, Mr. Tinoco was able, without resistance on the part of the barracks—indeed, with their active help—to become master of the situation and to impose his will on the Republic.

On that instant was inaugurated in Costa Rica a régime absolutely opposed to existing law, and presided over by the person least qualified to direct the destinies of a nation. Unscrupulous and wholly without enlightenment, Mr. Tinoco has never participated in public affairs, and his history for the past forty years is confined to the fact that he is the son of a distinguished family which sent him to be educated abroad. His acquirements resulting from that education were limited to a certain skill in dress and deportment such as characterizes a man of fashion. With no other endowment than such personal graces, he returned to his country where he soon became known for his amorous adventures, an inordinate addiction to gambling, and duelling. He is a very pleasant fellow, and when a disease completely obliterated his scalp, eye-brows, eye-lashes, beard and mustache, and his physical condition became such as to interfere with his social triumphs, he dedicated himself to politics, and by means of his consummate skill in ingratiation, obtained, through a leader of one of the political parties in Costa Rica, a seat in Congress as a deputy. He there demonstrated his absolute ignorance concerning all public questions, but as he was known to be impetuous and very ready to resent by force any offense or insult, he was favored by his party and served it in politics as a sort of bravo of the Middle Ages.

The political evolution of 1914 placed the Presidency of the Republic in the hands of Don Alfedo González, and that gentleman, having entertained a true affection for Tinoco, and having believed him to be a loyal adherent, decided to entrust to him the Ministry of War, in the conviction that he could rely on his strong arm with entire security and so dedicate himself without anxiety to the great work to which all his energies were to be devoted, e. g., the reconstruction on a scientific and rational basis of the nation’s finances which had theretofore been administered on foundations empirical and absurd.

From the very moment when Tinoco was raised to the office of Minister, the entire country predicted the very thing that happened. Indeed, on a certain occasion his excellency the President of Nicaragua, Don Adolfo Díaz, through the medium of the Costa Rican Minister at Managua, warned President González that Tinoco would betray him. But President González was deaf to all such warnings, both from within as well as from without the country, and instead of removing Tinoco from office continued day by day to repose in him more and more of his confidence and conferred upon him an increasing measure of public duties, until, as above stated, on the day when Tinoco perpetrated his great crime, that false friend occupied the offices of Minister of War, Commander General of the Barracks of the Capital and Director General of Police.

The time fixed by the Constitution for holding the presidential elections approached, and the writer, believing that the best interest of the country called for the continuation in power of President González, for an additional term, conferred with Minister Tinoco and proposed the idea. Tinoco manifested entire concurrence therewith, availed himself of the opportunity to reaffirm his loyalty and adherence to the President, and in company with Don Juan Rafael Arias, Minister of the Interior, and the undersigned, called upon the President and begged him to accept the candidacy for a second term.

The President, in positive and unequivocal terms, made it clear to us that he would not accept reelection, and, to avoid misunderstanding on this point, and to make his intentions perfectly understood by all, immediately summoned the other members of the Cabinet, Messrs. Acosta, Foreign Minister; Guardia, Minister of the Treasury, and Pinto, Minister of Public Works, and in their presence reiterated his unshakable determination not to accept reelection. One of Mr. González’s [Page 312]principal reasons for not accepting that proposition, and which he expressed to his hearers, was that, engaged as he was in agrarian, taxation and banking reforms, reforms that had for their object the introduction of a more just distribution of public burdens and national production to prevent the holding of immense extensions of uncultivated land by a single person, and the devising of means whereby all Costa Ricans might develop the great possibilities of labor offered by their country, his work must of necessity interfere with the interests of the wealthy classes to the benefit of the poorer classes; and that, therefore, the great power represented by capital, which up to that time had weighed heavily upon the poorer classes, who had borne the largest part of the burden of national support under the system of indirect taxation that alone, thus far, had existed in the country, would bitterly oppose his reelection and interpose every obstacle thereto within their reach.

The President said to us, “I understand that my reforms will seriously affect my popularity. If I wish to continue in power, I must not provoke the hostility of the wealthy class; but as I seek only the welfare of Costa Rica, I cheerfully sacrifice any personal ambition I may have and shall continue to carry forward my projects of reform. I, therefore, cannot launch my candidacy for a second term, but instead will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have endowed the country with equitable and just laws that will place upon all the inhabitants of the country the obligation to contribute to the public expenses thereof according to their economic capacity, a contribution that will increase progressively for the more powerful classes.”

The writer quotes the above declaration of President González because the fundamental reason put forth by Tinoco in his proclamations and documents in justification of his act is that he brought about the coup d’état solely for the purposé of preventing the President’s reelection. And yet, as has been stated, Tinoco himself heard the President’s answer that he would not accept the candidacy for a second term!

The fact that after the treason was consummated Tinoco surrounded himself with numerous adherents relatively important, finds explanation in reason of different nature. In the first place the fear inspired by the Tinoco brothers—men without scruples, possessed of a history showing a homicide and a series of acts of violence of abominable character,—moved most people to prefer to affect a measure of acquiescence rather than bring down upon their heads the wrath and vengeance of men known to the country as wholly implacable. Another cause lies in the satisfaction resulting to the reactionaries and great owners of uncultivated lands from the knowledge that with the González Government disappears the land tax.

In this connection the writer is constrained to remark upon the notable assistance given to Tinoco by the American concern known as the United Fruit Company. Assistance was given by that company to such an extent that the American Minister at San José found it necessary to send one of the clerks of his Legation to Port Limon in order to transmit to the Department of State a report of what was going on. The company positively refused to allow the use of its wireless stations or telephone lines, and even the special train asked by the Minister to send the clerk to Port Limón was not granted until after five hours of constantly repeated requests. This interest of the United Fruit Company is explained, in the first place, by its disinclination to accept the new system of taxation, and, in the second place, by the personal friendship which for many years has united Mr. Minor C. Keith (one of the principal directors of the company) with the Tinoco family. Mr. Keith, who is before all a business man in the broadest sense of the term, well knows what a good business can be done with the aid of a government that is somewhat unscrupulous, and knows also that no one in Costa Rica is better qualified to collaborate with him than Tinoco.

It is a matter of common knowledge that Mr. Keith is now seeking to advance a project that will give him control over all the water power of the country, a project which about six months ago was submitted to the consideration of President González, but which the latter indignantly rejected, acting in that matter as he has acted in all matters throughout his entire life, as a patriot and as a man of spotless honor.

Without the possibility of a doubt we can assert, however, that, under Tinoco, the project will prosper, and under conditions more burdensome to the country but advantageously to the concessionary and those who will assist him in carrying through the concession.

Such, then, in general lines, are the events that have just taken place in Costa Rica, and such is the moral aspect of their protagonist.