File No. No. 763.72112Am1/59

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Honduras ( Curtis)


Your February 15, 6 p.m., and February 17, 11 p.m. Orally bring to the attention of the President of Honduras and to his Minister for Foreign Affairs the following:

Fully cognizant of the seriousness to Honduras of the termination of ship service on her Pacific coast, the Government of the United States has untiringly interested itself in seeking to bring about a condition which would produce a temporary relief at Amapala and solve the greater problem of the new port. This has been proven by the surveys now under way upon the favorable report of which depends the despatch of engineers to make the final survey. That the temporary solution has been somewhat delayed is due to the complexity of the situation and to the lack of full understanding traceable in large part to information in possession of the War Trade Board to the effect that the seizure of the lighters was suggested by an enemy and that a public celebration on the part of enemies followed the announcement of the proposed formation of this agency, which, by direct inference, meant that Amapala firms on the enemy trading list would endeavor to exert directly or indirectly some influence over shipments made by American firms in American bottoms.

It is confidently believed that the President of Honduras had no knowledge of these enemy activities, but he will readily understand the effect of such a report on those administering the Trading with the Enemy Act, and that if interest of such firms in the lighters were proven, it would render liable Americans employing them. It is to reduce to a minimum all probability of such a contingency, which would probably have a disastrous effect upon Honduran trade, that the following course of action has been determined. In presenting this you will make clear to the President of Honduras that the information given above came to the attention of the War Trade Board after the Honduran Government’s note dated January 27 had been received by the Legation. Inform the President that upon receipt of an official assurance, based upon adequate up-to-date investigation, that the National Agency is entirely free from interest and control of above-mentioned firms, and that its management will be changed to persons independent of their influence, who shall be approved by the American Legation, special licenses will be temporarily granted without delay to such American [Page 388] firms as request them, entitling them to ship on lighters of “the National Agency” from Amapala to San Lorenzo.

The Government of the United States, in coming to this conclusion, is mindful of the position which the Government of Honduras assumed toward it in severing relations with the Imperial German Government.

It is of course to be understood that this action is taken only as a result of the peculiar circumstances of this case, and that the Commercial Export agency will continue to handle all freight between vessels and Amapala and will have all freedom to engage in competitive lighterage business from Amapala to San Lorenzo.

If you consider advisable you may state that the simplest solution, however, and to this the War Trade Board sees no objections, would be for all lighters to operate under the authorized agent of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., which is understood to be the Commercial Export Co.

You will hand the President of Honduras a copy of the Trading with the Enemy Act and title 7 of the Espionage Act with the respectful indication that a careful study of these documents will show that persons in the United States are prohibited from engaging in any commercial transactions either for the benefit of or on behalf of enemies, directly or indirectly.