714.1515/143a: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in Guatemala (Thurston)11

You are instructed to solicit an early interview with the President of Guatemala and to hand him a memorandum which reads textually as follows:

“Long before inaugurating the present mediation, in May 1918, the Government of the United States took the position that ‘questions of concessionary rights in the disputed territory should not be discussed in a pure question of international boundary,’12 in which position Guatemala graciously concurred on December 24, 1917.13 Similarly the Department of State held on January 29, 1918,14 that the necessary development work of the Cuyamel Company be proceeded with unhindered, meaning that it should continue to enjoy its rights to police protection, and to the extension of its lines unmolested, as provided by its concession. To insure the free exercise of these rights, the withdrawal, to north of the Motagua River, of Guatemalan troops, from the line of the Cuyamel Company’s proposed extension, was asked in January 1918.15 At the instance of the Department, Honduran troops had then been retired from the vicinity of that company’s proposed extension and it was expected that the Department’s wishes would be respected likewise by Guatemala during the progress of the mediation. About September 25, 1918, however, a Guatemalan official gave notice to the Cuyamel Company to cease its development work and the presence of Guatemalan soldiers near the scene, presumably for the purpose of giving effect to this order, again brought to the fore the whole question of troops, and the right of a concessionaire to maintain development work under the terms of old concessions, et cetera, which it was hoped might remain quiescent pending the conclusion of the mediation.

The Department desires, in its discussions with the Boundary Missions, to disassociate in so far as possible the movement of troops, the policing of properties, railroad extensions and development thereof, within the disputed zone, between the Motagua and the mountains, from the major question of mediating the boundary dispute. Therefore, it refrains from taking up the above matters officially and pressing them to a conclusion with the Boundary Missions now here and seeks, in this direct manner, to adjust these regrettable incidents which threaten the success of the mediation.

The Department earnestly desires (1) that Honduras shall police the section occupied by the Cuyamel Fruit Company between the Rios Negro, Cuyamel, Motagua and the mountains; (2) that Guatemala shall police that section of the International Railroad Company’s [Page 101]branch which lies south of the Motagua between the river Bobos (the water course which runs nearest Quebrada de Oro), the Motagua, the junction of said branch with the main line near Amates and for a distance of two kilometers southward from the tracks of the same branch toward the mountain region; (3) that all troops will now be withdrawn from these districts and only police force remain in them until 90 days after the Mediator’s recommendations have been made; and (4) that no increase in the number of troops stationed in the boundary zone at present will be made before the expiration of this period.

This suggestion is not to be interpreted as in any way indicating the Mediator’s notion of where the boundary lies, but its acceptance by both parties is desired in order to reduce to a minimum all causes of possible friction, pending the conclusion of the mediation, and as a further evidence of good faith on the part of both governments and of their earnest wish to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of this long-standing dispute, which settlement will have a lasting effect upon the other countries of the Western Hemisphere and will redound to the honor to both Guatemala and Honduras.”16

Strictly confidential. For your information and guidance the following facts are sent you:

The Department is not informed as to what development work the Cuyamel could do in the near future but it is assumed that it could not build beyond the Rio Negro prior to the conclusion of the mediation.

Acceptance of the Department’s proposal, submitted above, cannot jeopardize the interests of either Honduras or Guatemala. The beginning of the last paragraph of the memorandum is inserted to safeguard both.

About December 3 just before leaving for Europe, Secretary Lansing requested that topographic and economic surveys be made during his absence. Using best available elements this could be accomplished in about five working months. Toledo accepted for Guatemala. Bonilla of Honduras, cognizant of position Department had taken with respect to allowing Cuyamel Development work to proceed unhindered and withdrawal Guatemala troops, was disposed to recommend that his Government approve provided Guatemala retired troops north of Motagua which would leave Cuyamel free to work (see correspondence January February last).

Department’s informal efforts to arrange this with boundary commissions now here have been unavailing. American attorney for Guatemala seems to think matter of troops and exercise of rights of concessionaires should be dealt with directly, lest Guatemalan representatives retire from Mediation if pressed on above points, which in the last analysis they are without instructions to concede. [Page 102]Department recognizes the delicacy of their recommending that Cabrera adopt course suggested. American Attorney for Honduras recognizes that conducting survey while Guatemalan troops remain before Cuyamel Railway South of Motagua would not affect adversely for Honduras Mediator’s ultimate recommendations, but feels, in justice to Honduras’ internal situation, Guatemalan troops should be withdrawn north of Motagua before survey begins. Kindly exercise your best efforts to the end that the President of the Country to which you are accredited adopt the Department’s proposals. Failure will defeat Mr. Lansing’s desires. Prompt acceptance by both parties will facilitate Department in putting surveyors in field in near future. It would appear that refusal to concur in this proposal which the Department considers eminently fair would logically throw the burden for failure upon the party declining.

After acceptances of above proposals are obtained the very practical question of providing $25,000 will be presented to Boundary Missions here. Survey will cost about $50,000 and it is desirable to have each country’s half in hand when work begins.

  1. The same, mutatis mutandis, Feb. 5, to the Minister in Honduras.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1917, p. 791 (telegram to the Chargé in Guatemala).
  3. See ibid., p. 792.
  4. See p. 94.
  5. See p. 85.
  6. These proposals were not accepted by either Government concerned.