The Consul in Charge of the Legation in Honduras ( Lawton ) to the Secretary of State

No. 506

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following statement concerning political conditions in Honduras since my arrival on October 17th.

Both the Gutierrez and Membreño leaders have called frequently at the Legation, more particularly those of the Membreño faction in the hope to secure my cooperation to have the date of the Presidential elections postponed. General Rafael Lopez Gutierrez has also called and I have had frequent audiences with President Bográn. To all [Page 392] parties I have indicated the hope expressed by our Government that the elections should be free and that the successful candidate should represent the choice of the people. I have also discreetly referred to the unfortunate situation in Costa Rica for the last two and a half years caused by illegal election methods whereby the American Government was unable to give official recognition to the candidate selected.

The Lopez Gutierrez or revolutionary forces have not been demobilized in all parts of the country, partly on account of insufficient funds for paying them off and partly because the Sub-chiefs in those sections have wished to continue in control of the situation until after elections, or rather have not been amenable to orders from the Provisional President. This is notably true in the case of the northern districts where General Jesus Ernesto Alvarado is in control. This has naturally given rise to much complaint from the Membreño party, who allege that the elections in those parts of the Republic will be dominated by force of arms and therefore illegal under the Constitution. The Membreño partisans also claim that President Bográn is completely under control of the Gutierrez chiefs, and, while admitting his sincerity and desire to provide an impartial government, they also claim that, being surrounded by Gutierrez sympathizers and the Governors of all provinces also Gutierrez nominees, it is impossible for Doctor Bográn or the country to have free elections. The Membreño party at first intended to issue a proclamation asking Membreño sympathizers to refrain from voting on the grounds above recited, but I suggested to them the possibility of thereby losing the legal right of protest under the Constitution in the event that election abuses were practiced such as they feared. They thereupon decided to continue in the campaign.

President Bográn has talked frankly and openly with me and unquestionably desires the cooperation and good opinion of our Government. He has frankly told me that in some respects he is not able to control the whole country; has feared to issue definite orders in some directions, especially with regard to deposing some revolutionary Chiefs, and, rather than risk an open refusal, he has deemed it wiser to proceed slowly and gradually bring about the changes which are necessary in order that his authority be recognized in all parts of the Country. He has recited to me the difficulties about the elections; has asked me to offer any suggestions I desired and through the various Consular Officers to observe in any way possible the election proceedings in order to report thereon if desired. He asked to have a Naval vessel sent to La Ceiba for an official visit there during the elections in order to exercise a moral influence, I have told Doctor Bográn that as long as he shows a [Page 393] desire to provide free elections, I would use my influence with our Government to have those elections recognized, even though in certain districts illegal methods were employed.

In this Capital, political meetings were held and demonstrations and parades in the streets by both parties. Thanks to efficient police help no disturbances occurred in these meetings, but on Saturday, October 25th., the day designated by Law for the selection of election boards (judges and clerks) a fight occurred just before twelve o’clock noon, the hour designated for the opening of the polls. Four or five shots were fired in the air and some heads were broken but no one was seriously injured. The Membreño party immediately issued a proclamation requesting their adherents to refrain from voting “to prevent the shedding of blood “which they allege was otherwise inevitable. Leaders of both parties immediately came to the Legation, each protesting that the other party was responsible for the incident. General Gutierrez also came, in person, expressing his regret for the incident but disclaiming any responsibility therefor on the part of his supporters. President Bográn also called me by telephone and asked that I come with the other members of the Diplomatic Corps to the Palace at the earliest possible hour. On meeting him, he recited the facts of the occurrance and his disposition of providing soldiers to guard the polls and patrol the streets in order to prevent any further difficulties. It was the consensus of opinion of the Diplomatic Corps that the President had acted entirely within his Constitutional rights and that the election could not be delayed on account of any such difficulty between political parties, nor could any such incident be considered as a proper claim for nullifying the elections.

The result of the election, while only for the installation of the boards and not the actual voting for President, indicated a Membreño majority in the districts of Santa Barbara, La Paz, Yusearán, Amapala and one or two other sections. The balance were strongly Gutierrez and indicate that the election of Gutierrez is almost certain. I do not look for any further political disturbances of a serious nature. …

The Rockefeller Commission, consisting of Generals Gorgas and Leister and Doctor Pareja of Ecuador, who are here en route to Salvador from Nicaragua, studying yellow fever conditions, have been well received, and yesterday were officially banqueted by the Government, and, at the banquet, official recognition was made of the benefits of the Commission, the prowess of American medical methods and incidentally recognition of the American Government and President Wilson.

I have [etc.]

E. M. Lawton