817.00/4463: Telegram

The Minister in Nicaragua (Eberhardt) to the Secretary of State

24. Department’s telegram of January 22, 3 p.m. Diaz has already announced publicly his acceptance of American supervision of the 1928 elections. If participation in American supervision means only observation thereof and reporting thereon without expense to Nicaragua by specially designated representatives of the other Central American countries or representatives of any other countries for that matter, the Nicaraguan Government would not object thereto.

In the opinion of President Diaz, in which I concur, joint supervision by the United States and the Central American Governments would be impracticable; and if undertaken, undesirable. The following are some reasons for this opinion:

  • First. Not one of the Central American Governments would be a disinterested and impartial party in respect of a Nicaraguan national election. Honduras would favor the Conservatives, Guatemala and Costa Rica the Liberals and Salvador while doubtful at present would certainly not be neutral. In every contest the supervisors would divide on strictly party lines like the judges of the Hayes-Tilden election dispute. The result would be that whatever the final outcome, presumably decisively by majority vote of the supervisors the losing Nicaraguan party would at once have the support of the dissenting opinion of one or more foreign nations in raising the usual cry of fraud which is sure to follow any Nicaraguan election no matter how or by whom conducted. What should be a local political dispute would thereby be transferred into an international wrangle without any likely gain resulting for Nicaragua or abstract justice.
  • Second. Whatever the procedure adopted for the electoral supervision, to any one who knows conditions here, racial, national, and other factors as well as a few instructive plebiscitary examples like Tacna-Arica, it is self-evident that the details could only be handled by a first-class world power enjoying a free hand, acting alone, and having at its command the competent official personnel, administrative machinery and other resources necessary for the successful performance of such a gigantic and complicated task as the supervision of the national elections of a country in which conditions of chronic disorder and bad administration prevail; that aside from the question of partiality no Central American Republic could by reason of a lack of technical experts, military and naval corps, and other necessary elements make any really useful contribution towards the achievement of this difficult and delicate undertaking; that Americans and Central [Page 304]Americans could never cooperate jointly on a basis of equality participation in such operations for reasons that are obvious to one who knows anything of American intervention in Cuba, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Nicaragua, et cetera. For the United States solemnly to associate itself with four other countries, which have as yet had little success in self-government themselves, in an attempt to straighten out the Nicaraguan political difficulty but in reality in what would turn out to be an international concert to produce another Latin-American fiasco would be to deliver another deadly blow to an already shaken American prestige in Latin America. To invite the other Central American countries to aid Nicaragua to a solution of its problem is to call on the blind to lead the blind.

If we wish to help Nicaragua in this matter and maintain our prestige at the same time we should offer to supervise the elections of 1928 as an American undertaking the observation of which by duly accredited representatives of Central or Latin-American countries would be welcome. The assent of both parties in Nicaragua to such supervision is of course highly desirable and should be sought after but on this Government’s invitation it should be carried out regardless of opposition. Any course we pursue in Nicaragua is certain to be the subject of bitter criticism inspired largely by the implacable hostility of certain Latin-American agitators to anything that is American. We should therefore choose a course which gives promise of yielding as satisfactory and just a solution as may be attainable for Nicaragua and take the full responsibility therefor. For the justification of such a course we should look mainly to its results for Nicaragua and American best interests.

Eberhardt