817.00/6344: Telegram

The Chargé in Nicaragua ( Hanna ) to the Secretary of State

167. Department’s 89, June 14, 4 p.m. Of the many factors retarding economic developments in Nicaragua, in my opinion, the existing state of banditry and the deplorable condition of the public roads are two of the most serious. Good roads and banditry are antagonistic. There can be no permanent economic advancement here until banditry is eliminated and an enduring condition of peace and public order assured, and when that is obtained the existing outcry for better roads will increase in all sections of the Republic. The intelligent expenditure of any reasonable sum on roads at this time would be money wisely spent. Good roads are needed for economic reasons alone in almost every section of this country and, while opinions may differ as to where they are needed most, every such road would meet an economic need of the Republic.

As a matter of fact among the sections admittedly in the greatest need of roads are the districts about Matagalpa, Jinotega and Ocotal bordering upon the regions occupied by bandits, and work upon the important highways leading out of those towns, although it be in the immediate neighborhood of the towns, will act as a magnet to draw men from even the more remote bandit areas. At least that is what I am told by men who know the habits of the natives and whose opinion should be sound. For every $25,000 monthly set aside for this [Page 698] work it should be possible to employ at least 1,000 men at 60 cents per day and pay all incidentals necessary for good road construction under the conditions in this country. Experience will show whether this amount will have to be increased to accomplish the purpose in view. If, as I believe, money spent in this manner will materially assist in putting an end to banditry this Government may wisely spend any amount within its possibilities for this purpose.

It will be of material help if the Marine commander here can begin construction at the same time with Marine funds as recommended in my previous communications on this subject. I am informed that bull cart transportation alone for the Marine command up to the end of last year was approximately $700,000 which according to Marine estimates was ten times what the cost would have been for truck transportation over good roads. The transportation of freight and passengers by five Fokker airplanes, made necessary by the absence of good roads, and transportation by pack animals are not included in this amount.

This plan if adopted will in any event serve an important and necessary economic purpose in improving this country’s roads. To be of material assistance in eliminating banditry it should be systematically followed for at least six months, when the coffee harvest season may afford some relief. I believe this Government will accept the idea but will need advice and assistance in executing it completely and intelligently. The Department may deem this an appropriate opportunity to offer this Government the services of two or more young engineer officers of the Navy or Army to assist in the work. They could be attached to the guardia and given the status of a Nicaraguan officer if that should appear desirable. It is expected that this Government will spend large sums on road construction during the next few years and it will badly need technical control over such construction if the money is not to be wasted in unintelligent work as at present. Nicaragua needs American technical assistance for the construction of roads just as badly as Managua needed such assistance for the construction of its streets. I believe President Moncada might be glad to accept such assistance if the Department could authorize me to tender it.