The Salvadoran Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Castro ) to the Secretary of State 35

L. D. No. 730

Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to write to Your Excellency with reference to the events which occurred in the Legation of El Salvador at Washington during the night of May 13 instant.

It is known to Your Excellency that on that occasion Dr. Carlos Leiva, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of El Salvador, suffered serious blows, which endangered his life, as a consequence of having taken by surprise a thief who, certainly in association with others, had entered the Legation building with the obvious intention of robbing it. Dr. Leiva resisted the thief and during the struggle received the blows to which I refer and which still keep him in the hospital, where he has already undergone a delicate operation. One of the blows caused the fracture of a comparatively benign character of a bone of the skull.

It is my duty first of all to express to Your Excellency the gratitude of my Government for the delicate manifestations of courtesy which Dr. Leiva received on this unfortunate occasion from His Excellency the President of the United States, Your Excellency and other high officials of the Government, as well as from society in general.

At the same time I cannot help referring to a paragraph of the report presented by Dr. Leiva regarding these events, it being in full agreement with previous information obtained by my Government. The literal tenor of this paragraph is as follows:

“Upon my return from El Salvador I was informed that thieves had entered the Legation during the night of Holy Wednesday and stolen not only several articles of personal use but also 6 cases of wines, liquors and liqueurs. The door of the room in which these were located had been broken. In order to avoid annoying publicity the police was confidentially notified at the time. Toward the end of April, upon returning to the Legation about 11 o’clock p.m., I found the street door open. I called the police and a search of the house was made with three officers, but no one was found. I gave the police to understand that I was sleeping entirely alone in the building without any kind of weapons, and asked them to keep watch and accord me personal protection. The police then offered to establish a special guard for the Legation, but notwithstanding this it was invaded by thieves again in the early morning of May 13. After attending a meeting of friends, I returned home at 2 o’clock a.m. I entered without any mistrust and when in the vestibule a man appeared and, confronting me, said: ‘Stand [Page 214] still, hands up,’ while at the same time pointing a 45–caliber pistol at me. I quickly threw myself on the bandit, grasping his right hand in which he held the weapon, and a fierce struggle began. The thief succeeded in firing one shot, but fortunately without hitting me. We rolled on the floor; he struck me heavily on the head with an electric lantern; I struck him with my right hand and at a certain moment succeeded in biting the fingers of his left hand and seized the electric lantern, with which I in turn dealt him blows on the head. The man was weakening and seemed to me to be fainting. I then took advantage of the moment and hurried out into the street to call for help. Some policemen came about 10 or 15 minutes later. We entered the house. The thief had disappeared, leaving a metal bar such as his craft use with which to break in doors; also the electric lantern and the frame of a pair of spectacles without glasses. This man was the lookout instructed to watch so that no one would interrupt the task his accomplices were performing in the cellar of the Legation. It is probable that these accomplices fled on hearing the noise of the struggle and the shot. In the garden were found some cases of wines and liquors ready to be taken away; in the cellar others are missing which had been doubtless taken out before.”

In the paragraph copied from the report to which I refer it appears evident that the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of El Salvador applied to the police on two distinct occasions with short intervening intervals and reported the incursions of persons into the Legation for the evident purpose of stealing goods, pointing out the personal danger he incurred owing to the fact that he slept entirely alone in the Legation building. It is to be noted that, owing to the alarm which such occurrences naturally produce and the necessity of acting immediately in order to obtain the requisite protection, the action of Dr. Leiva in applying directly to the police was quite justified. I do not doubt that Your Excellency will appreciate these circumstances and that you will moreover consider that the action of Dr. Leiva should have resulted in adequate protection by the police for both his person and the building of the Salvadoran Diplomatic Mission.

I therefore take the liberty to make the foregoing statement to Your Excellency in the most friendly and courteous spirit, while requesting an investigation of the events to which I refer in order to determine the responsibility of the police for having failed adequately to protect the person of the Salvadoran Chargé d’Affaires and for failing to keep guard near the Legation Building notwithstanding its knowledge of previous incursions of thieves therein. At the same time I venture to hope that the protection to which I refer will be as efficient as possible in future in order to prevent such disagreeable occurrences as those which I find myself called upon to bring to Your Excellency’s official knowledge.

I reiterate [etc.]

Héctor David Castro
  1. Delivered to the Department by the Second Secretary of Legation, June 3, 1931.