817.1051/484: Telegram

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

12. I duly informed President Moncada as instructed in the Department’s telegram No. 5, January 9, 6 p.m. I had previously informed him of General McDougal’s estimate of cost and proposed organization of the new force as outlined in my telegram No. 11, [Page 836] January 10, 3 p.m. President Moncada replied in a personal letter to me expressing dissatisfaction with the proposed estimate and organization but with no reference to the Department’s telegram in the matter, and suggesting that “we abandon the increase of 500 men but not the loan”. I then called upon the President and discussed the subject with him in great detail in order that I might correctly report his attitude to the Department.

The President seemed to change his attitude somewhat and at the termination of our conference he authorized me to advise you that he will allot $4,000 monthly from existing revenues to create immediately a temporary force of approximately 125 enlisted [and?] that the new force should be selected as far as practicable from communities adjoining the regions where they are to operate and should be assigned to Guardia organizations in such manner as to avoid increase in the commissioned strength of the Guardia; that this increase will be paid and subsisted at the same rate as the Guardia, making economies however in other expenditures such as for uniforms; and that he would expect to commission two Nicaraguan officers with field officer grade to serve as advisers on the staffs of the Guardia officers directing operations.

I have discussed this proposal in conference with the Marine and Guardia commanders and Colonel Matthews and we all are of the opinion that its adoption would introduce complications, misunderstandings, and possibly divided control to such an extent that its acceptance is not justified. General McDougal objects particularly to the commissioning of two Nicaraguan officers of high rank. Both he and Colonel Matthews think that the services of these officers would be of little or no value and that their presence in the Guardia would certainly tend to defeat the Department’s policy in the matter as outlined in the second paragraph of its telegram No. 5, January 9, 6 p.m.

The Liberal press here is continuing and intensifying its propaganda for the creation of a national army. The sentiment of the Conservative Party and President [press?] is opposed to such an army. Propaganda is combined with criticism of the methods employed by the Guardia in its operations against the bandits. The criticism in the main is the same as has been expressed from time to time by President Moncada. The situation presents a well defined issue and our attitude thereon would seem to be of exceptional importance in its bearing on the future development of the Guardia and our military cooperation here.

One of yesterday’s local papers published over President Moncada’s signature the following statement:

“I have no objection to the permanence of the Marines in Nicaragua because they have labored for liberty and order in my country. We [Page 837] Nicaraguans should appreciate this but I think that we are the ones obliged to struggle against the bandits.

With regard to the increase of American Marines and doctors I should not like to see more corpses of American Marines leaving for the United States. The Government of the United States suffers much from this and my own Government more than all. It is we Nicaraguans who are obliged to restore peace to the country and to stanch its wounds.

The American Marines could guard the cities of the north and some of those in the interior while the Guardia proceeds to settle with the bandits.

I have felt profound sorrow for the Marines who perished in the last Sandino ambush. They fell in territory which they do not know, assassinated rather than killed in real combat. Let us pledge our will and our heart to avoid these misfortunes by means of a change of tactics, conducting real mountain warfare such as the bandits conduct.”

The last three paragraphs of the foregoing statement are embraced in President Moncada’s letter to me to which reference is made above. I am reliably informed that this statement was sent by the President’s direction to various newspapers in the United States and the correspondents here of American papers have also transmitted the statement today to their respective papers.

With respect to the second preceding paragraph I told President Moncada with emphasis the day before he issued his statement that the Marines have not for some months been conducting offensive operations against the bandits but have been merely protecting certain towns and properties and have engaged in combat with the bandits only when acting in self-defense to repel attacks.

President Moncada gave out a formal memorandum yesterday which criticises recent operations against the bandits. It states that the greater part of the bandits under Ortez are Honduraneans and that members of the Conservative Party are cooperating with money, arms, or alarming propaganda. It states with reference to the recent contact of a Marine patrol in which eight marines were killed that the patrol proceeded with but little foresight notwithstanding its knowledge that bandits were in the neighborhood and fell into the trap prepared for it. It adds:

“They all entered the ravine, dismounted from their mules, and began to repair the line without taking any precautions.”

The last two sentences are not in accord with the facts as reported by the responsible Marine officers.

It seems clear that a determined effort is under way to create a so-called national army independent of the Guardia. The press here takes the attitude that this Government has already made this decision and that the proposed loan is for that purpose. Personal motives [Page 838] doubtless influence many of the advocates of the national army but doubtless also there exists a sincere belief in the efficacy of such an army and a general misconception that it would be more effective and cost much less than the Guardia. The high efficiency record of the Guardia is now an indisputable fact which is clearly established by the record of its operations during the past year. My military associates are of the decided opinion and I concur that the national army idea is unsound and that any additional funds available for this purpose should be employed in increasing the Guardia. Even if an efficient national army could be created at less cost than the Guardia and even if it were nominally under the administration and control of the Chief of the Guardia it would in fact be a separate organization that would introduce the defects and evils which the Guardia agreement is intended to prevent. My military associates are positive that there could not be unity of administration and control by the Chief of the Guardia over the two forces. We desire to cooperate with President Moncada and assist him in meeting his responsibilities in this matter but we would be failing in our duty as advisers to this Government if we should accept an unsound proposal.

We therefore reassert our opinion that any new measures adopted for the suppression of banditry should accord with the agreement and policy governing our cooperation with the Guardia and that any new military forces created for this purpose must be completely subject to this exclusive administration and control of the Chief of the Guardia as set forth in the Department’s telegram number 5, January 9, 6 p.m. We are therefore convinced that any and all additional forces raised by this Government should be additions to the Guardia in strict compliance with the Guardia agreement and that we must insist on this point.

The President told me that any increase in the military forces beyond that obtained with the $4,000 monthly must await the outcome of this Government’s efforts to obtain a loan of one million dollars from the reserves of the National Bank and he reasserted his desire for your support in obtaining the loan. He said that road construction in the north will go far towards restoring peace and that he wants to initiate such construction at the earliest possible date.

If the proposed loan is guaranteed by $300,000 per annum taken from current revenues which are now being expended for other purposes the Government will have $700,000 to meet the existing emergency and I understand that the entire amount probably would be expended during this calendar year. The organization and maintenance during that period of 500 additional strength for the Guardia making reasonable allowance for delays in organization would cost approximately $175,000 and an effective road construction program [Page 839] in the bandit area during the same period would cost at least an average of $20,000 per month for the 10 available months. The remaining $325,000 would be available for other purposes and the balance of $300,000 would replace the guarantee. I believe this would be a sound basis for the allocation of the loan.

I hope the Department will give me early instruction on this entire subject.