817.00 Bandit Activities, 1931/246

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

No. 511

Sir: In reply to the Department’s telegram number 179 of September 22, 1931, directing me to state to the appropriate authorities that, as the Department informed the Nicaraguan Government in 1930, it cannot approve the trial of Nicaraguan civilians by the Guardia so long as that institution is directed by American officers, I have the honor to state that as I reported in my telegram Number 173 of September 21, 1931, I made representations in that sense to the Acting Jefe Director of the Guardia who assured me at that time that he would take measures to insure that such trials would not be held in the future.

I have not at this time made any representations to the Nicaraguan Government in the matter nor do I believe it necessary for me to do so if the Department’s present object is merely to insure that courts martial of civilians by the Guardia will not be carried out in the future.

In connection with any representations which I may be instructed to make to this Government concerning the establishment of civil courts competent to deal with cases of banditry, I believe it well to recall the history of the strong representations in a like sense which I made to this Government early last year. Following my representations the Supreme Court met with the President to consider ways and means of cooperating, and then the subject became confused with a project for partial reform of the Constitution, to which the Department was opposed on account of the inclusion, among other reforms, of a project to extend the Presidential period.53 The reform of the Constitution was not carried out, and, as far as I can ascertain without actually reopening the subject with this Government, no actual steps have been taken to provide civil courts adequate to try cases of banditry in Departments where martial law exists. In other words [Page 872]my understanding is that my representations last year brought no improvement in the situation under discussion.

As Minister Hanna doubtless has already informed the Department, President Moncada is again considering a project to reform the Constitution by providing, among other things, for the “legalization” of the present situation under which American officers serve in the Guardia Nacional, and for an extension of the Presidential term.

Since the principal legal reason advanced in the past for the inability of the established civil courts to deal with cases of banditry in Departments under martial law has been one of constitutionality, I anticipate that the reopening of this subject at the present time would result in its being merged with a number of other projected reforms of the Constitution, some of which might appear desirable and some not, and furthermore might actually be used, as was the case last year, to give impetus and an appearance of sanction to the projected reforms to the Constitution.

If the Department desires me to reopen this subject with the Nicaraguan Government I will gladly do so, but in that case I would suggest that I be provided with a copy of the complete record up to date, since the Legation’s record is far from complete. Before giving me such specific instructions, however, I also suggest that the Department consider the matter carefully in connection with the reported project to reform the Constitution, and that it bear in mind that in the absence of factors of which I am not aware there is little reason to hope that representations at this time will be any more effective than those made last year.

Respectfully yours,

Willard L. Beaulac