813.00 Washington/388

The Minister in Guatemala (Whitehouse) to the Secretary of State

No. 826

Sir: I have the honor to report that on Friday evening the Minister of Foreign Affairs3 inquired whether I had received any information from the Department regarding the announcement of President [Page 331] Jiménez to the press that Costa Rica intended to denounce the General Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1923.

When I replied in the negative, he said that he regretted extremely this action of President Jiménez which came at the most inopportune moment in view of the recent Honduran and Nicaraguan elections,4 and was likely to cause trouble in Central America.

In a further conversation with the Minister this morning, he reiterated his opinion that the Treaties and especially Article 2 had been of great value to Central America, and that if modifications were needed, these should be for the purpose of strengthening rather than weakening it. He seemed to think that the government of General Martínez in Salvador5 had perhaps been the cause of this declaration of President Jiménez, but he had no information on this point, and was rather puzzled as to why President Jiménez should have so acted, since he had clearly benefited by the Treaty in the case of Castro Quesada’s revolt.6 He incidentally added that perhaps he still stood to benefit by it, as the Guatemalan Government, had recently been approached by some prominent Costa Ricans who desired to start a revolution there, but they naturally had been given no encouragement by him.

Finally Mr. Skinner Klee said that, if the idea met with the Department’s approval, he would be glad to convoke a conference of the Central American Republics to discuss the Treaties, and requested me to put the matter before you. He is also instructing the Guatemalan Minister in Washington to ascertain your views.

While I think Mr. Skinner Klee is sincere in his support of the 1923 treaties, and the Guatemalan Government has lived up to them at some sacrifice, as is shown by its refusal to conclude a treaty of commerce with the government of General Martínez which would be to its advantage, I feel that behind his proposal is also the natural desire to increase Guatemalan prestige and leadership in Central America, which in present circumstances may not be agreeable to the other Republics, and there is the further complication of an unrecognized government in Salvador.

On the other hand, if the Department desires to save the Treaties, I believe some active steps should be taken, for there is a possibility that Guatemalan support of them may become very lukewarm if the present rather anomalous situation continues too long. I base this belief on the fact that a close friend of President Ubico took occasion a little while ago to turn a conversation with me on to the difficulty [Page 332]of finding a successor for him, and remarked that it was a great pity his re-election was forbidden. And only about ten days ago the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself in speaking of the Treaties said that if the other Republics wished to denounce them, there would be after all consolation for Guatemala in the fact that then General Ubico could continue in the Presidency for as long as he wanted to.

I do not wish to imply that President Ubico has any such idea in his head at present, but the possibility is there, and while in his particular case it would probably be a good thing, the principle is disastrous.

Respectfully yours,

Sheldon Whitehouse
  1. A. Skinner Klee.
  2. See sections entitled “Insurrection in Honduras,” pp. 709 ff., and “Assistance by the United States in the Supervision of Elections in Nicaragua,” pp. 785 ff.
  3. See pp. 566 ff.
  4. See pp. 512 ff.