The Minister in Honduras ( Lay ) to the Secretary of State

No. 483

Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 9th of May the Liberal candidate for the Presidency, Sr. Angel Zuñiga Huete called upon me at the Legation and during our conversation I mentioned the unfortunate apprehension among the people of Honduras at the present time that an armed uprising will take place in Honduras before the elections next fall; that the tension has become apparently so acute that some prominent Hondurans are leaving the country until the inauguration of the new President; that a merchant had informed me that he had insured his stores against looting at a high premium; and that other merchants had liquidated their stocks and that business is at a standstill. I added that there was a feeling that there would be a coup d’état within the next few weeks which would throw the country into a revolution. I told him that, of course, I could not and had no desire to meddle in the politics of this country and that my Government and its representatives would maintain their traditional impartiality toward both candidates, but as a true friend of Honduras and both candidates I was anxious to do anything proper that I could in the interest of tranquility and peace in this country. Sr. Zuñiga Huete did not deny the existence of fear among many people that there would be trouble before the elections but said that so far as he was concerned he would do nothing illegal to become President. I then told him that I believed it would accomplish much toward tranquilizing the country if he would publish in the press over his own signature a declaration to this effect that would dispel the prevailing fear among the people. I told him that this was a personal idea of mine and that in no sense did I wish to convey the impression [Page 711] that this declaration was expected by me or my Government or should it be made to me in my official or private capacity but directly to the Honduran people. Sr. Zuñiga Huete assured me that he would issue a statement in the press in a few days at an appropriate time.

The following day I mentioned to President Mejía Colindres my conversation with Sr. Zuñiga Huete and the former expressed the firm belief that if both candidates would issue such a statement over their own names in the press the chances of an uprising before elections would be greatly diminished. The President told me confidentially that while he belonged to the same party as Zuñiga Huete they were not particular friends and that he did not wish to discuss this matter with Sr. Zuñiga Huete but that he was sure his promise to issue the declaration could be accepted in good faith and that he hoped I would have a talk with General Carías and encourage him also to make a similar “peace” statement.

Yesterday El Combate, the organ of Zuñiga Huete in Tegucigalpa, published a signed statement, one copy of which, that being all that is available, is enclosed herewith together with translation.3 The President expressed himself to me this morning as being entirely satisfied with this statement and stated that if General Carías will issue a similar one, he believes Honduras will enjoy tranquility at least until the elections. From what General Carías told me a few days ago I am confident that he will issue a satisfactory declaration of his peaceful intentions.

The President, while apparently pleased with the political outlook, called my attention to some disquieting news he had just received. He showed me some telegrams from Commandants in three places in western Honduras reporting that Filiberto Díaz Zelaya with three small groups was threatening to raid towns near the Guatemalan frontier and that a report from Santa Rosa de Copán was so alarming that he felt obliged to order three hundred men to be recruited to prevent that place from being looted. The threats of Díaz Zelaya to disturb the peace of this country during the past year and the efforts of the Nationalist Party to prevent him starting an insurrection have been reported in numerous despatches and telegrams from this Legation and recently in No. 467 of April 28, 1932.

The Nationalists are still hopeful that they will be able to eliminate Díaz Zelaya as a disturbing factor in their campaign either by buying him off or by denouncing him and disclaiming any connection or association with his activities. He may complicate the political situation but he has not enough force nor the following to menace dangerously the peace of the country.

[Page 712]

Since the above was written, a man who has actually been with Díaz Zelaya’s force near Santa Rosa de Copán states that this group does not number more than seventy-five undisciplined men, very poorly armed with a few old rifles and revolvers and the majority of them with machetes and that their main occupation is looting farms to secure food. He reports that they have killed a Government officer who was after some smugglers and who strayed by mistake into their camp and that it was this incident more than anything else that provoked the Government here to recruit a force to pursue Zelaya.

It is reported that Dr. Díaz Chávez, the Vice President, who was regarded as a probable Liberal candidate for the Presidency, representing the more conservative element of that party, has definitely decided not to run.

From sections where Zuñiga Huete has made a vigorous campaign, impartial observers inform me that he is gaining supporters and by election time if he continues to make a strong appeal to the people he will stand more than an even chance of being elected at a fair election. General Carías on the other hand has not so far conducted a vigorous campaign.

Feeling now that a serious revolt is not likely to take place in this country before September, I am taking leave from my post on May 27th, returning here in early August and expect to be in Washington in July.

Respectfully yours,

Julius G. Lay
  1. Not reprinted.