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

No. 613

Sir: I have the honor to advise the Department of a continuance of calm and tranquility to a degree which is rare and remarkable in Honduras on the eve of a Presidential election. Considering that the President has not punished government officials caught in assisting the Liberal Party or hindering the Nationalists, against which practices he has given the strictest orders, there have been surprisingly few instances of acts of this nature. Except for the peculation of considerable government funds for the use of the Liberal cause, the Nationalists have little of which to complain up to the present writing. While the press of both sides fulminates against their adversaries, and regrettably indulges in the wildest and most damning accusations, serious people pay little attention to them. The fairer minded Nationalists realize that all things considered the President is handling matters quite well, and recognize, as one prominent Nationalist expressed it to me, that it is probably wiser for him not to be too strict with the Liberal government officials, because otherwise they might be goaded into attempting a golpe de estado.

Peace seems well assured until the elections on October 30. Its chief guarantee consists in the fact that both parties feel very confident that victory at the polls will be theirs. Another favoring circumstance is that while the newspapers and campaign speakers may [Page 714] charge their opponents with plotting and preparing for a stroke at arms, they all condemn such action in the strongest terms, declaring that there would be no justification for it. It may be stated that public opinion is now solidly and unanimously against a resort to arms to decide the Presidential succession, which was not the case previous to the elections of 1923 which led to the revolution of the following February.

With elections only six weeks off both parties are very active, withal orderly, in their campaigning. On Sunday, September 11, Dr. Miguel Paz Baraona, Honduras’ only living ex-President, made a triumphal entry into Tegucigalpa to the acclamations of some 4000 Nationalists, a well behaved crowd. The demonstrations which followed were effected without any untoward incident, which is in good part attributable to the dispositions of the excellent Director of National Police, Colonel Napoleon Cubas Turcios.

Dr. Paz made a speech on arrival which is remarkable for its lofty viewpoint, the concreteness of its advice, its freedom from oratorical flights, and its disinterestedness. I consider it the most statesmanlike utterance that I have ever read coming from a Honduran. A copy and translation are enclosed.5

Friends of Dr. Paz have indicated that he intends to call on me during his visit here.

The same day of Dr. Paz’s arrival here, Zuñiga Huete, the Liberal candidate, was received in San Pedro Sula with a demonstration as orderly as that here.

It is interesting, of course, to speculate at this time on who is going to win the election. The Nationalists began the campaign with a large advantage. The municipal elections of last November recorded a vote more than eighty per cent Nationalist, which is probably a reliable indication of the size of their advantage at the beginning of this year’s presidential and congressional campaign. The principal cause for so large a pro-Nationalist sentiment was the disgust on the part of the people in general with the incompetence shown in all departments of the Mejía Colindres administration, which has been exceedingly bad even for Honduras. But with Zuñiga Huete as Liberal candidate, a man who is acknowledged even by his enemies to be capable and energetic, the belief has grown that he will be able to pull the public services out of their present deplorable state. There are not a few persons, particularly among the business men, who favor Zuñiga Huete, not because he is a Liberal but because they believe he will give the country a more efficient administration than Carías can.

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While Carías has made no speeches and done no traveling to date, Zuñiga Huete has visited every department and town of any size in the country. The Liberal campaign has been more actively and vigorously pushed because the Liberals have had much more money,—money for the most part, as aforestated, filched from the fearfully depleted government coffers.

Thus the Liberals have cut down a large part of the Nationalists’ initial advantage; perhaps all of it, and more too. How much, nobody can say until the vote is taken, and a prediction as to who will win would be most uncertain and fruitless, because it is quite evident that the result of the elections will be close, whichever way it is.

I think it very probable that after the elections the losers will attempt to take the Government by force. If the Nationalists, they will allege acts of “Imposition” or fraud on the part of the Executive; if the Liberals, their pretext will probably be alleged falsification of the returns by Municipal authorities, the majority of which are Nationalist. President Mejía Colindres has confidentially stated that the danger of a golpe de estado or revolution will be greater if the Nationalists win at the polls. If the Liberals do attempt to seize the Government by force, it is certain that from the day on which they establish their dictatorship, Nationalist revolutionary groups will crop up here and there, and coalesce to overthrow their antagonists.

Although the President, foreseeing the danger and likelihood of a revolution, will, of course, take measures to forestall it, it must be remembered that he … cannot be counted upon to control a situation created by strong forces. It seems probable therefore that civil war will break out in Honduras sometime between November 10, when the election returns will have been fully counted, and February 1, 1933, the date on which the present administration’s term of office expires. I believe that it is more likely to occur in December than November, and more probable in January than in December.

Respectfully yours,

Julius G. Lay
  1. Not printed.