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

No. 636

Sir: I have the honor to report that in the past fortnight the political situation has suffered some modifications in consequence of an outburst of rumors to the effect that fighting will break out in a number of places on election day, October 30. Heretofore a tranquility [Page 716] quality unusual for a pre-election period in Honduras, has prevailed, and the general consensus of opinion has been that the country would get through elections peacefully, any disturbance that might occur coming only after the results of the elections were known. The assurance of peace through elections was predicated on the fact that each party, very confident of a victory at the polls, had strong interest in the effectuation of an orderly election which would demonstrate that its candidates were the people’s choice. Now, however, there are indications that the Nationalist Party is losing confidence in its success. Each estimate of Carías’ winning majority heard by the Legation as coming from a Nationalist is smaller than the previous. While the Nationalists still express unshaken belief in their victory, a good part of their assurance may be discounted as the usual boastful line of talk of politicians; or be attributed to the psychology of optimism which characterizes political campaigns in general.

It is plainly logical that their impulse to prevent free elections increases in direct proportion to the decline of their hopes for success in them. Hence some credence may be given to the statement made to me yesterday by a prominent Nationalist who probably has access to the deliberations of the party leaders to the effect that the Nationalists will start a revolution on election day if it develops that the Government is practicing an “imposition” against them. He explained that such a move would be dictated by the belief that it would have a quicker and surer success than if postponed until later when the Government and the Liberals would have had time to make counter preparations.

Nationalist visitors to the Legation have been harping to a grossly exaggerated extent on the theme that the Executive is not insuring a free and fair campaign. If the Nationalists are in reality hatching a revolutionary coup, this talk is of course calculated to indoctrinate the Legation with the justice of their cause. I have, however, taken every opportunity to impress on all political leaders my view as to the reprehensibility of revolutions, and that any attempt to interfere with the manifestation of the will of the people in its selection of its governors by thwarting an election would be as criminal as it would be unjustifiable.

Until recently the prospect was that there would be no golpe de estado or revolution until well after the election, and then only on the part of the Liberals if the Nationalists won at the polls. Now the outlook is that whoever wins, the losing side will start a fight, and that it may be begun on election day.

In fear of such developments the exodus of prominent and well-to-do families to neighboring countries has begun in Tegucigalpa. [Page 717] Merchants are trying to dispose of their stocks to which they have made no additions for some time. Trade is nearly at a standstill. The situation is aggravated by the fact that six days of heavy rains have paralyzed telephone and telegraph communications throughout the country, cut traffic on both the north and south highways out of the capital, interrupted mail and passenger service on airways, and generally blocked movements of persons, goods, and communications.

In this connection the British Chargé d’Affaires has asked what assurances of protection to British subjects I can give him, for if definite assurances of timely protection cannot be given him, he wishes so to inform his Government so that a British war vessel may be held in readiness.

Of course the Legation will call upon the Honduran Government to furnish protection to the lives and property of Americans and other foreigners, but the Department is reminded that it by no means follows that adequate protection will be forthcoming, especially in Honduras where the police are apt to become a part of the contending armies, and drunken and disorderly soldiery are numerous, frequently taking to assaults on non-combatants and to looting. I desire, therefore, to receive advance authorization from the Department to call upon the Commander of the Special Service Squadron for such emergency assistance as I think necessary when the lives of Americans and other foreigners are in imminent danger. For example the situation may be such that I will not consider the presence of a large force in Tegucigalpa necessary, but in which the Legation will urgently need protection. In that case I would feel it expedient for the Admiral to send immediately by plane from Managua a dozen Marines for that purpose.

Respectfully yours,

Julius G. Lay