815.00/4543: Telegram

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

47. Your 85, October 21 [20], 1 p.m. The Department of course cannot attempt to give a definite answer to such a purely hypothetical question as the one you raise in the penultimate sentence of your telegram.

You are doubtless familiar with the Department’s instruction to the Legation at Managua on April 16, 1931, which read as follows:

“In view of the outbreak of banditry in portions of Nicaragua hitherto free from such violence you will advise American citizens that this Government cannot undertake general protection of Americans [Page 719] throughout that country with American forces. To do so would lead to difficulties and commitments which this Government does not propose to undertake. Therefore, the Department recommends to all Americans who do not feel secure under the protection afforded them by the Nicaraguan Government through the Nicaraguan National Guard to withdraw from the country, or at least to the coast towns whence they can be protected or evacuated in case of necessity. Those who remain do so at their own risk and must not expect American forces to be sent inland to their aid.”

While the foregoing instruction referred to a situation brought about by an outbreak of banditry as distinct from revolutionary disturbances growing out of the operations of opposed armed forces, it nevertheless represents the general policy of this Government.

The sending of armed forces of this Government into the interior of a foreign country is a step which would be considered only with the greatest reluctance and in the event of a most serious emergency in which the local authorities for law and order had broken down completely and every effort on the part of our diplomatic representative to obtain adequate measures of protection for American lives had failed.

Reference your strictly confidential despatch No. 636 of October 14, just received. You are of course in no position to give the British Chargé d’Affaires any “assurances of protection to British subjects”. If he desires to inform his Government that British war vessel should be held in readiness, that is a matter for him alone to determine.

In the event of disorders in Honduras you will of course keep the Department promptly and fully informed of developments and of your recommendations.