The Minister in Honduras ( Lay ) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 7.]
Sir: Saturday morning, November 26, Mr. Purificación Sierra, a Liberal, called at the Legation and showed me a letter he had received signed by the insurgent Generals José A. Sanchez and José M. Fonseca, who according to the letterhead were at El Hatillo, a village about four miles from Tegucigalpa in the direction of the New York- Rosario Mine. A translation of this letter is attached.11a I called at [Page 726] once upon the President and found that he had received a similar letter. The President did not appear alarmed and said that he regarded the letter as a bluff, although the signatures were undoubtedly genuine. Market people coming into the city from the direction mentioned above, however, reported the presence of a considerable band of insurgents on the outskirts of the town which report was quickly confirmed by observation and caused the most intense nervousness and excitement among the populace as an attack was believed to be imminent. General Carías stationed Nationalist troops on the various strategic heights encircling the city and sent a considerable force to guard the approach to the city in the direction from which the insurgents were expected to advance. No attack took place either Saturday or yesterday but today General Carías is sending out 500 men to engage a group of 200 insurgents which were sighted this morning a few miles beyond the Tegucigalpa airport along the South Coast road. The total number of insurgent groups in the vicinity of Tegucigalpa at present is estimated by the Government not to exceed 600 men and are probably less.
It is reported that General Umaña, with 1000 or more insurgents under his command, has turned back temporarily, at least, on Santa Barbara and the North Coast and may be heading toward Tegucigalpa. The roads are in such condition that it would take several days hard going even with motor trucks and perhaps a week without them for Umaña to reach the vicinity of this capital and, with commercial planes making almost daily flights between here and the North Coast, such a large body of men would have little chance of approaching the city unobserved.
There is little doubt that General Carías with the 1500 to 2000 armed men under his command in Tegucigalpa will not [sic] be able to defend the city from without. Much uneasiness is felt, however, on account of the large number of Liberals in town who are potential insurgents. Besides the Palace Guard and the Cuartel there are at least 500 armed Liberals in Tegucigalpa. As these men and Nationalists alike roam the streets without discipline or restraint clashes between them resulting in street riots and looting is greatly feared and would be far more dangerous for the civilian population than a siege of the city. Desultory firing in various parts of the city is heard almost continuously day and night and the streets are already unsafe at night for passers-by irrespective of nationality or political color. I am endeavoring to get the authorities to establish some sort of police patrol to circulate through the streets and afford some protection to the populace.
I was called upon yesterday to use my good offices to get Doctor [Page 727] Angel Zuñiga Huete safely out of the city as he feared for his life. He departed yesterday afternoon with his wife for Nicaragua by airplane. Last night Doctor Salvador Zelaya, the ex-Foreign Minister, called upon me to say that he would also leave town in a few days unless conditions improved. He told me that his next door neighbor’s house had been broken into the night before by an armed mob and that many prominent Liberals were being threatened with death.
The Government has discussed with Mr. Lowell Yerex, owner and chief pilot of the Taca, the question of bombing operations for it and four aerial bombs of an old type have already been brought from Salvador. Mr. Yerex, who is a New Zealander, assures me that if he undertakes any such engagement he will do so himself and under no circumstances allow his American pilots to participate in these operations. Airplanes of the Taca continue to make daily trips to Salvador for ammunition. A considerable quantity of the 7 millimeter long range variety is now being obtained. The Legation has had to entrust its despatches to the Taca pilots for mailing in Salvador as the local Post Office does not receive mail.
Much satisfaction is felt among the Nationalists at the President’s action in appointing General Carías “Chief of Military Operations” which gives him a free hand in commanding the Government-Nationalist troops.
There is also enclosed a translation of an article from the Nationalist paper El Cronista 12 which reflects the excited point of view which obtains among the native populace of Tegucigalpa.