817.00 Woodward Electoral Mission/22: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé in Nicaragua (Beaulac)

8. Your 5, January 12, 5 p.m. The Department has been giving careful consideration to your recommendations in regard to protection for the Electoral Mission. In connection with this matter certain considerations must be borne in mind as follows:

The maintenance of peace and order during the elections is the direct obligation of the Nicaraguan Government and the responsibility therefor rests upon the Guardia Nacional. At the conference held in the State Department in February, 193134 in connection with the Nicaraguan situation, General McDougal, the Commander of the [Page 791] Guardia, informed the Secretary of State that the contemplated addition of 500 men to the Guardia, making a total force of 2150 men, would be sufficient not only to replace the marines who were then guarding American lives and property at Matagalpa and stationed for moral effect in the Segovias, but also vigorously to prosecute the campaign against the bandits. The Guardia was in fact augmented by 500 men, the marine forces were withdrawn from the bandit areas and the Guardia assumed the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in the country. During the recent outbreak of banditry the Guardia, judging from reports received, handled the situation admirably, assumed a vigorous offensive and succeeded in dispersing the bandits and driving them back into their accustomed haunts in the northern part of the country. The Department would, therefore, suppose that the Guardia is capable of dealing with any bandit situation which may develop during the elections.

There will of course also arise the problem of furnishing guards for the electoral mesas. This is also a necessary and proper function of the Guardia. Is there any reason to believe that the Guardia will be unable to furnish the personnel for this purpose? Have you given consideration to the question of using the municipal guards to assist the regular Guardia in this matter? The letter of the Secretary of State to President Moncada dated November 24, 1930,35 agreed to the organization by President Moncada of these municipal guards for the purpose of freeing the regular Guardia for patrol and combat activities in other parts of the country, and the statement of policy regarding Nicaragua drawn up in the State Department in February, 1931, pointed out that President Moncada should lose no time in organizing the municipal guards as rapidly as possible. Please report what progress has been made in the organization of this force and what its numbers are today.

In any consideration given to this matter it must be borne in mind that the United States Government would be extremely reluctant even to consider sending any more of its armed forces to Nicaragua. The recommendation has been made by Colonel Price that a numerous personnel, approximately 1000 men, will be required for the work of the Electoral Mission proper. It is, therefore, the earnest hope of this Government that it will not be necessary to send any additional armed forces for purposes of protection.

As has been stated above, the responsibility for maintaining law and order and furnishing guards for the electoral mesas during the elections rests on the Guardia, and if the Guardia is not now able to handle the situation immediate steps should be taken by the Commander [Page 792] thereof to see that it is able to do so well in advance of the elections. As has also been stated, the Guardia Municipal should be temporarily expanded and utilized to assist the regular Guardia during this period.

The Secretary of State in his letter to President Moncada of November 24, 1930, notified the latter that the time was rapidly approaching when the marines must be taken out of Nicaragua, and that the very latest time must be after the elections of 1932. In the statement of policy of last February it was said that the feeling in the United States as represented in Congress and by the public in general was growing stronger all the time that these steps were necessary and that the United States Government must not be drawn into the position of policing Nicaragua indefinitely. It is felt that for the United States to send to Nicaragua at this time, in addition to the personnel of the Electoral Mission proper, a large armed force for protection purposes, might be considered as inconsistent with the foregoing policy and would be difficult for public opinion in this country to understand. Furthermore, it was the Department’s understanding at the time of the February conference that with the augmented Guardia and the organization of the Municipal Guards adequate protection for the personnel of the 1932 elections could be provided without the necessity of sending additional forces to Nicaragua.

The Department desires you to confer again with the Commander of the Second Brigade and the Commander of the Guardia and after giving careful consideration to the foregoing and canvassing the whole situation thoroughly, again report further to the Department.

  1. See memorandum by the Secretary of State, February 5, 1931, Foreign Relations, 1931, vol. ii, p. 841.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. iii, p. 683.