817.00 Woodward Electoral Mission/33: Telegram

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

15. Department’s 8, January 24, 10 a.m. [23, 4 p.m.] I have again conferred with the Commander, Second Brigade and the Commander of the Guardia Nacional and after thoroughly considering the situation in the light of the Department’s telegram referred to we have found ourselves unable to recommend that any lesser force of marines than that mentioned in my telegram 5 of January 12, 5 p.m., be sent to Nicaragua for the purpose of protecting the electoral personnel to be engaged in the supervision of approaching presidential elections here.

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It is fully realized that the responsibility of maintaining peace and order in Nicaragua rests upon the Guardia Nacional, and under normal circumstances the Guardia is able to fulfill its mission satisfactorily. However, the presence in Nicaragua of an electoral mission creates an extraordinary situation involving the security of the mission itself which is beyond the ability of the Guardia, with its limited numbers, to cope with.

There are throughout Nicaragua many persons definitely hostile to American electoral supervision, particularly in the areas where banditry exists. Sandino himself has announced his intention to oppose the supervision. During the electoral supervision of 1928 there were a total of 431 polling places scattered throughout the Republic, at all of which supervisory personnel were placed. It is presumed that the number of polling places this year will not be appreciably less. At most of these places no Guardia are normally stationed. Under the circumstances, unless special protection is given to the electoral personnel detailed to serve in isolated or exposed places, their lives will be placed in grave danger and the very success of the supervision will be jeopardized.

Even where banditry does not exist the problem of protecting electoral personnel will arise by reason of the depth of feeling which will surely be manifested between the two parties during the approaching elections. The announcement of the withdrawal of the marines following the elections has given an added importance to the result of those elections and it can be anticipated that feeling will be higher than in 1928 when the country looked forward to a second supervision.

During the supervision of 1928 a total of 4,276 marines were used directly or indirectly as electoral guards. There were at that time in addition 1,834 Guardia doing police work throughout the country.

The Commander of the Second Brigade and the Commander of the Guardia Nacional are of the opinion that conditions, insofar as they affect the security of the electoral supervisors, have not changed since 1928.

The Guardia Nacional consists at the present time of 204 officers and 2,150 men. In addition there is a total of 246 municipal police maintained by the various municipalities throughout the country. General Matthews is of the opinion that this latter number represents all the police that the municipalities can afford to maintain with their very limited revenues. Furthermore, the raising of these municipal police has not released an appreciable number of Guardia Nacional since there was not a great number of Guardia Nacional stationed in the towns where these police have been furnished.

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The Commander of the Guardia Nacional estimates that to require the Guardia to assume the task of furnishing guards to all the widely scattered groups of supervisors would necessitate the withdrawal of about 60 percent of the Guardia now engaged in active patrolling, and that their removal from this active combat mission and assignment to local guard duties would be followed immediately by renewal of organized bandit operations which might easily defeat the supervision.

The Department is probably correct in supposing that the Guardia is capable of dealing with any bandit situation which may develop during the elections in the sense that the Guardia, if its active forces are not depleted in order to protect electoral personnel, can probably meet successfully any organized bandit activity which is likely to arise during that period. With its present number, however, it is not in a position to undertake the protection of some 1,000 persons on electoral duty scattered in tiny groups throughout the Republic.

The Department’s reluctance to send any more armed forces to Nicaragua is thoroughly appreciated. However, it would appear that at least 1,000 armed men must be sent for purely supervisory purposes. Since the Department has already committed itself to send such armed forces, it is suggested that any anticipated criticism of sending additional forces might be forestalled by designating all the armed forces to be sent, including those needed for protection, as supervisory forces. Whether such forces consist of 1,000 or 3,000 men would appear to be of comparative unimportance once the Department has committed itself to sending any armed forces for the purpose of the supervision. Furthermore, it is believed that the risk of incurring severe public criticism would be greatly increased if adequate guards were not furnished and if, as a result, casualties to the electoral personnel occurred, and the electoral supervision, constituting our final act of cooperation prior to evacuation of all the marines from Nicaragua, failed.