817.00 Woodward Electoral Mission/80½

The Chairman of the United States Electoral Mission to Nicaragua (Woodward) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: Pursuant to my conference with you yesterday, I feel that, before leaving Washington, I should confirm to you my understanding of the plan to be followed in supervising the Nicaraguan elections this year, and the questions with respect to the possible effects of pursuing this plan.

It is my understanding that the American electoral personnel are to be employed only in the places where adequate security can be afforded, either by the Nicaraguan National Guard or by the units of the Second Brigade which may be stationed at various points in Nicaragua for this purpose; that the mesas at all other places will be under direct control of Nicaraguan citizens acting as electoral officials; that American personnel will not be required to perform any function whatsoever, either as chairman of mesas, or as supervisors, or for protective purposes in areas other than the immediate vicinity of the mesa under direct American supervision; and that American electoral personnel will not be sent into other areas for inspection, investigation, or for any other purposes.

It is understood clearly by the Department of State that I personally consider that the procedure proposed in Plan “B” under which there was to be some degree of American supervision over all mesas, constitutes the minimum plan with which the necessary control can be exercised over the registration and the voting to insure a free, fair and legal election. The personnel for the electoral mission as set down in Plan “B” included forty-eight officers and five hundred and ninety-six men plus the number of troops, in addition to those now in Nicaragua, recommended by the Commander Special Service Squadron for protective forces to support that plan, eight hundred and fourteen officers and men.

Notwithstanding my recommendation to that effect, the Department of State, for reasons which it considers cogent and compelling, has decided that this task shall be undertaken with a force less than that stated in order to obviate the necessity for dispatching additional protective troops to Nicaragua and to reduce the item of extraordinary expense incident to the supervision to a figure not exceeding $200,000.00.

It is understood that the means thus placed at my command will control positively only about fifty per cent of the voting precincts and only about fifty-three per cent of the estimated vote, though the [Page 804] number of electoral personnel being taken to Nicaragua will be sufficient to increase the number of mesas under American supervision in case local conditions at the time should warrant. On the other hand, it is also possible that disturbances in that country may necessitate a reduction in the number of such mesas.

There are two questions with regard to the possible effect of extending only partial American supervision over the elections this year. The first is whether, under the plan now adopted, the United States Government will be fulfilling its commitment. The second question is with respect to the manner in which I am to discharge my responsibilities to the Nicaraguan Government.

From a study of the documents relating to this undertaking by the United States Government, it appears to me that under the plan now adopted this Government may be subjected to criticism and protest as not completely fulfilling the obligation which it assumed to guarantee a free, fair, and impartial election, and one not open to fraud or intimidation. On this point, however, although I feel I should make this view clear to you, I also feel that the question involved is one entirely within your responsibility, and I understand your view that the United States is obligated to carry through this project by such means as may be practicable regardless of the fact that the result may prove unsatisfactory both to the State Department and to the Nicaraguan people.

The second question is one which concerns my own responsibility. The Nicaraguan electoral law requires me to certify to the Nicaraguan Congress the results of the elections, and such action on my part would seem to be in any case an inherent part of my duties as President of the Nicaraguan National Board of Elections as it would appear that the electoral mission will have performed no useful service unless it is prepared to make such certificate. It is not yet clear to me how I will be able to adjudicate the questions which might arise at the mesas which are not to be supervised or visited by American personnel. A clarification of this point appears necessary in order to carry out the electoral plan.

With the hope that the Department of State may be able to suggest a satisfactory solution to this last question, permit me to express my readiness to carry out zealously and loyally the plan now adopted.

Very respectfully,

C. H. Woodward