817.00 Woodward Electoral Mission/131: Telegram

The Minister in Nicaragua ( Hanna ) to the Secretary of State

136. My telegram 132, July 18, 1 p.m. President Moncada called me to his office yesterday morning and showed me the following telegram in translation which he sent to the Nicaraguan Legation in Washington:

“The seriousness of the decision of the Admiral does not lie entirely in the injury it causes to one political party but in the signature as chairman of the Electoral Mission and not of the National Board of Elections, the tribunal created by the Dodd-Matthews Cox and Johnson laws, exclusively designated by those laws to decide electoral questions of importance. There is unrest in the country because of this”.

The President then objected to that portion of Admiral Woodward’s decision in this matter which designated the Comision General de Control Electoral as organized by the March 1932 convention at Leon in connection with the plebiscite specified in the decision. The president expressed the opinion that the Commission of Electoral Control previously existing should have been designated. The President stated that the Commission organized in March does not include representatives of the faction of the party headed by Dr. Leonardo Arguello. The President’s complaint reduced to its lowest terms seemed to be that the Electoral Mission in giving this decision prescribed a proclamation which will not insure a true expression of the desire of the Liberal Party in this matter but will work serious injustice to one important faction of the party, and that this is not [Page 813] in accord with the purpose of the Mission which is to insure justice during the steps of the electoral procedure.

The President also complained because Admiral Woodward had given his decision in this matter without consulting him as President of the Republic and securing his cooperation as contemplated in article 2 [20] of the electoral law.

I have shown the foregoing to Admiral Woodward and he has requested me to transmit the following:

“With regard to the complaint that the action taken by me in this case was executed in my capacity as ‘Chairman of the Electoral Mission’ and not ‘of the National Board of Elections’, this appears to be merely a quibble for in any case I am the final arbiter. One of the opposing factions requested my decision addressing me in my dual capacity as Chairman of the Electoral Mission and President of the National Board of Elections. I should be glad in my capacity as Chairman of the Electoral Mission, [sic] because the matter involved was of a preliminary nature to the actual work of conducting the elections, and related particularly to the functions of the Mission itself as contemplated in the Tipitapa Agreement. Unless the lawful governing body of the Liberal Party was definitely established well in advance of the time set by law for the submission of nominations to the National Board of Elections, this latter body would be severely handicapped and embarrassed in the performance of its functions at a time when there would be no opportunity to bring about a lawful party plebiscite for the elections of party authorities. The proper supervision of these national elections, whereby the will of the electors may be fairly expressed, necessitated the holding of a new plebiscite by the Liberal Party. Also, by acting in the name of the Electoral Mission I avoided committing the National Board of Elections to any decision and prevented the Conservative member thereof from engaging in a strictly Liberal Party dispute.

The Comision General Electoral organized by the March 1932 convention at Leon was designated by me as the body charged with the duty of conducting and supervising said plebiscite because this was strictly in accordance with the laws of the party and the existing facts. To have designated the Commission of Electoral Control previously existing would not have been in accordance with the law. If the Commission organized in March fails to include representatives of the faction of the party headed by Dr. Leonardo Arguello that is the fault of his faction which declined or failed to appoint representatives from the governing body of the party on said Commission when the opportunity existed. However the records show that there are five members on the Commission organized in March who were on the Commission of November and the Commission of February. Neither the Electoral Mission nor the National Board of Elections has authority to add any member to the General Electoral Commission of the Liberal Party as that can only be done by a convention or properly elected Junta. However, in accordance with the statutes of the Liberal Party each candidate has the right to nominate [Page 814] an observer at each voting place and also a representative in the Departmental electoral commissions and in the Comision General Electoral to be present at the counting of the votes and for other objects referred to in the party statutes, and the President of the Comision General Electoral of the Liberal Party recognized by my decision has already notified the propaganda committee of Dr. Arguello to that effect.

The procedure prescribed by the Electoral Mission is in strict accord with the laws and reforms of the statutes of the Liberal Party adopted before the split in said party, which laws and reforms were specifically designed to guarantee free and fair party elections. The question of whether or not such procedure will work serious injustice to one important faction of the party is a matter of opinion pending the outcome of the plebiscite.

The only ‘Unrest in the country’ as result of my decision is exclusively among the adherents of the Managua faction which disregarded entire party statutes in all of its operations. The plebiscite held on April 3rd last by that faction of the Liberal Party which supports Dr. Arguello (Managua faction) was not only illegal but was so conducted as to seriously prejudice the rights and opportunities of all other factions.

I did not confer with the President ‘as contemplated in article 20 of the electoral law’ because the subject matter of my decision was not one directly related to the actual conduct of the national election, which is the province of the National Board of Elections, (signed) Woodward”.

Two factions of the Liberal Party are supporting the candidacy of Arguello—the faction represented by the Managua convention and Arguello’s own faction in all a large percentage of the Liberal Party. Under the decision of Admiral Woodward these two factions have no representation on the Electoral Board of Control designated by him to conduct the plebiscite. This is the substance of Moncada’s principal complaint to me and I am bringing the matter to the attention of the Department in response to his request. I think his point is well taken.

I have discussed this matter thoroughly with Admiral Woodward in an entirely friendly manner and acquainted him with my concurrence with the opinion of Moncada. I have suggested that he seek an appropriate procedure to give these factions proper guarantees in the plebiscite as I am of the opinion that all parties are entitled to representation even though the legality of their respective situations is not in all ways entirely sound. He seems to feel, however, that any departure from a strictly legal procedure is undesirable. Admiral Smith who is here concurs with my views and took part in my conference with Admiral Woodward.

I called on President Moncada again this afternoon to learn whether his attitude had changed as a result of the reported conciliatory [Page 815] efforts being made by the various party leaders. He told me in substance that his attitude is founded on the fundamental injustice and illegality of the decision of Admiral Woodward and that the Government of Nicaragua would never accept the decision. He said it would be acceptable if the Electoral Board of Control designated by the Leon convention in February which was [established?] before the definite split in the party should be designated to hold the plebiscite.