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

No. 828

Sir: With reference to the Legation’s despatch No. 740 of April 5, 1932, transmitting General Matthews’ plan for turning the Guardia Nacional of Nicaragua over to Nicaraguan control, I have the honor to report that, after thorough discussion of this matter, General Matthews has indicated his desire to modify his plan somewhat.

General Matthews quite probably based his original plan on the assumption the turnover would be completed on January 2, 1933, but he is of the opinion that the plan would be materially improved if the final turnover could be postponed until about the end of February, 1933. This extension of the time for the final turnover would greatly simplify the highly important task of selecting Nicaraguan officers for the higher grades. On this point General Matthews has given me the following statement of his views:

It will in all probability not be practicable to secure the appointment of suitable native officers for the higher commands during the current administration. The President who will be elected on 1 November, 1932, and inaugurated on 1 January, 1933, will have to be depended upon to make these appointments. I believe that some time should be allowed the incoming President for the making of these appointments after he takes office. It is probable that these appointments could be made and an orderly turn-over effected in one month. However in the instructions issued to the Jefe Director for the turnover he should be allowed some latitude. A maximum of two months time after the inauguration of the new President should be sufficient. The Jefe Director should be authorized to retain fifty American officers until the turn-over is completed.

I do not believe that the little bit of training in higher command that could be given the newly appointed Nicaraguan officers, in the short time allowed, would be of enough importance to warrant serious consideration. The best that can be hoped for is that men of character [Page 866] and standing in the country with some previous experience in administrative matters and in handling men and with a minimum of political bias may be secured. It would be most helpful if these officers could be selected in equal numbers from the two political parties and I recommend that our Government use its good offices with the new President to bring about this result.

General Matthews states further that “while the turn-over once started should be completed as promptly as possible to avoid responsibility devolving upon a small number of American officers without their having the commensurate authority and force of numbers to meet it, an orderly turn-over is vitally important and the short time available under the present plan makes such a turn-over highly problematical.”

I concur in General Matthews’ views expressed above. There doubtless will be an impairment of the high standard of efficiency maintained in the Guardia under American officers as a consequence of the transfer to inexperienced officers for the higher grades and it seems highly desirable to minimize this impairment by appointing these officers in the manner set forth by General Matthews.

Respectfully yours,

Matthew E. Hanna