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

No. 865

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram No. 72 of July 19, 4 p.m., regarding the question of turning over the Guardia to Nicaraguan control, I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a letter of August 8, 1932, from General Matthews in which he presents for the Department’s consideration the plan he suggests for the selection of the Nicaraguan officers to replace the American officers serving with the Guardia.

The essential points of General Matthews’ proposal are as follows:

To arrange with each Presidential candidate of the leading political parties, immediately after the nomination of the candidates, for the selection of a list of names composed equally of members of both parties acceptable to such candidate.
To request President Moncada, immediately after the Presidential election has been decided, to appoint to the higher commands in the Guardia the persons on the list of the successful candidate, such appointments to be made permanent by the new President on January 2, 1933.

It will be specially noted that the list approved by each Presidential candidate is to be composed equally of members of both political parties.

The officers thus appointed probably would begin their service about the middle of November and the additional appropriation for their salaries would be approximately $5,625 until January 1, 1933.

General Matthews has set forth in his letter his reasons for rejecting other plans considered by him and for recommending the proposed plan as the one best suited for an orderly turnover of the Guardia under the conditions confronting him.

General Matthews will proceed to carry out this plan as soon as he learns that it has received the Department’s approval. He has not consulted President Moncada in this connection nor have I. I think President Moncada should be advised of the plan adopted when it has received the Department’s approval and I would appreciate the Department’s instruction as to the manner in which that advice should be given to him.

Respectfully yours,

Matthew E. Hanna

The Jefe Director of the Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua (Matthews) to the American Minister (Hanna)

Sir: I note that in Despatch No. 72 of July 19, 1932, from the Secretary of State, Washington, D. C, that the State Department agrees with me that an orderly turnover of the Guardia to Nicaraguan control is vitally important but is strongly of the opinion that it would not be advisable to leave any marines in Nicaragua after the date already announced for their withdrawal, and considers it essential to adhere to the plan to withdraw the marines immediately after the new President takes office.

This of course renders impossible the adoption of my original plan that the new president appoint, upon his assumption of office, Nicaraguans in the higher offices of the Guardia and that the present incumbents, Marine Corps officers, remain for a period of not to exceed two months in order to insure an orderly turnover.

[Page 869]

In view of the conditions of political unrest and financial instability existing in Nicaragua and the fact that there is no immediate prospect of the cessation of the armed resistance to the government, led by Sandino who has announced that he will continue his resistance against any president elected under American supervision, it is inconceivable to me that any president will accept or continue in office Nicaraguan officers, of high rank in key positions in the Guardia, of whose personal loyalty to himself and to his party there is the slightest doubt. His Excellency, the present Chief Executive, has shown conclusively that party and personal loyalty are large considerations in the appointment of even the present junior Nicaraguan officers of the Guardia and of the cadets of the Military Academy, who because of their youth have not become seriously involved in politics. He has passed personally on each applicant for appointment and rejected many who appeared in every way eligible for appointment except for their political or family affiliations. In certain cases I have even been required to investigate the enlistments of members of the Conservative Party as privates in the Guardia.

In view of these conditions, the existence of which I believe everyone familiar with the situation here will admit, it is obviously impossible to select for the higher commands of the Guardia, Nicaraguans who will be acceptable to the new president until it is known who the new president will be. Hence my alternate plan is: Immediately upon the nomination of the candidates of the leading political parties, to arrange with each candidate for the selection of a list of names, composed equally of members of both parties acceptable to him; and immediately after the election has been decided, request the present Chief Executive to appoint to the higher commands the persons on the list of the successful candidate, to work alongside the American personnel until January 2nd when their appointments will be made permanent by the new president. This plan overcomes the objection to leaving any marines in Nicaragua after January 2nd, and is one which I hope can be put into effect without serious difficulties.

It will be necessary to give the additional officers appointed under this plan the rank and pay of at least Captains, and for this purpose an additional appropriation will be required. The number of this class of officers should be thirty (30) and the additional appropriation should therefore be three thousand seven hundred and fifty cordobas ($3,750.00) per month.

I have considered and rejected as impracticable the plan of requesting the President to appoint Nicaraguans whom I believe to be qualified for the higher ranks before the candidates of the leading parties are known; both because I am certain that the present Chief Executive [Page 870] will refuse to make the necessary appointments because of the expense involved, and because no one would accept an appointment without assurance that it would be made permanent by the new president, an assurance which it is of course impossible to give at the present time.

There is another plan that suggests itself which has much in its favor but in addition to the expense involved presents so many difficulties, due to the uncertainty of the political situation, that I have also rejected it as impracticable at this time. It is to have the leading candidates agree upon a list of names and request President Moncada to make the necessary appointments from this list, both candidates pledging themselves to continue these appointees in office. This also rests upon the uncertainty as to the identity of the leading candidates, and its success depends upon the possibility of obtaining an agreement between them.

Very truly yours,

C. B. Matthews