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

No. 954

Sir: With reference to previous correspondence in this connection, I have the honor to report that the decision of the Government of the United States to complete the withdrawal of the American Marines from Nicaragua by January 2, 1932 [1933?], was originally received with doubt by large numbers of Nicaraguans and that their doubt was changed to consternation as they recently became convinced that our decision to withdraw our forces at that time will not be altered.

The general opinion among those who have accepted our Government’s decision as final is that such action, as early as January 2, 1933, is essentially unfair to the Government and people of Nicaragua. While, aside from one vicious editorial in El Comercio, there has been no tendency to blame the present unfortunate military situation on Americans, yet there is a complete failure here to understand the logic of American policy in abandoning Nicaragua to a situation in which, as the matter is viewed by Nicaraguans, great numbers of innocent lives are almost sure to be imperiled. It does not appear to them either consistent or fair that the United States, after intervening to put an end to a civil war in which the participants were the principal sufferers, should abruptly abandon Nicaragua to the horrors of bandit depredations in which the innocent are the principal sufferers.

When they remember that, in the face of an efficient, splendidly officered Guardia Nacional, innocent persons are being assassinated, after torture and mutilation, it is difficult for them to accept a policy which would leave Nicaragua to combat these dangers with her own feeble resources.

There is no doubt that many consider that American honor requires that, after having had sole responsibility for directing Nicaragua’s military forces for some five years, American officers should not give up in the face of a bandit situation fully as strong as, if not stronger than at any time since its inception. Many are of the opinion that the present campaign, if continued, would eventually rid Nicaragua of bandits. There is likewise a general opinion that the withdrawal of the American officers will give courage and prestige to banditry and add to its menace.

Objection to the withdrawal of the Marines so soon after the inauguration of the new President has been expressed privately to the Legation by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaking for President [Page 877] Moncada, by the two candidates for the Presidency of Nicaragua, and by other leaders in both the Nicaraguan parties. There has hardly been a voice raised in favor of the marines’ departure, even among the comparatively small anti-intervention element in Nicaragua.

Dr. Sacasa has pointed out that the President to be inaugurated on January 1 cannot fairly be expected to have achieved control of the Government on January 2. He has told me that, in addition to the confusion and uncertainty attending the nearly complete turnover in government offices which ordinarily marks the accession of a new President in Nicaragua, the next incumbent, while being required to confront a bandit menace which threatens the very existence of the Government, will likewise be dependent upon a Guardia which, while it has given an excellent account of itself under American-direction, will be, until then, untried under Nicaraguan leadership. Few persons dare to hope that the present efficiency of the Guardia can be maintained in any large degree, and many actually anticipate the disintegration of that organization.

The leaders of both parties have not failed to point out to me the brief period of training that the Guardia has had under American officers. The Guardia, as the Department knows, did not really take the field until 1929, only three years ago. In all it has had only five years to establish a tradition and to overcome the habits of more than a century. No American-trained Nicaraguan officer has been advanced to a grade higher than first lieutenant. Under the present plan it will become necessary to turn over the higher commands to persons taken from civil life, none of whom probably will have the specialized training which the younger officers have received under American officers. These are points that the party leaders have emphasized in their conversations with me.

Dr. Sacasa and others have pointed out also that no provision exists at the present time for continuing the Nicaraguan Military Academy. At least, Nicaragua has no instructors capable of continuing the work now being done by American officers, and no plans have been laid to obtain new instructors. This circumstance, as well as the situation in general, has prompted many of the leaders in and out of Government and in both parties to suggest that at least a military mission be left in Nicaragua.

I have given no one any encouragement to think that there is any possibility of a modification by the United States of its present plan of withdrawal. In fact I have stated my conviction that no modification is possible. I have pointed out to General Somoza, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that for the United States to leave any portion [Page 878] of the forces now in Nicaragua would detract from the effect of the withdrawal, and would be interpreted as a continuance of the so-called intervention. I have told him, also, that if Nicaragua desired to request a military mission at some later date the Government of the United States would of course give the request every consideration, although I had no idea whether it would be granted or not. In this connection La Noticia, usually anti-American in its attitude, published recently, without comment a report that the Government of the United States intended to suggest to Nicaragua that fifteen American reserve officers be chosen to occupy the higher posts in the Guardia Nacional after the departure of the Marines.

Naturally, in my conversations with leaders of both parties, I have not failed to point out certain common misunderstandings and misinterpretations concerning the departure of the Marines. In reply to the common chargé that the evacuation of Nicaragua will be abrupt, I have pointed out that it could not be so considered since the plan being followed was agreed to between the two Governments concerned in February, 1931, and made public at that time.

I have endeavored to calm the fears shared by all who have consulted me and have particularly pointed out the extent to which the approaching departure of the Marines may be of actual assistance at the present time when the two major political parties are reaching an agreement to cooperate in the maintenance of peace in Nicaragua following the evacuation, and are formulating plans for a united front against banditry. I have pointed out that the possibility of conciliating Sandino will be greater if no marines remain in Nicaragua and that even if conciliation proved to be impossible, a united Nicaragua, having deprived Sandino of his principal excuse for continued belligerency, that is, the presence of American Marines on foreign soil, might be in a better position to eliminate banditry than the present Government assisted by the Marines.

Respectfully yours,

Matthew E. Hanna