The Assistant Secretary of State ( Welles ) to President Roosevelt 4

My Dear Mr. President: I am submitting for your consideration, with the approval of the Secretary of State, who has been consulted by cable, a suggested procedure for arriving at the recognition of the present government of El Salvador by the United States.

The Central American countries, meeting in Washington, in 1923, at the invitation of the Government of the United States, signed a Treaty of Peace and Amity, intended principally to discourage revolution, in which, among other things, they agreed not to recognize as president, in the case of a Central American Government coming into power through a revolution or coup d’état, anyone who had been a leader of the revolution or coup d’état or who had held a cabinet office in the six months preceding the revolution or coup d’état.

In December, 1931, a military revolt in El Salvador resulted in the elevation to the presidency of General Maximiliano Hernández Martínez. Since General Martínez had been Minister of War until within two or three days prior to the revolution, the other Central American Republics declined to recognize him as President. In accordance with a policy, already announced and well established, of supporting the Treaty, the United States also declined to recognize General Martínez.

Subsequently, however, both El Salvador and Costa Rica denounced the Treaty in accordance with provisions contained therein, to take effect as of January 1, 1934, and on that date Costa Rica extended recognition to the government of General Martínez. His government is still unrecognized by Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and by the United States.

In view of the denunciation of the Treaty by El Salvador and Costa Rica, it is suggested that the three remaining Central American [Page 219] countries, to which the Treaty still applies, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, might agree among themselves to regard the Treaty as being in force with respect to the relations maintained by said three States with each other, but not in force with respect to the relations of those States with Costa Rica and El Salvador. Since the Treaty is the only obstacle to recognition of El Salvador, the agreement not to apply its terms to countries that have denounced it would be followed by the recognition of the present government of El Salvador by the three Central American countries mentioned, and by the United States.

The agreement would also contemplate the calling, at some future date, of another conference of the Central American States to consider a revision of the General Treaty of Peace and Amity and such action relating to the other treaties signed in 1923 as might appear appropriate. It is believed that such a conference should be held in some other place than Washington; and that the United States should take no active or leading part in the proceedings, while holding itself ready to lend unofficial aid or counsel, in the role of an observer, if requested to do so by the Central American States.

It is the intention, if the present plan meets your approval, to instruct Minister Lane, in Nicaragua, to suggest it informally to President Sacasa with the suggestion that the latter, if the idea appeals to him, put it forward as his own initiative with the Presidents of Guatemala and Honduras.

It would be our purpose throughout the suggested negotiation to have the initiative taken by the Central American States and to have any suggestions emanating from this country regarded as strictly confidential.

Reports from El Salvador indicate that General Martínez has given his country a relatively efficient government and is strongly supported by public opinion. His government has been recognized by a majority of the principal nations of the world. There are indications that the three Central American Governments which have not recognized El Salvador would be glad to extend recognition if they could do so consistently with their treaty obligations. The procedure suggested herein, by leading to the recognition of El Salvador by the three Republics of Central America which have withheld recognition, and by the United States, would constitute another and important step in the establishment of normal, friendly relations among all the nations of America.

Faithfully yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. A photostatic copy of this letter, filed under 816.01/350, bears the notation, “OK FDR.”