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

No. 224

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the Department’s instructions No. 69 of April 30, 1934 (no file number) and No. 71 of May 4, 193469 (no file number) relative to licenses to export arms, respectively, for the Government of Nicaragua and for the Guardia Nacional de Nicaragua. In this connection I refer to my telegram No. 123 of today70 suggesting that the Department withhold the issuance of further licenses for the exportation of arms and ammunition to Nicaragua pending the receipt of the instant despatch.

Yesterday prior to my informing the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as has been the practice of the Legation prior to and subsequent to my arrival here, of the granting of the licenses in question, I requested the President for information regarding the shipments. Doctor Sacasa said that the shipment of 100,000 38 Automatic Colt Cartridges from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company (Department’s instruction No. 69 of April 30) had been ordered by the Nicaraguan Government (as contrasted to the Guardia) for the defense of the Presidential Loma. As to the shipment to which reference is made in the Department’s instruction No. 71 of May 4 the President said that this had been ordered without his knowledge or consent but that it had come to his attention when the Nicaraguan Consul General in New York refused to issue the necessary papers (I gather he referred to consular invoice) for importation into Nicaragua without the consent of the Government of Nicaragua, whereupon the matter was referred to the President (Doctor Sacasa said that much of this shipment is for sale to private parties and that he does not object to the importation but to the fact that the Guardia ordered the shipment without consulting him, the Commanding General).

It seems to me that there are two serious practical objections to our issuing licenses to export arms to Nicaragua, quite apart from the inadvisability, as I see it, of our inviting the accusation that we are responsible, even in an indirect manner, for internal developments here: [Page 560]

As I have in the past pointed out to the Department, the heaviest drain on the Government budget is the Guardia, which in the last month according to what the newly appointed Minister of Hacienda told me on May 17, spent C$30,000.00 over its budgeted allotment of C$65,000.00. It appears to me that by our granting export licenses we become parties, even though perhaps indirectly, to excessive expenditures of public funds for useless and potentially pernicious purposes.
The anomalous situation between the Government proper and the Guardia still exists.71 Presumably, the 100,000 machine gun cartridges ordered by the Government are for possible use against the Guardia. (Military defense construction still continues on the Loma, and specifically a concrete machine-gun post placed in a position, so our Military Attaché informed me when he was here on a recent visit, to repel attacks from the Campo de Marte, the headquarters of the Guardia.) While it may be true that much of the shipment ordered by the Guardia is for sale to private individuals, I consider this unlikely. It seems, more logical that it is intended for offensive or defensive purposes, and now that Sandino has been eliminated it is difficult to understand against whom, outside of the Government, such large quantities of ammunition would be required. I fear that if we continue to issue such licenses, we are liable to lay ourselves open to the charge of arming the two camps against one another.

To refuse to allow any shipments of arms or ammunition to Nicaragua would presumably not prevent arms from reaching this country but would merely serve to divert Nicaraguan orders to European manufacturers. (This was the result of our action in 1927 when we refused to allow the exportation of any war material from the United States to Mexico, under the terms of the arms embargo which was then in force with respect to Mexico.)72

Would it not be preferable, if such a course be consistent with our Government’s general policy, to lift the embargo entirely insofar as the shipment of arms and ammunition to Nicaragua is concerned? I respectfully submit the foregoing recommendation for the Department’s serious consideration and for such instructions as it may desire to give me in the premises.

Respectfully yours,

Arthur Bliss Lane
  1. Neither printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See pp. 526 ff.
  4. See Foreign Relations, 1927, vol. iii, pp. 233 ff.