The President of Nicaragua ( Somoza ) to President Roosevelt 4

My Very Dear President Roosevelt: When in the month of May 1939, I had the honor to know you personally,5 and to place before you the vital problems of my country which could be solved by cooperation of the United States of America, I referred especially to the imperious need of connecting the densely populated districts on the Pacific Coast with the extensive and rich zone on the Atlantic Coast, as the only medium to effectively nationalize and incorporate politically and judicially, that section of the nation which in reality, continues to be a social group with different language, religion and customs, from the rest of the country.

Because of this grave problem of lack of national unity there have originated separatistic movements on the Atlantic Coast, formerly occupied by England, and which has frequently been the focal center of revolutionary movements; the Government of Nicaragua tried with more or less success to inculcate an effective cultural and spiritual incorporation of this extensive and important territory, always meeting insuperable obstacles on account of the lack of permanent means of communication. For this same reason, the national progress of the country suffered great losses, as the rich forestal, mining and agricultural resources of that privileged part of our country, lacked commercial connection with the maritime traffic on the Atlantic Coast, so necessary to develop a safe and stable basis for commercial relations with the United States of America. For this same reason I stated to you in my letter of May 22nd, 1939,6 that my Government considered it of capital importance, for the development of the production and the commerce of our country, to unite that productive region on the Atlantic Coast, with the zones densely populated on the Pacific Coast, by a more direct road of commercial communication between Nicaragua and the United States of America.

Facing such a grave situation and trusting in your good will and high spirit of justice which animates you, I permitted myself, at that time, to suggest the canalization of the San Juan River,7 with economic and technical aid from the United States, crediting the respective expense to the indemnization which Nicaragua should receive [Page 569] for the option stipulated in the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty,8 in recompense for the negative effects produced by the aforementioned treaty. My hopes were not in vain, as you Sir, gave all attention and acceptance to my suggestions, and gave impetus to this by sending American Army Engineers to make the necessary preliminary studies, before starting the actual work.

Unfortunately, the progress of the realization of the task of the canalization of the San Juan River, and your loyal and noble intention to finish this work, encountered obstacles by the present war, which has been provoked by ambition, hatred and the spirit of destruction of moral and material values, which Mankind conquered only after centuries of long patient labor. A war which treacherously hurt the noble American people, which [with] whom my people and I are solidly united by the ideal of democracy, which you with great courage and frankness sustain in this world, hoping for the redemption of oppressed nations and justice for the future of Humanity.

In this condition, Nicaragua, deprived of the fluvial route to the Atlantic Coast, and confronted by the acute problem of the isolation of that region, I consider the only solution to be the obtaining, of any rapid or permanent means of communication, which connects the Atlantic with the Pacific Coast.

With this object in view, my Government proposes the construction in the shortest possible time, of a first class highway, starting from San Benito on the Pan American Highway and terminating at El Bluff, port on the Atlantic Coast, conditioned to receive vessels of deep draught. On this highway intense work is already going on and large sums of money have been spent in the preparation of bridges and opening of the jungle. This highway, aside from being of great economic, political and social value, is also of great strategic importance for the Continental defense, Nicaragua, and also for the defense of the Panama Canal. With this work Nicaragua will contribute a valuable cooperation and assistance to the common task to end that drama which the world faces in these trying days.

But Sir, as my country lacks the sufficient resources to finish the work on this highway, and always trusting in the high spirit of justice and the good will which you have demonstrated in respect to Nicaragua and the Government over which I preside, I permit myself to propose a collaboration on the part of the United States of America, to supply the funds or resources so necessary for the construction of the aforementioned highway to the Atlantic, in substitution of the projected work of the canalization of the San Juan River. These funds or resources, will be credited to Nicaragua by the United States of America, following the same procedure as that of the projected [Page 570] work of canalization stipulated by the Bryan–Chamorro Canal Convention.

It is understood, that in respect to this highway of twofold importance, commercial and strategic, the Government of Nicaragua is willing to include in the agreement or agreements to be signed, all those stipulations that both countries consider convenient, in order to obtain from this highway, the benefits of military defense.

My Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mariano Argüello Vargas, who will present this letter, carries my personal representation and also that of my Government, to initiate and terminate, any agreement which tends to the realization of this important work which I have permitted myself to propose to you. Consequently, I request you to give credit to all proposals made by him with respect to this and other matters, in his special mission before your illustrious Government.

I take [etc.]

A. Somoza
  1. Both English and Spanish copies received from the Nicaraguan Government.
  2. For correspondence regarding President Somozas visit to the United States in 1939, see Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. v, pp. 720 ff., passim.
  3. Ibid., p. 725.
  4. For correspondence regarding proposed canalization of the San Juan River, see ibid., pp. 720 ff.
  5. Convention between the United States and Nicaragua signed August 5, 1914, Foreign Relations, 1916, p. 849.