The Ambassador in Venezuela (Corrigan) to the Secretary of State

No. 6226

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of a copy of a report dated July 3, 194413 of conversations which Mr. Philip W. Bonsal, [Page 218] Deputy Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs, and Mr. John M. Cabot, Acting Chief of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs, had with Dr. Silverio Laínez, Honduran Minister of Foreign Relations, at Rochester, Minnesota, June 26–28, 1944.

On the third page of this report the “three most interesting points” made by Dr. Laínez are summarized in numbered paragraphs. I quote paragraph 3: “He indicated that the Honduran Government had withdrawn from the mediation because it had gained the impression that Dr. Corrigan’s activities14 tended to undermine the King’s Award. Mr. Bonsal pointed out that Dr. Corrigan no longer had anything to do with the mediation”.

It is most surprising to me that Mr. Bonsal did not at once take steps to clarify the position of our Government and to correct the erroneous impressions in the mind of Dr. Laínez: (a) that the Honduran Government has withdrawn from the mediation because, (b) it had gained the impression that Dr. Corrigan’s activities tended to undermine the King’s Award.

The position of the United States Government, as well as of the Governments of Venezuela and Costa Rica, adopted in harmony and after consultation with them, is set forth in a note from the Secretary of State to the Honduran Minister of Foreign Relations under date of February 24, 1943.15 The three Governments agreed that they could not accept the unilateral action of Honduras in summarily terminating the mediation and in carefully worded notes severally conveyed this decision to the Honduran Government. Beginning with the last paragraph on page 4, the United States note says:

Notwithstanding the decision of the Government of Honduras reiterated in Your Excellency’s note, the mediating Governments have not adopted immediately the official attitude that their mission is ended, and have not communicated with the Government of Nicaragua, being motivated in this by their keen desire to find an appropriate formula to forestall the feeling of uneasiness which that unilateral decision would inevitably cause in all the nations of the American continent and the repercussions that might result in the Republic of Nicaragua.

Regarding (b) supra, the note refutes the attitude of suspicion taken by the Honduran Government. Beginning with the last paragraph on page 2, it states:

The preoccupation is emphasized in Your Excellency’s note that the Mediation Commission has diverged, in its delicate functions, from the juridical position assumed by the Honduran Government with respect [Page 219] to the Award of the King of Spain. To clarify this point, it must be explained that in the instructions of the mediating Governments and the minutes and documents of the Mediation Commission, no basis appears to exist for this preoccupation, in as much as the juridical position assumed by the Government of Honduras with regard to the Award of the King of Spain has always been taken into consideration in connection with possible measures of conciliation which might be suggested. Any proposal of conciliation would have to be previously discussed with the delegates of Honduras and Nicaragua named for the purpose of arriving at a formula acceptable to both Governments, as provided in the last part of the Agreement of Mediation,16 and in conformity with the procedure of individual consultations with each of them, which was established as the norm by the Mediation Commission when it so happily arrived at the Pact of Mutual Offers of December 10, 1937.17 The Mediating Governments and their representatives on the Commission would under no circumstances adopt a procedure distinct from the above.

(Enclosure to Instruction No. 1757, March 8, 1943.18)

Instead of making these points clear to Dr. Laínez, Mr. Bonsal’s remark “that Dr. Corrigan no longer had anything to do with the mediation” seems tacitly to accept the correctness of the Honduran charge as interpreted by Dr. Laínez. It is hardly necessary for me to say to the Department that there could be no valid reason for the Honduran Government arriving at such an impression. All actions and proceedings that were taken by the Mediation Commission during the time that I was a member of it were carried out in complete unanimity by the three members of the Commission—Dr. José Santiago Rodriguez, Venezuelan representative; Dr. Tobias Zúniga Montúfar, the Costa Rican representative; and myself, representing the United States Government. No member of the Commission to my knowledge ever took any personal or individual initiative.

It is to be supposed that the activities of Mr. Bonsal reported in this communication and in an earlier one reporting conversations with officials of the Nicaraguan Government, transmitted by despatch from the American Embassy at Managua,19 were carried out under instructions from the Department, and it is, therefore, not my purpose to comment on the wisdom of such action. I feel, however, that my familiarity with the problem places on me the responsibility of calling the Department’s attention to possible complications that might result from action independent of the Mediation Commission on the part of officials of the Department of State unless the other mediating governments [Page 220] had been apprised of the proposed step and were in full accord. The responsibility for negotiation of this delicate and difficult problem was placed in the hands of a Mediation Commission composed of plenipotentiaries of three sovereign states, to wit: Venezuela, Costa Rica and the United States. This Commission is still in being with its seat in San José, Costa Rica, where the Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Tobías Zúniga Montúfar, resides and where it still has funds made available by the three member governments and extensive archives bearing on the problem which contain, along with a voluminous correspondence between the five governments involved, alternative proposals for the settlement of the question which have never been formally proposed to the contending governments. It is my opinion that a settlement of this difficult question is more likely to be achieved by working through the Mediation Commission which, having representatives from North, Central and South America, bears the moral authority of the entire American continent. The latest recommendation made by the Commission was that a meeting of the Commission members without the presence of the delegates from the disputant countries be held at a point outside Central America (preferably at Caracas) for the purpose of determining the next step in the mediation. If the time seems appropriate this recommendation might now be followed.

The present American member of the Mediation Commission is Mr. Edwin H. [C.] Wilson who is now in the Department.20 However, it would appear that the Venezuelan Government has never been officially informed of any change in the personnel of the Commission for even this year the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Dr. Parra-Pérez, has indicated to me that as far as Venezuela is concerned the American representation still falls on me.

Respectfully yours,

Frank P. Corrigan
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ambassador Frank P. Corrigan was designated in 1937 by President Roosevelt as his Special Representative on the Mediation Commission.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. v. p. 349.
  4. Reference is to the Department’s offer of Good Offices, October 21, 1937, and the assenting replies of Honduras and Nicaragua, October 22. For the exchange of notes, see Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. v, pp. 9296.
  5. Signed at San José; for text, see ibid., p. 112.
  6. Instruction 1757 to Caracas, not printed.
  7. This is possibly a reference to Mr. Bonsal’s conversation with President Somoza; see supra.
  8. Director, Office of Special Political Affairs.