815.00/2–146: Airgram

The Ambassador in Honduras (Erwin) to the Secretary of State


A–23. General Tiburcio Carías Andino today completed 13 years of continuous service as President of Honduras. This is without precedent in Honduran history: with the exception of General Luis Bográn (1883–1891) no other Honduran President held power continuously for as long as 8 years, and the average tenure was scarcely 2 years. In the 112 years from the Declaration of Independence in 1821 to the accession of Carias in 1933, some 12 Presidents were overthrown by violence, several others were forced to resign under pressure, and one was murdered; various others were faced with rebellion (which is to say unsuccessful revolution) during their terms of office.

President Carías soon put an end to this chaos, although he never applied the death penalty to a political opponent. He has now been without effective internal opposition for several years and, aside from the possibility of death from assassination or natural causes, has a reasonably good chance of completing his tenure on December 31, 1948.

Honduras is one of the few countries on earth in a better position today than in 1933. President Carías has halved the national debt, stabilized the exchange value of the currency, and put the country on what is virtually a pay-as-you-go basis; even schoolteachers are paid promptly, and in cash rather than by means of the Government Warrants (I.O.U.’s) so often used during previous administrations. All this has been accomplished through the exercise of the old-fashioned orthodox virtues of hard work and frugality, without recourse to screwball economics. There is no income tax, nor are there any excessive taxes of any kind; only 22 percent of the national revenue is derived from import duties.

There is no unrest among the laboring classes. Monetary and real wages seem to be somewhat higher than in neighboring countries, and there is no unemployment. The well-to-do classes must have confidence [Page 956] in President Carías and in his ability to install an eventual successor without major disorders, since Tegucigalpa is enjoying an unprecedented building boom. There is scarcely a block in the city where new houses are not being constructed or old ones remodeled; adobe is being replaced by reinforced concrete and stucco. The central part of Tegucigalpa now has an adequate system of underground sewers and is well-paved (for the first time since its foundation in 1578), and such improvements are being continued towards the outskirts.

In the international field, President Carías has attended strictly to his own business; he has crossed no frontiers, rattled no sabers, nor interfered in any way in the affairs of his neighbors. His attitude toward the United States has been fully cooperative at all times, and he broke relations with Germany by expelling its Chargé d’Affaires (Zinsser) several months before the attack on Pearl Harbor! Several years previously he had been wise enough to refuse permission for the establishment of a Japanese colony of alleged cotton growers in an area along the Gulf of Fonseca!