815.001 Carías Andino. Tiburcio/4–346

The Chargé in Honduras (Faust) to the Secretary of State

No. 2260

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram No. 39 of March 13, 1946, 3 p.m., concerning its attitude toward the Carías regime, I have the honor to submit the following considerations in the hope that it may be reconsidered.

The Carías dictatorship is of the well-known personal type, entirely uncomplicated by Fascist “idealogy” or Nazi metaphysics, and similar to numerous others which existed in Latin America long before Mussolini and Hitler were born. As Latin American dictatorships go, it is far better than most; a trifle less enlightened, perhaps, than some.

Since the Department cannot seriously believe that Carías has any totalitarian taint, its objection to him would appear to rest on two facts: (a) that he perpetuated himself in office by irregular means, and, (b) that he suppressed freedom of speech and other liberties by imprisoning his political opponents.

The changing of a Constitution to permit the reelection of a Chief of State is not uncommon in Latin American politics; according to the American newspapers, steps are now being taken along the same lines [Page 957] even in the State of Georgia, U. S. A. The fact that Carías remained in office without a general election, merely by having a Constituent Assembly extend his term, is somewhat more serious, but is likewise not without precedent. Since this first happened in March 1936, it seems a bit late to object now. He will relinquish office on December 31, 1948.

It is unfortunately true that under the Carías regime citizens can be, and too frequently have been, arrested without proper judicial warrant and imprisoned for months and even years without open trial. But the number of such victims has been greatly exaggerated and it seems doubtful if there ever were more than 600 “political” prisoners in jail at any given moment. (The total population of Honduras is approximately 1,250,000.) As has been reported in various despatches in the past few months, most of the so-called “political” prisoners have been released, and even the most rabid oppositionists have been unable to supply a list of more than 80 claimed to be still under detention. (Since the Embassy has no facilities for ascertaining if all the persons whose names were supplied actually are in jail—or even if all of them really exist—it is obvious that the situation has improved materially.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Honduran oppositionists now devote considerable lip service to “freedom”. But there was very little real freedom in Honduras between the Declaration of Independence in 1821 and the advent of Carías in 1933. Citizens were “free” to plant crops, raise cattle, or engage in business, but the fruits of their labors were frequently “requisitioned” by a guerilla chief in the name of some revolutionary movement or merely seized. Resistance often meant instant death. …

Honduras could scarcely be described as a “going concern” when Carías assumed office in 1933; the Treasury was empty, and political chaos had generally prevailed during the previous 112 years. His amazing accomplishments were outlined in the Embassy’s A–23 of February 1, 1946 and need not be recapitulated here. In brief, he ended chaos in Honduras and the Department is aware that the measures he now takes are less harsh than those employed some years ago.

Recorded history has few examples of democracy developing directly from chaos; the usual sequence has been chaos, strong-man dictatorship, and then a gradual softening towards democracy. Since President Carías is at least moving in the same direction, and as nothing better is in sight, I would be derelict in my duty if I did not suggest that the Department reconsider the view expressed in its telegram under reference. President Carías is a great and patriotic Honduran, [Page 958] entirely without ambitions beyond his own frontiers. He deserves more sympathy than has been given him up to now.

Respectfully yours,

John B. Faust