Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Central America and Panama Affairs (Newbegin)

Participants: Señor Dr. Don Julián B. Cáceres, Honduran Ambassador
Mr. Briggs
Mr. Newbegin

The Honduran Ambassador called this afternoon in connection with his request of December 23 that Colonel Adams28 of the Military Mission be authorized to accompany Colonel Bertrand29 to the United States on what was presumed to be a military purchasing mission. Ambassador Cáceres stated that he had received telegrams from the Honduran President, Secretary of War and Foreign Minister urging prompt action in this regard. Mr. Briggs explained that we had only the most friendly feeling towards the Honduran people and towards the Ambassador himself with whom we had had such cordial relations over a period of many years. He said that he felt that the only proper approach to current problems was a frank, open and friendly discussion. Accordingly, he wished to point out that this Government had a more friendly feeling and a greater desire to cooperate with those Governments which were based on the periodically and freely expressed will of the people. He mentioned that there had been no such elections in Honduras since 1933 and that this fact influenced our approach to the question of military cooperation. Mr. Briggs asserted that we were unwilling to supply military equipment to Honduras for this reason, although we were most happy to cooperate in all other fields.

Ambassador Cáceres expressed his appreciation of Mr. Briggs’ frankness. He said that he had received some time ago from military sources an indication that the Department did not approve supplying military equipment to Honduras and assumed that its reasons therefor were (1) that there would be criticism in the press and from public opinion were arms and ammunition made available; (2) that the furnishing of military equipment might be used to retain President Carías in power.

The Ambassador then digressed into a long discussion of the Honduran political situation, stating that while there had been no election, [Page 967] nevertheless Carías was legally and constitutionally in power even though his retention of his position was reached through a loophole in the constitution which permitted the calling of a new constitutional assembly. He alleged that Carías had the support not only of his political party, but of the great mass of the people to whom tremendous benefits had accrued as a result of the peace obtaining during the Carías regime. He stated that a country could not be judged on legal grounds alone, but the state of its civic and material progress must be given full emphasis. In this connection he asserted that Honduras was definitely behind the times. It did, however, have the advantage and tradition of two long-established political parties. The difference between the two parties was insignificant and no general advantage was obtained by the people from a change in party control. Such benefits as the people obtained depended essentially upon the character of the President rather than the party he represented.

He suggested that it was not sound to criticize or judge an undeveloped country like Honduras by the standards which apply to the United States. Mr. Briggs replied that he wanted to make it particularly clear that we were not criticizing or judging Honduras and the Honduran Government which was a matter entirely within the province of Honduras. He was merely explaining why we were unable to cooperate in a military sense.

With specific reference to the proposed plan for the reorganization of the Honduran armed forces as drawn up by the Military Mission and the Honduran authorities,30 the Ambassador pointed out that many of the items were not strictly speaking military, and that it might be desirable for Colonel Adams to come to the United States and review the current Honduran situation with the Department. It was pointed out that should Colonel Adams accompany Colonel Bertrand the trip might be subject to misinterpretation and convey the impression that the United States was in fact willing to give military support to Honduras. It was agreed that the Ambassador would communicate with his Government and the Department with the Embassy at Tegucigalpa in an effort to obtain clarification and fuller details with regard to the objectives of the trip and that the matter would be discussed again when such information was forthcoming.

The Ambassador pointed that his government was particularly anxious to obtain replacement parts for equipment which it already possessed. Mr. Briggs stated that the Department would give consideration to this request.

  1. Lt. Col. James Y. Adams, Chief of the United States Military Mission.
  2. Col. Francisco Bertrand, Honduran Army.
  3. See memorandum of September 4, p. 964.