The Ambassador in Costa Rica (Donnelly) to the Secretary of State

No. 269

Sir: I have the honor to report below my appraisal of the current political situation in Costa Rica.

Political Parties

The political parties in Costa Rica are presently engaged in a bitter and sometimes violent campaign in preparation for the Presidential and Congressional elections to be held in February, 1948. The successful candidate will take office in May, 1948.

The principal political parties involved in the campaign are the Partido Republicano Nacional which is supported by the present Government and whose candidate is Dr. Rafael Angel Calderon Guardia, President of Costa Rica from 1940–1944. The second party, the Partido Union Nacional, is commonly referred to as the opposition party with Otilio Ulate as the Presidential candidate. Ulate is the editor-owner of the Diario de Costa Rica, a daily newspaper in San José. The Vanguardia Popular, the third political party, has not designated a Presidential candidate and for the time being appears to be interested only in the elections for the Assembly. Vanguardia follows the Communist line and its leaders are confirmed Communists. The present policy of the party is to support the candidacy of Calderon Guardia for President.

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… It is logical to assume that in supporting Calderon Guardia for President they will expect him to reward them with key positions in the Government, the Social Security Department, and to endorse their legislative agenda.

The Vanguardia party has as its Secretary-General Dr. Manuel [Page 590] Mora who is regarded as the most intelligent of the upper echelon of the Costa Rican Communist Party. He is a member of Congress and is very popular among the laboring classes. He is a protégé of Carmen Lyra, Costa Rica’s ace Communist instructor and an ardent believer in the Lenin brand of Communism. While the party is not conducting an open campaign against the United States, it is not friendly to the United States.…

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As regards the United States, it would be a mistake to proceed on any other premise than that Mora is anti-United States, anti-United States foreign policy and anti-United States business interests. He is against private enterprise and sincerely believes that labor can progress only under State owned and managed enterprises. Mora, not a militant Communist, is intelligent, honest, with a carefully balanced program. The question is frequently asked “With whom would Mora side in case of armed hostilities between the United States and Russia?” The consensus of opinion here is that Mora would accept the judgment of the Government and the people, but that he would not actively support the Government in case it should ally itself with the United States. As to the other question “What would be the policy of the Government and the people in case of an armed conflict between the United States and Russia”, there can be no doubt that they would side with the United States the same as they did in World War I and World War II. Costa Rica is proud of the fact that she was the first nation in this hemisphere to declare war on the Axis.

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Present indications are that Rafael Calderon Guardia, with the support of the Vanguardia party and the Communist leaders, will be elected President in February, 1948. While he has openly solicited their backing, he tries to allay the fears of anti-Communists by saying that he is doing so for political expediency and that he “never has been, is not, and never will be a Communist”. The fact is, however, that he is aligned with them and in doing so has contributed to their standing and influence in Costa Rica.

Ulate is making a strong and determined fight, marked by occasional acts of violence, but barring unforeseen developments, the importance and seriousness of which should not be discounted, he will lose the election, but the party will probably win several seats in the Assembly. Reports are current that the opposition will not permit elections to be held; that they will attempt to overthrow the Government and take possession by forceful means, etc. The situation is undeniably [Page 591] tense and anything can happen. The opposition is presently encouraged by the new Russian policy which they feel will bring about a wave of anti-Communism in Costa Rica to the detriment of Calderon Guardia.

Relations With United States

Regardless of who is elected President of Costa Rica for the term 1948–1952, the position of the United States here will in all probability continue favorable. This is a truly democratic country. The people are free and want to continue free. All of the freedoms exist here and though the country is passing through what is said to be the most bitterly contested election in its history, there are no political prisoners, no political exiles, and Costa Ricans may return to their country, regardless of their political convictions. Few countries in the world enjoy the same degree of economic, social, religious, press and political freedoms as does Costa Rica, The people are proud of their heritage and are determined to preserve it.

President Teodoro Picado, whose term of office expires in May, 1948, has been a reasonably successful President. He too is a confirmed believer in democracy. He has tried to serve the people in strict accordance with their democratic ideals and practices. He has always been friendly to the United States and is a staunch supporter of the inter-American way of life.

Respectfully yours,

Walter J. Donnelly