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


In the course of a conversation this afternoon, Ambassador Esquivel1 referred to the need for closer cooperation between the Central American republics. He apparently had in mind particularly the desirability of the Central American nations being able to speak as one [Page 168]unit in foreign affairs. In this connection, he said that the greatest handicap was the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua.2 While he also referred to Carías,3 he apparently was primarily concerned with Somoza. He said that he had in mind that Central America should act as a unit in matters of defense, and that it should make whatever defense bases might be necessary available to the United States. He indicated that Panama ought to be brought into the picture on the same grounds as any of the other Central American republics.

The Ambassador was informed that the United States policy toward a Central American Union was neither to favor or discourage such an organization, and that we considered this matter entirely for decision by the countries concerned. To this the Ambassador replied that he did not have in mind a Central American union, but rather some sort of federation. The Ambassador said that before such a federation could be evolved it was necessary to eliminate Somoza. I pointed out to the Ambassador our concern over the revolutionary activities of various groups in Central America, but restricted my comment to those groups who were working in exile to overthrow the governments of neighboring countries, and the failure of certain of the Central American countries to take effective means to prevent their territory from being used for such purposes. I referred to the Habana Convention4 and various other international agreements to which we were parties, and expressed the hope that the Costa Rican Government would not intervene in the affairs of its neighbors. The Ambassador said that Costa Rica had no intention of intervening in Nicaragua. All it was doing was permitting Nicaraguans in Costa Rica to do what they wished. … I told him that in my opinion there was a definite obligation on the part of all of us to discourage the activities of any groups within our countries which were plotting the overthrow of neighboring governments. I said that such action was necessary if we were to maintain peace in Central America and in the hemisphere. In this connection, I referred to the action taken by our Government during the period of the recent Costa Rican civil war.5 The Ambassador stated that he was in accord, but pointed out that there was a very great difference between the invasion of Costa Rica by Nicaraguans, and a similar invasion of Nicaragua by its own citizens from abroad. I agreed that there was a definite distinction, but at the same time pointed out that we all had binding obligations nonetheless.

  1. Mario A. Esquivel, Costa Rican Ambassador.
  2. Anastasio Somoza, President of Nicaragua. For documentation on the political situation in Nicaragua, see pp. 99 ff.
  3. Tiburcio Carías Andino, President of Honduras.
  4. Convention between the United States and other American Republics on duties and rights of states in the event of civil strife, signed at Habana, February 20, 1928 (Treaty Series 814, or 46 Stat. 2749).
  5. For documentation on this subject, see pp. 488 ff.