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

Participants: Sr. Francisco de P. Gutiérrez, Ambassador of Costa Rica
Mr. Robert A. Lovett, Acting Secretary
Mr. Robert Newbegin, CPA

Ambassador Gutiérrez opened the conversation by stating that he had received a letter from President Picado in which the latter had revealed himself as “broken hearted”. He had always been a strong friend of the United States. Costa Rica had declared war immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Picado represented the best democratic tradition and now he found himself through the action of the U.S. unable to obtain arms for his Government. The Ambassador gave a brief review of developments leading up to the present conflict in Costa Rica, and said that our action in discouraging intervention in Costa Rica had resulted in the inability of the Government to obtain arms while at the same time it was not effective in preventing the Opposition from receiving them from Guatemala. He predicted that the present situation would develop into a Central American conflict.

The Ambassador was informed that the action taken by this Government was designed to prevent Costa Rica from becoming a battle ground. It was pointed out that he had been kept informed of our action which briefly consisted in expressing our concern to Somoza over his proposal to send a thousand troops to Costa Rica, and expressing our concern to Guatemala over reports of Guatemalan military assistance to the Opposition. We had then informed the other American republics of our action urging general nonintervention.

The Ambassador referred specifically to a shipment of arms which was assembled for the Costa Rican Government in Mexico and was about to leave when the shipment was cancelled by the Mexican authorities. He said that he now had word (although not directly from his Government) that Guatemala was responsible for the arrival of a vessel at Puerto Limon transporting 400 fully equipped men.

The Ambassador declared that he had been in touch with the Costa Rican Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fournier in New York and that the latter was preparing a protest to the Security Council [Page 509] charging Guatemala with intervention. He said that he anticipated that the protest would be filed this afternoon, but that he expected to speak with Founder by telephone about 2:00. He asserted that he and Fournier had decided on this procedure in as much as a number of the members of the Governing Board of the Pan American Union were in Bogotá.

Mr. Lovett suggested that the United Nations machinery was cumbersome and that immediate action on the part of the Council could probably not be expected. The Ambassador replied that he saw no other course to follow. It was his understanding that the Figueres forces were within a few miles of San José last night and were probably within the city limits by this time. He was particularly anxious to avoid the destruction of San José. The Ambassador said that while he did not wish to be critical of our policy he felt that the United States might have taken a much stronger stand and have told both the Government and the Opposition that it wished to see bloodshed avoided. He was informed that Ambassador Davis had done just this, and that this Government, of course, was anxious to do everything proper to avoid the continuation of the conflict and of further bloodshed.

The Ambassador was then told that word had been received by the Department from the Embassy in San José that the Costa Rican Government had appealed to the Diplomatic Corps to protect San José from destruction and to endeavor to arrange an agreement with Figueres. The latter had designated a number of its members, including Ambassador Davis, to do whatever was possible. The Ambassador was asked whether he and Fournier knew of this development at the time of drawing up the proposed protest. The Ambassador replied that he did not, since telephonic communication with his Government had been impossible yesterday and today. He said he would discuss the matter further with Fournier.

R[obert] N[ewbegin]