Policy Statement Prepared in the Department of State
The major objectives of US policy in Honduras are: 1) to assist and encourage the evolution of representative, democratic institutions; 2) to seek Honduran understanding and support of our foreign economic and political policies; 3) to advance the security of the United States and the hemisphere;1 4) to support the adoption by Honduras of sound economic policies and institutions; and 5) to foster and protect legitimate US commercial and investment interests in Honduras.[Page 1466]
Despite geographic proximity to and economic dependence on the United States, Hondurans do not look to this country for guidance and assistance, especially on purely domestic procedural matters of government, to the same extent as do some of our other Latin American neighbors. We have made it our policy to encourage this spirit of self-reliance and to make clear that it is appreciated by us.
The United States has been gratified to note the earnest and effective steps taken by the administration of Señor Juan Manuel Galvez, who became President of Honduras on January 1, 1949, to increase the degree of personal liberty beyond that enjoyed by the Honduran people during the previous 17 years. The United States engages in positive cooperation in the economic, technical, educational and cultural fields in order to encourage and support this trend toward the evolution of democratic ideas and processes, to provide a firmer foundation upon which it may grow, and to point out a way by which the Honduran people may help themselves.
The newly-enjoyed freedoms of speech, of assembly and of the press have, however, opened the doors to nationalistic fervor which often approaches anti-Americanism. To a large extent, this development may be viewed as the growing pains of democracy which in time can be overcome by truly effective collaboration and by democratic progress itself. To overcome this nascent nationalism, as well as to advance the security of the United States and the hemisphere, it is important that the Honduran people understand what our political and economic foreign policy objectives are and that they realize that Honduran interests as well as our own are served by cooperation. Our policy is to facilitate this popular understanding and support of mutually advantageous foreign policy objectives, through a program of information and education.
President Galvez is a consistent supporter of US foreign policy, as was his predecessor General Tiburcio Carias Andino. We are endeavoring to encourage the continuation of this attitude by recognizing and supporting, where feasible, legitimate Honduran interests and aspirations and by consulting with the Government of Honduras regarding our foreign policy objectives.
While encouraging the Honduran spirit of self-reliance, we stand ready at their request to assist in the solution of broad social, economic and political problems that are of concern to the Government and people of Honduras. As in the case of other small Central American governments with low incomes, the cost of maintaining their military establishment might result in the diversion of funds from more productive economic and social projects. It would be impossible for Honduras, [Page 1467]in any event, to assure its own security with any conceivable level of expenditures on a military establishment. Accordingly, our policy is to discourage the purchase by Honduras of excessive quantities of armaments and to encourage its reliance upon collective security arrangements, particularly inter-American commitments and the procedures of the Organization of American States for keeping the peace. A US air mission and army mission are, however, operating in Honduras with a view to assisting in the development of an efficient air force, an engineer battalion, and a presidential guard as aids in providing for the minimum defense requirements of Honduras and assisting it to perform its appropriate role in hemispheric defense.
It is our policy neither to encourage nor impede efforts to arrive at a satisfactory formula for Central American economic or political union, but to recognize that it can come about only upon the initiative and by the agreement of the interested states. Such a union might, of course, contribute to Central American economic and political stability.
As is the case with other relatively underdeveloped countries, economic problems are of major concern in Honduras. The Honduran economy is predominantly agricultural, and its chief exports in 1949 were bananas (38%), lumber (14%), gold and silver (12%), and coffee (6%). Approximately 73% of all exports are sold in the United States. Since increased income from agriculture offers the best hope of an immediate improvement of the low living standards of the people, it is our policy to give special encouragement to the further development and diversification of agriculture. To this end, negotiations will shortly be undertaken to conclude an agreement with the Honduran Government for cooperative agricultural work with the aim of substantially increasing agricultural production, establishing modern grain storage facilities and initiating soil conservation work.
The lack of adequate transportation facilities is one of the major impediments to Honduran economic growth, and it is our policy to aid in the development of such facilities by continuing to participate in the construction of the Inter-American Highway and by providing technical assistance on other road building projects. The Government of Honduras has, by legislation, entered into a long-term road building program on which it has requested our technical assistance, and it is anticipated that highway engineers will soon be made available to Honduras for this work.
A difficult problem in our present relations with Honduras involves the application of our Mediterranean fruit fly quarantine. American-owned fruit companies and one Honduran company, all operating in Honduras, wish to export citrus fruit to the United States during the months of July to November. US Department of Agriculture technicians [Page 1468]admit that the Mediterranean fruit fly is not known to exist in Honduras, but no relaxation of the quarantine regulations has been granted due to the opposition of fruit growers in the United States. Current regulations require a 16-day cooling period before entry into this country. Honduras has requested that this period be shortened to the 7-day sailing time from Honduras to New York and is becoming more insistent that action be taken on the problem. It is our policy to uphold the regulations as now constituted, but to request the US Department of Agriculture to consider their relaxation to a point where the citrus trade may be expanded successfully, providing a further survey should support the alleged freedom of the area from the fruit fly.
US companies, particularly the United Fruit Company, have provided a large part of the capital and technical personnel which have been utilized in the economic development of Honduras. US relations with Honduras must take into account the activities of such companies and the attitude of the Government and people of Honduras toward them. It is our policy, while scrupulously avoiding the taint of interventionism, to foster cordial relations and mutual understanding and respect between Honduras and these companies to the end that the legitimate interests of the companies may be protected.
c. relations with other countries
At the outset of the Galvez Administration the previous strained relations between Honduras and Guatemala were temporarily improved. However, relations between the two countries have been deteriorating for the past year, as a result of Honduran preoccupation with the leftist government of Guatemala, of Guatemala’s propaganda campaign against Honduras and its tacit support of border forays by Honduran emigres, as well as Guatemalan aid in the establishment of leftist labor unions in Honduras. The resulting mistrust has impaired the former profitable, commercial intercourse between the two Republics.
Honduras, a consistent Central American supporter of the non-intervention commitments of the Organization of American States, has cordial relations with all of its other neighbors and enjoys exceptionally close economic ties with El Salvador as a consequence of a “Free Trade Area” Agreement now in its thirty-second year of existence. Very few, if any, individual Hondurans have ever been involved in Caribbean revolutionary groups and the Honduran Government has never been known to give its support, actual or tacit, to such groups.
Honduras has never recognized the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.[Page 1469]
d. policy evaluation
As indicated, the growth of democratic institutions and procedures in Honduras under the Galvez administration has been gratifying. Furthermore, our objective of obtaining the support of the Galvez Government for our foreign economic and political policies has been achieved. Few Latin American states are more consistently cooperative, particularly in respect to issues in the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and other international organizations. Only limited progress has been made toward creating among the people of Honduras a genuine understanding and support of our objectives with respect to Honduras, which is due in large measure to the lack of education, technical skills, and adequate capital, to low health and living standards, and to the venality and inefficiency of Honduran office holders. We should anticipate slow but steady progress in obtaining popular understanding and support of our policies.
Honduran cooperation with the United States in the economic field has likewise been close. American investments in and trade with Honduras have been adequately safeguarded. The United Fruit Company and the Government of Honduras have signed a revised tax contract to the benefit of Honduras which has been approved by the Congress of Honduras, and relations between the Company and the Government appear to be satisfactory. The country would welcome additional foreign investments.