Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Holland)



  • United States Policy Toward Central American Countries
  • Participants: The Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Thomas Whelan
  • Assistant Secretary Henry F. Holland

The Secretary told Ambassador Whelan more or less the following:

If there is a renewal of violence of any kind in Central America at this time, it will create very serious problems for the United States. During the Guatemalan crisis we insisted that the problem be handled within the OAS rather than the United Nations. We were opposed by Russia and by a strong group of our allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and Denmark. When Eden visited the United States, the Secretary met him at the airport and, coming in from the airport to the White House, told him that we were deeply concerned at the news that the United Kingdom would vote with others against the United States to name an investigating group to look into the Guatemalan crisis. He told Eden that the United States considered it imperative that he countermand instructions under which the United Kingdom Delegation was acting in the United Nations. In view of the Secretary’s very firm position, Eden told his Delegate to abstain. France followed suit and, as a result, the United Nations did not take jurisdiction of the problem, and it was handled within the OAS.

If a new crisis now arises in Central America, our own allies will agree with Russia that it was a mistake to let the last problem be handled in the OAS and they will side with Russia, thus damaging the prestige of the United States and weakening the OAS.

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In view of the foregoing problems, it is essential from the United States point of view that there be a period of peace and quiet in Central America. We do not insist on public displays of friendships or reconciliation, but we do feel that a return to normalcy is essential.

By following an inconsistent policy, President Somoza is forcing us into two courses of action:

We are finding it necessary to satisfy the urgent request of Costa Rica for arms with the result that a military force is being built up in the country adjoining him, a fact which can only prejudice Somoza’s interests.
We find ourselves taking measures to neutralize acts of President Somoza such as sending his troops to the border, sending planes over the border, all of which acts on our part would indicate unfriendliness to him and support for Figueres.1

Actually, we have no particular predilection for Figueres who has often followed trouble-making policies. On the other hand, we feel and traditionally have felt that President Somoza and the Government of Nicaragua are very close to us. It, therefore, causes us considerable concern to find ourselves in a position of opposition. Nevertheless, this is our policy and will continue to be our policy. The Secretary hopes that President Somoza would understand the reasons behind our policy and would work with us.

  1. For documentation on U.S. military planning in support of Costa Rica, see pp. 843 ff.