716.5 MSP/5–2454

The Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs ( Holland ) to the Ambassador in El Salvador ( McDermott )1


Dear Mr. Ambassador: Thank you very much for your report (your letter of May 242) on the Salvadoran reaction to the efforts we have made, to date, to comply with Salvador’s requests for military assistance.

I frankly find it difficult to understand why the Salvadorans believe we should have accorded more favorable treatment to their requests for arms assistance than to those of Honduras and Nicaragua. I am sure you have done your best to explain our position, which is that: (1) military equipment can be offered to Salvador for purchase on the same payment terms as equipment offered to Salvador’s friendly neighbors; (2) that it should be possible to deliver at least some of the purchased items expeditiously, particularly those which are available from U.S. military depots and do not require new procurement; and (3) that we are prepared to deliver military equipment expeditiously to Salvador under a bilateral military assistance agreement.

With regard to the equipment Salvador desires to purchase, we are unable to offer better payment terms than payment 60 days after delivery, because existing legislation prohibits us from going further than that.3 We were able to provide some equipment, without cost, to Nicaragua and Honduras, and to make prompt delivery, without cost, to those countries, solely because they have concluded bilateral military assistance agreements with the U.S.

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I am sorry to learn that the Salvadorans believe we were unresponsive to their request for military assistance last year. I am informed that both the Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force submitted to the Salvadoran representatives in Washington, last June, written offers which specified prices and dates of delivery for virtually every item requested by Salvador for purchase. The delivery times on the items ranged from ninety days to one year. If Salvador had chosen to buy the equipment offered, a considerable amount of it would have arrived in Salvador long before now. In view of the critical situation in Central America at the present time, I am sure that the Pentagon will be prepared to deliver purchased equipment much more expeditiously than would have been possible last year. The Pentagon has received the list of equipment desired by Salvador for purchase, and we expect to have in the hands of the Salvadorans by early this week an estimate of prices and delivery times on individual items requested.

We are sending early this week by air pouch the comments of the Departments of State and Defense on the draft military assistance agreement submitted by El Salvador. You will note from those comments that the Salvadorans have failed to include in their draft several important provisions which the Congress requires be included in any bilateral military assistance agreement concluded by the U.S. If the Salvadoran reaction to our comments indicates an unwillingness to meet the U.S. statutory requirements, then we believe it would be unproductive for a military team to proceed to San Salvador for negotiations. If the Salvadoran reaction demonstrates otherwise, we are prepared to send a military team on very short notice.

[Here follow comments concerning the Embassy’s request for additional clerical assistance.]

Sincerely yours,

Henry F. Holland
  1. Drafted by George O. Spencer of the Office of Regional American Affairs.
  2. Ante, p. 1016.
  3. On June 14, 1954, in accordance with provisions of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949, Director of the Foreign Operations Administration Stassen informed Secretary Dulles that El Salvador was authorized to purchase from the Department of Defense military equipment and materials available from stock up to the value of $1 million on a 60-day deferred payment basis (letter, dated June 14, 1954; 716.5 MSP/6–1454).

    For text of the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949 (Public Law 329), approved Oct. 6, 1949, see 63 Stat. 716.