815.062/5–1254

Memorandum by the Secretary of State to the President 1

secret

Subject:

  • Unsettled Labor and Political Conditions in Honduras

In view of the serious situation developing in northern Honduras and the implication of possible action by the United States, I thought it important that you receive a brief report on the area.

An estimated fourteen thousand United Fruit Company employees in Honduras went out on a general strike on May 5 demanding a fifty percent wage increase. The strikers are excellently organized; still avoiding violence, but massing in focal spots in the banana-growing area. The Honduran Minister of the Interior has strongly recommended to the President of Honduras an immediate declaration of martial law in the affected areas.

Concurrently there have been reports of suspicious movements of planes and men from Guatemala. A Guatemalan plane arrived in the area on May 1 without clearances and was detained. The Guatemalan Ambassador protested the detention of the plane and justified its sudden [Page 1304]arrival by alleging that Guatemalan authorities are expecting an armed attack to be led by an exiled Guatemalan from Honduras and had felt the need to communicate urgently with its Consulate in Puerto Cortes. Following this, the Honduran Government considered closing the Guatemalan Consulate at Puerto Cortes and declared two Guatemalan representatives persona non grata.

Our Embassy in Tegucigalpa is watching the situation carefully, especially for any evidence of possible movements from Guatemala. In accordance with arrangements which have been developing for some time, negotiations between the United States and Honduras for a grant-aid bilateral military assistance agreement are scheduled to begin on May 17.

At the request of the Department of State, the Department of Defense is preparing a plan which might be put into effect for providing direct military assistance to Honduras, in the event that Government requests such assistance from the United States under Article 3 of the Rio Treaty2 and also in the event that the United States Government is satisfied that there is conclusive evidence that Honduras is being subjected to an armed attack by Guatemala or any other State.3

John Foster Dulles
  1. Drafted by Mr. Ohmans.
  2. Reference is to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), opened for signature at Rio de Janeiro, Sept. 2, 1947, and entered into force for the United States, Dec. 3, 1948; for text, see TIAS No. 1838, or 62 Stat. (pt. 2) 1681.
  3. The source text contains the following handwritten notation by President Eisenhower: “Foster—Is there any mechanism by which other members of American nations are kept informed and could ratify (in advance) whatever action we might take?”