Memorandum by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Sparks) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State (Murphy)1
- Political Situation in Honduras
The purpose of the meeting scheduled for 3:00 PM this afternoon at the request of Assistant Secretary Holland is to review our policy in Honduras with respect to the electoral situation in that country.
The essential factors in it are as follows: None of the three parties—National candidate, former President Carias 1932–48; Reformist (an offshoot of the Nationalist party) candidate Williams; or [Page 1318]Liberal candidate Villeda Morales, received a majority in the final count of the ballots in the popular election of October 10, 1954; the result was 48% for Liberals, 31% for Nationalists, 21% for Reformists. Some responsible observers in Honduras consider that the Liberals did in fact have such a majority but were deprived of it through fraud.
In accordance with the Constitution it now devolves on the Congress in its session beginning December 5 to elect the President from the two leading candidates, Villeda Morales and Carias. While decision in the Congress (56 members) is by majority vote (29), a quorum of two-thirds (38) of the members must be present but there is no assurance that a quorum will be present on December 5. The present Congressional line-up is Liberals 23, Nationalists 22, Reformists 11. Failure of the Congress to act would normally throw the election to the Supreme Court which is believed to be controlled by Carias. The usual Latin American maneuvers and counter-maneuvers are taking place and unless some satisfactory solution is found (presumably based on a coalition) the situation may possibly degenerate into disorder and even into civil war. There is also the possibility that Galvez will take steps to remain in office in the event that a meeting of Congress is not held.
The main U.S. interest is to combat any possible increase in communist influence. Admittedly, our intelligence on communism and communist activity is inadequate. Admittedly, also, such activity exists, although there is no Communist Party as such in Honduras. The election of the reactionary Carias may well tend to perpetuate the very conditions on which communism thrives. On the other hand, although Villeda Morales has publicly taken a position against communism he did not discourage communist support in his campaign and the Honduran communists are alleged to be concentrating their political activity in favor of the Liberal party, which has been out of power in Honduras for 22 years.
Ambassador Willauer has both before and since the elections inevitably been consulted by the various political groups, seeking advice and support. Implementing an OCB decision2 … Ambassador Willauer before the elections endeavored to induce one of the three candidates to withdraw and to form a coalition. This endeavor failed. Ambassador Willauer has of course been accused of intervening in the domestic political situation and each party has endeavored to exploit Ambassador Willauer’s action for its own ends.
ARA has concluded tentatively on the basis of information now available that it would be inadvisable at this time for the Ambassador to take any further action to influence a political decision in Honduras. Until some new development arises which clearly points to where our interest lies, we should let Hondurans solve their problem on their [Page 1319]own. It was agreed that if President Galvez should inquire as to our attitude toward his remaining in office, Ambassador Willauer should state that the United States has a high regard for his past administration. President Galvez’ ability to remain in office is open to some question, in that he has just left Honduras for Gorgas Hospital in Panama, possibly for other reasons than need for medical treatment.
Ambassador Willauer, though disagreeing, accepts ARA’s decision on the basis of his own relative lack of experience in Latin America. In view of the above, Mr. Holland would appreciate an expression of your views.