176. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs (Holland) and the Ambassador in Costa Rica (Woodward), January 11, 19551


  • Reported Attack on Villa Quesada, Costa Rica

Mr. Holland telephoned Ambassador Woodward who said that there had been an attack on a town called Villa Quesada. The Costa Rican Government has lost contact with the town which is 69 kilometers northwest of San José. It is 21 kilometers off the Inter-American Highway just north of Milago (?). The Government has sent a platoon to the town of Zapote which is south of the town being held. They say that the airport there is not serviceable but there is a lot of flat ground around it which they could have in mind using for small planes. Mr. Woodward said the Costa Ricans are considering breaking relations with Nicaragua but have done nothing thus far. Mr. Woodward said he has not tried to influence them one way or the other. The Foreign Minister told Mr. Woodward [Page 587] that there were reports of airplanes flying over northern Costa Rica but they were not identified. Mr. Woodward said everything was perfectly calm in San José.

Mr. Holland asked if they had any information on the forces that began the trouble at Villa Quesada. Mr. Woodward said they did not. Asked if the Costa Rican Government had any forces at Villa Quesada, Mr. Woodward replied they did not except for possibly one or two people to maintain communications. Mr. Holland asked if there could have been any fighting that might have occurred between two sets of forces. Mr. Woodward said no. Mr. Holland asked Mr. Woodward what comprised the attack when he said that there was an attack on Villa Quesada. Mr. Woodward said that he had no information on it—they didn’t even know how they discovered that the place was out of communication.

Mr. Woodward said that the Costa Ricans had sent a platoon up to Zapote along with a scout car to find out what it was about. The Costa Ricans seem to be sufficiently convinced that the town has been taken by revolutionary forces. He said he would telephone further details. In reply to Mr. Holland’s question Mr. Woodward said that they knew of no government soldiers in the town. Mr. Holland asked if he knew of any other disturbance in the country at this time, if Mr. Woodward were aware of the origin of the troops that appear to be holding Villa Quesada and if there were any indication of who may be leading them. The answer was no—that this report was very preliminary.

Mr. Woodward said the Costa Rican Government was very appreciative of the opportunity to be able to go down and get the stuff for themselves. They got in touch with the people down there and they did not know anything about the arrangements for delivery. If the arrangements were still good they would send right down for it. Mr. Woodward suggested that the people down there be instructed. Mr. Holland said he would see that they were.2

Concerning the trip of the Vice President, Mr. Holland asked if the matter had been discussed with the Costa Ricans since the question of the announcement has come up. Mr. Woodward said they had sent a telegram to Ambassador Facio authorizing him to say that they welcomed the trip. The Costa Ricans offered accommodations [Page 588] to the Nixons and Hollands at the Presidential House where there were two double bedrooms. Mr. Woodward said that they could take care of the others at the Embassy residence. Mr. Holland said we would be in touch with him later about arrangements. Mr. Holland told Mr. Woodward that we wanted announcement of the trip to come from here and that it would probably be made today.

Mr. Woodward said he would call when he had more information.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 718.00/1–1155. Confidential. Drafted by Mabel Karydakis, Holland’s personal secretary. Initialed by Holland.
  2. In despatch 397 from San José, January 14, Woodward informed the Department of State of the delivery of anti-aircraft ammunition to Costa Rica. The despatch reads in part:

    “To complete the Department’s records, it is reported that the Costa Rican Government took delivery of 3000 rounds of 50-caliber anti-aircraft ammunition in the Canal Zone and brought it into the airport of San José about 6:30 a.m. on January 12, on a LACSA cargo airplane, at which time it was promptly distributed to the positions of the anti-aircraft guns. Therefore, the ammunition was in San José when the city was strafed at 8 a.m.” (Ibid., 718.5614/1–1455)

  3. Following this conversation with Woodward, Holland met with Costa Rican Ambassador Antonio Facio and Costa Rican Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Fernando Fournier, who called on the Assistant Secretary to report that Villa Quesada had been captured by forces hostile to the Figueres government. (Memorandum of conversation by Newbegin, January 11; ibid., 718.00/1–1155)