69. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Holland) to the Secretary of State 1

SUBJECT

  • Honduras: Exiling of Liberal Party Leaders Increases Tension

The Department is informed that De facto Chief of State, Julio Lozano, with the consent of the cabinet, on July 9 arrested and exiled Ramon Villeda Morales, Liberal Party head, Francisco Milla Bermudez, Liberal leader, and Oscar Flores, Liberal newspaper editor. The deportation to Guatemala followed a purported attempt to foment a general strike against the government on July 25. Gonzalo Carias, a Nationalist Party leader, has presumably avoided an attempt to exile him.

Lozano’s action, which we feel was ill advised, may bring a showdown between the government and the opposition prior to elections which were called for October 7. There has been some student rioting, but without casualties or serious consequences reported to date. Lozano claims to have the situation in hand although he has admitted to Ambassador Willauer that these developments will probably preclude his attendance at the Panama Meeting.2 He can probably maintain control as long as the armed forces remain loyal.

There is speculation concerning the role of ex-President Tiburcio Carias, former “strong man”, and his Nationalist Party. The Nationalists have recently been aligned with the Liberals for the purpose of ousting Lozano either by election or possibly by other means if they feel that the election is controlled by Lozano. Carias may still have backing from some military elements.

Liberals and Nationalists polled eighty per cent of the vote in 1954 elections although they were not in alliance at that time. A bitter feud has been in progress for the past five months between the government and the opposition, and Lozano has been moving more toward the use of force to maintain control. One small faction of the Liberal Party is supporting the government instead of Villeda, and Lozano is also backed by the Reformist Party and some Nationalists. His popular support is, however, in the minority.

It is believed that this is largely a domestic political struggle and that the small Honduran communist group is not playing any [Page 161] important role, although it may be expected to attempt to take advantage of any difficulties. Many Liberals are said to feel that the United States is “supporting” Lozano and the action of the Chief of State might increase anti-American feeling in some areas.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 715.00/7–1256. Confidential. A handwritten notation on the source text indicates that the Secretary saw this memorandum.
  2. See vol. vi, Documents 109 ff.
  3. In a memorandum to Holland, July 16, Hoyt wrote that there was not yet sufficient information to estimate the probable effect of the exiling of the Liberal Party leaders. The memorandum reads in part: “It is thought in MID that the exile of Villeda might serve to increase his stature and popularity in some sectors. If he plays his cards right he could return as a hero to campaign with increased popularity.” (Department of State, Central Files, 715.00/7–1656)