77. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Acting Secretary of State1
- Honduran-Nicaraguan Boundary Dispute
1. Latest Developments: Background material was furnished in ARA memorandum of March 4, 1957 to the Secretary. An estimated 350 Honduran troops plus some civilians were airlifted to the Mosquitia area on Sunday March 3. The Nicaraguan Government has told us it will not advance its forces beyond present border guard posts. The Honduran Government has ordered its troops not to engage in hostilities “unless attacked.” The three-man Honduran military junta flew to the disputed area for a 24 hour observation visit on March 6, and the Honduran Foreign Minister plans to issue a communiqué today March 7 avowing Honduras’ peaceful intentions at the same time reaffirming Honduran sovereignty in the area in question. Both Nicaragua and Honduras have indicated to us that they are willing to settle the boundary question by peaceful means. In the past the two countries have been unable to agree upon terms of reference since Honduras insists upon the finality of the 1906 award and Nicaragua is equally insistent that the 1906 award was faulty.
Public opinion has become aroused in both countries although there has been no break in relations or even recall of Ambassadors for consultation. President Luis Somoza feels he cannot take any position which would appear “weak”, and he fears that Nicaraguan exiles are involved. The military Junta in Honduras also feels for domestic political reasons it cannot yield any “Honduran territory.” The Nicaraguan Ambassador2 here has hinted that in case of hostilities Nicaragua can rely upon strong friends and the Honduran Foreign Minister3 has voiced suspicions that a Nicaraguan-Dominican-Venezuelan entente against Honduras–El Salvador–Costa Rica may be in the making. We have no other evidence of such an alignment of forces.[Page 173]