80. Memorandum From the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Acting Secretary of State1


  • Nicaraguan-Honduran Controversy

There has been a new flare-up in the century-old dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras following a period of relative quiet since the first week in March. There is now the possibility of a break in relations or armed clashes.

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During the past two weeks small incidents have been used to arouse public opinion in Honduras, apparently with the support of extremist elements of the government. Nicaragua, although not without blame in the incidents and in the border controversy, has seemingly been on the defensive. The inauguration of President-elect Luis Somoza on May 1 makes it appear doubtful that Nicaragua would start anything at this time.

Nicaragua fears collusion between various exiles planning an attempt against the Somoza regime and some Honduran elements. … report that Nicaraguan exiles have recently been active in Honduras and El Salvador and are thought to be preparing an underground movement, although no collusion can be proven at this time.

The Somozas have many enemies at home and abroad who will take advantage of any likely opportunity for a revolt. Most Central Americans, with the exception of the Castillo Armas supporters, would welcome the fall of the Somozas. Any aggression on the part of Honduras would mean moderate elements have lost the upper hand and a change in the government might ensue.

U.S. Position

We have continually urged moderation and have used informal good offices on many occasions. We have frequently suggested that the two nations arbitrate their dispute or take it to an international tribunal. We will continue to do so.

Any armed clashes will undoubtedly bring the Organization of American States into action, and we are prepared to support any conciliatory or mediating action. Our relations with both countries have been very good, and it is not to the U.S. interest to take sides on the boundary issue itself. We are temporarily withholding a Smathers Fund loan to Honduras.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 615.173/4–2957. Confidential.
  2. In a memorandum of telephone conversation, April 29, Ambassador Willauer informed Rubottom that the Honduran Government had sent a message to the OAS stating that Nicaragua had committed aggression against Honduras under the terms of Article 17 of the Charter of the OAS. Willauer, who initiated the telephone conversation, stated further that the Honduran Government planned to send a second message requesting an OAS investigation of the matter. Rubottom stated that the Ambassador should inform the Honduran Government that “we could not justify a Smathers Fund loan under the present circumstances.” (Ibid.)