85. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, August 2, 19571

SUBJECT

  • Honduran Ambassador’s Farewell Call2

PARTICIPANTS

  • Ambassador Villeda Morales
  • ARA—Mr. Rubottom
  • MID—Mr. Warner

The Ambassador stated that he had enjoyed his recent trip to Puerto Rico to participate in the festivities marking the fifth anniversary of the constitution. He was impressed by Puerto Rico’s economic and social progress, its self-help housing program, the number of Puerto Rican migrants to the U.S., the new hotels and the city of San Juan. He gave Mr. Rubottom a copy of a manifesto he had prepared on this occasion.

Mr. Rubottom stated that since he was leaving on Sunday for Mexico and Buenos Aires he would take this opportunity to express his pleasure in having known the Ambassador and his hopes for the future both for Villeda personally and for Honduras as a nation. He repeated our belief that political stability and responsible government are the cornerstone of economic progress. Mr. Rubottom said he feels that Honduras is poised on the verge of important progress if political conditions permit. Private investors, the Export Import Bank, the IBRD and IMF stand ready to assist in this process if the political climate is favorable.

Communist Activities. 3

Mr. Rubottom expressed our concern over reports of Communist activities on the north coast and other sections of Honduras. The Ambassador said that Liberal leader Francisco Milla Bermudez recently talked about this problem with north coast labor leaders and issued a manifesto. He will send us a copy. He said both Lozano’s [Page 186] and Galvez’ governments had had Communists in them and he believes that only a government with popular support can cope successfully with the Communists. In this connection he recommended to Mr. Rubottom a new book on Communism in Latin America written by Robert Alexander which was reviewed in the Washington Post on July 21.

United States Help for Free Elections.

Villeda stated that the U.S. could help to assure free elections in Honduras by merely making suggestions to the right people in Honduras. Mr. Rubottom said that this would run contrary to our policy of non-intervention. He believes that this is a very good policy although he noted that this does not mean we feel the same way toward every government. Villeda said he understood and did not mean to imply U.S. intervention but only that the U.S. use its moral influence like an older brother. He referred again to an idea he had outlined before,4 that the U.S. not accept an Ambassador from Honduras pending the outcome of the political contest. Mr. Rubottom said that this would be a matter for Honduras alone to decide.

Assassination of Castillo .5

Villeda fears that the Guatemalan military will take over. He said he went to school in Guatemala with interim President Gonzalez whom he regards as a sound and able man. However he realizes that new elections must be held and that Gonzalez cannot be a candidate. He thinks that Guatemala is very difficult to govern because of divergent elements such as the military, the conservative land owners, the strength of clerical influence, and the 2 million uneducated Indians. He feels that the political uncertainty in Guatemala will have unsettling effects in Honduras and El Salvador. He believes that the military remain the dominant factor now as they have been for many years. He cast doubts on the idea that Castillo was the victim of a Communist plot and hinted at military involvement [Page 187] by referring to the assassination of Colonel Arana6 about 1948 in the same context as Castillo’s assassination. Villeda thinks that Guatemala needs a strong civilian as President but mentioned only one person specifically: Guatemala’s Ambassador to Colombia, who had been a rival to Arevalo for President following Ubico’s overthrow. Villeda did not give his name. Villeda said that Castillo seemed almost a prisoner of the military when he visited him in late May; he remembered that soldiers stood very close guard on the President even while he was eating.

New Electoral Law.

Villeda left a copy of this law and commented that it is “more or less satisfactory. If elections are “50% free” he says the Liberals can win control. He remarked to Mr. Warner privately that the use of the 1950 census as a basis for determining representation and the ratio of one deputy per 30,000 inhabitants instead of 25,000 was objectionable both to the Liberal and to the Nationalist Parties.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 715.00/8–257. Confidential. Drafted by Norman E. Warner and initialed by Rubottom indicating his approval.
  2. Tiburcio Carías, Jr., was appointed Honduran Ambassador to the United States on September 13. He presented his credentials on October 15.
  3. Under cover of a letter of July 3, Chargé Pool transmitted to the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs a report on Communist activities in Honduras. This report, dated July 2, states in part that “this increase in Communist activities … is a coordinated campaign rather than a series of individual successes. This campaign is now gathering steam; unless it is stopped, we can look for further increases in Communist activity.” (Department of State, Rubottom Files: Lot 59 D 573, Honduras, 1957)
  4. In a memorandum of conversation, dated July 10, Villeda stated that he would recommend to his government that it withhold appointment of a new ambassador until after the scheduled elections in September. Villeda stated further that “He felt this might be desirable as an indicator of the incomplete status of Honduran-U.S. relations pending the outcome of the political campaign. Mr. Rubottom stressed our policy of nonintervention and our parallel policy on recognition which does not use recognition as an indication of what our opinion may be regarding the goodness or the badness of another government.” (Ibid., Central America Files: Lot 61 D 110, Political—Local)
  5. President Carlos Castillo Armas of Guatemala was assassinated in Guatemala City on July 26. For documentation, see Documents 56 ff.
  6. Francisco Javier Araña, Chief of the Guatemalan Armed Forces in 1948, was assassinated on July 18, 1949.