86. Memorandum From William A. Wieland of the Office of Middle American Affairs to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom)1
- Honduras: General Calm on Eve of Elections
With elections only five days away (they will be held Sunday, September 22) the Liberals appear to have a clear edge in popularity and are expected to win a majority in the Constituent Assembly if the ballots are cast and counted with relative freedom and honesty. The governing Junta itself seems to be genuinely impartial and has forbidden electioneering by public employees. However, the Junta’s [Page 188] ability to enforce compliance is less than complete. Traditionally, outside the immediate area of the capital power has centered in Commandantes responsible directly to the President. Many of these Commandantes owe their loyalty now to the military rather than to the Junta. Thus the military (particularly the Ministers of Defense and Government) may be the decisive factor in determining how free the elections will be. Again, the words and actions of the military so far are reassuring, although they reportedly would not like to see a Liberal victory. Our Embassy reports there is strong reason to suspect that the Nationalists and the military are in cahoots to rig the elections against the Liberals and that the best we can hope for is that the elections will not be so blatantly rigged but that they can be accepted both inside and outside the country. The Embassy feels that if the elections are blatantly rigged the Liberals will react by calling a work stoppage, a general strike, or by resorting to violence.
Each of the three political parties (Liberals, Nationalists, Reformists) has entered its own slate of candidates for Constituent Deputies. An attempt to form a coalition ticket between Nationalists and Reformists foundered on the insistence that former President Carias’ son Gonzalo be accepted by the Reformists as Presidential candidate-apparent (it is generally assumed that the Constituent Assembly will elect a new President). One independent slate will be run; a group of workers in the North Coast Department of Atlantida have obtained the necessary 1000 signatures for an independent slate. This slate has several well-known Communists. A similar attempt to form an independent slate in Tegucigalpa (sponsored by Communists and fellow-travelers) failed. Our Embassy reports that Communism is not a major factor in the campaign although the Nationalists are attempting to smear the Liberals with this label (as they did in 1954).
The Embassy emphasizes that power still resides in the military and that any government in the future will have to take the military into account. The military have it in their power to control, annul or disregard the elections, if they choose, but so far they have been generally content to play a passive role in the body politic, intervening only when their own interests are directly concerned. Despite indications of anti-Liberal feeling among the top military they may feel that the most prudent course would be to remain apart from the political struggle. Liberal leader Villeda Morales has taken pains to reassure the military that they will not suffer if he is elected. [Page 189] Another factor arguing for the military to steer a neutral course is the possibility that some younger officers and many of the rank and file are pro-Liberal.
The Embassy reports that the only apparent external factor to watch is Colonel Armando Velasquez, “the perennial Honduran revolutionary …2 obsessed with the idea of gaining power.” He is now in exile in Guatemala. The Embassy reports that he has no apparent support inside Honduras. … possible Dominican support for Velasquez but there is no indication that the Dominicans have “gotten to” any other Hondurans of importance. MID does not feel that Dominican influence will be an important factor in the elections.