144. Letter from Ambassador Burrows to Katherine W. Bracken, January 241

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Dear Kay:

I realize that the questions concerning Honduras included in the OCI document 5757–61 are in fact not intended to be dealt with either by the Embassy itself or by the Army Attaché’s office. The document is, however, circulated in the Embassy, and it is quite natural that these two offices should study the questions asked with respect to their own reporting. We feel that since the questions themselves appear to reveal a distorted view of the situation in Honduras, responsive answers would seem to involve in the first place a straightening out of the questions themselves.

To take them in order, the first question ends with what to me is a completely unintelligible phrase, when it refers to “the constant political instability now sapping Honduran strength in many areas”. Honduras is, of course, a country with political problems, but, as a matter of fact, the present Honduran administration has endured for over four years and appears to be going forward to complete its full six years in office without any great difficulty. It has been stable enough and strong enough to counter several subversive attempts of the sort which have, historically, overthrown previous Honduran Governments. It has constantly supported United States objectives, both within the country and outside. While the Government is not, any more than our own government, the unanimous choice of all of the citizens of Honduras, there is nowhere in Honduras the hard, sworn-to-the-death opposition of the sort which is found in both Guatemala and Nicaragua. Earlier in the same question the implication is given that “Villeda’s lack of control over the legislature” is an element of serious weakness. This is, or purports to be, a democratic administration. There are elements of opposition to Villeda in Congress, a fact which would appear to support the thought that it is a democratic administration. When the extreme left and the extreme right elements of opposition to the President are united, they can control legislation to the extent of defying the President. I believe this is a normal situation in any congressional republic, including our own. If the question were stripped down to its essential center “will significant economic and other reforms be effected [Typeset Page 353] soon enough to show results which are badly needed?”, it would be a more meaningful question.

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The request for detailed and continuing reporting on the activities and contacts of ORELLANA Bueso reflects what may be a failure on the part of the Embassy [less than 1 line not declassified] to indicate the extent to which Orellana Bueso has removed himself from active contact and possibly also the extent to which his physical and mental health has deteriorated. The Embassy will be able to look into this in the near future.

Lt. Col. Hutchin is indignant about the third question because he can find no statement during the past year that there has been a “strong build-up of arms in the hands of Castroites”.

These comments could be extended to the point of nit-picking, but I would rather not do so since I think that the above remarks indicate a very serious state of affairs in whatever office initiated the questions, and I would rather keep these comments on that level. Finally, the last or “Cloud 9” question as to the attitude of the left wing if Villeda attempts to retain power, is probably a record of some kind in the field of speculation. Any attempt on the part of Villeda to retain power would be so carefully cloaked behind a façade of one kind or another that the left wing would probably not know what was happening until the power was safely ensconced in Villeda’s hands. The attitude of such individuals towards Villeda if he should attempt to retain power would probably be approximately the same as their attitude toward any other powerful politician who might be attempting to gain the power: they would weigh their chances of gain and determine their attitude accordingly. It would not be determined by ideological factors.

There are, of course, legitimate areas cited among the questions that will be continuing objects of study by the Embassy’s Political Section as well as, I am sure, [less than 1 line not declassified] the Army Attaché. Our reporting on the cabinet speculations is well ahead of the seventh question. As for the eighth question which concerns presidential possibilities, the interesting new development, way ahead of the question, lies in the field of a possible coalition between the orthodox, or right-wing Liberals, and the Nationalist-Reformists.

This letter is intended simply to reflect the feeling of never-never-land that hit all of us here upon reading this list of priority reporting requirements furnished by the OCI.

With best regards,

Sincerely yours,

Charles R. Burrows
  1. Thoughts that OCI’s reporting requirements reveal a distorted view of the situation in Honduras. Secret. 2 pp. DOS, CF, 715.00/1–2462.