145. Telegram 64 from Tegucigalpa, August 131
Reference: Department circular telegram 230.
Country team (CT) believes criticism and assumption described reference telegram in general too sweeping and may reflect an incomplete appreciation of the marked political evolution which has taken place in LA generally, and LA armed forces particularly in recent times.
Re criticism: 1) Honduran armed forces are characterized by respect for constitutional principles manifested by both words and actions: Close association American officers with armed forces supports and strengthens this attitude; 2) in performing the expressed function of support for constitutionally elected government, armed forces are supporting the non-Communist democratic elements in this country despite some civilian pressure to do otherwise. Armed forces prestige is based upon reputation for honesty, integrity, and support constitutional principles, not upon their power, as may be judged by fact that in Honduras the military establishment receives only seven per cent of annual budget; 3) military establishment of 4,000 men, military budget seven per cent of national budget, and arms acquisition of Honduran military cannot be considered too large; 4) MAP in Honduras severely restricted by small size of military establishment and its small budget as well as by careful consideration by CT of various proposals presented, (e.g., recent CT position concerning possible additional deliveries C–47s to Honduras). Equipment and training given Honduran military under MAP is addressed to [Facsimile Page 2] internal defense defined in narrowest terms (e.g., police type assistance against insurgency and guerrilla action plus eventual ability police frontiers and coastline). Armed forces are engaged in wide range civic action activities without US assistance, and a road building project with US assistance.
With regard assumption listed in reference telegram as basis for above criticism: A) CT has reported in past that it views legitimate mission of armed forces as limited to internal defense against infiltration of armed groups and initiation guerilla activities which, under conditions of hemisphere struggle would certainly be one of most important fronts; B) recent history Honduras includes no successful military coups but on contrary two successful thwartings of attempted coups and complete discrediting of Caudillo Armando Velasquez their leader; C) while it is true that Honduran military are largely conserva[Typeset Page 355]tive and in that sense oriented toward the right, their civic action activities and their determined support of constitutional principles appear to negate, so far as Honduras is concerned, the stereotype of LA military referred to; D) resources of Honduran military are extremely limited but within these limitations armed forces are engaged in economic and social development and there is every indication that with further support in this direction they would undertake greater economic and social development activities; E) the MAP in Honduras has been carefully controlled with regard both to grants and sales by careful consideration in the CT to each specific request or suggestion whether received from armed forces themselves or from Washington, and this control has been effected bearing in mind primary role of armed forces in internal defense and civic action.
Further limitation of this assistance would appear therefore to jeopardize security interests US in reducing ability armed forces to perform what will be essentially a very important role in case armed attack against hemisphere, namely that of defense against insurgency and guerilla activities (it is assumed Department’s reference to policy-type assistance refers to policing [Facsimile Page 3] against insurgency border infiltration and guerilla activities); F) it would be difficult if not impossible to reduce Honduras military expenditures which are already as low as would be possible without elimination armed forces capability altogether. There is no damage to US public image in Honduras through association US with armed forces since they do not have reputation for extravagance and irresponsibility.
In opinion this CT a still more restrictive grant and sales policy with respect Honduras would result in net US loss in terms our across-the-board foreign policy objectives here.
- Country Team response to criticism and assumption in circular telegram 230. Secret. 3 pp. DOS, CF, 715.5/8–1362.↩