154. Memorandum of conversation, September 30, between Cottrell, and Ambassador Dávila and Finance Minister Bueso1

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SUBJECT

  • Possible Coup in Honduras

PARTICIPANTS

  • U.S.A.

    • APA—Sterling J. Cottrell
    • OAP—V. Lansing Collins
    • OAP/H—Edward H. Powell
  • Honduras:

    • Ambassador Celeo Dávila
    • Finance Minister Jorge BUESO Arias

BUESO said that for several months disgruntled Honduran politicians associated with General Tibúrcio CARIAS Andino (ex-dictator, president, caudillo) have been pressing Honduran armed forces officers to overthrow the present Honduran Government and prevent elections, alleging as an excuse that (a) the government is riddled with communists, (b) a Rodas Alvarado election victory would lead the country into communism, (c) the elections will be fraudulent, (d) the armed forces will be deprived of their rightful constitutional position by Rodas. Communists in government (sic) were enumerated (several hundred) but not named. BUESO said OAS observers for election had been discredited by distortion of the Bonilla-Atiles statement that the prospects for a peaceful, honest election were very promising. The opposition press claimed that this statement proved that the OAS observers were under the control of the Villeda Morales government. Nonetheless, prospects for carrying out the election and subsequent constitutional transfer of power were good until the Dominican Coup in which Dominican Republic military leaders deposed Bosch on grounds similar to the charges being levied against Villeda Morales and Rodas Alvarado.

Bueso said the nervousness of opposition groups had been greatly increased by Rodas’ uncompromising attacks against the opposition in campaign speeches. Bueso said Rodas had moderated this approach in his last three speeches.

(In passing Bueso said he had a pact with Rodas. If the Liberals win the election with more than 65% of the vote, Bueso will not comment on the kind [Facsimile Page 2] of appointments Rodas makes; but if the Liberal vote is less than 65%—and Bueso believes it will follow the pattern of the last [Typeset Page 373] few elections in which the Liberals won 58%–60%—then Bueso will enter the Rodas government only on the condition that Rodas will appoint clearly qualified men to public office, including some Nationalists and others who are not necessarily Rodistas or Liberals. Bueso claimed Rodas agreed to this.)

Bueso then said about a week or ten days ago the Nationalist Party press had printed an editorial virtually inviting the Armed Forces to execute a coup, showing Lopez that his civilian backing had grown from a small group of Cariistas to most of the opposition.

Bueso commented that in personal terms Lopez’ ambition was awakened by Carias’ efforts in February 1963 to have Lopez made the Nationalist Party presidential candidate, and that this ambition is a contributing factor in the present situation.

Bueso then digressed into a recital of the Villeda Morales theory of controlling communism in the hemisphere, i.e., concentrate on social and economic progress and avoid giving the communists martyrdom and a popular cause through police repression. He claimed success for the system, referring to the recent expulsion of communists from leadership of the SITRASFRUCO union, and the inability of the Honduran Communist Party to organize demonstrations in Tegucigalpa against Operation Fraternidad in 1962. He noted that a military government in Honduras would mean a return to random jailings, police repression and the like, creating an ideal climate for communist agitation. He predicted strikes over a period of time and increased popular reaction against a military government.

In answer to a question Bueso doubted that a golpe would degenerate into a civil war.

Bueso noted that Lopez believes the U.S. Department of Defense holds views contrary to those of the State Department regarding military coups and government by armed force in Latin America. He thinks Lopez is sure the “Pentagon” would protect the interests of the Honduran Armed Forces after a coup, in spite of any “State Department policies to the contrary”. Bueso believes the greatest single deterrent which can be brought to bear on Lopez now is a clear statement to Lopez from the U.S. Department of Defense urging Lopez not to engage in a coup. The statement must not smack of “State Department collusion”. It was evident from his manner that Bueso had been discussing making a proposal to this effect with Ambassador Dávila during their drive to the State Department. Bueso also evidently had this proposal in mind when he left Honduras.

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Bueso commented on the Villeda-Orlich efforts to have Schick (Nicaragua) and Rivera (El Salvador) issue a joint Declaration of Central America condemning the events in the Dominican Government, and striking out against unconstitutional changes of government. He said [Typeset Page 374] Schick was willing to support Villeda and Orlich to the maximum on any statement except one supporting Bosch personally (because Bosch had personally attacked Schick earlier this year). The effort failed however, because Rivera and or his advisers refused to support Villeda and constitutional government in general, saying this would offend Col. PERALTA (Guatemala) whose government was born of a coup only this year.

Therefore the appeal for a U.S. Defense Department message is a last ditch effort by the Hondurans. Without it, Bueso believes a coup will occur before the October 13 election date—the coup is psychologically more justifiable before rather than after the election.

Bueso said Villeda recently met with Lopez but that the meeting was unproductive. He said conduct of the elections under the National Council of Elections, with both the Armed Forces and the Guardia Civil being controlled by the National Council of Elections on election day, (pattern of 1962 municipal elections) no longer seemed to be acceptable to Lopez. Bueso said a new meeting between Villeda and Lopez would take place October 1.

Dávila said there is no chance of any constructive and helpful action by the OAS. Only four countries (Honduras, Costa Rica, Venezuela and, maybe, Colombia) would support a Honduran request for further assistance.

  1. Possible coup in Honduras. Confidential. 3 pp. DOS, CF, POL 26 HOND.