106. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Central American Affairs (Burrows) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Sayre)1


  • Zuniga and what to do about him

Our Country Team in Tegucigalpa and we have given some thought to the possibility and desirability of using such influence as we have to bring about the removal of Zuniga from the Government of Honduras. The Ambassador and the Country Team have heretofore ruled out such action for the following reasons:

The Government does function, however haltingly, and Zuniga has been believed a key element in that limited functioning.
Were we to press for Zuniga’s ouster and succeed, we had no idea who might succeed him and what might be the consequences of the change (we still do not know).
Were we to attempt to unseat Zuniga and fail, we would lose almost all our influence with Lopez and the GOH.

These considerations are still valid, but the apparent brutality and chicanery employed to make a farce of the March 31 municipal elections necessitate a new review of the question, especially since it is quite possible that Zuniga acted deliberately to sabotage any possible conciliation between the GOH and the Liberals. The review should consider, in addition to the questions outlined above, the following:

If Zuniga remains, how much further deterioration is to be expected in the political situation? Is violence probable?
What effect will a complete Liberal break with the government have on economic and social development?
If the U.S. does decide to work for Zuniga’s removal what leverage have we? [Page 248]

External Assistance

Although I believe that the degree of leverage available to us because of A.I.D. programs is often exaggerated, it is one source of pressure. The near certainty that we will receive a formal request for assistance in providing the infrastructure for the projected pulp and paper complex does provide a leverage not ordinarily present. However, if we use this leverage in an attempt to unseat Zuniga we will not be able to use the same leverage to try to obtain more self-help measures from the GOH in the development field. Further, we would need the firm support of the World Bank and the IDB to make this leverage effective.


U.S. Private Investment

We might be able to convince the Hondurans (Lopez, that is) that unless Zuniga is removed to permit more stable and effective government we would find it difficult to encourage potential U.S. investment.


U.S. Influence Over Honduran Opinion

A very large number of Hondurans are accustomed to looking to the U.S. for guidance. Measures that would clearly show our disapproval of the elections (and by implication of Zuniga) probably would have a strong effect. They might well lead Army leaders and others to conclude that Zuniga must go and to press Lopez to this end.

In this connection, it has been suggested that the Ambassador and Country Team might be instructed to maintain an attitude of cold correctness toward Zuniga while exhibiting increased friendship and approval for Acosta Bonilla and Sandoval. This course might be useful, but might also backfire. On balance, I think it would not accomplish too much. Unless we decide to try to “get” Zuniga, there is little to be gained by angering him (and probably Lopez).


If Zuniga goes will the Lopez government survive?

Although the loyalty apparently is to Lopez there is a possible danger that the confusion that would be created by Zuniga’s removal and Lopez’ own lack of ability for the day-to-day operation of the government might lead the Army to feel that a change is needed. Furthermore, Zuniga’s own performance in keeping this government on top of all potential threats should not be underrated.

I believe that unless the government takes some action to assuage the Liberals’ bitterness and to some extent redress the electoral injustices we should seriously contemplate attempting to procure Zuniga’s removal. I would think that if by the latter part of April the situation has not improved, Ambassador Jova should be brought to Washington [Page 249] for protracted consultation and discussion of the procedure we should follow with regard to Zuniga.2

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA/CEN/H Files: Lot 70 D 59, Honduras 1968, POL 14 Elections. Confidential
  2. In an April 16 memorandum to Sayre, Burrows recalled that Zúñiga had recently invited “an Embassy officer to his home and in a 90-minute conversation quite explicitly admitted his deliberate sponsorship of the violence and fraud attending the March 31 elections.” It appears that Zúñiga wanted to tell the United States: “I am number 1 in Honduras and neither you nor anyone else can do anything about it.” “The validity of such confidence on Zuniga’s part,” Burrows concluded, “is something that should be considered carefully before we decide to ‘go for broke’ to obtain his removal.” (Ibid.) According to the Embassy’s account of the meeting: “Zuniga said it was he who pushed Lopez into power, made him what he is and now does the real work of governing. He enigmatically implied that Lopez’ presence was now not indispensable.” (Telegram 1994 from Tegucigalpa, April 9; ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL 12 HOND)