74. Editorial Note

On October 13, 1964, Ambassador Burrows recommended a plan for political action in Honduras to February 1965, the month scheduled for elections to the constituent assembly. Burrows suggested that the United States identify candidates “with the necessary qualifications” for the Honduran presidency, while diminishing the influence of such “irreconcilables” as Ricardo Zùñiga. (Telegram 177 from Tegucigalpa; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files [Page 180] 1964–66, POL 23–9 HOND) On October 17 Assistant Secretary Mann indicated “general agreement” with the proposal, but with a cautionary note: “We do not think it would be wise for the Embassy to become identified with any particular candidate or candidacy nor do we believe that Embassy should oppose any particular candidate.” (Telegram 137 to Tegucigalpa; ibid.) The Latin American Policy Committee (LAPC) tried to resolve the issue at its meeting on November 4, when it approved a revised plan of action for Honduras. Although avoiding direct support for specific candidates, the committee recommended that the U.S. “use every influence available, both to the Country Team and to Washington, to reduce the influence of Ricardo Zuniga.” (Airgram CA–4918, November 5; ibid., POL 1–2 HOND)

On December 23 Mann and Deputy Assistant Secretary Adams discussed the Zùñiga problem with Desmond FitzGerald, Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division of the Central Intelligence Agency. According to a record of the meeting: “FitzGerald referred to the Honduran Government as possibly the worst in Honduras’ history and [1 line of source text not declassified]. Agreeing the Government is bad, Adams doubted that President Lopez would ‘become a sort of Cincinnatus and retire.’ Also he wondered whether it was worthwhile at this late date to try to get rid of Zuniga. He said he would consult with the desk officer and report back.” (Memorandum from Carter to Hughes, December 23; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, ARACIA Weekly Meetings, 1964–1965)

On February 16 Zùñiga and the Nationalist Party won a majority of the seats to the Constituent Assembly. According to Adolf A. Berle, who served as an official observer, the elections were “very suavely stolen.” (Letter from Berle to Mann, March 3; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 14 HOND) Three months later, Assistant Secretary Vaughan approved a proposal to reduce Zùñiga’s influence, although a final decision was delayed to allow the Ambassador-designate, Joseph John Jova, time to discuss the issue further with other Embassy officials. (Memorandum from Broe to Vaughan, June 5; Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Latin America Files, 1965) No evidence has been found to indicate whether the proposal was, in fact, implemented. The policy to “reduce the influence of Ricardo Zuniga,” however, was retained in the subsequent plan of action for Honduras, which was approved by the LAPC in September 1965. (Airgram CA–2964 to Tegucigalpa, September 14; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 1 HOND–US)