77. Telegram From the Embassy in Guatemala to the Department of State 1

64. For the Secretary from Ambassador. I am very much concerned that we appear to be on point rejecting request made jointly on July 6, 1965 by Governments of Guatemala and Great Britain to extend our good offices further in matter of Belize-British Honduras dispute and accept function of mediator either alone or (if we prefer) in association with other states. Deptel 48 of July 30 indicates that this is likely.2 Only reason for such refusal known to me is set forth Deptel 23 July 133 where indicated: “We remain reluctant assume direct responsibility for settlement which likely be unpopular, at least with GOG.”

I have sought in several messages to point out reasons why I thought in our interests to respond affirmatively to the request. (Embtels 13 July 6, 26 July 154 and 53 July 29.5) For past two years Guatemalan Govt has sought find way out this political problem which has been source both trouble and political exploitation for nearly a century. British Govt which two yeas ago had no confidence in Guatemalan sincerity is now persuaded thereof. No comparable opportunity to reach peaceful solution has existed during last hundred years. If not seized upon and cultivated not likely again to recur.

I have reluctantly come to conclusion that GOG will conclude it cannot accept mediation through private citizens; thus if we refuse to serve as mediators we may find that effort will collapse or be abandoned. GOG has gone very far in effort to demonstrate its readiness to work to solve its political problem but it feels it needs the help and reassurance that having USG as USG can give and which private citizens cannot. This reflects fact that however much USG is criticized from time to time GOG believes and believes that its citizens believe in basic fairness of US and that chances getting adequate face-saving formulas out of mediation are better with prestige and moral influence of USG involved. This may not be entirely reasonable and I may not explain it very clearly but I am convinced that with USG acceptance of role we have excellent chance resolving problem in manner safeguarding interests of all, and that if we turn down request, we face [Page 192]likelihood that such action will destroy or negate progress so painfully made over past two years. Responsibility for this undesirable result would be ours.

Obviously fact of GOG desire for USG as USG implies that we would have to accept some responsibility for results of mediation. As I have pointed out, it could not be exclusive since the GOG would have to have freely accepted any proposals, but it is true that we might be faced with share of any onus that arose out of mediation. If we assume this was considerable, (which I do not believe it would be) would this be a very big price to pay for a successful resolution of dispute? If mediation fails, we are only where we began.

We do not shirk our responsibilities when they have reached points of critical danger, as in Viet-Nam and in Dominican Republic, and certainly our investments and our risks there are major. What is required in Belize is a minor investment of brain power employment and lots of patience and determination. If we turn down request and Belize becomes the focus of infection later as it could very well become, we will surely regret having been timid.

I do not understand how we can justify denial of joint request of two allied powers to serve as friendly mediator in effort to solve dispute between them. I respectfully urge that this matter be reconsidered at highest level.

Bell
  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 GUAT–UK. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Passed to the White House.
  2. Not printed. (Ibid.)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., POL BRHOND–GUAT)
  4. Neither printed. (Ibid., and POL 32–1 GUAT–UK, respectively)
  5. Telegram 53 from Guatemala City is dated July 28. (Ibid.)