348. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Honduras1

200321. Subject: Embassy Posture in Aftermath of Removal of Chief of State. Ref: (A) Tegucigalpa 37312 (B) State 198351.3

1. Department does not consider replacement of Chief of State Melgar by Junta to be a coup d’etat and therefore we expect to continue our existing relations with the government. Rationale is that Superior Defense Council (SDC) was supreme governmental authority which installed and removed Melgar (or accepted his resignation) and which [Page 861] installed new Junta. Superior Defense Council therefore continues to govern Honduras through appointed Chief of State (or Junta). Embassy should therefore continue normal contacts with GOH in order to conduct routine business.

2. However, Department wishes to carefully monitor developments for a short time in order to observe initial actions and policies of Junta before giving signal of high level contacts which could be interpreted as political support. Therefore, Embassy should refrain from initiating high-level contacts or signing government-to government agreements pending further instructions. Ambassador may receive any GOH representatives, however, and may attend group meetings of Ambassadors if she is summoned to Foreign Ministry or Chief of State’s office. Embassy should not respond to press or other inquiries regarding recognition or contacts, though it may use Department’s press guidance (septel).4

3. We note para 6 of FBIS account of armed forces communique states, inter alia, government will continue to observe international treaties and agreements, will continue the mediation process with El Salvador, and will continue to respect press freedom and human rights.5 Ambassador should, as appropriate, continue to indicate U.S. support for human rights as noted in ref (B).

4. Please keep Department informed of developments, including public reaction, and Embassy’s recommendation on when high-level contacts should be initiated and content of any proposed Embassy press statement.6

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780324–1002. Confidential; Niact Immediate. Sent for information Immediate to San José. Sent for information to Managua, Guatemala City, San Salvador, and Belize City. Drafted by Matthews; cleared in ARA, L, in substance in NSC; approved by Christopher.
  2. In telegram 3731 from Tegucigalpa, August 8, Jaramillo reported that she had “just been informed by three Colonel delegation from Superior Defense Council that General Melgar’s resignation as Chief of State is being announced tonight.” Jaramillo also noted that the Superior Defense Council’s reasons for seeking the change included “dissatisfaction with Melgar’s respect for SDC policies, implementation of development projects and social decomposition.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780323–1048)
  3. Telegram 198351 to Tegucigalpa, August 5, endorsed Jaramillo’s approach of expressing U.S. support for the “restoration of democratic procedures” and “economic development” while “refraining from endorsing, or appearing to endorse, any particular individual on the Honduran political scene.” The Department also instructed Jaramillo to “indicate, as appropriate, USG support for other human rights such as freedom of the press, free trade unions and economic rights, in addition of course to an expeditious return to democratic procedures.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780321–1152)
  4. Telegram 200081 to Tegucigalpa, August 8, included new press guidance on the removal of Melgar. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780324–0912)
  5. Foreign Broadcast Information Service account not found. Telegram 3737 from Tegucigalpa, August 8, included a translation of the Superior Defense Council’s communiqué announcing a change of government. (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor Files, Country Files, Box 25, Honduras: 8/77–12/79)
  6. In telegram 3926 from Tegucigalpa, August 16, Jaramillo described her meeting with Palma Galvez. Jaramillo hand-carried a diplomatic note to Galvez that communicated the U.S. Government’s desire for continued relations with Honduras. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780335–1037) In telegram 3943 from Tegucigalpa, August 17, Jaramillo reported on her “first formal call on the new Junta,” August 16, headed by Paz. Jaramillo wrote: “I used this opportunity to underline U.S. interest in human rights and a peaceful solution to the border dispute. Speaking on behalf of the Junta, General Paz sought to make it as clear as he could that the armed forces will respect the electoral timetable, freedom of the press, work toward economic and social development and seek to resolve differences with El Salvador. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780336–0997)