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partment, it cannot longer ignore the fact that the armament thus furnished has been permitted to pass from official control, to the danger of the domestic peace of the Republic and the tranquillity of its neighbors.

You are directed to inform the appropriate authorities of the foregoing and to express the hope of this Government that measures may be taken for the correction of the situation described. It is believed that the most efficacious action which could be taken by the Government of Honduras for this purpose would be the establishment of a National Guard, as provided in Article II of the Convention for the Limitation of Armaments signed at Washington February 7, 1923. Although the advantages of a carefully selected and trained non-partisan National Guard are readily apparent, the creation of such an agency for the maintenance of peace and the preservation of order has an immediate importance in view of the impending conclusion of the Protocol whereunder the long existing dispute between the Republics of Honduras and Nicaragua with respect to their common frontier is to be definitively settled.17 As is well known, the frontier region between the two Republics, largely because the exact location of the boundary line has not been mutually agreed upon, is exposed almost without restriction to the activities of marauding groups of bandits, and other undesirable activities. When the boundary dispute has been settled it will be incumbent upon both Governments to assume sovereignty over their respective territories and to maintain order therein.

You may say that the Government of the United States would welcome assurances by the Government of Honduras of its intention to establish a regular disciplined force at an early date. There would, of course, be no further objection on the part of this Government to the sale of such quantities of arms and munitions as might be necessary once such an organization were established.

You may clearly state to the appropriate authorities, however, that the Government of the United States does not feel free to sell to the Government of Honduras or to facilitate its purchase in the commercial market of this country, further large quantities of war material in the absence of satisfactory evidence that such material will be retained in the possession of the Government of Honduras. Very truly yours,


815.24/145a : Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in Honduras (Lay)

WASHINGTON, January 30, 1931–4 p. m. 8. . . . has submitted to the Department an application for license to export to the Government of Honduras 280,000 thirty-eight caliber cartridges and 120,000 thirty-two caliber cartridges. Because of the calibers specified the Department desires you to ascertain and report by telegraph whether this material would be imported strictly for Government use.

17 See Foreign Relations, 1930, vol. I, pp. 361 ff.


815.24/147 : Telegram The Minister in Honduras (Lay) to the Secretary of State

TEGUCIGALPA, February 3, 1931–5 p. m.

[Received 10:44 p. m.] 28. Department's telegram No. 8, January 30, 4 p. m. These and other shipments cartridges of same calibre are for sale by importers to general public for revolvers. The Government of Honduras granted licenses for this and former shipments 32 and 38 calibre in consideration of a reduction of its outstanding debts owed these importers for other merchandise. Most of these cartridges are ultimately smuggled to Salvador and Guatemala.

If we raise embargo 18 cartridges will be bought in Canada or Europe and I believe advisable continue embargo in order to retain certain check on destination of ammunition especially for rifles.



The Minister in Honduras (Lay) to the Secretary of State

No. 187

TEGUCIGALPA, February 14, 1931.

[Received February 19.] SIR: Referring to the Department's telegram No. 8 of January 30, 1931, 4 P. M. and my reply of February 3, 1931, 5 P. M. thereto, the Department's instruction No. 93 of January 29, 1931,19 and previous correspondence regarding the embargo on arms and ammunition that the Department has been maintaining for the past six years at the request of the Honduran Government, I have the honor to make the following observations on the irregularities practiced here in connection with the arms trade at the present time.

As far as this Legation has been able to ascertain, army rifles and cartridges for these rifles of 30 and 45 calibre have not been lawfully imported into Honduras during the past year. These munitions are smuggled, however, through Honduras for the bandits on the Nicaraguan frontier. It is known that these bandits have recently been well supplied with ammunition for rifles and machine guns,

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Upon examination of the records of this Legation, it was found that about 1,000,000 rounds of cartridges of 32 and 38 calibre for revolvers have alone been imported under embargo permit by the Department during the past year. Since this enormous quantity of cartridges of these calibres could not possibly be actually used by the Honduran Army and Police, I have made inquiries of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as to the destination of these cartridges and was informed that his Government considered these cartridges for Government use inasmuch as import permits were issued by the Government to dealers in firearms and cartridges in consideration of a reduction in its outstanding accounts with these firms for other merchandise previously purchased by the Government from these firms. In other words, our embargo assists the Government here to pay its bills. The firms to whom these permits are granted are chiefly the large Germar. Importing and Exporting houses who have many small branch stores throughout the country where these cartridges are sold to Syrian traders. This dealing in permits which I strongly suspect does not benefit only the Government in the way described but also some of the higher officials of the Government, does not explain the destination and the use made of the enormous quantities of revolver ammunition that is being imported to Honduras. Consequently, upon receipt of the Department's telegram, I asked the President of the Republic how a million revolver cartridges could be used in Honduras by the civilian population in that length of time, even admitting that every male adult who can afford it carries a revolver in this country. Without hesitation he admitted frankly that most of these cartridges were being smuggled across the border into Salvador and Guatemala but that he did not believe many of them reached the Sandino bandits on the Nicaraguan frontier, where he stated a patrol is maintained and furthermore the bandits used very little revolver ammunition. The only suggestion he had to offer to remedy the situation was that the Department issue permits for a much smaller quantity of cartridges.

The Naval Attaché at this Legation is informed by a firm that deals in large quantities of cartridges for civilian use that permits must be obtained from the Honduran Government for all arms and munitions from whatever country imported and that if the quantity from the United States were limited to those for actual use in Honduras, an additional quantity to be smuggled to Salvador and Guatemala would be imported from other countries at possibly greater cost than American cartridges owing to higher freight, and this firm made some allusion to possible difficulties of shipping cartridges through the Panama Canal.

In my telegram No. 28 of February 3, 1931, 5 PM, I have suggested that it is advisable to continue the United States embargo in order to retain a certain check on the destination of ammunition, especially for rifles but except for this purpose I cannot perceive what benefit is derived by retaining our embargo. I am certain that the Department will not approve of continuing the embargo for this doubtful advantage when by so doing the Department is aiding corrupt trade in munition permits among Honduran officials and may be laying itself open to the charge of maintaining an embargo that facilitates the smuggling of munitions from Honduras into Salvador and Guatemala, where the Governments of these last two named countries try to maintain a strict control over the sale of munitions by a system of rationing among their dealers.

After careful consideration of this subject and discussion with the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I recommend that the Department authorize me to say to the President that in as much as our embargo is not accomplishing the purposes for which it was imposed that the Department had decided to withdraw the embargo. Or, if the Department prefers, I can suggest that we might continue the embargo if the Honduran Government would limit permits for revolver cartridges other than 30 and 45 calibre to quantities required for the actual use of the Honduran civilian population, Army and Police. I believe that I can make such an arrangement with the President and if so it will be less objectionable to him than withdrawing our embargo.

I have no confidence that Honduras could limit the sale of munitions in this country by adopting the ration system. Respectfully yours,



The Secretary of State to the Minister in Honduras (Lay) No. 117

WASHINGTON, March 20, 1931. Sir: Reference is made to your telegram No. 28, of February 3, 5 p. m., and to your despatch No. 187, dated February 14, 1931, wherein you have informed the Department that a large part of the ammunition exported from the United States to Honduras is, with the full knowledge of the President and other authorities of Honduras, smuggled into the neighboring Republics of El Salvador and Guatemala.

It is noted in this connection that it is the practice of the Government of Honduras to issue to local commercial establishments permits for the importation of arms and ammunition as a means of reducing its indebtedness to them, or even to have such shipments consigned directly to the Government when in reality they are being imported on behalf of private commercial firms. It is furthermore noted that the only suggestion which the President of Honduras found it possible to make to you with respect to this situation was that the Government of the United States should issue export permits for a smaller quantity of cartridges.

This practice, reprehensible in itself, is in direct violation of the Convention for the Limitation of Armaments concluded by the Governments of Central America at Washington February 7, 1923, and is, furthermore, at variance with the principles and policies of this Government. You are accordingly directed to inform the Government of Honduras that for the reasons just cited, and pursuant to the President's proclamation of May 15, 1924,2° the Department will henceforth decline to approve applications for license to export arms and ammunition to the Republic of Honduras excepting in such instances as investigation shall prove the shipment to be for legitimate commercial or governmental purposes. Very truly yours,


815.113/368 The Secretary of State to Certain Firms Exporting Arms and


WASHINGTON, March 27, 1931. SIR: As a firm occasionally engaged in the exportation of arms and ammunition to the Republic of Honduras you are hereby advised that it has become necessary for the Department of State, in the performance of the duties imposed upon it by the presidential proclamation of May 15, 1924, governing the exportation of such articles to that Republic, to undertake a more rigid supervision of this commerce.

In the future, therefore, upon the receipt of applications for license to export arms or munitions of war to the Republic of Honduras the Department of State will first communicate with its representatives in that Republic regarding the proposed shipment and will not grant the license until the information it requires has been received from those sources. If the applicant for license so requests these inquiries will be made by telegraph at its expense—otherwise they will be made in the usual manner by mail. Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:


» Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. II, p. 324.

591381-46-VOL. II-45

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