The Chargé in Guatemala (Thurston) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 754
Strictly confidential

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Department’s instruction number 294 [unnumbered], dated February 14, 1919,1 stating that inasmuch as it appears that the health of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera is not good, the Department believes that a thorough study should be-made of the conditions which are likely to exist in Guatemala upon his death. …

. . . . . . .

Thus there exist in Guatemala two utterly conflicting elements: that of the present and contemplated future dictatorship—and that of an awakening people who demand emancipation from the intolerable burden of such a dictatorship.

It is but reasonable to foresee, then, that this latter element will attempt to achieve its aims at the first definite sign of the end of Estrada Cabrera’s régime—and it is equally reasonable to assume that those whose fortunes depend upon the continuance of such a regime will violently oppose the change of system. I have already heard, in fact, that a group of the President’s staff generals have formed a pact to support with their troops the man among them chosen by the President as his successor.

The inevitable result of such a situation will be civil war. The reality of the awakening I have just referred to is demonstrated by the accompanying Open Letters to President Cabrera, the first of which is signed by Señor Manuel Cobos Batres and the second by Bishop José Piñol y Batres.2 Señor M. C. Batres, while not a prominent citizen, seems to have placed his signature to this letter more to encourage the people than to show any personal leadership—for [Page 264] by doing so he risks his life. Bishop Piñol is generally stated to be one of the highest type of Guatemalans in the country, and the most influential member of the Catholic Church. He has prepared a call to all Catholics in Guatemala to rally to the support of Mr. Cobos Batres proposals, and voice their approval by every pacific means within their power, a translation of which will be sent by the next pouch.3

While neither of these letters have, as yet, been submitted to President Cabrera, nor made public, I have every reason to believe they will be before the present Legislative Assembly adjourns, which will be about April 15th.

If so, and if President Cabrera attempts to suppress the activities of this embryo political party, a dangerous situation is very likely to arise; if they are not presented, the matter will be postponed but a short time.

. . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Walter C. Thurston
  1. Not printed.
  2. Letters not printed.
  3. Not printed.