No. 278.
Mr. Walker to Mr. Bayard.

No. 92.]

Sir: On the 20th ultimo I addressed a note to the Colombian minister of foreign affairs on the subject of quarantine regulations at Panama, and on the 25th ultimo I received from him a reply, a copy of which, with a translation, I have the honor to inclose herewith.

I am, etc.,

John G. Walker.
[Page 411]
[Inclosure in No. 92. Translation.]

Mr. Restrepo to Mr. Walker.

The undersigned, minister of foreign affairs, courteously salutes the honorable John G. Walker, chargé d’affaires of the United States, and referring to his verbal note of the 20th instant, has the honor to explain the circumstances connected with the closure of Colombian ports against vessels coming from Chili.

The Government of Panama, upon the first announcement of the scourge, directed the absolute closure of the ports of the isthmus against vessels coming from suspected ports.

In view of the magnitude of the danger, and in the absence of means to guard against the contagion, such as quarantines and systems of disinfection, the Government of the Republic confirmed the measures adopted by that of Panama. Thus it was that notwithstanding applications of the Government of Chili, that of Colombia has maintained the absolute closure, in accordance with the advice of sundry sanitary councils and authorities of reputation who were consulted on the subject.

Later information made it appear that the cholera had ceased, but when the Government was about to modify its existing decrees, in a sense unfavorable to closure, the Colombian chargé d’affaires at Santiago advised that with a change of season the epidemic had reappeared in various provinces of Chili. In view of this intelligence the Government did not hesitate in its determination to maintain absolute closure.

This action on the part of the Colombian Government has been in accord with other Governments on the Pacific coast, which have likewise closed their ports against vessels coming from infected ports, as this ministry is informed periodically by its agents in Lima and Guayaquil.

This Government does not conceal the fact that the danger of the epidemic spreading from Chili to Colombia has not presented a like degree of probability at all times, and that consequently the preventive measures should be in proportion as the danger is more or less imminent. But in the absence of such sanitary systems as exist in other countries, it has been quite impossible to establish gradations of which I speak, or to diminish the precautions taken, until the absolute disappearance of the danger of infection.

For this reason, although we have had in view the various systems of disinfection and quarantine of France, for example, and the measures advocated by sanitary conferences and congresses, the Government has found itself obliged, in presence of the danger, and in absence of the necessary means of prevention, to resort to absolute closure to protect the country from this fearful scourge.

For the rest, the undersigned is persuaded that the Government of the United States should recognize that as there are no existing means on the Pacific side of Colombia for disinfecting objects brought in vessels from chili in transit across the isthmus to the United States, there will always be a danger which can not be eliminated as long as cholera exists in Chili.

In spite of the considerations which the undersigned has just laid before the chargé d’affaires of the United States, this Government to-day telegraphed its agent at Santiago, requesting information in regard to the present sanitary condition of Chili, and the probability of the reappearance of cholera in case it has lately disappeared.

The undersigned reiterates, etc.,

Vicente Restrepo.