Mr. Mariscal to the Mexican Chargé d’Affaires in Guatemala.
City of Mexico , November 30, 1894.
I have not yet been informed that the minister of foreign relations of Guatemala has made any reply to the note which you addressed to him under date of the 28th of August last, in reference to the depredations committed by Guatemalan officers at the logging camp known as Egipto in the months of May and July, 1892. Nevertheless, in his communication of the latter part of September he promised that he would reply to that note; and it is to be observed that your aforesaid note embodied the principal reasons alleged by you in pursuance of the instructions of this department, in order to prove that the land on which the said logging camp was belongs and has belonged to Mexico, and that consequently all the other camps that have been molested or destroyed by order of the Guatemalan Government were on Mexican soil, our claim being based on the fact that all those camps are, or were, on the left of the Usumasinta or of the Lacantun. There is consequently good ground for saying that Guatemala has thus far made no reply to our arguments and assertions that the territory which it has forcibly occupied is Mexican territory, because the few reasons which it has stated in order to prove that that territory belongs to it, which amount to nothing more than alleged recognitions of her authority by a few inhabitants of Mexico, have been answered by you, and the minister of foreign relations of Guatemala has made no rejoinder.
We must therefore insist upon the reasons which we have alleged, and also upon our demands for satisfaction and redress, supplementing these latter in view of what has recently taken place. Before returning, however, to the concrete question which has so long been under consideration it is proper for us to make, albeit in very brief and general terms, a statement of the questions which we have had with Guatemala for some time past, and of the course which we have pursued with that neighboring Republic, which, in view of the sentiments that we have desired to cultivate with it, is also our sister.
Without going back to the epoch of the independence achieved by Mexico or to the long years of subsequent boundary disputes, I will take as my point of departure the treaty of 1882, which established our boundaries forever, taking away from certain politicians of Guatemala the pretext that we had taken unlawful possession of Chiapa (including Soconusco) with a view to fomenting a sentiment of antipathy to our Republic among the people of Guatemala.[Page 980]
Now, ever since that treaty was solemnly adopted by both Governments in virtue of the exchange of its ratifications Guatemala has in one way or another endeavored to throw obstacles in the way of its execution, and the work of drawing the boundary line, which, according to the provisions of the treaty, was to last two years, has now been going on for twelve years, having been interrupted for long periods of time, and it is impossible to foresee when it will be completed. Especially has the unwillingness been observed to determine the parallel which runs from Santiago in the direction of the Ohixoy River, the engineer in chief of the Guatemalan commission claiming that before that determination is reached it should be agreed by the engineers of both countries that the Ohixoy is the termination of that parallel, as if the modification of the convention concluded by the minister of Guatemala and the undersigned depended upon the agreement between them.
You will remember that that convention was signed ad referendum, at my suggestion, on the 24th of December, 1890, with the double view of showing proper deference to Guatemala and of preventing new delays from being raised in future. It was thereby declared that Mexico would abandon her interpretation of the treaty (which was based on excellent grounds, especially of a geographical character), and according to which the parallel ought to run beyond the Ohixoy as far as the Rio de la Pasion; this we were willing to do on condition that no obstacles should be laid in the way of the drawing of the parallel until that work was completed. No definitive convention concerning the extension of that parallel was, therefore, possible, but it had to be fixed, provisionally, at the Ohixoy, the question of its prolongation being left in abeyance until the labors of the commissions should be entirely completed.
The result is that years have been lost in those discussions, as they were likewise lost in trying to ascertain whether Guatemala was willing to accept the aforesaid arrangement or not. You are aware that the Guatemalan Government until a few months ago positively stated that it was willing to accept it, after it had proposed another arrangement in lieu of the one above mentioned, and after the latter had been accepted by our Government, Guatemala having been left at liberty to choose the one first named should she so prefer, which she did after a long period of indecision, and after making many efforts to prevent anything from being settled.
All this deference on our part, which was designed to lead to an amicable settlement of the question, appears to have been misinterpreted as weakness and obtuseness, of which it was possible to take advantage in order to nullify the treaty and avoid the performance of the obligations thereby contracted. We know that a great outcry was raised against that treaty, it being declared that it deprived Guatemala of a large portion of her territory, which assertion can be justified only by establishing the right (in reality unfounded) of Guatemala to Ohiapa and Soconusco, for if Guatemala anywhere loses territory that she has occupied she acquires other territory elsewhere and receives compensation. Even supposing, however, that that freely concluded treaty, which was specially recommended to the Legislative Assembly by President J. Rufino Barrios, for which that gentleman received a vote of thanks—supposing that that international compact had been ruinous to Guatemala, that nation would have no legal or becoming means of avoiding its obligations, nor could it violate them otherwise than by means of a successful war against Mexico, which certainly would not justify, although it would secure to her the result which she desires.
Among the reasons for delay in drawing the boundary line between [Page 981] the countries is the following: One of the numerous extensions of the time fixed in the Boundary treaty for the duration of that work expired October 31, 1892, and although we succeeded in due time in securing another extension, it was impossible to secure a continuation of those operations, for the reason that the Assembly of Guatemala did not approve the new convention within the two years therein fixed for that purpose. It has thus been necessary to sign another similar convention for one year only, which is now awaiting the examination of the legislative body of that Republic.
As I stated at the beginning, the Government of Guatemala ordered the destruction, in 1892, of the logging camp called Egipto, which belonged to Miguel Torruco, a Mexican citizen, from whom it took certain property that he had there, and sent him under arrest to Peten for the alleged offense of smuggling. Our Government complained of this outrage, and the Government of Guatemala in reply raised the claim that the logging camp was within its territory. The question remained for some time in abeyance; that is to say, that territory had to be considered as being in dispute between the two Republics, however unsubstantial the claims of both might be.
Such was the state of things in January, 1893, when the Guatemalan Government concluded a contract for five years with Don Manuel Jamet, of Tabasco, for cutting timber in the woods situated “in and near the banks of the Passion, Sabinas, and Lacantun rivers, and on and near the banks of the adjacent creeks, from their sources.” As the territory which extends from the left bank of the Passion River to the Chixoy or Sabinas is the one in dispute between the two nations, as its becoming the property of Guatemala is dependent upon the fulfillment of the condition laid down in the contract concluded by that country with Mr. Dieguez, as the Sabinas or Chixoy river undoubtedly belongs to Mexico according to the treaty, and as the Lacantun, with its adjacent tributary streams to the west of it, likewise belongs to Mexico according to the generally received boundary traditions, the attention of General Alatorre, our minister in Guatemala, was called to the article on the subject in the contract by a telegram dated April 12, 1892, and also by a note inclosing a copy of a letter which had been addressed to me in reference to the matter by the secretary of public works. A protest was transmitted to the Government of Guatemala, in reply to which that Government simply stated that “the contract in question would in no event be an obstacle to the speedy settlement of our boundary question.”
Notwithstanding this reply, we were able to understand that Guatemala proposed again to delay the execution of the treaty of 1892, since she leased for five years certain lands which, although she claimed (without any foundation) that they belonged to her, in virtue of the recognition of the boundary previously to the conclusion of the aforementioned treaty, did evidently, according to said treaty, belong to Mexico, which fact was expressly admitted by the Guatemalan minister of foreign relations, as we shall see hereafter. Thus, the Government of Guatemala proposed to delay the execution of the treaty for at least five years, at a time when its execution might have been effected in a few months, one year at most having been the length of time that was thought necessary to effect it.
In August of that year (1893) the Government of Guatemala made the following proposals to that of Mexico with the view of settling the pending difficulties with regard to our boundary line:
- That it should at once renounce the rights which it thought it had [Page 982] to the region which had been the subject of what was known as the Dieguez-Mariseal arrangement.
- That the two Governments should conclude a convention for the adoption, as a definitive boundary line, of the mean between the differences of computation with regard to the lines fixed by the heads of the respective boundary commissions.
- That Engineer Pastrana, the head of the Mexican commission, should discontinue his opposition to the fixing, in pursuance of a protocol appended to the treaty, of geographical points on the frontier rivers.
The first proposal was not admissible, nor had it any raison d’être, since, according to the aforesaid arrangement, it was sufficient for the Government of Guatemala to raise no fresh difficulties on the remainder of the boundary line in order to secure, without any other condition, the renunciation which it sought, and since, before the drawing of the said line was finished, it was impossible to know whether the condition had been fulfilled. The second proposal, moreover, could not be accepted, because, if simple and real errors in calculation were concerned, they would be corrected by the engineers in accordance with the technical rules established for such cases; and if (as was to be feared) the proposal involved any other object, its acceptance would have been dangerous and senseless, because, according to it, the drawing of an arbitrary line, however absurd it might have been, by the engineer of Guatemala (such as that which he made of the old boundary, and to which I will again refer hereafter) would have been sufficient in order that, that arrangement being invoked, the line which best suited the purpose of the Guatemalan Government should be fixed as the boundary line. We were thus compelled to reject the first two proposals, realizing the ulterior design which they were intended to compass; and as to the third, we stated that Engineer Pastrana’s objection to the fixing of geographical points along the Ohixoy was due to Rock’s insistence that that river should thenceforth be considered as the definitive boundary line.
We come, finally, to the most remarkable part of the behavior of the Guatemalan Government in these boundary disputes. While, as we have seen, the discussion with regard to the nationality of the logging camp at which Torruco was arrested by the Guatemalan authorities, and, generally, that of the lands wrongfully leased by Guatemala to Jamet, as they lie on the left bank of the Lacantun, was pending, the following occurred in the months of May, June, and July of this year: The engineer, Miles Rock (chief of the Guatemalan commission), entitling himself officially special commissioner of the Guatemalan Government, at the head of a party of armed men has committed a new invasion of the territory of Mexico, an invasion aggravated by acts of the most outrageous character. He burned the following logging camps: That of La Oonstantia, belonging to the Spaniards Romano & Co., successors; that of San Nicolas, belonging to the Mexican Valenzuela; and that of Agua Azul, recently established by Torruco. He destroyed everything found there, the occupants and laborers of those logging camps having escaped his fury by taking to flight. He placed at the disposal of his Government, in the shape of plunder, a large number of wooden casks, which, without any further formalities, were sent to be sold at auction in the city of Guatemala. Furthermore, there remained at Agua Azul, in token of occupation by Guatemala, a body of armed men who remained there until the 9th instant.
All these logging camps are on Mexican territory, the territory which we have been claiming as ours ever since 1892, when the civil chief of Peten invaded the one called Egipto; the territory which Guatemala [Page 983] leased to Jamet by a contract, against which we protested as soon as we learned its terms. It is thus that Guatemala has appealed to force to possess herself of a territory which we were disputing with her by argument, and has had recourse to robbery and violence against the owners of the logging camps acknowledging the jurisdiction of Mexico.
At the same time that these incharacterizable acts were being committed in its name and by its authority, the Guatemalan Government was demanding satisfaction of Mexico for a supposed invasion of its territory, committed by the civil chief of Tenosique, who, accompanied by a few men, had proceeded to make a reconnoissance on our territory lying on the left bank of the Usumasinta and the Lacantun, which rivers Guatemala persists in regarding as hers on both banks.
The Mexican Government, at the same time that it has protested repeatedly against these violations of the national territory and demanded due satisfaction, has demonstrated through you to the Government of Guatemala its absolute want of right to complain of what it calls an invasion of the Guatemalan territory, referring to the reconnoissance made by the civil chief above mentioned.
The arguments of Guatemala to defend her conduct are confined, up to the present time, (1) to maintaining that in that region the old line traditionally recognized by both countries is determined by an arbitrary line drawn by her engineer, Rock, on a sketch sent to your legation by her minister of foreign relations, it appearing that that line, never before thought of, has for its object only to place under the jurisdiction of Guatemala the lands in dispute and others adjacent; (2) to maintaining that, according to article 6 of the boundary treaty, the territory included between the said arbitrary line and the Usumasinta River does not yet belong to Mexico, although it will be, as is admitted, the property of Mexico when the dividing line has been finally laid off, for, it is added, until that event occurs and the respective commissions, by common and complete agreement, have terminated their operations, it is incumbent upon both countries to respect the status quo.
According to this, the whole contention on the part of Guatemala has been to maintain the extremely transient status quo which is to last, in her opinion, as long as the running of the dividing line lasts, for which the last convention, signed by both parties, grants one year as the maximum. And for these twelve months of sovereignty over the territory in dispute, Guatemala not only contends for its lease for five years, but occupies it by main force, and by actual depredations on the territory now in dispute, provokes Mexico to renounce her pacific and friendly relations in order to repel these acts of insulting violence, and to seek, if necessary, by force of arms, just reparation and satisfaction. The prudence of this Government still impels it to invent excuses for that of Guatemala, trusting that its conduct has been the effect of an hallucination produced by the malignity or the officious zeal of its subordinate agents, rather than an intentional and premeditated insult.
Be this as it may, it is certain that, basing the question on the ground which I have just stated, the controversy as to whether the ancient boundaries, destined very soon to disappear, if not the treaty, favors the claims of Guatemala. This controversy, I say, possesses trifling and secondary interest. Mexico has a right to reparation, because Guatemala has had recourse to violence and robbery to make a display of her transient rights (if she had any) to territory [the right to] the temporary possession of which was under discussion. This is the real question, if I may so call the inevitable corollary of proven facts. In fact, Minister Salazar, in his reply to you under date of August 3 last, tacitly declares that the trespasses committed by Miles Rock, complained of by this [Page 984] Government, were perpetrated by that engineer by order of the Guatemalan Government, and that he has obtained from it the full approbation of his conduct.
Confident, therefore, as we are, that this is a sufficient foundation for our demands, let us still investigate, for greater certainty, the value of the proofs adduced by that Government to sustain a sovereignty which, according to its own admission, is temporary over the territory in which it has exercised it with such violence. I will not stop to examine its assertions with regard to the pretended acknowledgment of that sovereignty by Mexican private individuals or by any inferior authorities, such as a justice of the peace, or, negatively, by the Mexican Government, in not protesting against acts of which it had no knowledge. In addition to the fact that these allegations are based on uncertain data, they are extremely weak in themselves, and you have answered them in a satisfactory manner in accordance with the instructions which you have received. I will speak of the most ridiculous proof cited by the Guatemalan Government—the sketch made by its engineer, Miles Rock, in which the dividing line marked as the ancient and traditional one is certainly all that could be asked to satisfy the pretensions of that Government, having been made for that purpose by its own servant. For the rest, the line to which I refer lacks historical and all other antecedents, and, far from being the traditional one, there is not a single known and respectable map containing it. On the contrary, that which we have contended for as existing before the treaty, or the one fixed by the treaty, is given by Guatemala’s own maps, the former being given by the map which possesses an official character in that country, published in 1875, with the following title: “Map of the Republic of Guatemala, drawn and published by order of the Supreme Government, by Herman Au, engineer.
On this Guatemalan official map is drawn the line acknowledged before the treaty, formed in the disputed region, and beginning on the south, by a parallel commencing at the peak of Santiago (run, as is read on the map, in 1811), running toward the east until it touches the Lacantum River. It is afterwards formed by this same river and follows its course to its junction with the Usumacinta, and then by the Usumacinta to opposite its junction with the Yaxchilan, which flows into it on the right bank. Miles Rock’s fanciful sketch, which is sought to be given as the ancient and traditional line, passes by the junction of the Yaxchilan and, in a straight line, in a southwestern direction, reaches the neighborhood of the peak of Santiago, completely ignoring the parallel run in 1811—that is to say, attempting to deprive Mexico of an extension from west to east of not less than 84 kilometers in any event of the application of the ancient boundaries, for if such a sketch were to have any influence on the fixing of the boundaries designated by the treaty, the loss would be much greater, in view of the fact that, in accordance with that convention, the parallel is prolonged toward the east to a much greater distance.
The audacity of the engineer, Rock, in drawing his line so arbitrarily, in the face of the discredit which such a proceeding must cause in an international dispute, seems incredible; and it can hardly be believed that the interest in the matter has been so slight as the usufruct of the territory during the status quo, unless it was hoped to prolong it for an indefinite time, or unless this sketch might serve besides (I do not know in what way) for the fixing of the permanent line by Guatemalan engineers, [with the intent] that, by moving it to a great distance from the one fixed by the Mexican experts, the enormous space between the two should be taken as the difference in calculation, and a [Page 985] middle line adopted, thereby acceding to the proposition made tons by Guatemala. I shall not venture, however, on more or less hazardous suppositions to explain the conduct of the engineer who was the author of the sketch, but content myself with calling it simply inexplicable.
Up to this point we have considererd what appears to be the chief evidence of that Government, to wit, the sketch of the engineer in its service, but it must be remarked that that map and its boundary line would be of no use without the other argument which is adduced, which consists in saying that, according to article 6 of the boundary treaty in force, the territory in dispute shall belong to Mexico when the line has been permanently run in consequence of a complete agreement between the engineers of both parties, but that, in the meantime they belong to Guatemala, and Mexico is obliged to respect the status quo. This argument is sought to be based upon the provisions of article 6 of the treaty of 1882, although it really finds no support in it, as the article refers to a different thing. Let us see whether this is so by its text, which is as follows:
It being the object of both Governments, in concluding the present treaty, not only to put an end to the difficulties existing between them, but to terminate and prevent those which arise or may arise between neighboring towns of the two countries in consequence of the uncertainty of the present dividing line, it is stipulated that, within six months after the meeting of the scientific commissions mentioned in Article IV, they shall send to their [respective] Governments, by common agreement, a memorandum of those villages, estates, and ranches which, without any doubt, are to remain on a determined side of the dividing line agreed upon in Article III. Upon the receipt of this memorandum, each of the Governments shall be authorized to send immediately the necessary orders, in order that its authority may be established at those points which are to remain within the territory of their respective nations.
As will be seen, the object of the article is to hasten any change of sovereignty made by the treaty, provided it is very clear that it will take place by virtue of the treaty in the opinion of both commissions, and thus prevent as soon as possible, within the short period of six months, the evils occasioned by the uncertainty of the old line, even before the new one has been run very far, from postponing the change to the time when this [new line] shall be permanently fixed, as is asserted without any foundation. As to whether the engineers have or have not given the notice directed by this article, with regard to the flying ranches or logging camps referred to, it signifies nothing in the matter, because it was not a requisite established to give the sovereignty to the proper party, but a means of hastening the exercise of it by the party having it undoubtedly by the treaty. It is sufficient to read carefully the text which we have copied to be convinced that this is its meaning and spirit, and not that attributed to it by Guatemala.
Moreover, the article speaks of terminating and preventing the evils caused by the uncertainty of the old line, and if it is true that there was such uncertainty on other portions of the line, there was none on the part bordering on the territory of the logging camps, because there the boundary has been clearly defined, as is seen by the above mentioned official map of Guatemala, by the Lacantun and Usumacinta rivers, which are well known by these names, the second, at least, from its confluence with the Chixoy, which occurs before it reaches these boundaries.
If the Guatemalan Government had merely alleged that where the labors of experts are required to determine the line on territory of doubtful ownership, as it can not [otherwise] be known, it will be necessary, in the meantime, to respect the status quo, it would have alleged, not a provision of the treaty of 1882, which does not touch that point, but a consideration [Page 986] of common sense. But how could it demonstrate that there exists in the region mentioned the absolute necessity of laying off the line in order to protect the jurisdiction recognized by the treaty? It is so perfectly evident that that region is included in Mexico by the provisions of the said convention that the minister of foreign relations himself, Señor Salazar, comes forward admitting that, by virtue of the convention, that territory will belong to our country. There is, therefore, no possible doubt upon this point—no necessity for having recourse to the science of the engineers or to the good faith which is to bring them to an agreement, in order to see that those lands now belong to Mexico by virtue of the treaty of 1882, as they did even before it went into force.
The disputed territory, which the Dieguez-Mariscal settlement left dependent on a condition, lies to the east of the Chixoy, very far from the logging camps. The utmost that Guatemala disputes there in interpreting the treaty is that lying between the Chixoy and the Rio de La Pasion, and the logging camps are much farther on this side. There is, therefore, not even the shadow of a doubt that that well-known natural boundary (to which the engineers must give, on their maps, the true position which it occupies, on the other side of the logging camps and at a great distance from them) marks upon the ground, on the supposition most favorable to Guatemala, the dividing line between the two countries All this is evident at a glance upon the mere consultation of any map, including that which Guatemala published in 1875. It is thus seen that nothing but the firm resolution not to carry out the treaty, to say that it is out of force, creating difficulties in its way without regard to the means employed, or, as we still believe, a delusion occasioned by the malignity of agents more zealous than wise, can have suggested arguments such as those which I find myself compelled to answer in the present note.
The Guatemalan Government might have seen long ago that Mexico, in defending her interests, has always employed a candid and loyal policy, tending to remove obstacles to the cordial relations between the two countries. Thus, for example, asserting with sincerity that she had no other object, she exerted herself for the institution of a mixed commission to adjust all the mutual claims pending between the two Governments; and although the commission sat in this city, apparently under the official influence of Mexico, so much dreaded by Guatemala in this case, that Government (Guatemala) has seen that the pecuniary result has been favorable to it, because we did not desire undue gains, but only that these causes of discord should be removed by means of just decisions. It is not our fault if other more serious ones present themselves now.
In the foregoing mention is made of an incontrovertible fact—that Guatemala has invaded the territory the right to the possession of which was under discussion between the two Governments, employing force in order to make a parade of her pretended sovereignty. It is also shown that she possesses no right to that territory, not only by virtue of the treaty of 1882, as her own Government admits, but even according to the old boundaries laid down on her official map of 1875. It is likewise proved that it is not obligatory to respect the traditional boundaries, as is claimed, until the new line is definitely laid off by the engineers, because the treaty does not so provide. There is no necessity for it, because not only the original boundaries but those fixed by the treaty are, in that region, and so far as regards the question in dispute, clear and incontrovertible natural boundaries.[Page 987]
In view of this absolute clearness and of the length of time that we have been discussing the sovereignty of that territory, which sovereignty, even accepting her arguments, would be extremely transient for Guatemala under the treaty; in view, especially, of the fact that that discussion has been interrupted by Guatemala by acts of violence, we will not continue to discuss that subject, but only the species of satisfaction and the amount of the indemnity due us.
What we demand is as follows:
- Guatemala shall make a demonstration satisfactory to Mexico for the injury done her in having recourse to invasion and force in the logging camps in question.
- She shall indemnify, through the medium of this Government, Messrs. Policarpo Yalenzuela, Romano y Campania, Sucesores; Miguel Torruco, and Federico Schindler, and others who have been damaged in the said logging camps, for the damages which she has caused them, in accordance with the claims, accounts, and satisfactory proofs which they shall present.
- She shall also indemnify the Mexican Government for the expenses incurred in the movement of troops and other preparations of the war department which it has been compelled to make in consequence of the invasion and prolonged occupation of the logging camps by armed men in the service of the Guatemalan Government. These preparations on the part of Mexico were necessary, as it could not be imagined that the invading Government would venture to occupy the territory in question with a handful of men without being resolved to defend it with its whole military power.
- The Guatemalan Government shall remove from her scientific boundary commission Sehor Miles Rock, who has been the instrument, if not the cause, of the chief delays and of the recent outrages of which we complain.
- As soon as the honorable Legislative Assembly of Guatemala, at its next session, has approved the new convention for running the boundary line, recently signed, that operation shall be executed without loss of time and in the manner specified by the agreement signed by Señor Dieguez on the 24th of December, 1890.
You will transmit a copy of the present note to the minister of foreign relations, with a communication devoted exclusively to that object.
I renew, etc.