File No. 825.731/1.
Ambassador Fletcher to the Secretary of State.
Santiago, January 11, 1915.
Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy, with translation, of Decree of the Chilean Government No. 6364, dated December 30, 1914, which orders all telegraphic, radio-telegraphic and telephonic apparatus, destined or not for public service, whose installation has not been duly authorized to be destroyed and forbids all telegraphic, cable, or radio-telegraphic companies, either governmental or private, to transmit communications in code language or cipher, excepting, however, the communications of diplomatic agents and banks providing they deposit their code with the Director General of Telegraph. All communications must be written in clear language in German, Spanish, French, English, Italian or Portuguese, and may not contain news regarding the situation, movements or operations of the ships of belligerent nations.
Some time before the issuance of this decree and during the incumbency of Mr. Salinas, the matter was several times informally discussed between him and myself and Mr. Castro, the Sub-Secretary, and I pointed out the inconvenience and annoyance to neutral commerce which would be caused by a decree applying to belligerents and neutrals alike. I also pointed out the inconvenience which would be caused if consuls were prevented from communicating with their diplomatic representatives and their governments in code. Both the Minister, Mr. Salinas, and Mr. Castro seemed to agree with the reasonableness of my observations.
The decree was signed on the 30th of December. On the 2d of January I again called on the Foreign Office and took up the matter with both the Minister and the Sub-Secretary. They explained that the decree had been prepared and issued in this comprehensive form, without exception of communications to and from neutral countries, in order to secure a more forceable effect and attract more serious attention, but that exceptions could and would be made later.
This decree very seriously interferes with our commercial and business relations with Chile, and I have received strong and energetic protests from practically all the leading American houses doing business in Chile, and I have addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, under date of January 9, last, a note, of which I enclose copy and in which I embodied the complaints of the American business community.
I have followed up this note with a personal interview with the Minister to-day, and urged him as strongly as possible and with all [Page 37] the arguments at my command to relieve our commerce from these restrictions. He agreed with me that Chile’s responsibility in the matter of neutrality did not extend to other neutral countries and that the restrictions which I complained of should be removed, and promised to take up the matter immediately with the Minister of the Interior, with a view to having the decree amended. I have also spoken of the matter of the decree with a number of leading Senators and Deputies, who have promised to urge its amendment.
I am just now in receipt of a circular from the Foreign Office, transmitting printed copy of the decree and stating that the Minister of the Interior is preparing a new decree excepting consular communications from the scope of the decree. This circular, however, was prepared some days ago, and I am hoping to secure the exception of communications to and from neutral countries also.
I shall, at all events, continue my efforts to have these restrictions upon our commerce removed.
I have [etc.]