The Minister in Colombia (Philip) to the Secretary of State

No. 144

Sir: With reference to my cable message of September 12:11 a.m. I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of a note [Page 799]from the Colombian Minister for Foreign Affairs, dated the 13th instant, relative to an official report received by the Ministry of Government to the effect that light towers have been installed on the cays known as Roncador, Quita Sueño and Serranilla and which belong to the Republic of Colombia.

[Here follows summary of the enclosed note.]

In my conversation with the Foreign Minister on the subject he called my attention to the press notices in regard to it. I said that I was in entire ignorance of any such action having been taken and felt very confident that the work had not been undertaken at the instigation of the Government of the United States unless some misunderstanding may have existed as to the ownership of the rocks in question.

The opposition press is using this report as one of its points of attack against President Suarez as well as against the policy of the United States towards Colombia.

It is very regrettable that the incident has arisen at this juncture and I very much hope to receive from the Department such information as will have the effect of allaying all cause for criticism here in regard to it.

I have [etc.]

Hoffman Philip

The Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs (Holguin y Caro) to the American Minister (Philip)

Mr. Minister: By official communications which have reached the Ministry of Government and which have been transmitted to the Foreign Office the Government has learned, not without surprise, that some light towers have been installed in the Cays of Roncador, Quita Sueño and Serranilla, which belong to the territorial domain of Colombia.

Under date of March 1st last, Your Excellency addressed himself to this Ministry in order to solicit for your Government a permit for the instalation of light towers in the islands of Providencia and Courtown. Nothing was said at that time about the existence of light towers or the proposal to establish them on the Cays above mentioned. The Government of Colombia brought to the attention of Your Excellency’s Government several years ago the titles which make good its right to proprietorship over the Cays, as can be seen [Page 800]in the lengthy note which the Chargé d’Affaires in Washington, General Julio Rengifo, transmitted to the Department of State under date of January 18, 1893.71

Previous [subsequent] to this note, Your Excellency’s Government recognized explicitly the sovereignty of Colombia over the Cays, for it supported through its Legation in Bogota a request from the Government of Sweden that the Government establish a light tower in those places.72 Upon transmitting this desire the Minister of the United States employed the following words: “I am instructed to advise Your Excellency that the Government of the United States warmly seconds the idea of the Government of Sweden and that it would be pleased to learn that the erection of that light tower which is of such great necessity has been determined upon.”

In view of the above, my Government cannot explain the existence of light towers on the Cays, without requesting its consent or having given notice of that proposal; and therefore, I take the liberty of calling Your Excellency’s attention to this matter in order that Your Excellency may deign to seek information about the origin and circumstances of a work carried out on territory the proprietorship over which the Government of Colombia once more sustains, thus leaving its rights there unimpaired.

I renew [etc.]

Hernando Holguin y Caro
  1. Not printed; see Foreign Relations, 1894, pp. 19798.
  2. The communication was presented by the Legation in accordance with the Department’s instruction No. 76 of Nov. 26, 1894 (Colombia, Instructions, vol. 18); not printed.