The Special Agent of the Department of State (Ames) to the Acting Secretary of State17

No. 18

Sir: I have the honor to report—as communicated in my cable of February 4th.—3 P.M.—copy enclosed18—, that on Monday, Feb. 3rd., I handed to the President of Guatemala a copy of the proposed enactments re enemy property prepared by Señor Vielman and myself, together with a copy of a note I had sent the Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 30th. officially submitting the proposed enactments. This note, copy and translation of which are enclosed herewith,18 rehearses the circumstances that gave rise to my mission and the successive steps—or delays—in its progress. I wrote the original in Spanish with the idea of emphasizing the essentially advisory character of my mission.

As stated in my cable of February 15th.—11 A.M.—a copy of which is enclosed18—the enactments proposed by Señor Vielman and my [Page 290] self were threefold:— 1) a Decree, embodying the general provisions of the law; 2) a Resolution embodying the Procedure to be observed in applying it; and 3) a Resolution prohibiting the admission of enemies to Guatemalan citizenship during the continuance of a state of belligerency.

Under date of Feb. 12th. the President and Cabinet signed Decree No. 747—copy and translation enclosed—embodying the proposed decree prepared by Señor Vielman and myself and on February 14th. the President signed a Resolution—copy and translation enclosed18—embodying the Procedure to be observed in applying the Decree and another Resolution—copy and translation enclosed18—prohibiting the naturalization of enemies.

The Decree appeared in the Diario de Centro America of February 15th. and the two Resolutions in the same paper’s issue of February 17th. It is from these issues that the copies sent herewith have been taken. The Decree and the two Resolutions were published in the official bulletin, the Guatemalteco, under date of February 15th.

. . . . . . .

On the same day on which the Resolutions already discussed were signed the President signed a third—copy and translation enclosed18—appointing Mr. Daniel B. Hodgsdon Custodian (Intendente General) and Señor Federico Vielman Counsel. This Resolution was published in the Guatemalteco of February 15th.

A word as to these appointments is in order here:—Mr. Hodgsdon is an American citizen who has lived in Guatemala many years. …

. . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Edward Winslow Ames

Executive Decree No. 747, of February 12, 1919, Taking Over Enemy Property in Guatemala

The Constitutional President of the Republic of Guatemala,

Whereas, by Legislative Decree No. 796 the state of belligerency was legally established by Guatemala with reference to the German Empire and the rights created by that state compelled the Government to issue Decrees 737 and 742, which provided for the seizure, control, nationalization and sale, on occasion, of the interests of German Companies in the public service companies, without prejudice to other steps that the circumstances might demand;

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Whereas, on the assumption by Guatemala of the same belligerent attitude as the United States toward the German Empire and in order to work in harmony with reference to other enemy property, it became necessary to hear the advice that might be offered by that country with a view to maintaining the unity of action and the solidarity created by common rights and obligations in the very important matter in question; and

Whereas, now that the opinion of the Counsellor named for the purpose by the Government has been given, as also that of the American Commission designated by the Secretary of State of the United States, the occasion has arrived for formulating an enactment which shall legally define the condition of the supposedly enemy property in the country;

Therefore, in the exercise of the extraordinary powers with which he is invested by the National Legislative Assembly and in Council of Ministers,


  • Art. 1. All the property, rights and actions within the territory of the Republic belonging to any of the persons, natural or artificial, indicated hereinafter fall immediately under the absolute control of the Government:
    Subjects of the German Empire or of any of the nations allied with Germany who are in the territory of that Empire or that of its allies;
    Societies, corporations and associations, of any kind or character, domiciled and resident in Germany or in any nation allied with the German Empire;
    All societies, corporacions or associations organized or incorporated under the laws of Germany or of its allies in the territory of the German Empire or that of the allies of that Empire;
    Persons or associations of persons, subjects of Germany or of any of her allies, with domicile in any nation other than Guatemala, who keep up commercial relations within the territory of Germany or that of her allies;
    Subjects or associations of subjects of Germany or of her allies and subjects or associations of subjects of any neutral nation, whatever their domicile, provided they commit wrongful acts with the deliberate object of aiding the German Empire in any way—or its allies—or of harming the Republic of Guatemala or any of her allies.
  • Art. 2. The seizure and control of property shall be carried out by the Custodian, already named by the Government, in conformity with the mandates of this law and with the Procedure with reference thereto which shall be formulated for the purpose.
  • Art. 3. Within sixty days from the publication of this Decree all persons, natural or artificial, who, holding property of any kind in [Page 292] the territory of the Republic, are covered by Article 1 of this law, must, in person or through their representatives, present a detailed inventory of all their property, under oath or affirmation, to the Custodian. This inventory shall be confidential and be used and utilized only for the purposes of this law.
  • Art. 4. Within the same period all persons, natural or artificial, who, by title or otherwise, have in their possession property belonging to individuals or associations covered by Article 1 of this law, must present to the Custodian, under oath or affirmation, an exact inventory of such property, specifying the title or arrangement under which they hold it, the value of the property and the name and address of the owner or interested party.
  • Art. 5. The managers, directors or representatives of stock companies or joint stock associations organized under the laws of this Republic or duly incorporated must present to the Custodian’s Office, within thirty days, a list of all share-holders who are covered by Article 1 of this law, giving the number of shares belonging to each of them.
  • Art. 6. Every debtor or creditor of any of the persons or associations specified in Article 1 of this law must present to the Custodian, within the same period, a statement, under oath or affirmation, giving the amount and nature of the debt, the date and place of payment and the name and address of the creditor or debtor.
  • Art. 7. Persons who, being covered by Article 1 of this law, do not present the proper inventory within the period named, shall be punished with a fine of from one thousand to five thousand “pesos payment of such fine to be no defence against immediate seizure of the property belonging to them. The same penalty shall apply to the persons referred to in Articles 4 and 5 of this law. Debtors who do not present the proper declaration shall be punished by a fine of from 500 to 20000 [2,000] pesos and ipso facto must make immediate payment. Creditors who do not present the statement called for within the time set shall be subject to the same fine of from 500 to 20000 [2,000] pesos and, in addition, shall lose all right or privilege in case, for any reason whatsoever, it shall be necessary to sell the property or properties of the debtor.
  • Art. 8. In case the inventories, lists and statements to which the preceding Articles refer contain false or misleading data, the persons or the representatives of associations presenting them shall be immediately submitted to the appropriate penal action; they must, moreover, pay the damages thereby occasioned.
  • Art. 9. The net proceeds of the property subject under this law to seizure and control must be deposited in the banking establishment designated by the Government for the purpose and may not be withdrawn without the express authority of the Government and except for investment in their entirety in this country.
  • Art. 10. On and after the publication of this law all acts or contracts relative to the disposal, rental or hypothecation of the property, rights and actions of the persons covered by this law shall be null and void. For such acts and contracts to have legal validity they must have the previous express approval of the Government given through the Custodian. Nor may such persons collect, extend or satisfy any debt or give receipts or quittances without the consent of the Custodian.
  • Art. 11. The expenses and compensations which the seizure and control of the property, rights and actions covered by this law may occasion shall be met by the owners of the property and those having an interest in it in the proportions and under the conditions which the Government may fix by advice of the Custodian.
  • Art. 12. In any civil cause pending in the Courts or which may hereafter be brought in which there is involved any question concerning the property, rights and actions belonging to persons covered by Article 1 of this law, the Custodian must be made a party.
  • Art. 13. The periods named in Articles 3, 4, 5, and 6 of this law may be extended by the Government, by special resolution, for a period not to exceed 90 days.
  • Art. 14. Only the property of persons covered by Article 1 is subject to this law. The rights of Guatemalans shall have no other limitations than those prescribed by the laws, lists and enactments of the Republic.
  • Art. 15. This Decree shall be reported to the National Legislative Assembly at its next session.

Given in the Palace of the Executive Power in the City of Guatemala the 12th. day of February, 1919.

Manuel Estrada C.

The Secretary of the Treasury and Public Credit, in charge of Foreign Affairs
G. Aguirre

The Secretary of Government and Justice
J. M. Rein a Andrade

The Secretary of Public Instruction
J. Ed. Girón

The Secretary of Public Works
L. F. Mendizábal

The Sub-Secretary of War
J. M. Letona R.
  1. To Richard Ely of the War Trade Board also.
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