412.11–Catron, Hiram/Orig.: Telegram

The Chargé in Mexico (Summerlin) to the Secretary of State

3084. The following is a translation of a note just received from the Foreign Office dated July 28th in reply to my note of 22nd instant supplementing representations already made relative to Catron murder in compliance with your instructions 2104, July 21, 3 p.m.

“In reply, I have the honor to state that the fact that offenses against the lives of citizens of the United States have occurred in the territory of the Republic cannot be notoriously attributed to unwillingness give protection. The willingness to furnish this protection has been expressed repeatedly and the material difficulties in the way of fulfilling a promise, supposing that it is not fulfilled, should not be confused with unwillingness to do so, especially as this willingness had been demonstrated by acts.

Moreover if we consider the protection of human life in absolute terms, that is to say, if in every case and wherever a citizen of the United States may be within Mexican territory he should enjoy special and effective protection to a degree such that his life may never be placed in danger, it is not possible for the Government of Mexico to do this because so perfect a condition of security exists nowhere. With all the more reason is this true, considering the great territorial extent of the Republic, its scanty population, and the difficult conditions which prevail after a long civil war.

The Government of Mexico has always endeavored as far as possible to give full security to the lives of foreigners as well as of its nationals, but the fact is that foreigners, through ignorance, the lack of prudence, or rash eagerness for profit, venture to remain or to travel in dangerous regions, thereby incurring the risk of becoming the victims of offenses and even trusting to escape offenses because of their being foreigners.

It should be remembered moreover that always when the Government of Mexico has had knowledge of an offense it has pursued the presumably guilty parties; the pursuit in such a case surely is not the same as that ordinarily made in cities in the case of ordinary crimes, because the circumstances are different in a populous community. In the latter it is relatively easy to identify the guilty party, while in uninhabitated places the band which committed the offense is located and pursued, is overtaken and as many as possible are killed without generally being able to identify the really guilty party because even within the band of offenders itself it is impossible to determine as might be supposed which projectile of a volley caused a murder. The recent Correll case prove[s] that the Mexican Government following this procedure, which is the only possible one, is displaying the greatest activity, because immediately after this murder was reported forces left in pursuit of the band and killed four of the villains.

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The Mexican Government has been constantly preoccupied with the pacification of the Republic and as a first step has destroyed the principal rebel groups and has conquered the most notorious leaders as is demonstrated by the conclusion of the recent Villa movement, the death of Zapata, of Blanquet, and Ines Davila, without mentioning the operations against groups of minor importance. A necessary consequence of this progress in the labor of pacification is the existence of some bands, the weak remains of the large groups.

The Mexican Government has been, and continues, animated by the best of intentions to eliminate all those difficulties which might disturb its good relations with the Government of the United States and has so proven on repeated occasions. If the Government of the United States wishes its citizens to enjoy greater protection, the Mexican Government, anxiously desiring as ever a good understanding between both governments, suggests the desirability that citizens of the United States concentrate in the populous places where complete guarantees may be offered them and that these citizens, when they find it necessary to visit the dangerous zones, request sufficient forces for their protection, which will be furnished by the Mexican authorities.

In the Tampico region the paymasters of the petroleum companies have been offered escorts [to] accompany them for the safe transportation of funds, and the companies have refused on the pretext that the presence of the escort precipitates the attack of the rebels or that the individuals of the escort do not conduct themselves properly. These are unfounded assertions. Moreover the relation which has existed between those same petroleum companies and the rebels is notorious, it being also suspected that there may have been cases in which the paymasters were in accord with the supposed assailants. The Mexican Government, in order to demonstrate once more its willingness to furnish complete protection, has already formally promised to reimburse the sums which might be taken from the paymasters notwithstanding the presence of the escort, and if this last offer is not accepted the consequences will be the exclusive fault of those same interested parties.

I believe I have made clear the true situation and the possibility of the Mexican Government giving daily increasing means of protection to life and property as it evidently has done and its undeniable desire to secure every class of guarantees within the national territory. In view of these facts, the menace embraced in your note has surprised the Mexican Government, all the more so since it seems strange that it should be exacted that even in depopulated regions human life should be protected in a more perfect manner than in the most populous cities of the most cultured countries where bloody crimes often occur without the respective governments thereby becoming the object of severe observations.”