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

No. 498

Sir: Adverting to my despatch No. 85 of June 13, 1919,11 and to other correspondence regarding a contract between the Colombian Government and the Central and South American Telegraph Company for the establishment of a submarine cable at Cartagena, I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of this contract which was signed at Bogota, June 18, 1919, and which I find I have never sent to the Department in their entirety.

Mr. Julius Arthur Liggett, the representative of the All America Cables Company at Cartagena, (formerly the Central and South American Telegraph Company), has lately been in Bogota for the purpose of reaching an agreement with the Colombian Government in the matter of several differences of interpretation which have arisen concerning this contract.

It appears that the main cause of dispute came up through the action of the Company in starting to construct, without the prior consent of the Government, a land telegraph line to connect the city of Barranquilla with its port at Puerto Colombia. When this was brought to the attention of General Morales Berti, Colombian Director [Page 828] of Telegraphs, that official ordered the immediate cessation of the work. At the same time the press took up the matter—the result being that the position of the Cable Company was rendered more difficult than probably would have been the case had the subject been arranged with the Government in advance.

Article I of the contract concedes to the Central and South American Telegraph Company the right to establish, maintain and operate a submarine cable uniting the city of Cartagena and the other ports of the Atlantic littoral with the All America cable system, etc.

I understand that the Cable Company considered that, as Puerto Colombia is the seaport of Barranquilla, the contract gave it the right to establish its cable at the former place and to construct a land line to Barranquilla. The Government on the other hand strenuously opposes this as an infringement upon Colombian rights.

It may be mentioned that it would be possible under the contract for the Cable Company to conduct its cable through the mouth of the Magdalena river and thus directly to the city of Barranquilla, but I believe this course is not favored on account of the expense involved. If this were done it would obviate the delicate question of competing with the Colombian Government telegraph system and the possible reduction of the Government tolls to which great importance is attached here.

Subsequent to the Barranquilla controversy, the Colombian Director of Telegraphs evinced a disposition to create difficulties respecting the cable office at Cartagena. He at first insisted that the office there should be situated immediately on the seashore, and not in the interior of the city as the business situation demands. This decision was later rescinded and permission given for the establishment of the office in the city. He has refused to permit the cable Company to deliver incoming messages to the addressees in the city as it would prefer to do. In this connection the Director of Telegraphs suggested that Colombian officials might be stationed in the Company’s office to receive and deliver such messages, but this the Company refused to accede to. As the matter now stands, all incoming messages will be sent from the Company’s office to the Government Telegraph office a short distance away—either by a special connecting wire or by hand. This arrangement will probably cause much delay in the delivery of messages in the city, … Owing to these and other misunderstandings the opening of the Cartagena service was delayed several months. It was eventually decided by the Company to initiate the service, however, and Mr. Liggett, I think rightly, considers that when the advantages of the improvements proposed by the Company are fully understood by the business public, the demand from this quarter will probably have [Page 829] the effect of causing the Government to withdraw its opposition to them.

For the present, therefore, these differences have been set aside and the situation appears to be satisfactory.

At the time when relations between the Government and the Company were somewhat strained, the Colombian Director of Telegraphs remarked in my presence that he believed the All America Cables Company to be directly under the control of the Government of the United States—inferring that this was an important reason for caution on the part of Colombia. I took occasion at the time to emphatically contradict this statement.

I have [etc.]

Hoffman Philip

Contract between the Colombian Government and the Central and South American Telegraph Company for the Establishment of a Submarine Cable Uniting the City of Cartagena and the other Ports of the Atlantic Littoral16

No. 1059. In the city of Bogota, Department of Cundinamarca, Republic of Colombia, on the 11th of July one thousand nine hundred and nineteen, before me, Augustín S. García, third Notary of this Circuit, and the witnesses of this instrument Messrs. Guillermo Novoa and Rafael E. Rodríguez, adults, over twenty-one years of age, residents of this city, of good standing and in whom rests no legal impediment, appeared Doctor Marcelino Arango, Minister of Government of the Republic, in whose official character I give faith, and Doctor José María de la Vega, in his character as legal agent of the Company known as The Central and South American Telegraph Company, domiciled in the city of New York, both men, in their majority, and residents the former of this city and the second of Cartagena, whom I personally know, and set forth:

That by means of the present they put in public writing the contract formed by the Ministry of Government, in the name of the Nation, with the said de la Vega in his said character, and which refers to the permission to establish, maintain, and operate a submarine cable uniting the city of Cartagena and the other ports of the Atlantic littoral with the All America cablegrafic system; a contract which was approved by His Excellency the President of the Republic under date of the 2nd of July in course, previous favorable opinion given by the honorable Council of Ministers, and which says “verbatim”:

“The undersigned, to wit: Marcelino Arango, Minister of Government, with the authorization of His Excellency the President of [Page 830] the Republic, party which shall hereafter be called the Government, and José M. de la Vega, in name and representation of The Central and South American Telegraph Company, in accordance with power issued in New York, on the 14th 01 December one thousand nine hundred and eighteen, before Notary Public Frank Simon, duly authenticated, party which shall hereafter be called the Company, declare the following contract to have been formed:

Article I. The Government concedes to the Company permission for the term of twenty (20) years, counting from the fifth of March of the present year, to establish, maintain, and operate a submarine cable uniting the city of Cartagena and the other ports of the Atlantic littoral with the All America cablegrafic system, so as to connect the new line with the submarine cable system of Venezuela, providing that that nation is in accord with it.

Paragraph. The Cartagena station must be established and operating with regularity the service for which it is intended within thirty-three months, counting from the date of the definite approval of the present contract, saving in the event of superior force or unforeseen circumstances.

Article II. The Government concedes to the Company the free use of such shores bordering on the sea which are the property of the Nation and which are not already especially disposed of, for the sole purpose of laying the cable and constructing the buildings indispensable for the Administration of the same, within the time fixed in Article I.

Article III. The Government agrees to transmit over its telegraphic lines all messages for private individuals which may be delivered to it by Agents of the Company and those which from the interior are directed to be transmitted by cable, collecting the cost of transmission in accordance with the tariffs which are established or may be established in the future for telegraphic despatches from the interior.

Paragraph I. The Government does not assume any responsibility in relation to the Company for any delays which may occur in the transmission of the despatches concerned in this article.

Paragraph II. The accounts between the Government and the Company, by reason of the service of which this article treats and of the official despatches which are transmitted by the cable, will be liquidated at the expiration of every six months.

By special agreement between the parties the manner of liquidating said accounts will be determined in such a way as to enable the Government to take such action as will assure their exactness.

Article IV. In case of foreign war or of internal trouble, or of anything, which in the judgment of the Government and communicated to the Company or its agents, may constitute imminent peril, the cable service in Colombia will remain under the vigilance of the Colombian authorities and the Government will be able to subject to official censorship the despatches which may have been transmitted by the cable or those from abroad for delivery in the country. The Company will be obliged to respect the decisions of the official censor.

Paragraph. The Company or its agents, without the necessity of prior censorship, will abstain from transmitting or delivering private messages which may harm the peace or security of the Republic [Page 831] or its international relations, or compromise its neutrality. In case of doubt they will consult with the Government.

Article V. The Company obligates itself to receive, transmit and deliver all telegrafic despatches coming from any point whatsoever of the Republic of Colombia and addressed to any point or place included in the system or cable lines of the Company, for a price which in no case will exceed that fixed in the tariff by way of Buenaventura or of that which the Company may have fixed or may fix for the most favored Republic of South America.

Paragraph. The official despatches of the President of the Republic or the person entrusted with the Executive Power, and of his Ministers and agents in the interior, will be given preference in regard to the time of their transmission, and the cost will be liquidated with a reduction of fifty per cent (50%) of the price stated in the tariff. The official despatches of the Diplomatic, Consular and Fiscal Agents which may be sent from abroad will enjoy an equal reduction.

The Company will perform its despatch service in accordance with its regulations and those of its associated companies.

Article VI. If the Government requires it, the Company will admit in its stations one or two students designated by the Government itself for the purpose of making a study of cable communication, without any obligation on the part of the Company of paying them any salary.

The Company obligates itself to give preference, in the case of an equality of circumstances, to the employment in its stations of [off] the Colombian Atlantic coast, to individuals of Colombian nationality.

Article VII. The permission which by this contract is conceded to the Company does not imply an exclusive privilege or right, nor prejudice the rights acquired by other persons or companies, and the Government remains at liberty to contract for the establishment of other cables or other classes of communications, or to concede permission to establish them and to use the territorial waters and shores, providing that such contracts, permissions, or concessions do not constitute exclusive privileges or rights.

Article VIII. With regard to the financial security the Enterprise of which this contract treats is not to be considered as an official Enterprise, nor will the Government have to contribute in any way to its establishment.

Article IX. The Company assures the fulfillment of the obligations which it contracts by the present instrument with a deposit of five thousand pesos ($5,000) in legal tender or Colombian Internal Debt Bonds, placed in one of the Banks of this city. The Government will be able to dispose of the deposit in case the caducity of the contract is declared.

Paragraph. The interest which this deposit may produce belong[s] to the Company.

Article X. The Company will maintain in the capital of the Republic a legal agent with all necessary powers to represent it in every subject related with the fulfillment of this contract.

Article XI. The Company renounces its right to diplomatic intervention with regard to the rights and duties arising out of the contract, except in the case of a denial of justice, as defined in the terms of Article forty-two (42) of the Fiscal Code (Código Fiscal).

[Page 832]

Article XII. The Company will not have the right to transfer this contract to another person or Company without the permission of the Government, and in no case will it be able to transfer it to a foreign Government.

Article XIII. This contract may be declared administratively expired by the Government, outside of the provisions fixed for every contract by Article forty-one (41) of the Fiscal Code, if the Company does not give the cable service within the term fixed by Article I, with the restrictions therein expressed, and if during the time of the contract, the new line having been once installed, there occurs any interruption of the service for a period of nine months, or various periods of more than one month the sum of which will make nine months (9) within a period of three years.

Article XIV. This contract to become valid only needs the approval of the President of the Republic, with previous consent of the Council of Ministers.

For consistency two exact copies are signed, in Bogota, the eighteenth of June, one thousand nine hundred and nineteen.

Marcelino Arango

José M. de la Vega”

Council of Ministers—Bogotá, 2nd of July 1919.

In its session of the 21st of last June the honorable Council issued a favorable opinion in regard to the terms of the preceding contract.

The Secretary,
Gerardo Pulecio

Approved—Marco Fidel SuarezThe Minister of Government, Marcelino Arango.

  1. Not printed.
  2. From Diario Oficial, Aug. 23, 1919.