The Minister in Colombia ( Philip ) to the Secretary of State
[Received December 20.]
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.]