The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico (Sheffield)

No. 936

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 2217 of May 12, 1926, with which you forwarded copy and translation of an Executive Decree promulgated May 7, 1926, in regard to the procedure to be followed by the agrarian authorities in the matter of the restitution and dotation of waters. The Department has also received your despatch No. 2297 of May 26, 1926,82 in which you set forth what you consider to be objections to the provisions of that decree.

The Department has given careful consideration to the decree in question and has reached the conclusion that it is objectionable in the following particulars:

It is provided in Article 3 that restitution of waters will be made whenever interested persons prove their rights to such waters, of which they were deprived subsequently to June 25, 1856. No provision is made for compensating persons who since that date may have obtained rights to such waters in accordance with existing laws of Mexico.

Article 4 sets forth that gifts of waters belonging to private property may be made to others and no provision is made for the payment of compensation to the owners of the property.

Article 5 provides for the placing on private property without compensation of a servitude for the passage of waters “even upon hydraulic works which other service of waters may have established.”

Article 9 contemplates that a single publication in the Diario Oficial that a restitution or gift of waters has been requested shall constitute sufficient notice to the property owners affected by the request, even although such publication may never have come to their notice.

The provisions of Articles 11 and 14 appear to place property owners under the exclusive power of the National Agrarian Commission which is given sole authority to decide by how much the waters heretofore legally used by such owners may be reduced and given to others.

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In general the decree is further objectionable in that it makes no provision for an orderly process of judicial hearing and determination such as is usual in matters of expropriation or [of?] private property for purposes of public utility.

In brief, this decree provides for the taking of private property on insufficient notice by the action of administrative officials alone and without compensation to the owners and thus is repugnant to the principles of fair dealing and justice.

You will bring the foregoing to the attention of the Mexican Government with a reservation as to all rights of American citizens which may be injuriously affected by this decree.83

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Robert E. Olds
  1. Not printed.
  2. On June 29, 1926, Mr. Sheffield addressed a note to the Foreign Minister in compliance with this instruction; he received a reply July 10 to the effect that the matter had been referred to the appropriate authorities for consideration. (File No. 812.81/7.)